East Coast Post - Boston Freedom Trail & The Minuteman Trail

Before Boston, I never realized what a crutch my smartphone is.  I would sooner travel without my wallet - heck, without my pants - than without my smartphone.  It was our map, our tour guide, our food finder, our unlimited source of information and traveling tips.  Roy downloaded about five apps about touring Boston.  I mean, the resources are virtually endless.  Without our smartphones, it would have been a lot harder to find Kirsten at the Boston Logan Airport in the middle of the night.

And yet sometimes we give smartphones a little too much credit.  The three of us blindly followed Siri to some public parking in what looked like a great location in Boston.  She took us to some fancy pantsy multi-level garage playing classical music.  Classical music, echoing throughout the dirty garage like they're trying to trick you into thinking your at a five-star car hotel.  Maybe if you leave your car listening to classical music it will get smarter.  Right?  You want bluetooth in your car?  Classical music.  The secret is out, everyone.

Once we found the Freedom Trail {with the help of our smartphones, of course} we were always busting out our phones to look up more information about the 16 historical sites along the trail.  This baby takes most people a couple of hours, but it took us an entire day.  And it was awesome.

The Freedom Trail zigzags through Boston, depicted either as a painted red line, or as a red brick line, such as Roy is walking below.


It starts at the Boston Common and you simply follow the red brick line.  {*Cue munchkins*}
Really it should have been easy.  No no, we had to give ourselves the unconventional self-guided tour. Starting at the second-to-last stop on the Freedom Trail: the USS Constitution and Charlestown Navy Yard.


We spent waaaaaay too much time in that museum for how skimpy our donation was, {it was definitely not the suggested donation} but it was fascinating.  I mean, there was a real peg leg in there!  Need I say more?

Swooning over the commodore.  Look how devastated Roy is in the background.

The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the word, first launched in 1797.  George Washington ordered its construction.

I admit, I hardly knew anything about the USS Constitution before we visited.  I only recognized the name "Old Ironsides." But it was cool to learn about all the butt-kicking she did in her glory days.  Especially when the butts were the British. {1812}



Going below decks!
Unfortunately none of the cannons were the originals, but the names are original.  "Liberty Forever."

We are goobers.

We'd packed sandwiches and apples, so after the museum we found a park alongside the river, sat on a bench, and pigged out.  Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge was right there too.

Explain this one to me, acrophobians.

On our walk to the start of the Freedom Trail we noticed a bunch of locals riding Hubway bikes.  These rental stations are dotted all over the city.  Immediately Roy and Kirsten got all giddy over the idea of using these bikes as our mode of transportation.  Immediately I got all nervous because I haven't ridden a bike since I was twelve.  And we had no helmets, but you know, whatever, I can live on the wild side.  Let's do this!

You go to the kiosk, make a $6 payment, and you've got a bike for the next 24 hours.  The catch is that you need to check the bike into one of these stations every 30 minutes.  AKA - race like hell through the city, frantically looking for another stupid station.


And that's what we did.  Along bumpy cobblestone and brick sidewalks, with tree roots pushing the pavement up into small ramps so we could catch some air.  Which is, of course, exactly what I wanted to do {not} while desperately trying to keep up with the crazies.  Roy and Kirsten seemed oblivious to all of the cursing and rude gestures the followed after them, but luckily I was far enough behind that I caught each and every one.


I guess that's what happens when you are darting between pedestrians instead of riding on the road.  But the roads were intimidating: random, hilly, winding, and narrow!  Folklore holds that the roads were originally determined by cows wandering aimlessly about the town.


So you can imagine why I feared for their lives when Roy and Kirsten bounced down into a one-way street, with double-decker buses roaring toward them.  One of the bus drivers yelled something out the window at them.  Obviously no matter where we were riding our bikes, we couldn't get it right.

Even though there were moments of panic {and even though I looked like an idiot wobbling around on that uneven sidewalk} I couldn't help but laugh the whole time.  We laughed all the way to the Boston Common, where the Freedom Trail officially starts.

The Boston Common is the oldest public park in the country, so naturally there's a lot of history there.  The British left for Concord from their campsite there, for example.  You could pay to join up with a walking tour led by some actor dressed in colonial attire, but we just grabbed some pamphlets and did our own thing.  Minus the costumes.

Right away the park reminded us of a childhood favorite: Mary Poppins.  Like this one-man-band is the modern Dick Van Dyke.


And then there was a middle-aged couple drawing bright geometric shapes on the asphalt pathways with chalk.  We accidentally struck up a conversation with the woman, who said they were doing it just for fun, so see what they ended up creating.  To me it looked like they were creating a voodoo chalk circle, but whatever floats your boat.  Kirsten mentioned that it was the second or third thing we'd seen that reminded us of Mary Poppins, and the woman got so excited by the idea that she pushed Kirsten and said, "No way!  Dick Van Dyke?!"

We laughed pretty hard at that one.  Maybe it had something to do with the adrenaline from pedaling on the verge of death, but we just couldn't stop laughing.  Especially at the expense of other people.  I'm not even going to say what's funny about this moment.  In the future we will see this picture, and we will laugh.




I didn't get a good picture of the swan boats, but they were awesome.  And only $3 a ride, too.  We totally would have gone if the line hadn't been so long.  I would have welcomed the excuse to sit.  This giant backpack was heavy, and throughout the whole trip we rotated which poor weary traveler had to haul it around.

