Adventure in Paradise

For the past few years my wife Melissa and I have travelled during the Christmas holiday week.  It has been a convenient time since it is a bit slower for both of us as clients are busy with their own holiday events.  This year we decide to venture to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. 

It is intriguing and fascinating traveling in countries where language is a barrier in communication. It seems that when we are in familiar surroundings we

can oftentimes become lazy and complacent with our communication. This can lead to being more disconnected from the people your communicating with and ultimately becoming isolated within your own “world”. When you are faced with a language barrier, you can’t help but being totally present with the other person.  You have to be thinking in each moment how you can best express yourself so that you will be understood. This might involve a combination of using some of the local language you’ve picked up, facial expressions, body language and of course smiling. Lots of smiling :-).  

Traveling has really been a great teacher for the practice of being present, but you don’t have to travel to get this experience.  You can “travel” down the street to the local diner or even just going to the grocery store can provide you with opportunities to engage with people who may have some kind of communication barrier with you.  Those barriers could be physical, intellectual, learned (like language), or even in emotions or beliefs.  Opportunities to be present with others, what they need, and how you might be able to assist are all around us every day.

We booked an AirBnb that was a shared space rather than having the whole apartment or house to ourselves.  I was intrigued by this as it reminded me of some hostiles I’ve stayed in and the host sounded like a lot of fun when we initially reached out to ask some questions.  In my past travel experiences living in a shared space, I’ve always met amazing people from all around our beautiful planet, and I hoped this trip would be no exception.

One of the things I’ve come to expect with traveling is the unexpected and I try my best at rolling with any issues that come my way.  Traveling is always a challenge, even in the best of circumstances.  While this all sounds very wise and easy, it really isn’t that way for me.  If you know me at all, you know that anxiety has been an ever present part of my life for years and I’ve done a lot of work around expanding beyond this limitation.  Traveling, as you may know, can make you a bit anxious at least at some level.  For me, it usually starts a few days before the trip and continues in varying levels until at least a few hours after arrival, once I know I’m safe at my destination.  For this trip the anxiety dropped off almost immediately after landing.  We had arranged with our host to have a taxi waiting for us and sure enough, after we made it through the gauntlet of transportation and tour experience “opportunities”, we found our driver outside holding a sign with my name on it!  We were greeted with a smile and immediate assistance with anything we had to carry.  Then as if that wasn’t enough, our host was even there by chance and stopped to talk with us about our next steps in getting to her condo!

Getting to know our housemates was one of the best experiences of our trip.  We met people who were currently or originally from Russia, Great Britain, France, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Andorra, Switzerland and Spain.  And this was just who we met and lived with for a few days!  I loved to hear stories of their lives, their goals and dreams, and what they have experienced in their own travels.  There is a kind of kindred spirit that develops among travelers that spend even a short amount of time together that can live in you for a long time.  The effort you spend on getting to know that person living next door, down the block or on the other side of the planet can change your life and make the world a much better place.

Our AirBnb host was amazing at giving us ideas about areas near the condo that were interesting to visit.  Some of them were beaches,restaurants, tours and hiking locations.  One of the places we decided to travel to on our own was Macao Beach and to Montaña Redonda mountain.  We decided to go on an adventure of our own and explore these places.   On previous trips we’ve talked about renting a little motor-scooter and use that to get us around rather than renting a car or using a taxi. So we thought it would be a brilliant idea to rent a scooter for this trip so we headed out from our condo in search of a motorbike. Little did we know what we had in store for us emotionally or physically.

If you’ve ever been to Punta Cana, you will see motorcycle taxis everywhere.  They are kind of like vultures buzzing around the unsuspecting prey.  If you stop walking too long they will converge and pester you to give you a ride somewhere.  “No problem mister.  No problem, I will take you.”, they repeat.  It can be dizzying at times to stay focused and repeat back, “No gracias!”. But this time we had an especially persistent guy on a motorbike stop and ask what we needed.  We tried several times to avoid him but he stayed on us.  Finally we said we were walking to find a scooter rental place. He lit up and told us to hop on and he would take us.  “No problem.  I will take you. Free taxi. No problem.”, he repeated.  Finally I looked at Melissa and said, what the heck, should we do it? She said, “Sure, let’s do it!”   Much to my surprise we hopped on this tiny motorcycle with three adults and off we went!

