American History, a Super Bowl Ring, Choppers and More

One of the greatest things about taking baseball road trips for The Ballpark Guide – other than the baseball, of course – is the opportunity to check out various sights on my travels. I wasn’t able to do much sightseeing on my road trip in May; seven games in seven cities in four days pretty much eats up the spare time. But when I way away for a little more than a week in August, I had enough time to check out a few interesting things.

As you might have read a while back, I stopped at a number of NCAA baseball facilities during this trip, but those stops weren’t the only times I pulled my car off the road and grabbed my camera.

I ended up with a good chunk of spare time on August 21 and 22 while in Boston for a Red Sox/Angels game and a tour of Fenway Park. During the day, I took a few hours to check out some of the city’s neatest tourist attractions, although I realize I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg of the great things to see and do in Boston.

My first stop was the Charlestown Navy Yard:

boston-charlestown-navy-yard

It’s less than four miles from Fenway Park and has a ton of interesting things to see, especially if you’re into ships and history. I wandered around for a bit and looked at the sights, including TD Garden, home of the NHL’s Boston Bruins:

boston-td-garden

One of the piers in the area is named after Sen. Edward Kennedy:

boston-charlestown-navy-yard-kennedy-pier

Some of the buildings were neat, too. I don’t know the story on this one, but it’s an interesting shape and looks to have been around for a long time:

boston-charlestown-navy-yard-building

After touring the area, I went to check out one of the main reasons for my visit – the USS Cassin Young, a World War II-era destroyer. I won’t try to summarize the ship’s history, but if you check out the Wikipedia link, it’s a cool read. It’s lucky I was able to check the ship out, too; it was closed just a couple weeks later for repairs. Anyway, here’s a look at the front of the ship as it sits in the dry dock:

uss-cassin-young-bow-dry-dock

Upon taking the shot from the front, I walked down the pier along the side of the destroyer and took this shot looking back toward the bow:

uss-cassin-young-side-view

Then, it was onto the ship — all for free, I might add, which is neat. (As I said, I love touring around new places, but I don’t always want to spend big bucks, so this sightseeing adventure was ideal.) I wandered around the deck of the Cassin Young, taking pictures like this:

uss-cassin-young-on-deck

And this plaque, which tells the incredible story of captain Cassin Young:

uss-cassin-young-plaque

Once I’d thoroughly explored the ship, I went back to the pier, where I stopped to take this picture honoring the USS Boston:

charlestown-navy-yard-bell

And then it was over to the Charlestown Navy Yard’s prime attraction, the USS Constitution:

uss-constitution-stern

I expect you’ll have read about this impressive ship in history class, but if not, here’s a recap. Boarding the Constitution is surprisingly free, too, but you have to go through an airport-style security screening station. Yep, the whole deal — pockets emptied, belt off, backpack open, etc. It’s no joke, but I was glad to get waved through into the pier directly adjacent to the ship, which is where I took this picture:

malcolm-at-uss-constitution

There was a guided tour about to begin, so I hustled to get on board before the group did, which gave me a few minutes with relatively few people around. Here’s a shot looking down at the row of “Old Ironsides'” cannons:

uss-constitution-cannons-and-deck

Meticulously coiled ropes:

uss-constitution-ropes

A dizzying shot looking up the mast:

uss-constitution-up-mast

(I’m so glad I wasn’t a sailor in the 1790s.)

The ship’s wheel (or wheels? Any naval experts out there?):

uss-constitution-ship-wheel

Here’s an interesting thing about these cannons. When they fire, they recoil so fiercely that they need to be tied to the ship. Check out how strongly they’re reinforced:

uss-constitution-cannons

As I wandered around, I could hear the tour guide yelling below the deck. He was pretending to be an old sailor, complete with 1800s-era lingo; lots of “ye,” “olde” and perhaps the odd “matey.” (I may have made that last one up.) Anyway, the yelling was loud enough that I was glad I wasn’t on the tour, and as I started to make my way toward the ramp that led off the ship, a woman actually climbed up a ladder from below the deck to get away from the tour. I looked at her quizzically, given the prevalence of “No Climbing” signs, and she said to no one in particular, “That was a bit much.”

