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Boston, Massachusetts

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!

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Massachusetts
You can take a break from the Freedom Trail and go on a cruise around the harbour, giving you a different perspective on the city. It’s a nice way to find out about the history of the place, especially as you’re sitting with your feet up rather than having to walk through throngs of peasants (like there were in the aquarium – NEVER visit an aquarium during the school holidays unless they have a shark exhibit where you’re allowed to feed small children to them). They provide a rather sarcastic commentary of all the important landmarks, and you can also stop off in Charlestown to visit a couple of places.

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).

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Massachusetts
Far be it for me to mock the afflicted (Welsh excluded, of course!), but some people that you see begging on the streets go to extraordinary lengths to persuade you to give them some spare change. Some look sad, some are friendly towards you, some claim to be Vietnam War veterans, but one woman I saw today was taking these claims a bit too far. She was walking up and down shouting “Please help my burned out family of seven”. A few quick calculations tell us that this simply cannot be true. Assuming she is including herself in the seven, then that means she has six others to support. However unlikely it might be that her significant other is still with her, we can give her the benefit of almost overwhelming doubt and say that he is, meaning that she has five children. This is where her claim falls apart faster than an Old Main in a Mountain because, assuming she hasn’t had twins and assuming she didn’t go into a private clinic for some fertility treatment, this breathing gargoyle is asking us to believe that she has had sex five times. Oh no! Even in a city where drinking heavily is a way of life, there isn’t a powerful enough pair of beer goggles in existence that would allow this to happen. Following this logical trail, I dismissed her increasingly aggressive demands for cash and legged it.

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!

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Massachusetts
Baseball in Boston is huge; especially as the Red Sox last season won the World Series for the first time in almost 90 years. The combination of a huge national fan base, a successful team, and the smallest ballpark in the major leagues makes getting tickets extremely difficult, but I was lucky enough to get hold of one so I strolled along to take in a game. Standing in line at the ticket window is one way of getting a ticket as long as you’re willing to get to the ground before the sun comes up; otherwise you’re open to the increasingly ridiculous fees that are charged when you buy tickets over the internet. With the ‘per ticket’ fee, handling fee, shipping fee (still charged despite the fact that you’re picking up the ticket yourself) and convenience fee (a very convenient way of making shed loads of cash for the ticketing company), a $20 ticket ended up costing me more than $33 – a 65% robbery charge. Scandalous! The reason that the Red Sox play in such a small stadium is because it is so old, and fortunately hasn’t been torn down and some modern monstrosity erected in its place. Built almost a century ago, walking around Fenway Park (or ‘Fenway Paaaaaak’ as the locals pronounce it) is like being inside one of the old fashioned English footy stadiums; you can just imagine Stanley Matthews walking through there with his whippet looking for the black pudding concession stand. Every season they come up with inventive new ways of increasing the capacity, including selling standing room only tickets, obstructed view tickets (people are happy to pay in order to sit behind a metal pole), putting seats on top of the Green Monster (the large green wall out in left field), and now bolting seats to the top of every inch of roof space that they can find. Demand for tickets is so high that the Red Sox, along with the Cubs, can also charge at least three times as much as other teams for their tickets, so they’re not losing out on ticketing revenue by any means. And they’re also not losing out on revenue from food and drink either, not when they’re charging four dollars for a bottle of water! One girl in the baking crowd was so reticent to be held to ransom like this that by the end of the game she was suffering from heat exhaustion, and staggered off to seek medical attention. After the game I strolled off to the most excellent Museum of Fine Art to cool down, watching carefully for potential suitors in pink ties!

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.

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Massachusetts

For the next four days I called the ‘specialists’ to see what they had found. One time they had ‘fixed’ it, only for them to road test it and it break down again. Then they had fixed it without finding out what was wrong (worrying!), and after more probing they said they just ‘moved a few leads around’. Very worrying! I managed to convince them to take another look at it to make absolutely certain that it was fixed, so they spent another couple of days playing with it before telling me that it was running perfectly and ready to go. I took this news with some scepticism, but picked it up anyway, happy to get it away from this collection of Muppet mechanics. The receptionist that I spoke to when I picked it up was very evasive when I asked what was wrong and what they had fixed. Within ten miles it was clear that it wasn’t running properly, and the chances of it lasting another 10,000 tough miles were slim to nothing. So, time to move on to Plan B: get it back to California, flog it, and explore the remainder of the country in a vehicle that I wouldn’t have to spend every minute of the next two months worrying about leaving me stranded in the middle of nowhere. The next stop was due to be New York City, and the idea of being broken down in the middle of rush hour downtown wasn’t too appealing, so I headed west.
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