It was a bumpy ride, but in a few minutes we were at a little cycle rental place and cigar rolling shop.  Don’t ask me how these two things go together, but on this day they did.  The taxi driver quickly introduced us to the shop owners and he also began doing a bit of translating for us.

“No problem.  I will take you. Free taxi. No problem.”  

At first it felt good to have someone helping us, but this however went away quickly.  The rental fee was a bit more than what we were told to expect by our host and we didn’t have the exact pesos to pay so we needed to exchange some US dollars.  We agreed to make the exchange and I handed over a $50 bill.

One of the men took the bill and walked toward a local shop.  The taxi driver told us he was getting it exchanged, however he was gone a lot longer than I would have expected.  This was the point where my anxiety started to kick in.  I thought, we were just taken for 50 bucks and there wasn’t a thing I can do about it.  The taxi driver then walked toward the same shop and we just stood watching.  A few minute later, they came back holding several bills of the local currency. In the meantime I had done some quick calculations and knew about what I should be getting back.  Then the driver started standing closer and talking quickly about the exchange rate and how the shop needed to take some for the exchange.  But when I looked at the amount I knew it wasn’t even close to the right amount.  I said loudly, I want all of the money back first, then we can rent the motorbike.  The taxi driver said something to the guy who did the exchange and then he pulled out of his pocket 350 pesos of our money and handed it over.  I gave the money to Melissa and asked her to count it as I couldn’t focus with my anxiety rising quickly.  The taxi driver persisted and got closer to me and talked even faster.  My mind was swimming with anxiety and anger at this point, but I felt a bit better once she said the amount worked out to be correct.

Feeling a bit more in control with all the money, and hearing the man say, “No problem. You want to rent right?  What’s the matter?  No problem.”  Finally I looked at Melissa and asked, do you still want to do this?  She nodded her head and I said okay to the man.  Quickly they took the money I gave them for the rental and the taxi driver actually reached over and pulled 200 pesos directly out of my hand saying something like, “And this is for my time.”  Free taxi, but I guess no free translation services!

Wanting to get out there as soon as possible, we collected our helmets and found the bike we were to use.  Unfortunately, my anxiety was in full blowout mode at this point and I could hardly speak.  I waved Melissa to get on the back, gave her some initial instructions on how to be a passenger on the bike and off we went.  I don’t remember much of the next 20 or 30 minutes other than stopping to check my directions (thank god for the local SIM card in my phone and being able to use Google maps to navigate!).  The road, the drone of the motorbike and the amazingly beautiful landscape passing around us was soothing and meditative.  I was focused on our goal to get the Montaña Redonda as our first stop and about an hour and a half later we arrived at our destination.  The bike’s tachometer worked, but not the speedometer or trip-meter, so it was a bit challenging to get a sense of how far we had travelled.  In checking the maps later, it looks like we traveled about 45 miles.  Let me tell you, two people on a small scooter for that kind of distance is not advisable in any way.  Take my word for it, rent a car or at the very least two motorbikes!

“To the west we saw a lush valley with more hills, mountains and trees as far as you could see.  It was simply beautiful. ”

We were advised by our AirBnb host that the hike up the mountain would cost five dollars each to access, but what she didn’t tell us is that you had to pay rent to park your motorbike and they would relentlessly hound you to pay them in excess of $40 to get a ride to the top! This being confusing, we once again relied on our host for confirmation and advice.   She suggested paying the $5 and just start walking and likely someone would come along and pick us up for maybe 100 pesos ($2.00).  So off we started walking and sure enough in about 10 minutes a huge truck came lumbering up the washed out, rocky and very steep road.  When we stood aside to let it pass and it stopped and the man asked if we wanted a ride.  We asked how much and he said, “No problem, no charge, get in.”.  Well, fool me once is what I was thinking about this offer, but he persisted and started to open the cab door.  We said okay, but decided to ride in the back of the truck.  The man shrugged his shoulders and we climbed in the back for what had to be one of the roughest and brutal rides I’ve ever experienced!  We should have ridden in the cab because sitting in the very back of a huge rocking truck causes one to be launched up in the air and jostled around relentlessly for what seemed like forever!