After getting back to the pier, I took a few more shots of the ship, including this one:

uss-constitution-bow

It was an absolutely glorious sight. I’m interested in military history and this is arguably the most famous ship in American history. If you’re in Boston to visit Fenway Park or for any other reason, give yourself a treat and visit the Charlestown Navy Yard.

On the morning of August 23, I packed up and headed out of Boston for the 200-mile drive to Wappingers Falls, N.Y., which is home to the New York-Penn League’s Hudson Valley Renegades. (Despite all the sightseeing, let’s not forget that this was a baseball trip.)

Any football fans here? If so, you’ll enjoy this next series of photos. My next stop was Foxborough, MA, home of the New England Patriots. The Pats play at Gillette Stadium, which is part of an enormous complex called Patriot Place. In addition to the stadium, there are a bunch of nice shops, restaurants and other things to see. The Pats were hosting the Philadelphia Eagles that evening in preseason action, so there were a few fans milling about. Otherwise, given that it was a weekday morning, it was quiet, as you can see in this shot that shows some of the shops/restaurants in the foreground and Gillette Stadium looming in the background:

patriots-place-foxborough-ma

The first thing I wanted to see what the stadium itself, which you’ll see here, complete with the trademark tower:

new-england-patriots-gillete-stadium-view

Next, I went to the gate at one end of the field. I couldn’t get closer than this, but it was neat to see inside:

new-england-patriots-gillete-stadium

At this point, two fans in Eagles jerseys yelled “PATS SUCK!!!!” at me. (That’s one exclamation point for each degree of my annoyance.) I should note I’m not a Patriots fan nor was I wearing any Patriots gear.

If you’ve seen the Patriots play on TV, you’ll recognize these pedestrian bridges from which the team’s three Super Bowl banners hang:

new-england-patriots-gillette-stadium-banners

I did a lot of walking around; it was an absolutely beautiful day and given how I eat on baseball road trips, I bit of exercise is never a bad thing. There were lots of stairs to climb, which was also some welcome exercise. Here’s a giant set of stairs next to the CBS Scene sports bar:

new-england-patriots-patriots-place-cbs-scene

Next, I stopped in the gift shop, which was full, as you might expect, of Patriots stuff – much to the chagrin of the Eagles fans. How do I know? Because I saw them in the shop, too, yelling “PATS SUCK!!!!” at everyone. Stay classy.

new-england-patriots-patriots-place-team-shop

And then it was back outside for a few more shots, including this one of me partway up that giant staircase, with the stadium in the background:

malcolm-at-patriots-place-foxborough

And a panorama of the front of Gillette Stadium:

new-england-patriots-gillette-stadium-panorama

I quickly ducked back to my car to have a few snacks, as all the walking I’d done had me famished. After gorging myself on something that probably wasn’t healthy, I went back to the stadium to check out The Hall at Patriot Place, an outstanding Patriots museum. Again, I’m not a fan of the Pats, but this was incredible. I’ll just include a few highlight shots here, with the tip that if you’re in the area, check out The Hall at Patriot Place.

Bill Belichick’s hoodie:

new-england-patriots-belichick-hoodie

Tom Brady’s parking space sign:

new-england-patriots-tom-brady-parking-sign

AFC Championship trophies:

new-england-patriots-afc-trophies

A replica of the check Robert Kraft signed to buy the Patriots for $15 million. Probably a good investment, don’t you think?

new-england-patriots-robert-kraft-check

Speaking of replicas, how about a replica huddle? Here are dummies of Randy Moss, Tom Brady and Danny Woodhead, plus the New England O-line. I walked into the gap between the players and could hear recordings of Brady yelling plays. It was awesome:

new-england-patriots-patriots-place-huddle

Toward the end of the tour, I saw the team’s three Lombardi Trophies:

new-england-patriots-lombardi-trophies

And got to try on a replica of D-lineman Richard Seymour’s Super Bowl ring. It was significantly too big for my thumb, and if you’re wondering, that’s a replica hand holding it. I’m not actually that close with Mr. Seymour:

new-england-patriots-super-bowl-ring-richard-seymour

One of the highlights of The Hall was seeing the player equipment, and just how huge it was. The cleats worn by linemen will make you do a double-take, but given that they’re all behind glass, it’s hard to take a photo that shows context. On the way out, however, there were shoe prints in the floor to show different players’ shoe sizes. I don’t recall whose shoe print this is, but I’m a size 11:

new-england-patriots-player-cleat-size

As I left the building, staff members were already setting up gates for the evening’s game, as you’ll see here:

new-england-patriots-patriots-place-view

I hopped back in the car, resisted the urge to stop at the nearby Olive Garden for some soup, salad and breadsticks, and hit the road. But don’t worry – the sightseeing wasn’t over just yet!

