Saturday, July 27, 2013

Boston - Day 3: The Beginning

Alright. So here we are at Day 3. Up until this point, we'd mostly been just traveling. First on a plane, then a full day in the car. So day 3 was really the beginning of our vacation and so we decided to start at the very place you could call the beginning of America: Plymouth, MA. 

Something that is rather baffling to me about the east coast that while everything is close together and not quite as spread out in the east...everything always seems to be about 40 minutes away from where you are. It was always between 30-40 minutes to get anywhere. Blame it on the traffic, or some strange cosmic phenomenon, I don't know, but we drove the required 40 minutes to Plymouth where our story begins. 

I promised a story about how the twins received a history lesson on day 3. Well, let me tell you folks, the public school system is failing the children for somehow neither Brett nor Brady knew what happened at Plymouth. We pulled up to the harbor and they asked..."what's so special about this rock anyway?" Now, I understand the rock is mostly symbolic, but still. We had sang songs and watched movies and performed skits about Plymouth Rock all throughout elementary school. How is it that in the span of 6 years...the curriculum could have changed that much??

So we made sure the guides gave them a lesson on the history behind Plymouth Rock and why it was so important to visit. 

The rock itself is housed about six feet below the street underneath a columned pavilion. They used to display it out in the open but visitors kept chipping away at the rock, taking pieces home as souvenirs (as tourists do).

As a result, the rock is not very big. It's not quite as small as it looks in this picture, but my childhood led me to believe it was large enough to sink a boat. I'd say it's probably about three feet across and 2 feet tall. Not exactly grandiose, but it was still really cool to see the rock that inspired legend and is so symbolic of the Pilgrims' landing in 1620.

This is us under the Pavilion that houses the rock. Right behind that railing is where the rock is kept underground. (Mom was pretty good at taking pictures with people in them...but that usually meant she wasn't in any of them.)

Here's another rock. Because I know they make for really interesting photos. It's actually a rock with a plaque...a plaque that serves as a kind of memorial for William Brewster who was the Pilgrim's spiritual leader from the very beginning back in England until he died in Plymouth, and he helped draft and signed the Mayflower Compact.

A little back story: my junior year in high school, I took an American History class from my favorite teacher of all time, Mr. Barksdale. At the beginning of the semester, he assigned us all a research paper in which we were supposed to find an ancestor who was witness to or apart of an event in US History. I did mine on William Brewster. He's like my great (x7 or something) grandfather on my Dad's side, and I learned a lot about him over the course of that semester. It made our trip to Plymouth so much more exciting remembering that I had an ancestor who had lived in this town and who risked his life to come to America for the sake of religious freedom.

The statue on the right is another William B., but not William Brewster. It is, in fact, the first governor of Plymouth, William Bradford. He was a pretty cool guy, but the words on the plaque honoring Brewster were written by him because he thought Brewster was a pretty cool guy. Cool huh?

So here we have the first church in Plymouth. After years of persecution and months of harsh sea life, the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, and built this church. Everything they had every wanted came to fruition right here in this building where they were free to worship as they pleased with no one to say otherwise. I can't even imagine what this building must have meant to them and what they went through to finally have a place of their own such as this. Just makes you really appreciate how great the builders of this nation were, and we as Americans can be proud of such a rich heritage.

This is burial hill right behind the first church in Plymouth. I thought we might find William Brewster's gravesite here, but apparently no one knows where he was actually buried. Most of the early settler's in Pilgrims didn't have marked graves, or if they were marked, 400 years of wear and tear probably ensured the writing would be illegible. 

We still took some time to wander around the site for awhile. It was peaceful and eerie at the same time. The old headstones really made it feel like a horror movie, but it again reminded me of how amazing those first settlers were and how much they lost in the fight for freedom. 

So, one thing I haven't mentioned about today was how unbelievably hot it was. I have honestly never been so miserable in my life. We were outside most of the day, and walking most of the time in the hottest, most humid conditions New England has seen in over 25 years. Truly thought I was going to die. 

We debated briefly over whether we should visit Plymouth Plantation, but after pondering on the heat, decided to press forward to Gillette Stadium where there would hopefully be air conditioning. 