In reaching the top, we felt elated to have reached our goal.  We got out and offered the man 200 pesos for his trouble, which seemed to surprise him and he looked very grateful.  My anxiety was subsiding and the natural surroundings really helped me to calm down quite a lot. We spent about an hour at the top taking photos of the surrounding landscapes.  There were lagoons to the east of us and further out we could see the ocean.  To the west we saw a lush valley with more hills, mountains and trees as far as you could see.  It was simply beautiful.  There were little shops at the top, a small cafe and some cool swings you could ride which made you feel like you were swinging out into the vastness of the sky.  

We even saw some people with broomsticks that would put them between their legs and then jump while someone took their picture hoping to look like they were flying!

When it was time to go, we caught another ride to the bottom of the mountain with some locals in a small club-cab pickup.  This ride was much smoother as we were able to sit inside and listen to the man and women in the cab talking amongst themselves.  It was curious not to understand a word of their conversation but also to know that what they were talking about was likely no different that what you and I would chat about in the same situation.  We gratefully payed the man 200 pesos for the ride and then found our motorbike waiting for us.  Since our time was getting short, we decided not to journey further on to Miches to see the beach we had heard about there.  We did decide to head back and stop at Macao Beach on the way to have lunch.  Our timing needed to be fairly precise as we did not want to be riding a small motorbike on a busy highway at night, so off we went!

Did I mention that riding on this road would be like riding on a two-lane state highway anywhere in the US, except this road was in perfect condition and you were almost completely alone on the road 90% of the time.  We were surrounded by the beauty of the rolling hills, mountains and rivers and we felt grateful to be heading home back to somewhat familiar territory.  We had been on the road for about 10 minutes when I started to notice the motorbike making some strange noises.  I glanced down at the instruments and the gas gauge showed it to be a bit over half full and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  Then slowly, the motor was running slower and slower and Melissa said, “What’s wrong?” and I said, “I have no idea, but we are coasting!”.  We slowed to a stop on the side of the road and started to assess the situation.  We looked all over the bike and could not find a gas cap, but figured it must be under the seat.  We poke and prodded around every edge and side and underneath and found no switch or lever to let us open the seat cover.  We stood there completely confused and quite speechless.

Just when we were going to have to decide what to do next, a man driving a small motorcycle came driving down the road going the opposite way.  We looked up at him but I did not expect him to stop. He apparently had glanced at Melissa and she waived to him and sure enough he slowed down and turned around to where we were stopped.  This man looked like a 30’s something professional of some kind.

I only say this because his clothes were a kind of business casual and he wore small plastic bags around each of his shoes (I assumed in order to keep the bugs off) and bound at the ankles.  This man spoke zero english so we spent the next ten minutes or more using body language, pointing and trying in earnest to pick out any words we could from what he was saying.

Strangely, he pointed to us and to the bike and at first I thought he was telling us that we needed to push the bike.  I assumed at this point he was going to help us and we’d have to push it and follow him, but he insisted that we sit on the bike and then, for some reason, he would stick his foot out in front of him.  It looked he wanted us to get on and put our feet up, but this made no sense.  Confused, we simply decided to do what he said and get on our bike and put our feet up.  

The next thing we knew, he drove up behind us on his motorcycle, stuck his foot out and started pushing us!!  I was incredibly shocked that anyone could even do this on a motorcycle, but off we went!  Luckily the road was sloping down hill and even the small dirt path off the highway was sloping in our favor (and his).  He pushed us for about 5 minutes until we arrived at a very small village where we got off the bike and started pushing (since the road was now going up hill).  He kept pointing and saying, “Mecánico, Mecánico”.  We looked up the road and started pushing the bike toward where he was pointing.  The man yelled at a few other people and they all began to walk by us and pointing to a small home on the side of the village’s main road.  When we stopped we could see what appeared to be a birthday party happening for what looked like two twin girls.  There were decorations all over the front of the home with Minnie Mouse posters and happy birthday banners with a big number “4” on it.  The girls were all dressed up in pink, white and black and the family was eating boiled crab.  They looked extremely happy from what I remember.

I messaged our AirBnb host letting her know what was happening and she said were on quite the adventure and that Dominican’s can fix anything!  We watched as people gathered around us and the mecánico figured out how to open the seat of the motorbike and verify that we were indeed out of gas.  About then, a young girl perhaps 12 years old walked up and asked us in clear English if she could help.  This girl’s english sounded like she could have been from Minnesota or many other cities from the US.  She seemed pretty relaxed as she ate her crab and translated to us what was happening.  She said the man was getting some gas for us and also where we could find the closest gas station on our way back home. 

