Wednesday, 21 September 2011

USA Today (2) - Boston to Portland (a day of epic proportions)

According to the spreadsheet, today was going to be a day of epic proportions, and when an epic day is on the cards, there is only one thing for it. It’s time to release THE WONDER WOMAN T-SHIRT!

Wonder Woman!

We were up and out early but despite my best efforts with the Frizz Ease, my hair straighteners didn’t seem to get as hot in a different time zone. I knew I was fighting a losing battle and it was just a matter of time before my head reverted back to the wild, but I made the effort anyway. Since it grew back after my treatment, it’s like a latent Afro-Caribbean gene has been released.

Even though it was early, it was hot, hot, hot – and soon so was I. I knew lobster was on the cards for dinner that evening, but much more of this heat and they would be able to recognise one of their own.

You can always tell a foreigner in the States, because they will be the one waiting dutifully for the lights to change before daring to cross the road. Adopt that plan and it will take you three times as long to get anywhere. It wasn’t long before we were slip streaming locals across the road with a ‘if a car is going to hit anyone it will hit them first’ strategy.

With that nailed it took us about 15 minutes to walk into the centre of Boston, where I found a very useful Red Coat (not the Butlins variety) to direct me to the toilet. When they shouted ‘The British are coming’ all those years ago, it was probably followed by ‘Excuse me, can you tell me where the public rest room is?’

We were directed to ‘The Thirsty Cup’ where we had a breakfast burrito and I was mistaken in my Wonder Woman t-shirt for a WWF Wrestler. I was horrified as I turned red and mumbled ‘No – I’m Wonder Woman’. It did temporarily take the shine off!

We headed for Boston Common which had statues of anyone who’d done anything in the American War of Independence. It seemed all you needed to do was to tickle a Brit in the late eighteenth century to ensure your immortality in bronze. There was a small hill described in the guidebook as a ‘high point’ with yet another memorial and a pond which was once home to abnormally large frogs, but they’d all gone back to France, so it was now full of children. And as with most open spaces in Boston, it had a corner (burying ground) dedicated to dead people of note. Boston Common was very nice, but much smaller than I was expecting.

Boston Common

Some bloke.

Memorial to something on the high ground.

Former home to abnormally large amphibians.

Across Charles Road I was much more taken with the Public Garden, which not only had a beautiful lagoon surrounded by huge trailing willows, it had a fleet of giant swan pedalos. Tris was beside himself. They must have seated at least a dozen people per swan and were powered at the back – I’m guessing by students? 

Excellent swan pedalos.


It was so lovely that even the Japanese wanted their photo taken, so Tris was duly dispatched to help out.

What a good egg.

I love this picture.

Flowerus pinkus.

George who?

As we walked around the Public Garden, children fed the ducks while on the bridge a busker played ‘Someday my Prince will come’ on his saxophone. I gave Tris’ hand a squeeze, because although it took him a while, he did find me eventually. Ahhh!

If like me, you thought that The Boston Freedom Trail was an actual route walked by revolutionary 18th century Americans to sign some kind of declaration – then you’d be wrong. I had visions of Nelson Mandela in a wig and breeches striding towards freedom, not only for himself, but for his oppressed nation, shouting ‘No taxation without representation’!  

If you click on the link below you'll see a proper full size version that you can read.

The Boston Freedom Trail is actually an excellent self guided walk aimed at tourists which takes in all the sites of historical note in the city. Not that it makes it a bad thing – but I was surprised to see that The Freedom Trail was actually a line of red bricks (and sometimes a painted red line) set into the pavement. It reminded me of our neighbour’s new patio.


Nonetheless, it very efficiently guided us via churches, burying grounds containing the remains of key protagonists and various sites of historical interest. 

State House.

Park Street Church

I see dead people - Granary Burying Ground.

Borders - RIP.

In addition to Borders (soon to be a site of historical interest) the trail takes in the site of the infamous Boston Massacre, credited as the spark which ignited the fire which was to become the American War of Independence. If you were one of the five people who were killed in the fracas, then clearly it was a big deal, but in the great scheme of massacres, it was hardly massive – but with a bit of PR spin it generated the required momentum for a revolution. 

Site of the Boston Massacre

The catalyst for said massacre seems to have been a dispute over an un-paid wig account. In my world it went something like this:

Peasant – ‘Your wig looks crap – and you haven’t paid for it’.
Peasant – ‘It makes you look like Barbara Windsor ’.
Red Coat – ‘That’s it! I have a very short fuse when it comes to taunts’.


Red Coat – ‘I told you I had a short fuse. Please don’t bleed on my stockings’.

If you don’t believe me, check it for yourself on Wikipedia!

We almost missed Faneuil Hall (pronounced Daniel – but with an F) which was camouflaged by a combination of living history interpreters in petticoats and bonnets leading guided walks for those who couldn’t follow a line of bricks in the pavement, and street dancers. I wondered whether anyone had ever thought of combining the two?

Man from the past.

Taken whilst having a lie down!


On through Quincy Market, with ‘Dick’s Last Resort’ restaurant, where the patrons were forced to wear giant paper Smurf hats with things like ‘I pee standing up’ written on them.  Followed by the holocaust memorial (I’ll come back to these later in our trip), before  ending up back into North End to worship at the shrine of Paul Revere and his legendary midnight ride - mustering militia whilst shouting ‘The British are coming’. It’s a legend that is ingrained in the story of the American Revolution. Even I’d heard of it. However, I am reliably informed by a local, that it too never actually happened. I was rocked to the core!