Another Memorial Day weekend special: the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund Memorial Day flag display.  A flag for every Massachusetts service member who has lost their life in the line of duty.  It was a sea of flags, which made for a somber moment as we stood thinking about their service to our great country.



After the Common we saw the Massachusetts State House.  See the gold dome?  


Next was Park Street Church, where William Lloyd Garrison gave his first anti-slavery speech.  {My County 'Tis of Thee}  I didn't get any pictures of that, but of course I took plenty of pictures at the cemetery.  


This is one of the oldest burying grounds in Boston {1660}, and is the final resting place of the bodies of many historical heroes such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine.


Even the famous Paul Revere.  {Kirsten wasn't sure if it was appropriate to smile - haha!}


The headstones really amazed me, here.  Straight out of The Nightmare Before Christmas.




When we were supposed to be checking out the first public school site, we got distracted by this donkey.


One of the many things I love about Boston is the way an old building is preserved and sandwiched between modern skyscrapers.  Once these spires were the first thing a traveler would see upon approaching Boston.  Now you don't see these awesome structures unless you turn the corner, look past all the glass windows, and see it nestled there.


This is the Old South Meeting House, where the American Revolution gained voice.  Protests were held about the Boston Massacre and the tea tax here.


And then the Old State House.  If you look on top you can see the lion and the unicorn, part of the Royal Crest, reminding colonial Boston who was in charge.  But eventually the Declaration of Independence was read from that balcony.  Boo-yah!



And right in front of the Old Statehouse is where the Boston Massacre happened.  {The five victims were also laid to rest in the Granary Burying Ground.}


Faneuil Hall was confusing for me at first.  The bottom floor is a bustling marketplace, jam-packed with fast-food counters and little niche stores.  You can't walk straight through without bumping shoulders.  But then walk upstairs and you get this:



Orators such as Samuel Adams gave speeches here, ushering along America's desire to obtain independence.  Apparently this space is still used for debates today.


Somewhere in Little Italy we ran into a couple of young guys in shirts and ties with black name tags.  We're like "Hey!!!  Missionaries!!!"  We stopped to chat, asked them what we absolutely needed to do while we were there.  Got some good recommendations.


This guy was not nearly as helpful.


This little building isn't technically a part of the freedom trail, but we thought it was cool.  It is the only building still standing that was owned by John Hancock.



Paul Revere's house.  The oldest building in downtown Boston.




Taking the back alleys to Old North Church.  You know, "One if by land, and two, if by sea."




And then it was back to the bikes.  We wanted to ride to Bunker Hill.


This was my favorite ride of the day, because we kept mostly to residential streets.  Roy and I decided it would be pretty awesome to live in one of these walkups.


Bunker Hill - considered the first major battle of the American Revolution.


We hardly got to enjoy that one because we had to hurry and check our bikes in at a station.  Bah!  Those bikes!

That night we went out to an Italian restaurant in Framingham that was somewhat disappointing.  We vowed to return to Boston to eat at the places the missionaries recommended, and we called it a night.

The next morning, we got up early {by our standards} to go for a run.  Kirsten and I were training for a relay race, and thought we couldn't have a much cooler running trail than the Minuteman Trail, from Concord to Lexington!



As if the luscious greenery wouldn't be enough to make me thrilled out of my mind...



There were remains of {and sometimes complete} buildings that stood during the actual battle, and signs with historical information all along the way!  Running + History = best day ever!  This really was probably my favorite thing about our whole trip.


One of the things I realized through reading is that Americans who were in their homes joined the militia whenever word reached them.  Meaning, there were militiamen just showing up all over the place, coming in at all sides.  The British didn't stand a chance!  This fireplace and structure remains of one of the buildings were several of the young men came out and joined the militia just after the British passed by.



I loved this house.  The man of the house actually led the very first group of minutemen against the British {I can't remember his name} and the women who stayed behind took in a soldier who was wounded right in front of their house.



Kirsten was good at keeping pace.  She kept it up while I soaked in all the information to relay to her later.  I had to sprint between signs and ruins, trying to catch up to her.  It was quite the workout.


These markers let you know you were still on the trail.


There actually were a few points where I relied on them, since Kirsten was so far ahead.  Once I started to go off on the wrong path, and I ran into some humongous wild turkeys!  So glad someone talked Franklin out of making the turkey our state bird.  Those things are weird.  Took a pic for Dad, though.



I stood in the place where the first wound of the American Revolution was afflicted.  Josiah Nelson heard horsemen passing by his house in the middle of the night, so {as per usual} he ran outside for news of the British march.  Unfortunately for him, they were the British.  The same officers who had captured Paul Revere.  Some jerk cut his head with a sword, making him the first casualty of the American Revolution.  His wife bandaged his wound, and then he jumped on his horse and carried the alarm north.  Pretty awesome.


All along the trail there were markers commemorating the British soldiers who never returned home, and are buried in unmarked graves.


Not gonna lie, I don't remember the story that goes with this particular set of ruins.  But I remember a few stories where families who lived along this trail took in wounded British soldiers and tried to nurse them back to health.  Proud of the people who remembered each soldier had a family who would miss them.



One more story.  This big old stone has a legend written on it, of a minuteman and a British soldier who surprised each other at this spot, each raising their musket to the other.  The British soldier said, "You're a dead man."  The minuteman replied, "So are you," and the two fired simultaneously.  The British soldier died immediately and the American died the next day.


About four and a half miles and an awesome history lesson later, we headed back to the hotel to shower.

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