They were able to spare about a 1/2 gallon of gas and when I asked how much I owed, all they asked for was some money to cover the gas.  I turned to the man who had rescued us off the road and tried to give him some money, but he refused.  When I pressed him to please take it, he looked at me with compassion and smiled his appreciation for me asking, but refused again.  I was overcome by emotions and I reached out and shook his hand and repeated, “Gracias, Gracias, Gracias”.  I held myself together long enough for us to turn the motorbike around and head back to the highway before I began allowing all the emotion out by crying and taking deep breaths.  We drove for another fifteen minutes or so before we had to take a detour off the main road to find the town of “Las Lagunas de Nisibon”, where we found the Texaco gas station and filled up to the very top!

“I held myself together long enough for us to turn the motorbike around and head back to the highway before I began allowing all the emotion out by crying and taking deep breaths.”

After getting back on the road, we both were feeling better and more confident.  We drove for another 20 minutes until we saw the turn off to go to Macao Beach.  The beach was a bit off the highway and we had to drive through a small village and out through some open areas until we reached the ocean.  The beach was stunning but very windy that day.  As we were walking the beach looking for a place to have our lunch, we ran across our housemates who had spent the day at the beach and were just leaving. They suggested that we walk around to the far end of the beach were the wind wasn’t so strong.  It was a nice area to observe people playing in the water and we witnessed a photographer taking pictures of what appeared to be a young couple’s wedding vacation photos.

Since it was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to be home before it was dark, we headed back to the motorbike and observed groups of people in various degrees of celebration.  Some were local families at the beach, some were groups having some kind of tour experience, some where couples on vacation and there were also singles just hanging out.  It was interesting to think about how in each case we were all in the same exact place, but we were all having very different experiences and will take away vastly different memories.  I was especially delighted by a couple young entrepreneurs hanging out where people came off the beach to leave.  When they saw that we were trying to clean sand off our feet to put our shoes back on, they rush over to us with little brushes and started to sweep off the sand from our feet. They were laughing and having fun but I also knew this was one of the ways they made money for themselves and likely their family.  It was funny, after I handed one the boys 200 pesos (thinking they would split it) the one boy said, “What about me?”.  I pointed at the other boy with the money and that boy said (with laughing smile), “No you didn’t work.” and started running away laughing with the other chasing him.

As we got closer to Bravaro the highway became a four lane road (think interstate highway), and the traffic was really building.  We had observed many other motorbikes riding on the shoulders so I did the same.  As we drove we saw a large vehicle stopped along the road on the shoulder, blocking our path.  I started to slow down and was looking in my mirror to see the cars looming behind me in the full lane.  I glanced ahead calculating the distance I had and the chances I’d make it off the shoulder in time to miss the vehicle and not get run over by the following traffic.  To add to my challenge, there was a pavement ledge between the shoulder and main highway lane that I needed to “jump” in order to go around the car ahead.  The time came and I made the turn to jump the curb and the small motor bike tires grabbed onto the ledge and jerked the motorbike to the left and I immediately tried to compensate and not crash.  In the next few seconds, I’m not really sure how we survived.  The bike jerked from left to right several times as we went onto the lane, then back to the shoulder before we swung around the parked vehicle and narrowly missed it!  I mean really, can this trip get any more stressful, holy crap!

As the sun was lowering on the horizon, we rode bumper to tire to bumper on the streets of Bravaro snaking our way back to our condo.  When we finally arrived home and approached the gated entrance the security guy jumped out and waved us to drive in and park.  I was amazed because, how did he even know who we were, but he smiled and showed us in and where to park the motorbike.  As this point were were tired but feeling okay.  When we walked through the apartment door, we saw many of our housemates hanging out in the living room all smiling at our arrival. They had heard from our host of some of our adventure and we filled them in on the rest.  Their reactions shocked me because I really felt like I’d been raked over the coals that day and was shot.  They listened to our story and smiled and said things like, “Wow, you really had an adventure you’ll remember.” or, “You guys are so brave and amazing!”.  I was momentarily speechless at their pride for us and how they viewed the same events in a more positive way.  As we walked back to our room and cleaned up for the evening, I reset my thinking of the entire day and decided that we are really amazing, and that despite the challenges we did it anyway.