After being in NFL mode for a couple hours, my next stop put me back into military history mode. I made the short drive to Fall River, MA, to visit Battleship Cove. I love the name of this place — while most historical sites have an official-sounding name, this one’s name says exactly what it is. I can just see the organizing committee: “Let’s take a cove, put a battleship in it and call it … hmmm … Hamburger Cove? No, that’ll never work. How about Battleship Cove?”

Anyway, I’ve been on a bunch of warships over the years, but I’ve never actually been on a battleship, so this was exciting. The highlight of Battleship cove is the USS Massachusetts, another WWII-era ship. It played a key role in several pivotal Pacific campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf. But the Massachusetts isn’t the only vessel in Battleship Cove. It’s also home to the USS Lionfish, a submarine, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., a destroyer, the Hiddensee, German corvette, two PT boats, a landing craft and a bunch of other neat stuff.

After I parked, I caught my first glimpse of some of the vessels:

battleship-cove-first-view

That’s the Kennedy to the left, the Lionfish in the middle and the enormous Massachusetts in the back.

Here’s the WWII-era landing craft, which would be utterly terrifying to ride on:

battleship-cove-landing-craft

And a giant propeller, which you’ll notice has been made idiot-proof with an inflatable noodle:

battleship-cove-propeller

When you’re traveling alone, self-portraits are the norm; here’s a shot I took of myself in front of the Kennedy:

battleship-cove-uss-joseph-p-kennedy-malcolm

After checking out the two PT boats, which were housed in a large building, I went out to the pier and toward the Kennedy, stopping to take a picture of this airplane, which had two rather disconcerting signs, as you’ll see:

battleship-cove-airplane-live-ammo

I’m not a huge fan of live ammunition, so I continued along toward the destroyer, which was directly ahead. On the way, I stopped to browse a big historical timeline, which contained this awesome speech bubble:

battleship-cove-awesome-sign

Bad spelling aside, I boarded the Kennedy and took this shot as I walked around the decks:

battleship-cove-uss-joseph-p-kennedy-deck-guns

And this one after going inside the ship:

battleship-cove-uss-joseph-p-kennedy-inside

Back out on the deck, I captured the Lionfish and the Massachusetts. The latter of which is so big that it’s hard to fit in a single frame:

battleship-cove-uss-massachusetts-uss-lionfish

Speaking of the Lionfish, I went to it next:

battleship-cove-uss-lionfish

And then on to the Hiddensee:

battleship-cove-hiddensee

From the Hiddensee, I took this shot of the Massachusetts, which shows just how freaking huge it is:

battleship-cove-uss-massachusetts

I boarded the Massachusetts next, and before I start sharing pictures of it, here’s a shot looking back at the Hiddensee and Lionfish:

battleship-cove-hiddensee-uss-lionfish

Now, as for the Massachusetts, here’s the first shot I took of one of its main gun turrets. To put the size into perspective, note the size of the life preserver:

uss-massachusetts-main-guns

Here’s me in front of the guns:

uss-massachusetts-malcolm

(My head would easily fit inside the barrels of these guns, and I’ve got a big head.)

Everything on this ship was amazing; look at the care that went in to the deck, for example. See all these wooden plugs? Countless man hours, I’m sure:

uss-massachusetts-wooden-deck

It was sobering, as I walked the decks, to think how this ship was built to kill people while other ships were build to kill this ship’s sailors. Reminders were never far away:

uss-massachusetts-shrapnel-damage

Remember the shots of the other ships from the bow, looking backward? Here’s how the Massachusetts looks in comparison:

uss-massachusetts-from-bow

Like I said, enormous. I like this shot, which looks forward from one of the upper decks. You’d feel invincible on this ship, wouldn’t you?

uss-massachusetts-looking-forward

Here’s a shot looking upward from the deck:

battleship-cove-uss-massachusetts-superstructure

This chart was neat, I thought. It’s a diagram of Japanese fighters and bombers so that American anti-aircraft gunners could know what they were shooting at:

uss-massachusetts-aa-gun-sign

Finally, one last shot of the main guns, which were mind-boggling. They’re absolutely gigantic and hard to describe in words and photos:

uss-massachusetts-under-main-guns

I spent nearly 90 minutes at Battleship Cove. It would’ve been nice to spend a little longer, but I had to get back on the road to get to New York for the evening’s game.

