Antelope + Jackrabbit = Jackalope

Once the mighty Mississippi disappears in the rear view mirror, there’s not much to look at for the next thousand miles except corn. An insane amount of corn. It goes on and on and on and then, the corn turns to wheat. An ocean of wheat. Amber waves of grain. Then, a few hundred miles farther West, the wheat turns to tumbleweeds and we can drop the “mid,” we are in the West.

To break up the monotony along the way, or perhaps because of it, there are signs. Millions of signs. This is the home field of the billboard. Every business garishly competes for attention. Out there, you’ve got to have a gimmick. See the World’s Largest this, five-legged that, First Ever this or two-headed that. Almost any collection becomes… CONTINUE READING >>

Signs on the praire in the American West

Once the mighty Mississippi disappears in the rear view mirror, there’s not much to look at for the next thousand miles except corn. An insane amount of corn.

It goes on and on and on and then, the corn turns to wheat. An ocean of wheat. Amber waves of grain. Then, a few hundred miles farther West, the wheat turns to tumbleweeds and we can drop the “mid,” we are now in the West.

Signs on the praire in the American West

Strange dinosaur in Minnesota

To break up the monotony along the way, or perhaps because of it, there are signs. Millions of signs. This is the home field of the billboard.

Every business garishly competes for attention. Out there, you’ve got to
have a gimmick.

See the World’s Largest this, five-legged that, First Ever this or two-headed that. Almost any collection becomes a museum, farm implements, “bob” wire, cars, signs and… well, just about anything. Of course, some are more legitimate than others.

I think therefore I Spam tee shirt at the Spam Museum in Minnesota

When we spied the signs for The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, we jumped at the chance to canned-ham it up!

Like moths to a flame, soon we were pulling off the highway toward the light.

Situated right next to the Spam packing plant, the first thing we (or anybody with a working olfactory organ) noticed was the unique and not-so-savory smell.

The Spam Museum in Minnesota

A whole museum dedicated to a canned meat? Our wondering eyes had to see, we never pass up a cheesy tourist diversion.

Passing by the bronze pigs being led to slaughter, through the front doors, we were greeted by three thousand Spam cans stacked in a stunning display in the lobby.

This museum is no cheesy collection.

The Hormel folks have done a fine job of capturing the history of their preserved meat-food product through displays of packaging, ads and pop culture references.

See more photos ofthe Spam Museum

Hall after hall of the stuff while the infamous Monty Python Spam-Spam-Spam-Spam song plays over and over (and over) again. Ah memories… the dancing can ads, the smell of frying mystery meat, the bloody fingers nearly severed by the twist key top’s ribbon of razor sharp metal… good times.

Army display at The Spam Museum in Minnesota

Special attention is given to the love-hate relationship between
GIs and Spam.

From what we could gather, the good ole US of A would never have had a chance back in WWII if not for this magical blend of ham and pork by-products shoved into wind-up cans.

An entire exhibit is dedicated to an unseen soldier in a tent bitchin’ about all the spam he and his fellow men-in-arms must consume in the field.

Seriously folks, if an army moves on its stomach and Spam was keeping those bellies filled… it follows that we would all be speaking German if not for Spam.

Something to ponder as we headed towards the next roadside distraction, I mean attraction.

See more photos ofthe Spam Museum

The Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota

Rumor had it that The Jolly Green Giant resided in Blue Earth, Minnesota.

Once again we found ourselves veering off the interstate and down the exit ramp to investigate.

Catching a glimpse while scanning the horizon for the towering vegetable spokes-model, we made our way toward the green Goliath.

In 1978, the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota paid $43,000 to erect a 55-foot fiberglass statue of the Jolly Green Giant.

The erection was to commemorate the linking of the east and west sections of Interstate 90 and the local Green Giant plant (now owned by Seneca Farms). It was unveiled on July 6, 1979, much to the delight of all future I-90 travelers.

Back out on the super-slab we headed into the Dakota territory to get plumb western. But before we could put on our hats and boots, we had to see one more tribute to corn country, the World’s Only Corn Palace. Mitchell, South Dakota has held the honor of home to the Corn Palace for over a century.

