Category Archives: Rhode Island

Rhode Island Part II: Exeter

When we moved from Worden Pond to Wawaloam, it was the shortest distance we have yet to travel between campgrounds. We were parked at our new spot less than an hour after checking out of the first place. It only took a bit to determine the logistics of our new location; we had a sewer connection (yeah), but only 30 amps of power. I would have to run the generator to do laundry, and hopefully the management wouldn’t say anything about that. There was no free wifi, but our ATT hotspot worked -which means we did have a good internet connection. The trees blocked our DirecTV signal, but we got a couple of over-air channels. All in all, we were great.

The park was quiet and peaceful. We had no neighbors around us anywhere, and it pretty much remained that way during our entire stay. The boundaries of the campground encompassed 100 acres, so we had plenty of space to take the dogs on long walks each day. They had a swimming pool and water slide, but they were closed for the season. As we explored the property we also found a putt-putt course, a basketball court, a children’s playground, and a small cemetery. Yes, a cemetery IN the campground. There was a small square plot of land directly in the middle of several campsites that was an historic cemetery. There were about 20 gravestones in a couple of lines which were set off by a tiny rock wall enclosure. The headstones were so worn with age and weather, it was almost impossible to read the engravings. I immediately wondered if the campers who stayed in the spots adjacent to that piece of land ever had any encounters with ancient spirits. I also wandered if those souls might cross the street and visit us anytime during our stay. Hopefully they were all friendly and fun-loving spirits.

The first couple of days were low-key at Wawaloam. We enjoyed the nice weather outdoors in the hammock or by the campfire. We took turns using the car to run errands. Mike went out to buy 15 gallons of hydraulic fluid for the Monaco’s engine. I went into downtown Warwick for some window shopping and to bring home fresh shrimp and stuffies from the fish market in the town harbor. We both went in search of haircuts. By the third day, the weather was still glorious and it was time to see more of our surroundings. This time we got in the car together with the dogs and drove over Narragansett Bay to Newport.

We crossed the iconic Newport suspension bridge and took the first exit to the right. We were immediately in the middle of an ancient seaport village with narrow streets and an elaborate architectural tapestry. I was excited about spending our day in America’s First Resort after seeing only 2 blocks from the passenger- side window. Mike drove us through the center of town with me ‘oohing and aahhing’ as we passed every building and intersection. The Newport Historical Society says “[The city’s] history is remarkable in many ways, but perhaps the most unique aspect is that so much of its history is still visible on the landscape in an unparalleled concentration of preserved architecture”. Our first stop was on the waterfront overlooking Newport Harbor from Morton Park. We weren’t exactly sure what our agenda held, so we figured we would let the dogs stretch their legs on some nice grass with a view as a safe beginning. After everyone was content, we got back in the car to find the famous Ocean Drive.

This scenic drive, also known as “10-Mile Drive”, encompasses most of the southern coastline of Aquidneck Island (where Newport is located). As we drove along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, we rounded corners to find enormous mansions perched on cliffs overlooking waves crashing into the rocky shoreline below. I’m sure Robin Leach filmed a few episodes from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous near here. More ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ from the passenger seat. We could tell 10-miles had passed when we ended up back in what seemed like the middle of town. But this wasn’t just any town. The neighborhood we were in was Bellevue and it was a National Historic District flanked with mansions built by affluent summer vacationers around the turn of the 20th century. These were once the summer homes for families like the Vanderbilts and Astors. In my opinion, the most special part about this historic district is that so many of the homes are now open to the public for tours. It was obvious that Newport’s economy enjoys good profits from the tourism industry. The streets were thick with tour buses and open-air trolleys. The sidewalks were crowded with tourists; immediately identifiable by the cameras around their necks, hats on their heads, and tennis shoes on their feet. I overheard more foreign languages being spoken than I did regular English. I began to hope that the foreigners understood that the America of the Gilded Age was a far cry from the current America of 2013, in a plethora of ways.

It was time to park the car again, the dogs were bored with sight-seeing from the window and wanted to experience the place first-hand (or first-paw, I should say). We found a parking meter near Easton’s Beach, and made our way to the Cliff Walk. I knew Mike and I would be looking for an outdoor patio in the near future, so we needed to walk the dogs and wear them out. Life was much easier for us at a restaurant or bar if Piper and Cessna were tired upon arrival. This means they would chill out under our table and everyone around us would be tricked into thinking they were actually well-mannered canines.

The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 –mile path along Newport’s Eastern Shoreline. The views from this designated National Recreation Trail were fabulous in any direction. One side featured a view of the Atlantic Ocean down below a steep and jagged New England shoreline. When we turned our heads we got the chance to marvel at the lawns and gardens of Newport’s monstrous ocean-front mansions. We made a brisk walk down to The Breakers, the famous 13-acre estate built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II between 1893 and 1895.  This summer home is a 70-room mansion sprawled over 65,000 square feet. The original construction cost totaled $12million; in today’s dollars adjusted for inflation, the number would come in at approximately $337 million! Wow.

