Marshes of Rhode Island

As FromSwamptoSummit prepares for the next trip, coming up in July – three weeks in the U.K. with a weeks’ interlude in Northern Spain – how better to get ready than a weekend in coastal Rhode Island, otherwise known as the Farm Coast.

Daughter A and son-in-law N apparently decided to celebrate almost a year of marriage by treating both their aged parental units to a week-end in a lovely, classic New England shingled Airbnb, right at the edge of a salt water marsh. The weekend started, as such things frequently do, with a delayed flight. But at least we were on JetBlue, which is now ensconced in the Orlando airport’s new Terminal C. Somewhat antiseptic, with large soaring walls that could benefit from what at one point would have been called decoration – but this is made up for by the significantly improved food and drink choices over terminals A and B. So there was that, at least.

We arrived almost two hours late at the very pleasant Providence Airport. Small, and some of the best airport bathrooms I’ve experienced. Someday I’m writing a coffee table book called bathrooms around the world. In any event, N’s parents, K and S, picked us up and we hied our way on to the Westporter restaurant in, you guessed it, Westport, where we met up with A and N.

N is finally almost recovered from his horrendous February ski accident (I have spared my readers those details), and we were able to enjoy a long period of sitting on the deck before we could get a table. Delays were clearly the theme of the day. Highlight of the deck experience was when N managed to drop his phone at a completely vertical angle, causing it to make a grand exit between the deck planks onto the ground three feet below. Undeterred, K solved the problem by finding a break in the fencing below the deck and shimmying under to retrieve said phone.

Fortunately, the rest of the evening passed fairly uneventfully.

We awakened the next day to the promise of rain. We managed a short walk around the neighborhood, down to what they call a creek here and I would call a sound side marsh. Two brave souls were in waders fishing for striped bass, looking like something straight out of a movie about rural New England life.

Once the heavens opened, as promised, we were off to the Four Corners complex in Tiverton, a collection of home goods, garden, bakery and gourmet food shops. Our fun stop after that was to Sweet and Salty Farms, a local cheese maker. A and N had ordered cheese and it was sitting out waiting for us at the top of the driveway of their home in a cooler!

After lunch, how better to take advantage of a rainy afternoon in R.I. than to visit one of the “summer cottages,” in Newport. It was the opposite of our cheese pick-up. We selected Doris Duke’s Rough Point as our keyhole into the lives of the rich and famous. She lived there until 1993, and the house is a mixture of the unbelievably opulent and the well lived in. The solarium still has the sofas scarred with marks from her dogs and there’s a microwave in the kitchen. It’s like a time travel trip from the golden age to the jet age. Of particular note, her “quirky” bedroom which features mother of pearl furniture.

Dinner that night was at one of my favorite RI restaurants, The Red Dory, in Tiverton. Usually there’s a beautiful sunset over the ocean, but not so much last night. But the food was as good as ever.

Sunday dawned cloudy, but at least the skies had finished their tantrums. Our trip to South Beach inadvertently turned into a trip toward a bayside walk near Tiverton. It was a working fishing pier with a great stack of rusted iron anchors that looked like a piece of modern sculpture.

This part of RI is not called the Farm Coast for nothing. After miles of small farm after small farm, intersected by sturdy stone walls, we made it to South Beach. The signs all warned the beach was “under repair” and there was “no parking” on either side of the road, but that did nothing to daunt the large number of surfers obliviously leaving their vehicles behind to take advantage of the waves.

On our way to lunch at Evelyn’s Drive In (apparently featured at some point on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), we drove past White Rock Farms, featuring locally raised beef. Outside of Albania, I can’t think of when we have bought meat at the same location where the animal was born and raised. It’s a seventh generation farm with solar panels and electric vehicles and a commitment to humane farming.

