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martes, septiembre 19, 2023
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Top four historical rides for Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a holiday most often associated with beach parties, fireworks, and big barbeques. If you are a history nerd like I am, you might be more interested in a road trip back through time. 

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For those lucky enough to live close to the birthplace of the good ol’ U.S.A, I have taken a crack at crafting some REVER routes that swing by notable historic sites of the American Revolution. These routes are pure fantasies of mine for now. I haven’t actually ridden them. But, I have been fortunate to visit several of these sites through my upbringing in the Northeast. 

I have split the routes into four regions — New England, New York, Philadelphia, and the South. To be sure, there are more famous landmarks you can visit in each region, but the majority of these exist deep in the Eastern Seaboard’s largest cities. In an attempt to make the routes a bit more relaxing and fun, I have expanded my scope to include some lesser known battlefield sites and residences out in the countryside and selected REVER’s “Twisty Routing” function to optimize the riding enjoyment factor. As you may notice, these routes avoid freeways and are quite long, so make it a long weekend and enjoy the trip!

A reminder that the Fourth of July is a holiday that’s known for excessive drinking and unfortunately a higher incidence of driving while under the influence. Please practice extra vigilance if you’re out riding today.

an illustration of the REVER map route
A snapshot of the REVER map for the historic New England Fourth of July route. Explore the route at REVER illustration.

The New England route

The American revolutionary tale arguably begins in Boston, so it is a logical starting point for the New England route. Downtown Boston is brimming with fascinating points of interest, but I narrowed it down to the site of the “Boston Massacre” near the Old State House, as the famous confrontation sparked the patriotic fervor that led to explosive acts of defiance from the Sons of Liberty.

a photo of the old colonial State House in downtown Boston MA
Interesting fact about the Old State House – the lion and unicorn emblems of British Monarchy on the roof were originally torn down by revolutionaries but replicas later reinstated to preserve the historical accuracy of the state house. Photo by Urban~commonswiki via Wikimedia Commons.

The next stop is an easy coastal ride down to Quincy, Massachusetts, where the Adams Historical National Park maintains the original birthplace and residence of founding father and President John Adams. Adams was a firebrand in forging the colonies into a new nation. One of my favorite quotes from Adams is “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

A photo of the Old House, where John Adams lived, it is a long colonial style farm house and surrounded by green trees
The “Old House at Peacefield” at the Adams National Historic Park has housed four generations of the Adams family. Photo by Daderot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The route then heads inland, escaping the city traffic and winding through the forests of Massachusetts and Connecticut to the charming and meticulously preserved Nathan Hale homestead in Coventry, Connecticut. The patriot who was officially designated Connecticut’s State Hero, Hale was caught behind enemy lines on a spying mission and before being hanged by the British military his famous last words were “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” 

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A photo of the Hale estate, with changing color leaves in the fall and a big red barn and house in a field
The entire Hale family was patriotic, with six of the eight Hale brothers serving in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Photo by CTLandmarks, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The next historic site is strategically chosen to enhance the riding experience and less about the monument itself. That said, The Bennington Battle Monument is significant because the legendary battle fought here on August 16, 1777 is considered a turning point in the war towards the Americans’ favor. It is a simple stone structure in a beautiful green park, and is surrounded by Butler Map “Epic Incredible Roads,” so take time here to really explore on your motorcycle.

A photo of Benington Battle Monument, it is a white stone obelisk jutting into a dark and stormy sky
In one retelling of the Battle at Bennington, a soldier recounted, “The bayonet, the butt of the rifle, the sabre, the pike were in full play as men fell, as they rarely fall in modern war, under the direct blows of their enemies.” The American victory carried momentum into the famous defeat of Burgoyne’s army in Saratoga. Photo by King of Hearts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The route back to the coast is also littered with many amazing off-shoot roads, and deposits you at the American Independence Museum in Exeter, New Hampshire. This private residence built in 1721 houses many revolutionary artifacts, such as a prized Dunlap Broadside authentic printing of the original Declaration of Independence (shown only on special occasions, though a replica is always on display). Book a bed-and-breakfast nearby so you can enjoy a brew at the famous Folsom Tavern. It was built by Colonel Samual Folsom in 1775 and was a known haven for patriots and President George Washington himself stopped in for refreshments. 

A photo of the Folsom Tavern front facade that has colonial shutter windows and brown facing shingles
Though the Folsom Tavern has been moved twice from its original location, the structure itself is still fully authentic and yes, open for libations. Photo by DebraHardy, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The New England route meanders home to Boston where I chose Paul Revere’s house as the final destination, but rest assured there is no shortage of fun historic sites to park your bike to end the journey back in time. 

A REVER illustration of the route ride in nEW YORK
A snapshot of the REVER map for the historic New York Fourth of July route. Explore the route more at REVER illustration.

