Leaving behind the scenery of New Hampshire and Maine, I hit the big city in New England, Boston, where you’re greeted with the musical choice of The Moody Blues, Kenny Loggins, Elvis Costello and Meatloaf. All the big names! Or alternatively you can wander around the city taking a look at all the historical sights that the place has to offer. You’re aided in your quest by what is known as the Freedom Trail; a red line (occasionally red brick) that directs you on a tour of the majority of the historic buildings and locations that are on show throughout town. There’s also a ‘Freedom Trail pub crawl along the same route of course, but I’ll get to that later!
You get to see where the Boston Tea Party took place, the old State House
complete with interesting exhibits on who the major players were in the Revolutionary
War, Paul Revere’s house (just an old house, not surprisingly), and
a couple of burial grounds where notable local heroes are buried. The burial
grounds are fascinating because most of the graves are over 200 years old
and are sticking up out of the ground like Shane MacGowan’s teeth.
There’s even a grave for Samuel Adams, a revolutionary leader so famous
that they have named a brewery after him!
Boston is described as being ‘blessed with a variety of weather’, which of course means that it is freezing cold in the winter and roasting hot in the summer. Parking in the city is also a nightmare, there’s nowhere to park on the streets so you’re forced to use the extortionate parking areas scattered around the place. I pulled up in the Dream Machine, had a minor coronary at the amount it was going to cost to park here for a few days, and then diagonally parked across as many spaces as I possibly could, just to make sure I was getting my money’s worth!
The USS Constitution is worth a visit. It’s an old (couple of hundred years) ship that initiated the US navy, and was used to protect US sailors from the pirates known as Barbary Corsairs. Well, that’s the way that the Americans tell it anyway; the truth may be something different. In olden days, when ships were travelling around the ports in Northern Africa, they had to pay taxes to the locals in order to travel in their waters. Everybody was happy about this. Everybody, that is, apart from the Americans. They had just gained their independence and were feeling all high and mighty, so didn’t see why they should pay taxes to the locals. Some of their ships were impounded and sailors imprisoned by these ‘pirates’, so the USA declared war and sent the Constitution and other ships to sort out Johnny Foreigner. I wonder what would happen if I refuse to pay taxes. I imagine I would be thrown into prison as well but it’s unlikely that the tax man would be declared a ‘pirate’ and a fleet of ships would rush to my aid. But the irritating woman leading the tour wasn’t having any of this: the USA were “protecting our freedom” (sound familiar?), and she went on a flag-waving jingoistic rant for ages about how great America is. She finally shut up long enough for me to make my escape.
Also in Charlestown is another monument to the American heroes of the Revolutionary
War. It’s another huge pointy obelisk, but this one is different from
the others on the trip so far in that it is at the site of a battle that
the Americans actually lost. They were defending a strategic hill when the
British came along and booted them off it. This defeat, however’ apparently
constituted a ‘moral victory’ for the Americans, was a turning
point in the war, and so on and so on, so they erected another monument (on
the wrong hill – popular opinion has it that the battle actually took
place on the neighbouring hill half a mile away).
If you have millions of gallons of molasses, then where is the best place to store them on a hot summer day? On top of a hill in an enormous metal container waiting for it to explode, right? Well, that’s exactly what they did, causing the Great Molasses Flood’ many years ago. A few people (and some horses) were killed, many were injured, and several buildings were destroyed as a twelve foot high wave of molasses swept through the streets. There is no trace of the flood (i.e. you have to take the tourist book’s word for it that it happened), but as disasters go it is a fairly entertaining one.
Sitting in a bar waiting for a couple of friends to turn up after their
hard day at work (first checking that there isn’t a large metal container
full of molasses hovering overhead), I’m enjoying a beer and watching
the locals floating by when the waiter comes up with another beer. I hadn’t
ordered one, but I just thought it was good service; I must look like the
kind of person that wasn’t going to stop at having just one beer. I’m
then informed by the waiter that the drink had been bought for me by the
two people on a table towards the other end of the bar. I had seen this happen
to people on television or in cheesy chick-flick movies, but they’re
normally some piece of tottie that some bloke is trying to pick up. So I
ask the waiter to point out exactly which people bought me the drink: is
it the one with the pair of cheerleaders on, maybe the Swedish twin sisters,
how about the swimsuit models taking a break from their latest photo shoot?
No such luck. It was “the two gentlemen, one in a suit and the other
wearing a sports jacket and the pink tie”. Oh that’s just great!
The only time in my entire life that somebody randomly buys me a drink, and
it has to be a screaming bender wearing a pink tie. Shortly after that they
got up and left, clearly upset that I hadn’t rushed over there and
thrown myself at them. At least their departure gave me the opportunity to
finish my free drink in peace until reinforcements arrived!
Everyone knows the story of Clark Kent: mild mannered, reliable, not particularly
good looking, flashy or racy, and how walking into a telephone box transforms
him into Superman. There is also a theory around stating that for every action
in the universe there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well, somewhere
around Boston is the antithesis of Clark Kent’s telephone box and I
managed to drive right into it, turning the mild mannered Dream Machine into … The
Bastardmobile. First mistake: taking it into a ‘Truck & RV Specialist’ for
a service. It had been making growling noises for a while so I thought that
lavishing it with some TLC would do the trick. Driving away from the garage
it was fine, but then about thirty miles down the road it started spluttering,
kangarooing, and generally not behaving very well. I managed to get back
onto the freeway where it was running fine, and headed back towards the ‘specialists’.
And I almost made it, but around five miles from my goal I had a hill to
navigate and it cut out completely. The good thing about driving an RV is
that you’re always in the slow lane, and I had just enough momentum
to get me over to the hard shoulder before it ground to a halt. I then had
the joy of waiting in scorching humidity for a couple of hours for a tow
truck to arrive, finally getting back to the garage. I sat around there for
a couple of hours before somebody came out to tell me that they weren’t
going to be able to take a look at it tonight, so I headed back to stay with
friends in Boston. At least there I would have home comforts and wouldn’t
have to sleep in the broken down Dream Machine.