Do or Do Not.

Just a rock

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Yesterday, the family and I found ourselves spontaneously gripped by the spirit of Fourth of July weekend and wound up driving out to historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, about an hour from where we live. Terry wanted to see the ocean, and I was certainly fine with that; I hadn’t realized lately just how much I missed seeing gigantic bodies of water on a regular basis (I’ve lived on the coast almost my entire life, and am hoping to do so again at some point).

But there’s only one reason, really, why I wanted to go to Plymouth, and that was to see The Rock. Plymouth Goddamn Rock. The Rock On Which Our Country Was Founded. Or something like that. I was always a little fuzzy on my history.

I’d always thought the pilgrims on board the Mayflower had seen this enormous rock as they were sailing into the bay and used it as a navigational aid of sorts. I’m not sure exactly how that story got into my head. I don’t honestly remember if that’s what I was taught in school or if I just made it up. But c’mon…this was one important friggin’ rock, right? It’s got to be something to behold. At the very least, it’s got to be pretty massive, right?

Really, not so much. I could easily fit Plymouth Rock in the backseat of my Mazda 626.

The town built a large viewing area around The Rock in 1920, a thirty-foot stone portico and platform from which viewers can look down at The Rock, some six feet below on the beach. The portico is far more impressive than Plymouth Rock itself. It’s just…it’s a rock. Nothing distinctive about it other than the “1620″ carved into its surface. The Wikipedia says that it’s been called “the most disappointing landmark in America,” and I can certainly see why. I expect to be awed by my historical landmarks, not nonplussed.

And the thing is–we don’t know for sure that this rock is the rock. Plymouth Rock itself, like so many of our historical stories and signfiers, is largely myth. There’s no proof that this rock is the one onto which the pilgrims stepped off of the boat for the first time (yeah, I did some research after realizing just how wrong I had the story). All we have, 120 years after the fact, is the rememberances of some geezer who told the town leaders which rock his father had told him was the right one. It’s story that we hold now as fact. Y’know, kinda like hardcore Christians do the Bible. (Ba-DUM-bum.)

So if any of you were ever considering taking the time to go see this tiny little piece of Americana…don’t. Boston’s an hour north, and there’s plenty of sights to see in Boston that have unquestioned historical significance. You can see rocks just about anywhere.

Written by Allen

July 6th, 2005 at 9:37 pm

Posted in General

5 Responses to 'Just a rock'

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  1. Like you, I always had this Gibraltaresque vision of Plymouth Rock. What a traveshamockery! Do you have a picture to share?

    Jay

    7 Jul 05 at 8:33 am

  2. ROFL – I knew where this was going from the beginning. I forget that there are still people who think “Plymouth Rock” is actually the rock that they saw from the Mayflower and danced around it and ate Thanksgiving dinner next to it. Nope. Just a rock. Not all that big, probably couldn’t see it if you swam out in the bay a few hundred feet and the rock were sitting at water’s edge with a flag on it.

    You should go to Plymouth Plantation or Old Sturbridge Village.

    BTW – another “Don’t Bother” is the Liberty Bell. Ho-hummm…

    Michelle

    7 Jul 05 at 8:39 am

  3. Oh man, this is both hilarious and distressing, and yet, mostly I just find myself desperately jealous of the fact that you can drive merely an hour to Plymouth Rock if you want to. jeal, jeal, jeal

    Saundra

    7 Jul 05 at 9:36 am

  4. Jay, I actually don’t have pictures–we didn’t know we were going, so we didn’t take the camera, unfortunately.

    Michelle, Plymouth Plantation might’ve been cool, but costs $21 friggin’ dollars per adult to get in. I’d have been more interested in going on their Mayflower replica, but even that was something like $8 each, and we just didn’t have the money for it at the time.

    Saundra, even cooler than being an hour from Plymouth Rock is being an hour from Boston proper. There are some amazing bits of history there (as you’d expect)–being able to stand on the spot of the Boston Massacre, for instance, or the seeing the exact location of the Boston Tea Party. I’m not exactly a history buff, but it’s still a pretty damn cool thing to be able to see parts of history in that way. Hell, even the feeling of history you feel sitting in Fenway Park can be pretty awe-inspiring. :)

    Allen

    7 Jul 05 at 9:53 am

  5. Wow. I haven’t been to Plymouth Plantation since…ooohhhh….4th grade, so I didn’t know it was so expensive! Try Old Sturbridge Village – maybe cheaper? I haven’t come close to seeing all of the historic sites in Boston. There are just so many and alot are free! All you need is one of those walking guides from the visitor’s center.

    I also find that some of the coolest historical sites are the ones in the small towns and the industrial cities like Lowell and Lawrence. You can tour homes, farms, barns, mills and see some really cool off-the-beaten-path stuff. They usually cost less than $10 and some are free. Coming from a deeply-rooted New England family, I guess I’m a little more interested in the local town-level history than most, but so many people drive by these places and never even know how significant the history of them are. For example, the underground railroad houses are incredible to tour. All of the secret staircases, hidden rooms, etc.

    Michelle

    7 Jul 05 at 11:15 am

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