The whole ride up, my dad was trying to convince Brady that we were going to Lexington and Concord instead of Gillette, but he saw the road signs guiding us to Foxboro, and when he caught his first glimpse of the stadium, he lit up...and could not stop smiling for literally the rest of the day. 

If you'll take a look back at the family picture from earlier in the may notice the lack of any facial expression on this child's face. We have an entire vacation album now of similar faces from all three boys. They simply refuse to smily in pictures...unless...that is, they're doing anything related to their favorite sports team. You'll see this is a theme in later pictures. That, my friends, is an honest to goodness smile of the face of one Brady Carlson. A smile, as I said, that did not go away for the remainder of Day 3. The words "Best Day Ever" were used on numerous occasions.

This pictures requires a little explanation. You see, Dane has this knack of placing himself in pictures he has no business being in. Sometimes, like this one, it's intentional. Most of the time, however, it is simply him not paying attention. We often wonder how many stranger's family pictures he's appeared in over the years because he just walks in front of cameras without a care int he world.

I tried taking this picture three separate times. After having Dane photobomb the first one...Brett pulled a Dane and aimlessly walked into the shot after I had just told Dane to get out of the way. I mean, some people's kids. I'm trying to take a picture here! Pay attention.

So after we had taken several pictures outside the stadium, it was time to take Brady into the Pro Shop. He walked in and it was like he was seeing light for the very first time. He would have been perfectly content if we had just left him there and he lived there the rest of his life, I think. He bought a new Tom Brady jersey, as the one he'd had for years no longer fit him, and a new hat that we wore the rest of the trip. This was heaven on earth for this crazy kid.

Dane thought he was pretty hilarious...and apparently I did too because I made him pose for a picture...but they are in fact selling Tim Tebow jerseys at the Pro Shop. Brady is still very bitter about the whole thing so here's Dane playing the annoying older brother.

Brady has been a fan of the patriots for as long as I can remember. It all started when my mom bought him a Tom Brady jersey for his birthday years and years ago. The twins liked football, but neither one really had a team, so she bough Brady and Brady jersey and Brett a Brett Favre jersey. From that moment on, Brady was hooked.

But even though it started because of Tom Brady, over the years Brady has become a loyal Pats fan...not just because of Tom Brady, but because he just loves the team. He'll get so worked up over the games, he'll lock himself up in his closet after a loss and we won't see him for awhile. He's about as loyal as they come.

So my dad and I took him through "The Hall" (It was $10 a person, so Mom, Brett and Dane went around the shops while I went to take pictures). The Hall is a two story Patriots museum above the Pro Shop that features everything a Pats fan might ever hope to experience short of an actual game.

We watched a 17 minute video on the history of the Patriots, and walked through all the exhibits which took us like an hour and a half.

Here we have some mannequins that talk to you when you get in the middle of the huddle. Apparently, they mic'd up Tom Brady during a game so when you enter the huddle he's calling out plays to you and your teammates.

There's also an area where you can try on pads, pants, cleats, helmets-you name it and get all suited up for a game. Brady put on the jersey he bought downstairs and just the helmet. He said the other stuff was too gross...which will seem hilarious to you in just a few photographs.

At the end of the tour, the three Lombardi Trophies are displayed in glass cases in a room where confetti is actually falling from the sky. Brady then proceeded to make a confetti angel in what had fallen to the ground. I mean...does it get any better for a 14 year old?

Remember how the pads were too gross...and Brady didn't want to try them on? Yeah, well...apparently kissing the glass around the Lombardi Trophy is no big deal. Forget the fact that you don't know how many people have touched that...just put your lips right up on there. Makes for a pretty great pictures though. 

And thus ended our time at Gillette Stadium. Brady was on cloud 9...but the three we had left behind were not quite as enthused. We found them at this Dunkin Donuts. (Not kidding. They are EVERYWHERE). 

We went back to the hotel and some New England Pizza. I've come to the conclusion that we have no idea how to do Pizza out here. Someone needs to figure out how they do it back east because they get it.

So that concluded Day 3 of our Journey to Boston. Day 4, we go to Lexington and Concord, Louisa May Alcott's home and get lost on our way to a Chinese Buffett.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Boston - Days 1 & 2: A Story of Wonder and Wandering

Basically anyone who is going to read this blog has probably already been spammed on Facebook by the pictures I'm about to post, but I'm gonna blog about it anyway as there is way more room here to recount the tales of our time in Boston. So here goes...bear with me for this long introduction.