Back in 1905, the townsfolk of Mitchell made a play to wrestle the state capitalship away from those uppity bastards up in Pierre.

Their big idea? Build  a Corn Palace, that’ll show ’em! A cornucopia castle complete with domes, towers and murals all covered with kernels of corn depicting scenes from a new theme each season.

The corn crazies are coughing up $130,000 each year to decorate the mansion of maize much to the delight of the half a million Palace Subjects visiting each year.

The Palace doesn’t just sit around  doing nothing while wearing its corn coat.

The hall is the home  court of the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers and the Mitchell  High Kernels basketball teams as well as the host of the Corn Palace Festival, the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and (we saved the best for last) the Corn Palace Polka Festival.

Personally, we are surprised by the lack of other corn celebrating venues… what’s wrong with Iowa? Where’s their freaking Corn Coliseum? Something to think about as we pulled back out onto the west bound side of the big road.

See much more about the Corn Palace!

If we were ever going to make it across the vast expanse of the great plains we had to put some miles behind us. We simply couldn’t stop at every Ride the Jackalope, See the Two Headed Snake or World’s Largest Prairie Dog that we passed along the way.

But one thing had demanded our attention for many hundreds of miles, it had to be seen.

The signs for a place called Wall Drug begin more than a days drive from the place. In a region infested with signs, Wall Drug sets the gold standard.

Back in 1936, Ted Hustead’s wife Dorothy got the big idea that they could draw travelers off of the highway into their drug store with signs offering “Free Ice Water” and it worked. As time went on, the billboards were put up further and further away from the store in Wall, South Dakota.

At their peak in the 1960s, there were highway signs in every state of the union, over 3,000 in all.

Fans have since spread the signs literally around the world. The mileage to Wall Drug is posted at The Taj Mahal, bases in Afghanistan and even the South Pole.

Metro riders in Paris, bus passengers in London and rail commuters in Kenya have all seen signs for Wall Drug. The phenomenonhas subsided a bit these days but the billboards still cover over 500 miles of Interstate 90, stretching from Minnesota to Billings, Montana. Wall Drug spends an estimated $400,000 on the signs every year, always on wood because, as Ted always said “Painted wood isn’t as fun to shoot at as enameled metal.”

All of this hoopla leads to the mother of all crap shops. In addition to the free water (yup, they still serve it) there are a couple restaurants and more crazy souvenirs than any tired tourist could possibly ponder.

Wall Drug is quite possibly the premiere place to buy all things Jackalope. Stuffed Jackalopes, Jackalope banks, Jackalopes holding a shot glass, Jackalope post cards, it’s a veritable Jackalope jackpot here.

Of course, no western crap shop is complete without the usual candy rocks, rattlesnake eggs, outhouse Christmas ornaments, Buffalo bobble heads and such, and Wall Drug does not disappoint.

After contracting a severe case of tourist trap overload, we rode off into the sunset, out of Wall and into the Badlands.

David & Veronica,
GypsyNester.com

The Unhealthiest Menu on the Planet

In our never ending search for intriguing foods, a jackpot was hit with what has to be the mother of all unhealthy menus. Seriously, there is a deep-fried cheeseburger on the menu.

Heart stopping, artery clogging foods are favorites all over the world and the American Midwest is certainly no exception. In Michigan, it’s Pasties in the U.P., cherry pies in Traverse City and the great Coney Island dogs in Flint. But for real gut busting nothing beats… CONTINUE READING >>

In our never ending search for intriguing foods, a jackpot was hit with what has to be the mother of all unhealthy menus.

Heart stopping, artery clogging foods are favorites all over the world and the American Midwest is certainly no exception.

In Michigan, it’s Pasties in the U.P., cherry pies in Traverse City and the great Coney Island dogs in Flint. But for real gut busting, cholesterol increasing, Wolverine State food nothing beats a gizzard.

That’s right, a good ole chicken gizzard, fried up and thrown down at the gizzard capital of the world, Joe’s Gizzard City.

