Local News

The Adventures of a Stromness Rock

This is the true tale of a glorious adventure made by a peedie painted Stromness stone. With most of us having limited travel opportunities due to the Covid measures put in place in 2020 and 2021, it was wonderful to read the travelogue sent to The Orkney News by one of our many American readers. This was not her journey but one of a stone she picked up when visiting Stromness in 2019. Many thanks to Vivian Swift and her friends for sending it onto us to share with you.

On May 27 2019 I found The Stromness Rock in this parking lot (car park).

It was under the picnic table. The ladies working inside of this shop explained how this ‘game’ of painted rocks works. There was a Facebook group painted on the reverse side, and a plan to take The Rock on a tour of America was hatched.

I enlisted the help of 11 friends and we sent The Rock on a journey of 8,465 miles around the United States.

We called it ‘The Rock’ and we had a blog that everyone contributed to. There were many more photos taken than these that are in this scrapbook but the pictures here will give you an idea of the kind of places The Rock visited in America.

Everyone looked forward to each installment of The Rock’s adventure and it was a hoot to see the weird places The Rock was shown. But we’re happy to send our Scottish stone back home because we’re sure The Rock has been missing everyone in Orkney.

The Stromness Rock on the New York subway.

MASSACHUSETTS

A. The Rock at the Minutman Statue in Lexington, Massachusetts. It’s a life sized bronze figure of the elite militia that fought in the battle of Lexington on April 19 1775 where ‘the shot heard round the world’ began the American Revolutionary War

B. The Old State House in downtown Boston. Built in 1713 it is one of the oldest public buildings in the U.S., now a museum of Boston’s role in the revolution.

C. The Rock kayaking on the Charles River at sunset.

NEW JERSEY/PENNSYLVANIA

A. The Rock at the Ocean County (NJ) Library listening to best selling author Alice Hoffman.

B. With the Moshulu, the world’s oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat. Built by William Hamilton & Co, Port of Glasgow, Scotland in 1904. Now docked in Philadelphia it is the city’s official Tall Ship.

C. Sailing on the Delaware River, skyline of Philadelphia at sunset.

LANSING, MICHIGAN

A. State capitol building.

B. Peace protest before the 2020 American presidential elections (anti-Trump). The Rock is being held by the fella wearing the black cap.

C. The Rock enjoying the view of the Red Cedar River as it merges with the Grand River in Lansing.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

A. The Rock on the foot of Gerald R. Ford at the Presidential Library and Museum. The 38th president of the US is buried here (at the museum ) in his hometown.

B. The Rock at ‘La Grand Vitesse’ by Alexander Calder. The statue is 43 feet (13 meters) tall and is located on a plaza near City Hall. Unveiled in 1969 the modern design was controversial at first but by the time The Rock visited it on its 50th anniversary, the artwork had become a beloved symbol of Grand Rapids.

C. The Rock perched on driftwood on Lake Michigan the only Great Lake located entirely in the United States. We share all the other Great lakes with Canada.

WISCONSIN

A. The Fonz holding The Rock in downtown Milwaukee, by the Milwaukee River. ‘Milwaukee’ is an Ojibwa (native American) word for ‘good land’. In ‘Wayne’s World’, Alice Cooper famously told Wayne Campbell that is was an Algonquin word, but Alice was wrong. It’s Ojibwa.

B. The Rock being held by a kid wearing a white hoodie at The Big Orange Sculpture in Milwaukee. Also called ‘The Calling’ it was made in 1981 and is part of the permanent collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is not a beloved symbol of the city (it is often defaced with graffiti and many many people say it blocks the view).

D. The Saint Andrews Society of Milwaukee was founded in 1859 to unite local Scots for benevolent purposes. This plaque is at the Robert Burns Monument in The Burns Triangle (on the east side of Milwaukee).

E. The Rock on an Autumn walk in Wisconsin forest. The Rock is not used to being surrounded by trees.

WASHINGTON (STATE)

A. The Rock and The Tower of the Triton the first nuclear powered submarine to circumnavigate the world underwater in 1960. Decommissioned in 1969, the Triton became the first nuclear submarine to be taken out of service. There is no reason the conning tower is on display in Washington. It’s an off beat attraction in the small town of Richland where it ‘protrudes through a parking lot at an office complex.’

B. The Rock communes with petrified tree stumps overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. This part of Washington in the southeastern part of the state is shrub steppe desert.

C. The Rock at the Uptown Shopping Centre Richland WA. Built in 1949 it is an historic shopping mall one of the first car orientated malls constructed in the US and reflects the sudden prosperity of Richland due to the influx of money and people during world War II when the nearby Hanford Site was producing plutonium for the Manhattan Project to fuel the world’s first atomic bombs.

