Day 15 – Harvard, Pilgrims, and Sailboats

Sean’s Journal: I found a cool hostel in the Cambridge area where I stayed last night. There were backpackers passing through the area and students staying there until they could find other housing. It was a lively dinner crowd. I enjoyed learning the backgrounds of such a diverse group of mostly young people. There were Harvard and MIT students along with those who were simply cruisin’ and in search of themselves. I guess I’m sort of one of them, but I think I’ve found myself. I simply need to find the best path ahead to make good use of my talents and to make a difference for others. 

I Went to Harvard. Wow! I strolled, chatted with students, ate my breakfast on the lawn, and felt a little overwhelmed as a community college student from Utah. The history of the place and the campus buildings are awesome. This is another world for me. It makes me wonder if my goals are shortsighted. Perhaps I could get myself into Harvard, get a law degree, and one day become a U.S. Senator. Nah. I’d rather help my dad grow his business while I finish college. I’m learning basic business skills that will allow me to be financially secure so I can provide for a family and afford to keep horses. I want to ride with my kids in the Manti-La Sal Mountains.       

The Atlantic Coast. Today was a whirlwind of coastal scenery and historic spots. My first major destination was Plymouth Rock. Who can come to Massachusetts without visiting the rock? Not I. I decided to not drive out along Cape Cod. I’ll probably regret it, but my goal is less about checking out the tourist destinations and more about connecting with the general population. The drive south through New Bedford and Fall River was fascinating. Then, I dropped down the peninsula toward Newport, Rhode Island, one of Vince’s recommendations. As I drove along the coast and among the various waterways, I could picture the fishermen and sailors of years gone by. It was cool to drive from Newport across the Newport Bridge to Conanicut Island, all within the famous and picturesque Narragansett Bay, and then back to the mainland of Rhode Island proper.

Here are the highlights…

  • Plymouth Rock: The link below provides a good introduction to Plymouth County. As the locals will point out, there is much more to see and do than to visit the famous rock. There was a blur of tourists, lots of families scurrying about trying to take in the sights and gobble up the scrumptious food. Enjoy:
  • New Bedford / Fall River: As I mentioned above, there is a constant awareness of the maritime history that is the central theme of New Bedford, Fall River, and the surrounding towns. As I talked with folks along the way, there were three classes of people I met: (a) those enjoying the good life on the Atlantic seaboard (they ate lobster and had sailboats), (b) a few who proudly claimed to be descendants of early pilgrims, and (c) those ordinary citizens who were simply busy making a living and raising their families. These distinctions became more evident as I headed further south to Newport.
  • Newport, Rhode Island: Vince was right, there are more grand, old mansions on one street than in the whole Intermountain West; I mean real mansions, early residences of America’s earliest class of the rich and elite. They got a head start on building wealth while folks in my part of the country had either fled from poverty in Europe or from religious persecution to build their log cabins and plant crops or to work in the mines. Newport is also a major Naval installation that includes the Naval War College and Naval Justice School. There are plenty of cool ships to gawk at. I loved it.

The bottom line: I could live back here until the hurricane season and winter blizzards hit the area as they are more and more prone to do these days. Many homes are truly oceanside. They’re so charming, but seem so vulnerable, from what the weather reports seem to show. I guess I’m a mountain boy who loves to sit on a hilltop amidst juniper and pine trees to watch the sheep grazing in the meadows below. Still, I love to travel along the ocean and count the sailboats. And, I do love crab and lobster almost as much as a good Black Angus steak. Okay, I am now New York City bound.

Vince’s Response: Sean, you are doing such a great job summarizing your major destinations that I don’t have much to add except a few “V&M” family responses. 

We had a very enjoyable time at Plymouth Rock. We even saw “the rock.” I know we barely comprehend what it meant for the pilgrims to leave homes in England and Holland to travel for so long upon the sea only to reach a wilderness full of unknowns. These were brave, inspired people who first came to Plymouth.

We enjoyed the drive along the seacoast, both to the north and south of Boston. Newport was an eye-opener for the same reasons you mentioned: immense, stately mansions, and Navy ships. We who live in the mountains and deserts of the western USA barely comprehend a lifestyle that is so interconnected with oceans, harbors, inlets, peninsulas, rivers, bridges, boats and ships. 

As you head to NYC, you will bring back a HUGE memory that I share with my youngest son. Then, as you end up in Washington DC, you’ll bring back recollections of a great trip that Marie and I made with three of our sons. These cities are about history, architecture, the diversity of humanity, and America’s current place in the world. Soak it up.

Bookends: (1) It’s great to “find oneself.” (2) It’s nice to go to Harvard, even if for a day. (3) The rock at Plymouth is exactly that “a rock—a landmark of hope, freedom, and destiny” for American pilgrims. (4) The ocean is mighty, and the sailboats are cool.