About 15 miles South of Lansing, in Potterville, Michigan we discovered the undisputed king of the cooked chicken ventriculus.

The what?

That’s just a fancy way of saying gizzard. It’s part of a bird’s digestive system that grinds up food and is where the word giblets originated.

Gizzards are a popular food throughout the world, served grilled in Asia, stewed in Portugal, curried or barbecued in Pakistan, with mashed potatoes or a Perigordian Salad in France, in gumbo or even pickled here in the States.

But for real greasy gizzard flavor, they’ve got to be battered up and deep fried.

Battered and fried is what Joe’s Gizzard City does best! Not just gizzards, the fine chefs at Joe’s will fry up anything and everything. All of the usual suspects are there on the menu — fish, onions, shrimp, potatoes and even cheese.

But the true CPR inducting, defibrillating, rib spreading bang for your buck has got to be the Triple D Burger.

A whopping third pound of ground cow topped with onions, pickles, tomatoes and American cheese, dipped in batter and doused in hot grease. Bun and all.

Consult your physician before attempting to eat this puppy, as most insurance carriers count the Triple D as a preexisting condition.

If that’s still not enough, perhaps some deep fried meatballs, pickles or olives on the side will round out the meal.

Too heavy?

Well then try the Battered Dog Melt. Nothing like two hotdogs battered, deep fried and covered in chili and cheese for a light snack. Joe has even figured out a way to fry up spinach dip in stick form.

That’s just messed up. Seriously.

Be sure to save room for dessert. Really, how can cheesecake, Oreos or ice cream get any better? Well by coating them in batter and deep frying them of course.

The granddaddy of them all has to be the “Frinkie.”

A deep fried spongy  snack cake smothered in caramel and chocolate sauces, slathered with  whipped cream topped off with a cherry. The candy cherry allows one gets some fruit with one’s meal!

Everybody wins.

On our visit, we decided to stick to the namesake and order the famous original gizzards.

The menu called it a half pound, but it was more than enough for a big snack for both of us… with a lot left over.

Joe, Jr. must have some kind of wacky scale back there in the kitchen. Maybe he inherited it from his dad Joe, Sr., as Joe’s has been passed
down from generation to generation of the Bristol family since 1960.

Gizzard City guarantees that their gizzards are “so tender you can cut them with a spoon” and they were. Asking around, we discovered the secret is that they are pounded and boiled before being dipped and fried.

Served “bite-sized” in a basket with cocktail sauce, we popped the little nuggets down our gullets until our grease quotient had been met and surpassed. Tasty enough, but for us, a little went a long way.

While they’ve been known to batter and fry almost anything at Joe’s, it’s the gizzards that make them world renowned.

They go through 400 pounds of the battered bird bites every week.

And speaking of batter, Joe knows how to use that too, to the tune of about 25 pounds a day. Now that may sound like a lot of breading and chicken parts, CUZ IT IS, but that won’t last a couple hours during the true gizzard chowing madness of Gizzard Fest.

Every June for nearly a decade now, downtown Potterville — both blocks of it — is cordoned off for the one and only festival of gizzard gluttony… Gizzard Fest.

Three days of music, dancing, tractors, fireworks, food, beer and the star of the show… gizzards.

The undisputed highlight of the weekend is the big gizzard eating contest. Two thousand pounds of poultry parts are prepared for the perfervid participants.

The contestant to consume two pounds of fricasseed chicken guts fastest is crowned the champion. This is often closely followed by the less public  gizzard puking ceremony.

We stumbled upon Joe’s Gizzard City completely by accident. Lured in by the big fiberglass chicken on the side of the interstate, we just followed the droplets of grease leading to the front door.

So now the next time you’re thinking, “gee, I sure could go for some  gizzards,” you’ll know right where to get them.

Just don’t get them stuck in your craw.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

SoHo Appy Crawl

We take making a meal out of appetizers very seriously. Having them at multiple restaurants is even better. For this appy crawl, in the heart of Manhattan, we enlisted help from our middle child, Decibel, the black-wearing, taxi-flagging, fast-walking, free-lancing, f-bomb-dropping, urbanite New Yorker.