After everything that had happened and being completely out my comfort zone and out of my element, I survived.  I was completely bare and vulnerable in multiple situations that day.  We were bullied by the motor-taxi driver, nearly had some of our cash stolen by the rental guy, rented a motorbike with no instructions on operation or who to contact if we had issues, drove a very small motorbike almost 100 miles round trip, road up a washed out road to the top of a mountain, ran out of gas, and nearly crashed our motorbike avoiding a car on the side of the road. Any one of these things are challenging, but having them all happen in the same day is insane!

When we ran out of gas we were completely helpless and at the mercy and compassion of one man and his small village.  I had no choice but to let go of my control. Keep in mind that this is not an easy thing for me to do and honestly, I’m not sure if I could have learned this on my own in any other way.  I now believe this day was hand crafted by the Universe to help me grow and to show me that I can let go and be safe; that being bullied or taken advantage of doesn’t mean I’m weak; and being vulnerable to life can be a blessing.  I’d been repeatedly shown compassion by many people and all I needed to do was trust and accept. These were all powerful lessons that I will take with me on our next adventure.  🙂

Time to celebrate our adventure!

Dwight J. Raatz, January 2019

Boston – Wicked Pissah

Boston, Massachusetts has a population of roughly 670,000 people with that number swelling to over 2.3 million to include commuters during the work week. You can then add on top of that the thousands of tourists visiting every day from around the world. It has a rich history in the beginnings of America that still have effects on our nation to this day. These are just some of what we learned on a recent long weekend trip to the beautiful Boston area and a very worthwhile trip it was!


Preparing and Navigating


For this five day trip, we stayed at an Airbnb in the largest of Boston’s neighborhoods, Dorchester.  Founded in 1630 (just a few months before Boston was founded), Dorchester was annexed to Boston in 1870. We loved the architecture of the houses in the area we stayed.  It was common to see signs on houses with placards stating the year they were built.  Many houses and buildings were over 150 years old.
We’ve utilized Airbnb many times in the past and each time we are pleasantly surprised at what we experience in each location. While it may seem a bit unnerving to stay in a “non-commercial” establishment, we’ve always felt safe and we’ve made it a point to connect as much with the owner’s of the place as well as the locals in the area.  It’s important to us to make an effort to experience as much of the local flavor of the area and to follow the traditions of the people living there.  This includes eating in local restaurants, shopping for food or items we need in the area markets, and more importantly, talking with the people living there.  I can guarantee that the most transformative experiences you will have is to connect with the people living in the area.  Find out what kind of work they do, ask them for suggestions on things to see and places to go.  The people of the area know the secret places and if you ask, they will share them.


Since we knew were were going to be mostly staying local to the Boston area, we decided not to rent a car during out stay.  This has been a trend for us on recent trips and we highly recommend it.  While it may be necessary to rent a car for some places you travel, spend some extra time to find out what kind of public transportation options there are.


On this trip we utilized a taxi from the airport to our Airbnb.  We chose the taxi when we first arrived due to how late it was in the day.  I don’t know if all the taxi’s are set up the same way, but we were introduced to the mobile app Curb.  It was super easy to pay for the cab ride and it has a feature to “hail” the cab similar to Uber where it will find you at your GPS location.  We also used Ubera few times when our feet were dog tired and we just needed a ride to our next destination.  Uber is super convenient, significantly cheaper than the taxi and more readily available. The one downside that we found with both Curb and Uber is that neither of them successfully hailed a ride early on the Sunday morning of one of our excursions.  We ended up walking in the rain for about 15 minutes to the hotel where our tour guide picked us up.  It wasn’t bad though.  We were prepared with umbrellas and the walk was invigorating!  This is another important tip, check the weather in advance of your trip and check it before each day begins.  I use the Weather Channel mobile appand it is proven to be pretty accurate no matter where we’ve travelled in the world.