The New York route

The New York colony notoriously abstained from voting on the Declaration of Independence, but the tepid response is understandable when put into context. British troops were already landing in Staten Island on July 2, 1776, and whether they wanted it or not, New Yorkers were thrust into the revolution.

a black and white photo of the small stone cottage known as Conference Cottage
I can close my eyes and imagine a tense stand-off in the intimacy of this cozy Conference House. Image Postcard scan by New York Public Library, public domain.

Thus our journey begins in Staten Island at the Conference House. A last-ditch effort was made to negotiate peace as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge met with Lord Howe, who was commander in chief of British forces in America. Suffice it to say an amicable solution was not found, and so the battle for independence raged on.

a photo of the rustic wood log stockade that had two levels that made up the Cuchetank village
This stockade replica shows off how the Cushetunk settlement relied on an upper and lower fortification to resist French and Native American advances. Photo by Bob Mikul.

Divert into the wilderness to enjoy a respite from the city traffic on your way to Fort Delaware Museum. This is the site of the Minisink Battleground and is now home to a replica stockade that faithfully recreates what colonial life was like for the Cushetunk settlement in the 1760s. 

an old black and white drawing of the battle that includes landscape and soldiers in battle
This drawing depicts the bloody struggle of the Battle of Oriskany. Library of Congress image.

This next leg of the route is a long and winding ride through New York state’s backcountry. A modest monument marks the site of the Battle of Oriskany, fought on August 6, 1777. This battle is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the war as British and patriot forces engaged in close combat in the tight confines of Oriskany Creek.

a photo of the fort and the cannons in place with american flag waving in blue skies
Fort Ticonderoga and its famous cannons that helped turn the tide of Boston’s fortunes. Photo by Manuela Michailescu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The ride continues north, with twisty roads aplenty as you head to the border of New York and Vermont to visit Fort Ticonderoga. This famous fort actually predates the Revolutionary War. Originally built by the French in the 1750s, it was eventually wrested from their control by the British during the Seven Years War (also known as the French Indian War). Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys militia captured the fort with a surprise attack in 1775 and transported cannons back to Boston. Those cannons would become vital instruments in liberating Boston from the year-long siege by the British of their harbor. 

an oil painting of George Washington and his troops claiming victory in Saratoga
This famous painting by John Trumbull shows a victorious Washington at the Battle of Saratoga. Library of Congress photo.

Heading back down toward the Hudson River, the ride intersects with Saratoga National Historical Park. The battle fought here in 1777 resulted in a resounding victory for the revolutionaries, and marked the first time ever in world history that the British Army had surrendered to an enemy. The news spread far and wide, and the American Revolution had newfound supporters emboldened by this decisive outcome. 

Photo of West Point museum, that has gray stones in a 1900s castle fortification architecutre style
The old garrison from the American Revolution is long gone and most of the the buildings at West Point Museum and Academy were built in the 1800s. Photo by Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The route turns southbound from the woods and back toward civilization, with a stop at the West Point Museum. George Washington called this particular point the “Key to America” because of its strategic position on the Hudson River. The museum is considered the oldest in federal history and it houses an expansive collection of military artifacts from the revolution to present day. 

an interior photo of Thomas Paine's cottage living room, with few furnishings and simple decor
Thomas Paine was never one for decadence. This small humble cottage suited him just fine. Photo by , CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The New York route concludes at the Thomas Paine Cottage in New Rochelle. This austere “saltbox” style cottage was Thomas Paine’s homestead in later years, and he was originally buried here until his bizarre disinterment in 1819 (his remains are mysteriously missing to this day). Paine was at the forefront of the American Enlightenment, and his passionate words in “Common Sense” fueled a generation of revolutionaries. 

A screenshot of the REVER map route for the Pennslyvania ride
A snapshot of the REVER map for the historic Pennsylvania Fourth of July route. Explore the route more at REVER illustration.

The Pennsylvania route

If you are looking for a one-day route, it’s easy to condense the Pennsylvania historical ride into a manageable mileage. Delete the Fort Necessity National Battlefield stop from the REVER map and you are good to go!

an upward angle shot of the brick building Independence Hall in downtown Philadelphia
Few buildings in America have survived this long and held such historic significance as Independence Hall. Photo via pxfuel.

It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate start than Independence Hall. It was here that all the delegates of the 13 colonies met, debated, and ultimately voted for independence and then announced it to the public on July 4, 1776. Make sure to get your tickets in advance if you want to see the inside of Independence Hall as the venue is sold out most days.

A photo of the log cabin style soldiers quarters in a misty Valley Forge meadow
Replicas of the log cabin structures that soldiers built to help survive the winter have been erected at Valley Forge National Park. Photo by Rdsmith4, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

Heading out from the city, the next stop is Valley Forge. This plateau became the winter encampment for the Continental Army after losing control of Philadelphia to the British. While no battles took place here, nearly 2,000 soldiers lost their lives to disease, malnutrition, and the cold of winter. The beautiful 3,500-acre park is green and idyllic in the summer months, however, so take a quiet moment of remembrance here.