Feeling generous, we asked Decibel to decide on three restaurants she’d been waiting to visit until Mom and Dad could be there to pick up the tab. She rattled off three so fast that we knew she must have been waiting for us to ask 22 to decide on three restaurants she’d been waiting to visit until Mom and Dad could be there to pick up the tab. She rattled off three so fast that we knew she must have been waiting for us to ask and next thing we knew she was at our hotel room. The girl is like the… CONTINUE READING >>

We take making a meal out of appetizers very seriously. Having them at multiple restaurants is even better.

For this appy crawl, in the heart of Manhattan, we enlisted help from our middle child, Decibel, the black-wearing, taxi-flagging, fast-walking, free-lancing, f-bomb-dropping, urbanite New Yorker.

Feeling generous, we asked Decibel to decide on three restaurants she’’d been waiting to visit until Mom and Dad could be there to pick up the tab.

She rattled off three so fast that we knew she must have been waiting for us to ask and next thing we knew she was at our hotel room. The girl is like the wind.

Before we could catch our breath, we were chasing Decibel around trendy SoHo — NYC speak for “south of Houston Street.” Attempting to take in the sights while keeping up a brisk New York gait, we were abruptly chastised by Decibel:

“”Quit looking up — you look like a tourist!””

Apparently, being a tourist is not the optimal thing.

We arrived at Aquagrill in the blink of an eye.

Aquagrill
Spring and 6th

The oysters, oh, the oysters. Veronica was in heaven. She actually wept.

We sat at the end of the bar near the oyster specialist to take in the full mollusk experience. We were handed a list of oyster choices — assuming there would be two or three –and were bowled over at the medieval scroll we were given. There had to be thirty choices!

The specialist, picking up on Veronica’s bovine look, sweetly suggested that he choose for her. And choose he did. He shucked those fat bad boys like the pro he was and whomped down a platter of the most beautiful invertebrates we’d ever tasted. We might be ruined for life.

Making our way through SoHo, past the fashionable shops and even more fashionable people, it felt like we had stumbled into a Woody Allen movie  — or perhaps “The Devil Wears Prada.” Everyone was beautiful, dressed to the nines and sporting some serious footwear!

Really? Those girls can walk that fast in those skyscraper heels?  Impressive. Lacking the will to keep up, we sauntered on to our next destination.

Lure
Prince and Mercer

Walk into Lure and experience what it was like to spend some time with the Onassis clan aboard one of their ridiculously fabulous yachts.

Wait — really — it’s a yacht in the middle of SoHo.

We sat and watched the stylish New Yorkers blaze by through the portholes–it’s seriously groovy.

It’s a boat in the middle of Manhattan, it’s called Lure, it’s obviously a seafood restaurant. If the quality of their sushi is any indication, we’re guessing that the entrée menu is to die for.

Spring Pea and White Asparagus Soup
Somehow this soup was frothy AND hot. Had hunks of shrimp (oh
the texture). We tasted mint. Loved it.

Sushi
We had the salmon sushi and the House Roll. This roll consisted of shrimp tempura and cucumber with an outer rim of spicy tuna and dollops of yummy sauce. Add the black sesame seeds in the rice and you’ve got the makings of one fine roll. Decibel deemed it “freakin’ awesome” and Decibel knows her sushi.

The stunningly huge wine list reads like a juicy romance novel. It had to be
removed from Veronica’s sweaty hands by management. We have all kinds of inappropriate adjectives we could use here, but let’s leave it at sexy, shall we?

We elected to do a bit of a digestive stroll. It led us out of SoHo proper, but still within appy crawling distance. We were fortunate enough to experience a true NYC moment. This sign was found outside a posh shop — not exactly something one would see in say, Sheboygan.

The best part?
This guy sat down at his computer, chose a font, laid it out nicely and nestled it into a protective sleeve to save it from the elements.
BRA-VO pissed off New York City bike dude!

Decibel’’s next suggestion was tapas, ba-by! A restaurant sanctioned appy  crawl if there ever was one–tapas are small portions–so order away!

