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This is Not Block Island

Our original plan for today was to take the ferry and our bikes to Block Island.  Alas, the weather did not cooperate . . . cold, rainy, and  in a word, crappy.  The weather improved enough in the afternoon for us to take our bikes over to Ocean Drive, so the day wasn’t a complete waste.  But I’m a little bummed about not getting to Block Island.  Tomorrow we’re heading to Massachusetts so it looks like Block Island will have to wait for some other time.  Boo.

Newport Interupted

These storm clouds eventually roll in and dump buckets of icy cold rain, forcing us to abandon the last quarter of Newport, RI’s “Cliffwalk”.  We would have persevered (because we’re not a couple of complete sissies, you know?) if someone (ahem, that would be me) didn’t park incredibly far away from the entrance to begin with.  To be fair, the map wasn’t exactly drawn to scale.  It might have even had one of those warnings you usually see on car mirrors – but this one would have said, “locations on this map are much farther away than you can possibly imagine.”  And in further defense of me, it’s not like we couldn’t use the walk.  So that’s what we did.  We walked, and walked, and then walked a little more.  Long story short, we had walked plenty far already by the time we reached the start of the trail at the “40 Steps”.  And we knew we’d have to do that same walk again on the way home, only this time in the rain.  So when the rain started in earnest 20 minutes later, we made the call and threw in the towel.

Bristol Bay, RI

But the day wasn’t a complete washout.  Earlier in the morning, under mostly sunny skies, we visited Newport’s sister city, Bristol.  This was our first time in Bristol, compared with our third or fourth stop in Newport.  Bristol has many of the same charms – sweeping coastal vistas, a picturesque marina, flamboyant mansions to envy, and a quaint downtown area – but isn’t as overdeveloped or crowded.  While you won’t find anything quite as impressive as The Breakers in Bristol, neither will you find yourself walking miles for want of a closer parking spot.

Providence Ablaze

WaterFire Image

It is every bit as cool as it sounds – 100 braziers, on three rivers, set ablaze to an eclectic mix of choreographed music, in the heart of one of America’s great downtown areas.  This is Providence’s “Waterfire.”  Started in 1994 by artist Barnaby Evans for the tenth anniversary of “First Night Providence,” Waterfire has grown into one of the city’s most spectacular attractions.  Held on specific nights between May and October, we were lucky enough to be in town to catch a performance.

We arrived early in the afternoon intending to take in some other attractions and immerse ourselves in the city before the big show.  One thing that struck us long-time New Yorkers is how empty the place was on a Friday afternoon.  Where are the throngs of people jostling to get to that ever-pressing engagement?  At one point, when we ended up in the wrong building with no one around to ask for directions to the visitor information center, Shannon quipped, “It’s like we’re in that British Airways’ commercial  . . . ‘Where is Everybody?!”

But the relative serenity made walking the city enjoyable – nothing at all like the grudge match the sidewalks of our hometown can be.  So we strolled leisurely past the Venetian- inspired bridges of downtown and the impressive collection of original Colonial homes along Benefit Street that make up the city’s “Mile of History.”  We popped in to see the Monets and Manets (and a giant Buddha statue) at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.  And when we tired of walking we took some rest at one of the city’s several small parks until hunger notified us it was time to eat.

WaterFire 2With no dinner plans we luckily happened upon Harry’s Bar & Burgers.  It didn’t look like much at first, but the waitress’ t-shirt announcing “No Crap on Tap” told us we were in the right place.  And we weren’t disappointed.  The beer list is not overwhelmingly long but offers a great selection.  Shannon stuck to the tried and true Old Speckled Hen, which we last enjoyed in a U.K. pub.  I opted for Shipyard’s Old Thumper, a non-traditional English bitter served at room temperature.  Two great beers and we were off to a beautiful start.  Quality burgers, or in my case a nicely spiced “Sloppy Harry,” arrived in short-order resulting in a surprisingly good meal from a burger joint we picked at random.  Our only regret: we couldn’t stay longer to more fully engage the beer list . . . one of the downsides of life on the road is the constant need for a designated driver.

WaterFire 5From Harry’s we made our way to Waterplace Park, a veritable amphitheater where a river serves as the stage and the city skyline as the backdrop.  What earlier seemed like an empty city now teemed with life as tourists and locals gathered for the show.  Shortly after sunset, music, piped in from unseen speakers, boomed to an encouraging round of applause.  More applause as black boats glided ‘on stage’ and mysterious, black-clad figures ceremoniously lit the braziers.

The surprisingly powerful fires filled the sky with light and smoke and removed the chill from the early June evening.  We made our way closer to warm ourselves by the fire.  From this lower vantage point, the individual blazes merged into a single river of flame.  We watched as gondoliers carefully navigated their passengers through the waters and around the fires.

WaterFire 7From there we meandered along a riverfront pedestrian passage known as “Riverwalk.”  Small alcoves and subterranean tunnels lit by ornate gas chandeliers added to the ambiance.  We paused to watch a fire juggler sail past on his aptly named boat, Prometheus (a titan who, according to Greek myth, stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man).  All too soon we came to the end of the walk.  It was time to leave Providence behind – no city hotel room for us, we headed back to our home-on-wheels as the bonfires continued to burn.

Twenty Years, Nine Months, and Five Days

Shannon Dominates the William Oneill Bike Path

That’s how long it’s been since I’ve owned a bicycle (give or take).  A trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods changed that.  We’re now proud owners of two, mostly functioning, mountain bikes.  I say “mostly functioning” because the dweeb who was supposed to “tune up” the bikes before we took them clearly didn’t know what he was doing.  He fiddled with them for as long as my patience would allow, which apparently wasn’t long enough to get them to shift properly.  Who needs gears one through six anyway?  Other than that, they work fine.  Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Of Dark Clouds and Silver Linings

Bad weather is more unnerving when you live in a tin can.  I used to love extreme weather.  Now it is borderline terrifying.  The swaying trees seem closer and creak more loudly.  The house rocks with a strong enough gust and the rain pounds on the roof like a drum.  It all feels a bit more precarious, probably because it is.  This will take a bit of getting used to.

But by morning, the storms moved on and took the fog that enveloped Narragansett with them.  A beautiful summer day followed in their wake.  All-in all, we survived the ordeal no worse for wear . . .  a little sun burn aside.

Just an another day at the beach - Scarborough Beach, RI

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