A photo of the colonial style PennyPacker residence with trees in fall colors and bright blue sky
The Pennypacker Mills estate in its current form depicts 1900s decor and styling more so than colonial times. Photo by Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Close by is Pennypacker Mills, a mansion that George Washington used as his headquarters and later a field hospital for his soldiers after the defeat in Germantown. The mansion has had some updates and additions since colonial times, but the room in which General Washington slept has been kept true to the era.

The Hopewell furnace has white paint finish and red roofing, it is a big building to house the forge
Hopewell Furnace has many well preserved structures to check out, and a strange, convoluted history, as many owners failed to make this business profitable. Photo by Sdwelch1031, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hopewell Furnace is the next stop and offers a glimpse into the iron forging processes of the bygone era. Hopewell Furnace was owned by patriot Colonel Mark Bird and helped supply the Continental Army with cannons and shot during the war. This national park has several structures still standing, including the blast furnace, cast house, and charcoal house, all vital to the war effort.

A rever map illustration of special roads color coded in red, yellow and orange
REVER helps you find the good roads. The many red, yellow, and orange roads are ones that have been tagged by the Butler Maps team as extra enjoyable. REVER illustration.

For those who want to take the extended Philadelphia historic ride, the roads to Fort Necessity boast some of the highest ratings available in the Butler Maps database. The automated route on REVER only touches a few of these. I would recommend any wayfarers to take an extra few minutes and re-route to the yellow- and red-coded lines of twisty goodness to make the most of this trip. While the battle at Fort Necessity actually took place during the Seven Years War, it was here that a young George Washington gained valuable military experience that would serve him later as commander in chief of the Continental Army.

The house depicted here is made of stone and has unique double slanted roof. this house george washington planned war stratgies in
The Benjamin Ring house was where Washington held his Council of War in preparation for the Brandywine Battle. Photo by PookieFugglestein, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The route concludes close to Philadelphia limits at the Brandywine Battlefield Park. This is the site of a battle that involved the most troops of any engagement in the war (estimated at 30,000 soldiers in combat). The American Revolutionaries suffered a painful defeat here, the result being their forced retreat and the capture of Philadelphia by the British. If you are wanting to end your Philadelphia ride on a more uplifting note, I encourage you to head back into Old City and admire the Liberty Bell or any of the still standing sites closely tied to Independence Day.

A REVER illustration of the southern states route
A snapshot of the REVER map for the historic South Fourth of July route. Explore the route at REVER illustration.

The Southern route

The historic Southern route kicks off with a bang at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina, one of the longest standing forts on the Eastern Seaboard. The fort was built to protect the city of Charleston and it successfully warded off British attacks from both sea and land until late in the war in 1780, when the red coats finally broke through. The fort has been continually updated through the ages with modern armaments, all the way up to World War II.

A photo of the fort with blue skies and Atlantic ocean in the background
Fort Moultrie has been a key defensive point for Charleston over many years. Photo by Thomson M, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mount up and head inland to the Ninety Six National Historic Site, considered one of the best preserved examples of 18th-century fortification with its star-shaped design. The longest siege of the war is said to have taken place here, when General Greene’s troops surrounded the fort until over 2,000 British soldiers finally abandoned the garrison. 

a digital rendering recreates the look of the star-shaped fort in Coewpens
This rendering depicts how the fort would have looked like bristling with pikes. National Park Service illustration.

A short jaunt northbound brings you to Cowpens National Battlefield. Cowpens, along with nearby King’s Mountain and Guilford Courthouse, would all serve as linchpins in the fight for independence in the South. General Nathanael Greene’s clever tactics delivered a cascade of American victories in these battles. While visiting all of these sites would be a worthy endeavor, I opted to route the roads into the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains on the way north to Monticello.

this oil painting depicts the scenes at cowpens battle, it is a flurry of horses, soldiers, in tight woods
This painting conveys the frantic energy of battle at Cowpens. National Guard Bureau image of painting by Don Troiani.

Monticello is the Virginia plantation built by Thomas Jefferson, founding father and primary author of the Declaration of Independence. The neoclassical architecture inspired by Italian Renaissance principles was drafted by Jefferson himself and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As splendid as the mansion and gardens are, the slave quarters of Mulberry Row serve as a stark reminder of the moral contradictions of the American Revolution, with Jefferson and others demanding liberty for themselves while denying it to the workers they held as slaves.

a photo of Monticello, that has brick facades and roman style columns in white, with a reflecting pond in front
Thomas Jefferson lived here at Monticello until he died on, of all dates, July 4, in 1826. Photo by Kwak2, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The final leg of the Southern route makes berth at Yorktown, where the last major battle of the American Revolution was fought and won by American patriots and allied French forces. On October 19, 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered and signed the articles of capitulation and the Revolutionary War came to an official end. A most fitting triumphant end to the Southern historic route isn’t it? Coincidentally, right on the beachside so you can have your fireworks and eat your grilled hot dogs, too.

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