Café Español
Bleeker and Thompson

Decibel walked into Café Español and immediately pegged it for a great place to go on a date. It WAS pretty cute.

The menu contains five types of sangria–white, red, cava, mango and strawberry. We tried the red and it was delicious, but
— careful — it’s very strong.

Order by the glass, just to be safe. Don’t eat the fruit if you want to be able to walk out the door unaided.

Pimientos de Piquillo
Roasted spicy sweet peppers–yeah! These were REALLY good

Spanish Olives
Wonderful combo–some stuffed with nuts or pickles. Pimentos and capers, oh so yummy.

Tortilla Espanola
Very authentic egg and potato “omelette”

Champiñones Rellenos
Mushrooms stuffed with bland bread crumbs or what tasted like bland bread crumbs anyway. Skip this one.

Vieriras en Salsa Verde
Also not good. Scallops–only fair–and the sauce was bland. Really didn’’t stand up well to the evening’s previous shellfish experiences.

Nata con Nueces
Saved the day–vanilla ice cream with a caramel ribbon topped with caramelized walnuts. Caramel. Goooood.

Also see:
The Appy Crawl Philosophy, All Appy Crawls

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Having Our Cape and Eating It Too

Cape Cod, hmmm. We racked our brains and came up with romping Kennedys and a cocktail that involves vodka and cranberries. We didn’t have any idea what we might discover if we drove all the way out to the end of Cape Cod but we had to do it — it was just too enticing to resist, challenging us there on the map.

The pine trees dwindled and the sand dunes gained hold as we approached the very tip of the cape and found lovely… CONTINUE READING >>


Cape Cod, hmmm. We racked our brains and came up with romping  Kennedys and a cocktail that involves vodka and cranberries.

We didn’t have any idea what we might discover if we drove all the way out to the end of Cape Cod but we had to do it — it was just too enticing to resist, challenging us  there on the map.

The pine trees dwindled and the sand dunes gained hold as we approached the very tip of the cape and found lovely, eclectic Provincetown. P-town to the locals.

Home to amazing restaurants, America’s oldest gay bar and a massive monument recognizing the place where the Pilgrims really first landed, P-town possesses copious quantities of character. Toss in the power and beauty of the Atlantic Ocean encircling the tiny strip of land — forming  dazzling beaches — and it becomes nearly impossible not to love this easternmost tip of Massachusetts.

For centuries the bitter end of Cape Cod was home to only whalers
and fishermen. The population grew through the 1800s as numerous
Portuguese sailors settled in P-town and their influence is still strong
today.

Every year P-town hosts a Portuguese festival in late June and “They Also Faced the Sea,” a series of large portraits of Portuguese-American women living in Provincetown, is a beautiful tribute to the hardworking women who have kept tradition alive for over two centuries.

Through the years many writers, actors and artists sought the solace, solitude and inspiration that Cape Cod offered and settled among the seafarers. The eclectic mix worked well, with everyone adopting a live and  let live attitude. Today Provincetown is very much a summer destination,  with the population increasing nearly tenfold during the season. Only a little over 3,000 hardy souls are willing to brave the North Atlantic winters.

Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, Massachusetts

We started the day by making our way up to the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. The monument is a huge tower modeled after the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy.

With President Teddy Roosevelt laying the cornerstone in 1907, the tower  was built to commemorate the signing of the Mayflower Compact and mark the place where the Pilgrims actually first landed in November of 1620.

Immediately upon arrival, our celebrated Pilgrims began raiding the local Nauset tribe’s graves and food stores. None too pleased with these  newcomers stealing their corn right before winter, the Nauset forced the would-be settlers across the bay to Plymouth and its famous, if not entirely factual, rock.

Staring up at the 252 foot structure, we girded our loins for the 176 step climb to the crown (sorry, no elevators!). Trudging ever upward, we dug in as we tried to disregard our aching calves and ignore the adolescent boys whizzing by. Showoffs.

At the top, we were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay and hey, we got a sticker bragging that we made it to the top.