The morning of August 24, after watching the Hudson Valley Renegades play the Connecticut Tigers, I got ready to drive home. First, though, I wanted to stop in Newburgh, N.Y., to check out the headquarters of Orange County Choppers. I used to enjoy watching American Chopper during its first few seasons, and given that OCC is less than eight miles from Hudson Valley’s Dutchess Stadium, I couldn’t resist swinging past.

If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know that the business semi-recently built a new, giant headquarters:

orange-county-choppers-headquarters

I was early enough that the showroom had just opened and I virtually had it to myself, which was neat. The first thing I noticed upon entering the showroom was a New York Yankees-themed bike. I don’t know if this bike was one of the featured builds on the show or not, but here’s the bike:

orange-county-choppers-yankees-bike

And check out the gas tank, which is autographed by a ton of Yankees:

orange-county-choppers-yankees-bike-signatures

At a glance, I can see Joe Girardi, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mel Stottlemyre and Mariano Rivera. Derek Jeter was also on there, but his autograph is on the other side of the tank. How many guys can you recognize?

Here’s a shot of the OCC showroom:

orange-county-choppers-showroom

If there’s one custom chopper you associate with the OCC brand, what is it? For me, it’s the fireman bike, and I’m guessing you picked that bike, too. Here it is …

orange-county-choppers-fire-bike

… along with a ton of fire department badges hats, shirts and helmets from across the country, and a special jacket made for OCC’s Paul Teutel, Sr.:

orange-county-choppers-paul-sr-fire-jacket

(Obviously, it’s not no sleeves.)

As for the badges behind the bike, here’s a closer look. You’ll see they’re not just from fire departments; police, paramedics and government agencies from the U.S., Canada and many other nations are represented here:

orange-county-choppers-fire-badges

Just browsing the bikes was loads of fun. I recognized several of them from the show, but others were new to me.

The Ferrari bike:

orange-county-choppers-ferrari-bike

The POW-MIA bike:

orange-county-choppers-pow-mia-bike

The Christopher Reeve Foundation wheelchair-accessible bike:

orange-county-choppers-reeve-foundation-bike

Although you can’t get in the actual shop where the show is filmed, you can look in through a bunch of windows, which is neat. As I said, I was early, and it was early enough that the shop was empty and all the lights weren’t even on yet:

orange-county-choppers-shop

Reader question:
Would you like to see more of this type of sightseeing post? I visit sights like these when my schedule allows it, and I can write more of these posts if you’re interested and enjoy them. Please let me know in the comments below. Thank you!

6 comments

  1. Joshua McNeil

    Here are a couple of places I enjoy in Birmingham, AL:
    – Vulcan Statue- it is the largest cast iron statue in the world, and it is the city symbol of Birmingham. They have a neat museum where you can check out the history of the city and the statue.
    – Rickwood Field- The oldest ballpark in America. If you can, try and make it to the Rickwood Classic (which is something I hope to do). The ballpark was built in 1910.
    And when you make it out to Florida, bring a swim suit. The beaches are nice!
    I had never went out to see those ships in Boston (although the last time I was there, I was 12- I would have been bored to death). I really enjoyed this post, you should write some more.
    -Josh
    joshuamcneil.mlblogs.com

    • Malcolm - TheBallparkGuide

      Thanks for the comment, Josh. I’ve heard a lot about Rickwood Field and would definitely love to check it out when I get to Birmingham. The Vulcan Statue sounds neat, too. I’m going to look it up and see what it looks like.
      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for reading!
      Malcolm

  2. Mike

    Gillette stadium is about 4 miles from my house. You should have said something. I could have had you over for barbeque!

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