Evelyn’s was nothing less than a feast of fried seafood. A, N and K shared the “two pound seafood platter.” I had a “stuffie” – a Massachusetts/RI specialty that involves a quahog (clam) stuffed and baked with the clam meat, breading and seasonings. J had some of the best fish and chips we’ve had, and there were plenty of little neck clams and clam cakes for the table. Clam cakes must be New England’s answer to the hush puppy – they taste almost exactly the same but for the insertion of clams.

Not sure how we’re going to have any room for the steaks!

Three Little Summits – Axes, Duck Pins, and Flowers

Axe throwing, duck pin bowling, and flower cutting. J says it's been my personal triathlon of the last three weeks. It hardly rivals Everest, swimming the English Channel, and riding from the Pacific to the Atlantic (shout out to Rob Lea), but, hey, it's mine.
If I've been silent on this blog recently it's because life has caught up with steps and stairs and summits. How about having graduated from high school 40 years ago? Or a visit to our almost 29 year old daughter in an old Victorian in Providence, Rhode Island, together with longtime boyfriend N and a VERY LARGE CAT who has just joined the family. I think cats can go by full names on the blog. It's Milo. Name came from the cat shelter but it seems to fit.

The 40th year reunion, of course, was part of a trip to the hometown, where the parents still live in the house I grew up in. The city, known to movie and baseball buffs as Bull Durham (yes, I originally and mistakenly posted “the home of field of dreams,” displaying my lack of knowledge of both baseball and movies, as J pointed out), has changed immeasurably from the 1970s when I was last a regular resident. I’m sure none of the rest of us have.  Frankly, most of my high school classmates – about half our class showed up, rather remarkable, looked pretty darn good. I did keep thinking a lot of that may have been the fact I grew up with a privileged group of kids. Wonder what it might have been like if we’d been working minimum wage jobs.

Highlight of the event – axe throwing! This wasn’t the school sponsored activity. The lawyer in me says there could be liability concerns. It’s a more bombastic and less refined version of darts. Instead of a paltry little darts with a few tail feathers to stabilize its flight to a board filled with intricately designed segments with assigned point by point numbers – you’re given a hatchet, with a good sized handle that you simply arch back and hurl, two handed, to a plywood panel with three crudely drawn  concentric circles. I loved it. If you have a high stress job it’s an excellent release.

That weekend was followed by Providence, Rhode Island, the new home of daughter A and  Boyfriend N. Rhode Island has all sorts of things to offer that can fit into a triathalon of weird weekend trips.

First up – two pounds of New Bedford scallops, for free. One of the advantages, apparently, to having connections in New Bedford, home of the scallop fishing industry.

The seafood fiesta was followed by a Providence Day, loosely organized by N and friends. Doughnuts were followed by a trip to a not for profit that’s running a cutting garden out of a bombed out looking area of Providence. The flowers go loose to organizations that help people in times of stress on the theory that making arrangements is very therapeutic. They are then assembled into bouquets for those who need something to get through the day. The former factory on the site had something to do with knives, I think.

You can’t go to Providence without some time at Rhode Island School of Design. Let’s just say that their crafts fair was shoulders above your normal one.

From flowers the only next logical stop was duck pin bowling. Apparently big in Rhode Island (and I believe Maryland also), the alleys are all wood, the pins are small fat little objects, the balls are small and don’t have finger holes, and real human beings are at the end of each lane to reset the pins. I loved it. No possibility of your fingers getting ripped off if they got stuck in the bowling ball. Apparently the one we were at was the original bowling alley at a factory – management had installed it to give the workers something to do on their breaks.

We finished off with a trip down to the South Coast, a nice hike and lunch at a favorite restaurant, The Red Dory. Aside from the fact daughter A might have been bitten by a Lyme disease infected tick, a good time had by all. Plus, trees were in full autumnal garb, always a treat to us Florida folk. And that was topped off by a visit to a farmers market with its own flower cutting field.

So hardly a couple of weeks of real summits. But a good reminder that each little daily activity can have its own summit moment, if you just keep it in perspective.

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