Love us some goofy stickers!

Since parking is at quite a premium in P-town and the monument is near the center of town, we decided to take advantage of their lot and continued our exploration on two wheels.

Provincetown is incredibly bicycle friendly, it seemed like more bikes than cars were on the road. We brought our bikes with us, but rentals are readily available. Good thing too, because driving a car is nearly impossible through the narrow streets that are completely packed with pedestrians and cyclists in the summer months.

Though we have to say, the bicyclists are just as aggressive as the motorists in Massachusetts, so we were kept on our toes.

We stopped for lunch at Enzo, in the heart of the Commercial  Street district to sit outdoors and enjoy some bang-up people watching.

Enzo, a restaurant and guesthouse in an old Victorian mansion, has a  spectacular raw bar lunch. Imagine little neck clams for $1.50 each, Wellfleet oysters for two bucks or a lobster tail for eight. And the decadent spicy seafood chowder. Uh, wicked delicious.
Sitting outside and watching the world go by at one of the many  hotspots on Commercial Street should be mandatory doings
in P-town.

It makes one’s heart sing to see so many happy couples strolling by, hand-in-hand, without a care in the world.

We were lucky enough to see a wedding procession heading down Commerce Street (everyone on bikes, no less) and were swept up in the laughter of the revelers.

We were given an enthusiastic “thumbs up” and a big happy grin as we snapped a shot of the beaming couple. A quick note to first time visitors: It gets pretty raucous on Commerce Street as night falls, not a place for the kiddies or the easily shocked, so here’s a good rule of thumb — if the French Quarter of New Orleans offends you, so will Commerce Street at night. A big time is had by all.

As we continued exploring the waterfront, we stumbled upon Captain Jack’s Wharf. A colorful collection of wooden domiciles, available to rent by the week, stacked upon an antiquey-looking pier jutting haphazard into the harbor.

Captain Jack’s looked like our kind of place.Several of the current inhabitants, boasting quite an array of European accents, were sunning, swimming and swilling a few drinks on the tiny strip of sand between their dock and the next group of houses.

Not much of a beach, but its coolness factor
more than made up for it.

After pedaling a few miles up and down the main drag, The Atlantic House seemed like it would make a good stop and give us an excuse for a little libation. Known locally as The A-House,  it has quite a history. Opened in 1798 as a tavern, this is P-town’s oldest bar.

The Atlantic has also served as a stage coach stop, hotel and restaurant. Many artifacts from its storied past adorn the walls.

During the 1920s the A-House became a popular hangout for some of America’s most famous writers. Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams were frequent patrons.

Appealing to artistic and alternative lifestyles through the years, The Atlantic House became known as America’s first gay-friendly bar back in the early 1950s.

This live-and-let-live philosophy has served not just the bar but the whole town well.

As a sign on a trolley headed down Commerce Street said, “That ‘Love thy Neighbor’ thing? I MEANT IT…God.”

P-town means it as well.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

THIS is Plymouth Rock?

True story: On our pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts we hit the visitor center to ask directions to Plymouth Rock. “Hope you guys brought a magnifying glass,” snarked the lady with the welcoming smile behind the desk as she pointed down the road. Ah sarcasm, we had to like her.

Without fully grasping the gist of the lady’s statement we headed across the road, past the replica of the Mayflower, toward the attractive ancient-Greek-esque monument that houses the famous rock where the first Americans landed.

Giddy with the exhilaration that can only come from setting one’s eyes on a truly epic piece of history, we leaned over the rail and peered down… CONTINUE READING >>

The Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts
The Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts

True story: On our pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts we hit the visitor center to ask directions to Plymouth Rock.

“”Hope you guys brought a magnifying glass,”” snarked the lady with the welcoming smile behind the desk as she pointed down the road. Ah sarcasm, we had to like her.

The Plymouth Rock monument

Without fully grasping the gist of the lady’s statement we headed across the road, past the replica of the Mayflower, toward the attractive ancient- Greek-esque monument that houses the famous rock where the first Americans landed.