Paul Revere

PR's house.

PR's street.

I temporarily lost Tris in the tourist masses – despite making me look like a wrestler, at least my Wonder Woman t-shirt made me easy to pick out in a crowd. Normally Tris in his plaid shorts would also be an easy spot. However, his shorts had come to the home of plaid shorts – they were bloody everywhere I turned. Thank goodness I can recognise his little legs anywhere.

Sadly, although it was only lunch time, at that point this was all the Boston we had time for. What we’d seen, we both really liked. It was buzzy, clean, healthy and interesting and we both felt as though it would be a great place to live. As we saddled up to ship out we looked forward to coming back to Boston the following week. In the meantime however, there was a whole lot of New England to explore.

Boston Freedom Trail - job done.

Budget car rentals at Logan International Airport did their very best to up-sell us a bigger car. ‘You’re not in the UK any more – you can have a BBBBIIIGGGG car now’, said the Budget representative.  We declined, though I did have a moment of doubt. Just how small was this car I’d booked? I had visions of us trying to go camping in a SMART car. We’d be the laughing stock of the campsites. 

The car was fine – it was a 4 door Hyundai, not much smaller than my car back home and perfectly big enough. Budget – Smudget. Still, the man on the desk did manage to redeem himself by signing off with ‘Have a good trip, Wonder Woman’! I was delighted to be recognised as the super hero I undoubtedly am.

Driving out of Boston was terrifying. Before we came out, we’d downloaded the USA road systems onto our Sat Nav, Shaun. The programme was so big we’d had to park his European guts on our lap top to make space. This was the moment of truth – he now had a trillion gazillion combinations of roads to navigate us through and although we took an immediate wrong turning and ended up doing a whole extra lap of the airport, after that his soft, calming Irish tones didn’t let us down once.

Prior to setting off, I said to Tris ‘I’m apologising in advance, because I will be shouting at you in the next hour, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you’. 

Tris seemed happy with that so off we went. 

There was no time to reacquaint myself with how to drive an automatic – or on the wrong side of the road. It was straight in at the deep end. My mouth went dry and I felt sick. ‘What lane, what lane?’ I shouted at Tris as we hit a six lane highway with cars coming at me from all angles and drivers who seemed to think that indicators were an optional accessory.

Luckily Tris is a lot calmer than me in a crisis and between him and Shaun the Sat Nav we somehow managed to muddle through via a combination of sticking to the middle lane, eye’s straight ahead trying not to panic and following the car in front at junctions.

Before long we were through the thick of it and onto the Turnpike (which means you have to pay) heading north, passing signs for Wakefield, Gloucester, Reading, Newbury, Kensington, Portsmouth, York and Buxton while being over taken by massive trucks – one of which was ‘Turbo Powered by God’, who was clearly diversifying as a result of the credit crunch?

We pulled into our first campsite 2 ½ hours later (a little behind schedule according to the spreadsheet) at Wassamki Springs near Portland in Maine. It was beautiful with sites skirting a big lake – very Dirty Dancing summer camp. Notices advertised ‘Adult bingo and adult card games’. I was intrigued.

On closer inspection, it became apparent that not only were we the only tent there, we were the only people under 70 yrs. The place was full of huge RV’s (recreational vehicles) and trailers with pensioners whizzing around in golf buggies. Some clearly lived there permanently as there was decking, outdoor lighting, fences and flags. It was an outdoor haven for men with pony tails and mullets.

What a fine erection!

Top view from our tent.

Hurrah for the great out doors.

What a fine, manly profile.

Our lake front site was lovely and like a well oiled machine we were soon back into the swing of putting up our tent. As we sat back to admire our erection with a well earned beer, waving to Uncle Jessie from the Dukes of Hazard who was sweeping up the leaves, and drinking in the tranquillity – our peace was shattered by the realisation that the campsite was in fact directly under the flight path of Portland airport – with planes flying low and directly overhead every 10 minutes. Bugger! They didn’t mention that on the web site.

After sharing a toilet cubicle with a big spider, we decided to head off to try and find us a lobster dinner, in particular 'The Lobster Shack' at Cape Elizabeth. This presented another challenge, driving in the dark, but once I’d found out how the ‘blinkin’ hell’ my lights worked, we were good to go. Although it was dark and we couldn’t see much, the lobster was damn fine. Although a little scared of it at first, the restaurant very helpfully provided useful instructions on how to break into the critter. 

Useful 8 point instructions on how to eat a lobster.

Our first full day had been accomplished to schedule and without incident. I said it was going to be a bit epic – and I wasn’t wrong was I!

1 comment:

  1. I like that God is into logistics/transport now. A further sideline he has developed is a dating agency, "Christian, where you can meet God's match for YOU", according to the tv advert. No wonder he had to rest on the 7th day - y...ou get home after a long day's creation and/or truckin' but can't put your feet up as you have to trawl through a load of profiles in which people put on misleadingly flattering photos & claim to go to the gym 3-4 times a week. Maybe omnipotency (is that a word?) gives him the edge in sorting fact from fiction.