Oddly enough, there are many famous rocks in America. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kid Rock, Chris Rock, Rock-y, but none as old as THE Rock. I’m speaking about Plymouth Rock, of course. The protruding stone hailing from good ole Massachusetts. The one that American school children are told Pilgrims set foot on once arriving in the new country. That rock! In my mind, it was something always thought of as grandiose and special. The beginning of what is the U.S.A. And I was finally going to see it.
It was just over a week into December, which meant that the temperature was somewhere between Canadian T-shirt weather and a Floridian deep freeze. Being from Florida, I had all my gear on while my local friend was sporting jeans and a sweater.
It was just before sunset when we arrived and the sky was a beautiful mix of blue and pink pastels. The local shops were closed for the season, so there wasn't much to see before heading on to the main event. In the distance was a Roman temple-like structure right on the shore.
Upon nearing the building, we saw a cast-iron pole with a sign reading:
Landing Place of the Pilgrims
Commonwealth of Massachusetts”
THE beginning of what is now the United States of America. After all those years in school, hearing about this place, I was going to see it with my own eyes! The Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the New World. This is it!
Yep….THIS is it….. I guess it is called a “rock” for a reason. Not quite a boulder, but more than a pebble. So cute, it’s like I could fit it in my hand.
But I digress. After getting over the less than impressive size I noticed the engraving of “1620,” which signifies the year that the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth. After some research, I found out that the story originated not in 1620, but in 1774 right before the Revolutionary War. Some guy claimed that passengers of the original Mayflower told his father, who came three years later on the second Mayflower, that the rock is where they landed. Because of this story, the residents of the town wanted to move the rock from the harbor up to the town square as a historical monument. In doing so, they broke the rock in half. THEY BROKE THE ROCK….IN HALF!!! “You had one job, guys!”
Instead of piecing it back together, they left the bottom half on the beach and carried the top half to the designated spot. Sometime in the 1880s, there was a change of heart and the top half was brought back down to be reunited with its lower piece. The two pieces were cemented together and “1620” was carved into the conjoined stones. Today Plymouth rock sits inside the Roman style shelter and is thought to be one-third of its original size.
Following a short photo shoot to remember this “momentous” occasion, it was time to see the Mayflower. After the built up I had for the Rock, I was a bit apprehensive about the ship. We walk over towards the pier to what looks like the mast of a ship. Just one problem. No ship…
“Where is it?” “Is the mast all that’s left?” “Is this the right place?” I’m firing off all these questions to my friend thinking she had the answers. And she did, sans one. It was the right place and my friend has been on the ship before, so it does exist. The mast that we saw was next to a memorial for a guy named James Frazier. So the question remains, “Where is it?”
Answer - In the year 2020, it will mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing to the New World. To commemorate this, they wanted to spruce the ship up a bit and do some maintenance and prepping. All of which takes four years. They also removed it to help out with the Harwich Mayflower Project which seeks to build a replica of the Mayflower and sail it from Harwich England to Plymouth, MA for a re-enactment tour. So unfortunately for me, no ship.
The sun was setting and the cold was seeping its way through my gear. As we walked back to the car we stopped along the shore to enjoy the pastel sunset. In that moment, a gruff melody caught my ear. To my left along the walking path was an older gentleman sitting on a bench facing the water. His hands were huddled to his mouth, intently sliding back and forth. From his mouth, he was orchestrating a chord of blues that reverberated from his harmonica. It was an unexpected welcome to the end of the day. Listening to his rhythm while enjoying the sunset took my mind off of the cold numbing the tip of my nose and redeemed what could’ve been an underwhelming trip.