Giddy with the exhilaration that can only come from setting one’s eyes on a truly epic piece of history, we leaned over the rail and peered down into the hole where Plymouth Rock is displayed.

Plymouth Rock - it's TINY!

Holy crap! The thing is TINY!

Only one pilgrim with REALLY GOOD BALANCE could “land” on this pebble! Call us gullible, but we always figured that Plymouth Rock was towering cliffs, or at the very least, hefty enough that the Mayflower could tie off to it. We were flabbergasted, felt duped.

Thankfully people had thrown pennies at it, for luck we suppose, giving us
some perspective for a photo.

Turns out that almost everything we were taught in grade school about the
pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving — while we were drawing turkeys from the outlines of our hands — was a complete fairy tale.

The “friendly Indians” were actually just so emaciated and weak from the
smallpox they had contracted from previous European visitors that they had no strength to fight off the Pilgrims who were busy raiding their food supplies, digging up their graves and squatting on their fishing grounds.

Wait a minute, previous visitors?

Yup, the Pilgrims were no where near the first settlers in New England. Europeans had been tromping around stealing food and spreading disease for decades — centuries if you count
the Vikings.

At Plymouth, a few leaders of the depleted remnants of the local tribe of Wampanoag people decided to employ the old “if we can’t beat them, join them” strategy in the hopes of surviving.

Not quite the “hey, welcome to America, here let us show you how to grow corn and eat turkey” that we were taught as youngsters while sporting our construction paper feathers and headbands.

The first time around wasn’t even  remotely friendly. The Mayflower first landed on the tip of Cape Cod, where  Provincetown is today. There’s even a huge monument marking the landing.

However, the indigenous inhabitants had not been wiped out by viral onslaughts from previous pioneers and were not real big on having their buried food stores dug up and stolen, so they were decidedly unfriendly and sent the Pilgrims packing.

Just a dad-blame second there hoss, first landed?

Everyone knows the Pilgrims first set foot on North America at Plymouth! We’ve seen the pictures. There they are, stepping out of the boat right onto Plymouth Rock.

Wrong again, fact is there wasn’t even such a thing as Plymouth Rock until over a century after the Mayflower’s landing. It wasn’t until 1741, 121 years after the Mayflower landed, that 94-year-old Thomas Faunce claimed he knew the exact rock that the Pilgrims first trod upon. A few years later, in 1774 the townsfolk decided that the rock should be moved to the town meeting hall.

For no apparent reason, the good people of Plymouth decided that only half of the rock needed to be relocated, so they split it in two. For the next century, the rock was moved hither and yon as chunks were hacked off of it for shows and souvenirs.

Finally, in 1880, with only about 1/3 of Plymouth Rock remaining, the famous stone was returned to its original spot on the waterfront in Plymouth. It was at that time that the number 1620 was carved into it.

Not surprisingly, Native Americans don’t tend to hold Plymouth Rock in high regard. Twice, in 1970 and 1995, activists have buried it on the National Day of Mourning or what is more commonly known as Thanksgiving to us nonnative folks. Seems that the folks who wrote our grade school history books and the original inhabitants of this country  don’t quite see things eye-to-eye.

Plaque commemorating the National Day of Mourning

Across from the Plymouth Pebble Monument, near a statue of Massasoit
(one of the “friendly, helpful” Native Americans), is a plaque commemorating the National Day of Mourning. Given by the town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England, it states, “Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture.”

It’s not fancy, but it is a nice gesture.

Scattered around the charming little seaside town of Plymouth are various statues and fountains, pretty parks, seafood based eateries and crap shops (GypsyNester slang for fine souvenir emporiums) selling the ever zany pilgrim-pirate-patriot  humor t-shirts, lobster bibs, mugs and ships-in-a-bottle.

Once finished with our tour of revisionist history, we relaxed at an outdoor café — sharing a lobster roll — as the ocean cast friendly breezes to tussle our hair. The fake Mayflower shared a bay dotted with sailboats and pleasure cruisers. We stretched our legs and tilted our faces to the sun.

It’s no wonder the Pilgrims and Indians loved this place so much.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com