MBTA – Red Line Train

Lastly, we also used the local Boston metro transit (MBTA) as our primary mode of transportation.  I’ll have to admit, I’m always a bit apprehensive about using metro transit just about anywhere.  I’m not sure why that is exactly, but each time I’ve done it, I’ve never been disappointed. When we first booked out Airbnb, one of the things I looked for is how close the place was to the local train station, and the place we stayed was about a 6 minute walk from the JFK/University of Massachusetts Redline train station.  This was incredibly easy to use and the key to feeling more comfortable is to spend a few minutes reviewing the map the outlines each train and the stops related to where you want to go.  Don’t spend too much time with this as it can feel a bit overwhelming, just get a feel for the trains (named by color, red line, blue line, etc) and the general directions they travel. A couple mobile apps that were helpful are MBTA Boston T Transit Map by Todd Elliot Schrock where you can see train arrival and departure times as well as a “zoomable” transit map.  And mTicketby the MBTA can be used to see train times and to purchase tickets for individual rides as well as other options.


If you have a smart phone, your best friend for getting around will be to use a regular navigation program.  I mainly use Google Maps or the iPhone Maps app. If you type in the the destination where you want to go, then select the mass transit option (this appears like a bus or train icon on the iPhone version), it will tell you which bus or train is closest, its arrival time and how to get there.  This method is far superior to using any other type of app that I found so far.  The downside to using your smartphone for navigation is that is tends to suck up your batter charge pretty fast.  A couple things to consider when doing this I found super help is to bring along an battery charger and to take screen shots of maps or navigation directions.


When using a navigation program, you can view the map or text directions to where you need to go.  I used my phone’s screen-shot feature to save images of the steps as pictures I can view without needing to be connected to the internet.


Screen shots save battery!

This was super helpful in saving battery power as your day goes on.  Plus, be sure to close down any apps you aren’t using (especially navigation or social media apps as they use the most power).  Spend some time reviewing your phone’s power usage and learn how to conserve power in any way you can.  There is a sense of safety you have when you can find out where you are and how to get home, so do what you can to save your battery power.  You can stop into your provider store for assistance, or ask your 10 year old granddaughter how to do it!


For the battery charger, there are two options, bring along your normal wall plug adapter and cable(s) in case you have an opportunity to plug in (helpful at some restaurants).  And secondly, you can buy an external battery that you charge in advance of your day trip, then when your phone is about dead, you can plug in the battery to your phone to charge it back up (be sure you bring along any necessary cables to make either option work).


Tours and Sites


On most of the trips we plan, We try to pre-book at least one or two excursions depending on the amount of time we have slotted. One of the events is usually a tour of some kind that will give us some history of the area. For the rest of the time away, we like to keep it loose and flexible allowing us to manage our time and interests based on how much energy we have or the overall interest in the area in general.  On this trip we planned for a walking tour of The Freedom Trail(via Airbnb) and for a day trip to Cape Cod (via Trip Advisor/Viator).


Boston Freedom Trail

The advantage of the walking tour (and the part that I love) is being able to connect more one-on-one with the other people in the group as well as the tour guide.  The downside to this type of tour is that you have a pre-set time frame (about 3 hours) to get through the entire 2-1/2 miles of the walk and to touch a little bit on each historical site.  As with any tour, the value is in how well the guide know’s their subject and how they keep it all interesting will managing a group of people.  For this tour, the guide did a fairly good job even though he was a law student and history was only a side interest. There are many Freedom Trail tours that you find out there and we passed other groups as well. My advice is to do some research on the guide or tour company to make sure it has what you are looking for.


If I had to do the tour again, both my wife and I agree that we would recommend doing the Hop-on Hop-off Bus/Trolley Tours option. The down side is that you don’t get that personal connection of the walking tour, but that’s about the only trade-off.  There are trolleys running all around the main attractions of the city with regular stops every 10 minutes or so.  Like the title states, you can hop-on or hop-off the trolley any time.  The hours vary, but they run during normal business hours from what I see. The nice part of this tour is that you basically get to see all the same parts we did on the Freedom Trail walk, except you get to hop-off and spend more time at each location.  If you choose this option, you may want to pick up a guide for the trail to learn about the significance of each location.  Also, since there are tons of tours happening all the time, you can likely hear what other guides are saying while you are there.  Also, (especially for you older folks) you get to ride around on the bus which gives you time to relax.  You can ride the route as long as you want all day long, no limit!


