The Rock Is…

Here’s a game. Complete this phrase: “The Pilgrims landed at [insert place here].”

Plymouth Rock. Right?

And when you think of Plymouth Rock (no Googling, people!), your mental image is probably something like a windswept, craggy shore featuring a historic-looking rock big enough to moor a boat full of Pilgrims to, right?

That’s what we were thinking, too. So when it came time to leave Duxbury and pick up our rental car, I was pretty excited that the closest agency was Hertz in Plymouth. And since I’m a history wonk and Julie’s a total cheeseball, we obviously had to check out Plymouth Rock while we were there. It was only ten minutes from the car pickup! It was American history, right there! We parked and hoofed our way along the pleasant Plymouth promenade to check it out.

My friends. Plymouth Rock is a con. It’s the three-card monte of tourist attractions. It’s not even a bait-and-switch, because there is no switch.

Plymouth Rock is about the size of four cases of beer. Or maybe a party ball. It’s possible the Pilgrims could have tied up their boat to it, if all of them had crossed the ocean on one inflatable dinghy. If every Pilgrim got off the boat and stepped on it one by one, half of them would have died of thirst before actually setting foot on land. There’s currently a gazebo around it, presumably to protect it from vandals, which is too late because someone already etched 1620 on it. Just to really drive home that this is the Real Plymouth Rock from the 17th century people! I could go on. But basically, calling it “underwhelming” is overrating it.

“Why are we here again?” asked Fiona.

“Well,” said Julie, “I guess the rock isn’t that exciting, but it’s still important because the first… well, no, not the first. Um… some people landed here four hundred years ago. And we should know about that? Hey, look, a boat!”

Fiona was not impressed.

Look, we’re very aware of the many (to put it mildly) problematic things in American history that get swept under the rug, and it’s not the place of a lighthearted travel blog to take those on. But, given all that, is it really necessary to place so much significance on a fake rock? With plenty of Actual History all over New England, Plymouth just seems kinda try-hard. My take: In a trip full of places that consistently exceeded our expectations, Plymouth Rock was the biggest whiff.

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