It was that time again in our lives when we felt the need to travel back east. So, we arranged with the NIH's twin study to do testing this summer. For those of you who may not know, our family has been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of a long-term neurological study which focuses on families with ours. The government pays for the twins, a same-sex sibling, opposite-sex sibling and the parents of the twins to fly out to Bethesda every two years to be tested as they research the growth and development of a brain over time. (Each child is also paid $200 for compensation in case you didn't think the set up was awesome enough already).

We have been able to utilize this opportunity time 3 times before to visit Washington D.C., Philadelphia and various other historical landmarks on the East Coast. This time, we thought a trip to Boston was in order.

We left our lovely home on the 17th of July in the year 2013 around 8:00 in the morning. The goal was no later than 7:30...but since when do we ever get out the door on time? We did, however, make it to our plane on time and took off without a hitch, landing in Baltimore, MD around 4:30 ET. 

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to be on the East Coast in the summertime, let me just say that the first step out the door after first landing on the Eastern seaboard is like walking straight into a brick wall. The second that muggy, humid air hits you, you suddenly get the sensation that you will die in this horrid place as you are not accustomed to drinking your oxygen. After all, you are a human being, not a fish. Thus was the experience we had on day one. 90+ degrees and 85% humidity=DEATH. We learned pretty quickly that jeans were not going to cut it on this trip. 

We stayed overnight in Gaithersburg, MD which was a perfectly lovely place aside from the humidity. The next day, we had planned to take the rental car to New York and see Once (with Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who, of course) but after looking at prices...I decided I'd rather eat for the next few months than see the show even if it meant missing out on seeing Arthur. 

So instead, we make the trek out to Boston. Because we were skipping past New York, however, my wonderful father thought it would be nice if we could make an hour detour in Philadelphia and visit Citizen's Bank Park...home of the Philadelphia Phillies. I did not protest. 

The clubhouse was glorious. Normally when I go into Fanzz, or any other sports store around here, I can find MAYBE a T-Shirt with the Phillies logo and MAYBE it's in my size, but usually it's like XXXXXL. This was a 2 Story mecca of Phillies paraphernalia. I found a shirt that I really liked and a nice, real-life Louisville Slugger with the logo painted on the side. But the best part of this trip was not the souvenirs I found was the amazing store associate who was guarding the doors that lead out to the concourse who, upon request, allowed us to take a peek at the stadium.  

There I was, in the very place where the Philadelphia Phillies play ball. I was super nerding out about it.

But I mean, just look at that. The place was completely empty and still, and I was able to just sit there and bask in all that is Citizens Bank Park. I freaking love baseball, you guys. 

Sometimes in life, there are perfect moments, and this, for me, was one of them.

Sadly, my adventure at the home of the Phillies had to end as we still had about 5 hours left on our trip to Boston. What was supposed to be an 8 hour journey in the car began to escalate quickly to 9...and then 10...until we had been traveling for almost 12 hours if you include the time eating, stopping in Philadelphia and bathroom breaks.

(Speaking of bathroom breaks, this is a picture of a Dunkin Donuts in Connecticut that we saw on our way to Boston. Everything in this area of the country is so quaint and adorable, I couldn't help but take a picture. Also there are Dunkin Donuts EVERYWHERE back east. They probably have as many Dunkin Donuts as we do churches here in Utah. Not kidding.)

Plans were once again shattered after a LONG stint in New York traffic and other diversions as we had planned on stopping at Gilette Stadium as well so Brady could see where the patriot play, but by the time we made it to the Boston area, it was dark, so pictures were out the question, and the Pro Shop would only have been open for 30 minutes or so after we arrive, so we continued on to the hotel, promising Brady we could go to Gilette the next day. 

This basically sums up what is was like in the car for hours and hours on end. 

So after one of the most exhausting traveling experiences I have every had (second only to maybe Australia) we made it to Boston. It was late, and it was dark, but we were there. Still hot and humid, we prepared ourselves for Day 3...Gilette Stadium and Plymouth. Does it get any better people? I mean really. 

Join me next time when the twins receive a history lesson and Brady gets gonorriphilAIDS from kissing a glass case. You don't wanna miss it.