Four More Down!

Trip Start Apr 05, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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HI Express West

Flag of United States  , New York
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's probably not fair to say I got a "quad" today.  While I did see the graves of four Presidents, two were in the same place.  I was up early to get a good start on what I knew would be a long day.  Made my way to United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, only to find they don't open until 11:00 am.  Who knew?  Anyway, fortunately there was a National Park Service Visitors Center close by and they had a new film I had not seen on the lives of the Adams family.  It was narrated by Laura Linney and included the voices of Tom Hanks and Paul Giamatti...good casting!  Very well done video.  They tried to talk me into taking their tour, but I had been on it two years ago.  I was mainly interested in seeing the graves of John and John Quincy Adams.  The graves are in the basement of the church and not the property of the National Park Service.  Interesting.  The church suggests a $4 donation.  I ended up just giving them a $5.  I saw these graves two years ago on my Great Major League Baseball Park Adventure, and that's what got me thinking about seeing all of the Presidential gravesites.  The gentleman who opened the doors shortly before 11:00 greeted me and we talked a bit about what I was doing.  He asked where I was going today (here, VT and NH).  How many I had been to so far (14 after today).  When I told him I had already had the tour, he let me go down to the crypt by myself.  A pretty small space for a guy who is moderately to massively claustrophobic.  But after going in, I was fine.  

John Adams was one of my favorite Presidents.  He was a revolutionary with a "belly full of fire."  He took over for Washington when Washington no longer wanted the office (after two terms...8 years) in a peaceful transition of power.  Something that was unheard of in the day.  Kings were either replaced by their heirs or overthrown and often put to death.  He proved the system worked, and then he did it again when he lost to his bitter enemy, Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. He gave up the reins of power to his that was revolutionary at the time!  I find it interesting that in later years, he wrote to Jefferson and told him that they were obligated to future generations to share their differences.  Their fights were never personal; they were philosophical.  The two communicated for the next fifteen years until their deaths on the same day...July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Adams' final words on that day were, "Thomas Jefferson still survives."  Little did he know that Jefferson had died earlier that day.  That's why I love history.  

The other half of the Adams story is John's wife, Abigail.  She was the strong silent type, the perfect Ginger to his Fred, Harriet to his Ozzie, or any other balanced couple you can name...John called her his ballast.  We all need ballast, don't we dear?  (smile)

John Quincy Adams was destined for the White House.  He was the son of John 
Adams and quite a statesman in his own right.  He was a diplomat under President James Monroe and helped develop the Monroe doctrine which outlined the sovereignty of the Americas.  He was elected President in 1824 without winning the popular vote (first time ever) or even an Electoral College majority (first time ever), so the outcome was decided by the US House of Reps.  And JQA prevailed.  However, he was not well liked during his Presidency and like his father, served only one term.  Interestingly, and unlike almost any other President, JQA went back to Congress and served another 18 years.  You just don't see that.  

I then fought the wonderful Boston traffic out of town toward Concord, New Hampshire.  It's only a 75 mile drive from Boston.  But a pretty one!  On the way I passed through (or near) Salem, know where the Salem Witch Trials were held in the 1690s.  I passed by the Robert Frost farm in Derry, NH where he worked for many years and people say influenced his poetry and writing.  I can envision this place in Winter and can see him writing "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening."      

We always think of visiting VT and NH in the fall with the leaves change colors.  Well let me tell you that Spring in New England is pretty special as well.  Great drive! 

One more toll (thank God for I-Pass) and I was in Concord...always the easiest Capital to remember.  Why?  Concord grapes, of course!  Great with peanut butter!  I couldn't find the cemetery, so was forced to ask someone...yes, I did ladies!!!  Anyway, two nice men directed me about a half mile away down the same street I was on.  Sorry, Garmin, right church, wrong pew!
Got a kick out of the guys.  As it happened I had my Cubs hat on on and one of them asked as we parted, "I gotta ask, What's it like being a Cubs fan?"  I said, "Pretty humbling!"  And we all laughed!

Franklin Pierce's grave was absolutely the most difficult one to find yet.  It's in the Old North Cemetery, and there is a sign out front saying, "Franklin Pierce lies buried in nearby Minot enclosure..." but not one arrow pointing to it.  Finally, I thought about what it said, and saw a fenced in area with about 100 graves in it (but not labeled Minot enclosure), and in the back of that fenced in area is Pierce's grave along with his wife.  Talk about understated.  Not even the largest structure in the cemetery.  

Pierce was the 14th President of the US.  He was a lawyer and a judge from NH.  Married Jane Appleton, the daughter of the Pres. of Baldwin College.  Their marriage was a real tragedy.  She was a religious nut who blamed everything bad as the wrath of God brought on by Pierce's political ambitions.  First son died when 3 days old, second when 3 years old and third when he was 11 and Pierce was waiting to take office.  His wife was in mourning the rest of her life.  A sad Presidency.  No wonder his grave was so hard to find.  Not sure he wanted it found.

Then I embarked on a real adventure.  I was heading for Calvin Coolidge's grave in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.  I had no idea how out of the way Plymouth Notch, VT was.  As I sometimes like to say, "It's not the end of the earth, but you can see it from there!"  After 30 miles of Interstate, I got off "the hard road" and took 30 miles of beautiful, scenic, winding, switchback, two lane highway you have ever seen.  The largest town along the way was Woodstock, which looked like an "artsy" place with lots of small shops.  I finally got to Plymouth, and saw a sign for the "Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site."  Then, underneath, the words, "Closed for the Season."  Say what?  What season?  Seems they don't open until May 28....I wasn't waiting around!  But I did see across the street, where the cemetery was.  And there were even signs pointing to President Coolidge's grave.  The whole Coolidge family is buried there.  Nicely done, but not ostentatious.    

Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President from 1923-1928.  He was Warren G. Harding's running mate in the 1920 election.  What happened to Harding?  Remember?  Yep, died of a heart attack in SF in 1923...Coolidge became President.  Coolidge was popular and won reelection in 1924 with one of my favorite campaign slogans, "Keep Cool With Coolidge" (how do you not like that slogan?), but declined to run again in 1928.  He was a known as "Silent Cal."  

As I started to leave and head on a rather long drive to NYC, I tried my iPhone...sorry, not service.  It happened there were a couple of men waiting for their kids at a nearby bus stop.  I asked them how the best way to get to NYC, and they gave me great directions which bypassed all the Boston traffic which I was dreading.  

 Stopped in North Haven, CT for a bite to eat and found a local deli/pizza/sandwich shop called Antonio's.  Excellent sub and pasta fagioli soup.  And I was back on the road.  A couple hours later and one small traffic jam near the George Washington Bridge, I was at my hotel.  Not a bad place.  I had to park a few blocks away and on my way back to the hotel I found a little bar (imagine that!), and and headed there to blog and watch the Heat/Pacers game.  After the game, back to the hotel and sleep.  Tomorrow two very different Presidents...We're going to find out just who was buried in Grant's tomb and see where the man who the Teddy Bear was named after rests for eternity!

Good night my friends and family!

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