The tour to Cape Cod was a full day affair.  We started the day by walking to one of the hotel pickup points near our Airbnb location (which you had pre-book).  We then picked up a few more people and headed for the main transportation “terminal”.  From there people re-arranged to find the tour they signed up for.  We hit the road at about 9:30am with the tour bus driver giving us a play-by-play of information on Boston, the suburbs, highway system, and various attractions and history as we went. It took about 1-1/2 hours to drive south to our main first destination of Hyannis Port, MA which is located on the opposite side from Cape Cod Bay on the Atlantic ocean. Hyannis is a quaint little town with many shops and restaurants to choose from.  It’s also the launching point for many high-speed ferries to the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.  We had about 2-1/2 hours there where we ate our first lobster (pronounced laahbstah) at Fresh Ketch

Yummy Laahbstah

of the trip as well as other succulent sea food.  We also picked up some reasonably priced sweat-shirts and we even had time to enjoy an ice cream at Katie’s Ice Creamwhich even had some non-dairy coconut ice cream options!


One other stop in Hyannis was visiting the John F. Kennedy memorial park located by Veterans Park Beach and near the Kennedy Compound. This was a beautiful place and access to the water was easy to dip in your toes to cool off.


Next on our day tour was stopping in the small town of Sandwich, MA which is the oldest town on Cape Cod at a mere 379 years old!  It is known for the many advances Deming Jarves made in glass molding and pressing technics.  We witnessed a glass blowing demonstration at the Sandwich Glass Museum and spent time visiting

Dexter’s Grist Mill

Dexter’s Grist Mill and walking around the neighborhood taking in the architecture and a local cemetery. This was a cute little village that I could have definitely spent more time discovering more of what they had to offer.


Our last stop on this tour was in Plymouth, MA.  Normally the tour we were on included a boat cruise on Cape Cod Canal, but due to the weather being cold, windy and rainy, the cruise portion was call off for safety reasons.  Instead of the cruise, the tour added on a stop in Plymouth where we saw the Plymouth Rockand the National Monument to the Forefathers.


Plymouth Rock – 1620

Seeing the Plymouth Rock was very interesting and it even had a park ranger giving an oral history of the location and its place in history.  It was somewhat anticlimactic, but worth the time to see it and take in the history of the area. The more impressive site was the National Monument to the Forefathers.  According to the tour guide, this is an often-missed site that not a lot of locals even realize is there.  It’s hidden away near a residential area of town, but impressive nonetheless.  It is thought to be the largest solid granite structure of it’s kind and it was quarried from local Quincy granite.  I highly recommend finding this gem and taking in the messages given on the monument.


Beyond Cape Cod, the Freedom Trail and the countless number of historical sites to see in the Boston area, we also took in The Yard of Harvard University and Harvard Square in Cambridge.  The history behind this school is amazing to say the least.  It has given us eight US Presidentsas well as many captains of industry, entertainers, attorneys, etc. It was amazing to walk the Harvard Yardknowing that some of the most influential people of our history had walked there in the epicenter of the oldest part of the campus. We also visited the Harvard Memorial Church and witnessed the dedications to the many who fought and died for our country that attended Harvard.  We even saw the statue of John Harvard put our own bit of shine on his shoe tip!


The Boston Experience


Just in our short time in the Boston area, we saw quite a lot of interesting sites, but I feel we only exposed a small tip of the Boston iceberg.  Perhaps the most important aspects of the trip to me were connecting to the

National Monument to the Forefathers

beginnings of our nation and to the original tenets of the pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in 1620 (Liberty, Education, Law and Morality).  The basis for these tenets were a guiding force for the beginnings of our country and can even be seen in the writing of our Constitution.


Another important aspect to our trip was honoring and connecting with the people of Boston and all who visited.  It truly felt like the melting pot that we are as a nation.  We saw and heard many different people and their unique languages.  For me this actually gives me hope in our future.  That all of these people mixed and mingled without any issues.  Everyone seemed to go beyond being “tolerant” of others, but rather to being compassionate.


There is something special about discovering the vernacular of the locals in various places I’ve traveled over the years and in Boston I learned and enjoyed a couple new phrases.  One is “Wicked Smaht” and the other is “WickedPissah”.  Wicked Smaht refers to someone being really smart and Wicked Pissah means really awesome.  I’ve decided to work these phrases into my on vernacular in honor of the people of Boston.


Boston, you are wicked pissah!


Dwight J. Raatz
Travel, Non-Fiction
July 27th, 2018