Oh, wait. Now I know why the city has the Triton submarine towner.

D. The Rock with Truman and Pippen MacKenzie of Richland Washington.

p.s. The Uptown Shopping Centre is now an official national treasure as part of The Manhattan Project National Historic Park.

OREGON

A. The Rock views the city of Portland population 652,503 , 6th most populous city on the west coast.

B. Zoom in on Mount Hood on a Fall day. Mount Hood is 11,239 feet (3,425 meters) tall and is a dormant volcano.

C. On the bank of the Willamette River in Portland. The Rock learned the correct way to pronounce Willamette: Will -am-et.

D. That’s The Rock (foreground) at the Lan Su Chinese Gardens an authentic (?) Ming Dynasty style garden built in 2000. The name combines the name of Portland (Lan) and Suzhou (Su) a city in Jiangsu province in East China. ‘Lan’ is also Chinese for ‘orchid’ and ‘Su’ means ‘awaken’ so it’s also known as The Garden of Awakening Orchids.

The Rock does not buy this poetic licensing but hundreds of plants and rocks were brought from China to make this the most Chinese ‘Chinese’ Garden outside of China.

p.s. Portland has a much bigger and much more famous Japanese garden. SO give The Rock credit for seeking out the hidden treasures.

CALIFORNIA (San Diego)

A & B. The Rock had cocktails at the Hotel del Coronado. When it opened in 1888 the hotel was instantly famous for being the largest resort hotel in the world. Now it is most renowned for being the location where the classic 1959 film ‘Some Like It Hot’ was made. The movie starred Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

C. The Rock on a boat in the Pacific Ocean looking at the lights of San Diego. The Rock swear it was not a booze cruise.

TEXAS

A. In the Lone Star State. B. The Rock got a make over.

After several months of travel, The Rock’s looks had started to fade. What better place for a revamp than Texas where more beauty pageants are held than in the rest of the world combined ? This might not be strictly true but there are A LOT of beauty pageants in Texas.

C. The Rock in a bed of Bluebonnets the Texas state flower. This is the stage of the road trip when America went into lockdown because of Covid so The Rock didn’t go sight seeing much. But anyway

D. The Rock cozies up in a Sawtooth cactus a type of agave that can grow 6 feet tall.

E. Bonnie the Boxer who won Miss Personality in the Suburbs of Austin Texas Mature Doggos Beauty Pageant, poses with her visitor from Orkney and give a few make up tips before The Rock’s appointment with destiny. The beauty pageant might be made up but Miss Bonnie crossed the rainbow bridge shortly after this picture was taken and it’s true that she is very missed in Texas.

FLORIDA

A. It was raining but that didn’t stop this Flordia gator from wanting a closer look at the Stromness Rock. This is an average backyard swamp in south eastern Florida near Pompano Beach. There really are gators every where.

B. The Rock gets a first hand look at bananas growing alongside the road.

C. The Rock was there when the night blooming cereus bloomed the one night of the year in 2020. The Rock is the perfect house guest if you have a rare flowering cactus that only likes to come out well after dark and only once a year.

D. 2020 was also a tumultuous year in American politics and The Rock watched it all on TV.

SOUTH CAROLINA

A. The Rock visits the capital city of South Carolina, Columbus. It is named after ‘Columbia’ a term used to describe the original 13 colonies that came to represent the personification of the United States in goddess form. In 2020 a statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from a Columbia park and placed in storage after a reckoning with America’s genocidal past re African Americans and indigenous people during the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests. The Rock approves of such re examinations of history.

B. The Rock gets a face mask. The Rock is not an anti vaxer.

C & D. The Five Points of Columbia,S.C. is a hip neighborhood with a great nightlife near the University of South Carolina.

E. Hootie and the Blowfish are a rock band that formed at the University of S.C. in the mid 1980s. They won 2 Grammy Awards and had 16 singles on Billboard Hot 100 charts. Their debut album, Cracked Rear View (1994) was certified platinum 21 times. Apparently The Rock is a Blowfish fan.

THE HOSTESSES

THE RETURN

The Rock, pictured on October 25th 2022 back where it all started, Stromness Orkney.

I hope you enjoyed the travel adventures of The Rock and the tale as told by Vivian Swift.

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2 replies »

  1. This is brilliant – simply brilliant – and I’m sending it to everyone that I think will appreciate it. It covers history, geography, botany, beauty, civil rights – so much – and with humour.

    I often go on about how where humans settle to live, begins with geology – The Rock – knows!