I’ll be completely honest with you. Yes, while Thanksgiving is a time to be contemplative and appreciate family and friends and good food, it was never my favorite holiday growing up. I’ll blame my generation on this one. In our current world of commercialized holidays, it’s Halloween and then it’s Christmas. If retail sees fit, they’d seek to eliminate the day altogether (in fact, stores like Wal-mart are now trudging out Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night).
One of my more memorable Thanksgiving memories was back in 2009. I was working in Billings, Montana at my old sports desk gig at the Billings Gazette. This is what Thanksgiving had come to for me – sitting at a desk, surfing the web, working on a few local sports announcements on one of the slowest nights in sports. One of the fellow writers and I went across the street that night to the downtown Burger King to get some food – the worst of the worst of Thanksgiving dinner options. I’m sorry, but even on a regular day, this particular Burger King would be your last choice. As it was, it was our only choice that night, as everything was shuttered up for the holiday.
As I recall, the girl working the counter was, well, a bit “off” that night. It was pretty apparent that she was a user of something, that’s all I could say to that. A couple of the regular downtown street folk were sheltering up in the dining room as this frazzled employee bickered with the other two people stuck with this unfortunate shift. Our Thanksgiving “meal” was delivered fifteen minutes later in the form of two flat and greasy burgers. It was at this moment that I realized that I had pretty much given up on Thanksgiving as a holiday. Christmas couldn’t come soon enough.
I’ve worked two Thanksgiving days. While in college, I worked a handful of Black Fridays and Saturdays while employed in retail hell. The traditional Thanksgiving has been severely limited or completely taken out of my life the past few years. Well, I kinda miss it! I want to bring back a little Thanksgiving cheer. What better way than to dream up some road trip ideas for this weekend and next!
In reality, Plymouth Rock is more or less a symbolic acknowledgment of the pilgrim’s initial landing in Massachusetts. It is oft-confused as the first place they made landfall and as an actual rock they landed on or at – that stuff is for the folk tales upon which a lot of the Thanksgiving holiday takes root in. And no, Christopher Columbus did not land at Plymouth Rock either – I’ve heard that one as well.
All said, Plymouth, Mass. puts on quite a show for “its holiday”. If you’re in town, go visit the rock, but take in a little bit of original New England culture as well. Heck, as long as you’re near Boston (photo above post), might as well take a trip through the Charlestown neighborhood, where Thanksgiving was first declared as a public observance.
The first landing of the pilgrims actually took place a little further east, along the Provincetown harbor in Cape Cod. Say what you will about the monument (it’s may not have been the prettiest thing to foist up into the clouds), but it nevertheless towers over Provincetown’s humble skyline. Provinctown has its own festivals for the big day (and weekend). You can check out more on the Pilgrim Monument here.
First Landing State Park and Jamestown
Virginia offers its own wealth of Thanksgiving-related side trips. While the Virginia Company arrived earlier than the pilgrims and really has no part in that lore, they tend to get bundled up with the rest of the European origins in America, which, in turn, naturally gets tossed into the whole Thanksgiving affair – historical accuracy be damned! Truth be told, though, Thanksgiving was celebrated in the colonial village of Jamestowne (with an extra “e” then) at least a decade before the pilgrims.
Anyway, if the weather permits, one can take in the First Landing State Park site just north of Virginia Beach, though there is nothing to actually see that links this place to the site of the Virginia Company’s landing. A solid 60-mile drive would take you up to Jamestown, the nerve center of the Virginia Colony. Later, take in the festivities at nearby Colonial Williamsburg, which hosts its own batch of Thanksgiving-themed activities and celebrations.
St. Augustine, Florida
It is said that the Spanish colonists in Florida were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving. Details of the first actual “feast of thanks” are sketchy at best, but the Fountain of Youth Archaelogical Park hosts events commemorating this first Thanksgiving in early September.
According to the GNIS, there exists a populated place just west of Easton, Maryland in Talbot County tabbed “Thanksgiving”. While you won’t easily find it by name, you can find the road here in Google Maps. In fact, Thanksgiving Road branches out in five dead ends that almost form the image of a turkey – this can’t be just a coincidence! Visit at your own discretion as this appears to be just a dirt road leading to private properties.
I highly doubt many of you would trek out to the remote capital city of Iqaluit, Nunavut, but it was here, at the formerly known Frobisher Bay, that Sir Martin Frobisher and his men may have celebrated North America’s first ever Thanksgiving. This provides the ultimate basis for the Canadian version of the holiday.
(This has been a Weekend Roady PSA – don’t waste your Thanksgiving eating dollar menu burgers. Get out there and enjoy some history!)