The path of the Cliff Walk was interrupted at this point due to damage from Super Storm Sandy. We were getting thirstier with every step we took, so we reversed course and returned to the Honda. If we wasted too much more time sight-seeing, we would be late for happy hour.

We were lucky to find another metered space back in town next to the Post Office. After we parked, we set out on foot again to explore the harbor area. We love to sit and watch all the activity of boats coming and going, so we were hoping to find a place with a view where we could relax for a bit. This is how we found ourselves in Bannister’s Wharf. When we saw the sign that said DOG BAR, we figured we had stumbled onto our happy hour spot. We found a table on the sidewalk where we could watch boats and people while the dogs bellied up to the water bowl. It turns out we were patronizing the Clarke Cook House Restaurant. We were sitting in the Candy Store section – I guess as a reference to a previous use of this historic commercial property.  I could have lingered there for hours. The main dining room had an entire wall missing. On the far side of the bar was a window of wide-open air from floor to sky.  A very romantic view showcased a real-life vision of the harbor in the forefront and Narragansett Bay in the distance.

We enjoyed a couple of drinks at the Candy Store, and then continued our tour of Newport along the famous Thames Street. This is the main strip through downtown. The sidewalks are lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants, small inns, and any other sort of business you can imagine. It was immediately obvious that all the action takes place along this commercial corridor. Our final destination along Thames was another dog-friendly bar called Obrien’s. We stopped in there for another drink before deciding to call it a day and drive back to camp. Our day in Newport had been a great success. Even though we had only allowed ourselves time to see a glimpse of the numerous local attractions, I had seen enough to want to come back for a longer stay in the future.

We had driven along- side Narragansett Bay when we stayed in our first Rhode Island Campground. From this location we had driven over the Bay on our way to Newport. Now I was ready to get out in the bay, and see this region from a different perspective. There was a brochure at the main gate that I had picked up when we checked in. It advertised a 90-minute tour of 10 local lighthouses, 10 islands in the bay and Newport Harbor aboard a high speed catamaran. We booked our reservations online and spent a Sunday afternoon cruising the waters of the bay. It was cloudy and windy, but there was an indoor cabin so the weather was no factor. We could get out onto the deck to snap pictures when we wanted to, and then relax inside at our small table with our Bloody Marys in between photo opportunities. A local historian narrated the cruise, sharing stories and folklore about some of the highlights we saw along the way.  We passed all sizes of sailboats as we made our way toward the beginning of the bay where it emptied into Rhode Island Sound. As we skirted the Atlantic Ocean we could see a sailing regatta at full speed off in the distance to our south. The J24 North American Championship was being held that weekend in Newport. We came around Jamestown Harbor and wandered into and through Newport Harbor. We even saw the ship they used to film the movie Pirates of the Caribbean! By the time we returned to our terminal at Quonset Point, we had seen over 60-miles of coastline. Our sightseeing cruise had been a great experience.

The fall season officially started during the time we were parked at Wawaloam, and the weather could not have cooperated more appropriately. The temperatures were crisp and cool with lows in the 40’s and highs in the 70’s; the wind was breezy and brisk. The leaves of the trees around us were changing to hues of copper, gold, and bronze right in front of our eyes. The perfectly clear blue skies made a perfect backdrop for the bright colors of the foliage as we looked up through the trees to their tops. This was the type of weather where outdoor activities become mandatory. Mike decided to take advantage of the flawless climate and play some golf. Exeter Country Club was just down the road from our camp, and they had a sign that said “public welcome”. He called and booked a twilight tee time for 2pm. We went to the store earlier in the day to stock up on groceries and get ingredients for chili. (A pot of chili is another mandatory requirement when welcoming autumn).  I dropped him at the golf course after the store, and then went home to brown the meat, put the chili in the crockpot, and walk the dogs. Once dinner was simmering and the dogs were satisfied, I drove back to the golf course and rode along in the cart for the last nine holes.

On our last full day we drove back over Narragansett Bay to Middleton for lunch. We like to log onto the website for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and see if any of the featured restaurants are located near our various locations. In this instance, we were about a 30- minute drive from Anthony’s Seafood. Their specialty was Kung Pao Calamari, and we were eager to see what the fuss was about. The place actually turned out to be half restaurant and half fish market. I was so bummed I had not brought a small cooler with us in the car. If I had been properly equipped I would have ordered lunch, and then cleared their coolers of packaged lobster bisque, Baked Seafood Nantucket, Rhode Island “stuffies”, and many more delectable treats. As it was, we ordered the famous calamari, some Portuguese fish stew and an order of fish tacos. Everything was fresh and hot. The order of calamari was crispy and spicy.  The stew was packed with flavor, and Mike’s tacos even came with yummy battered French fries. We ate all we could and packed up the remains in a to-go box.  After we stuffed ourselves, we stopped for a few errands as we drove back to the Monaco. When we were back at camp, we did a little bit of preparation for our upcoming travel day, and then we burned the last of our firewood in a big campfire.

As we prepared to leave The Ocean State we recalled many fond memories of our brief stay in Rhode Island’s South County. The landscape was so charming and varied. Vistas of rolling hillsides and local farmlands, to majestic shorelines and quaint marinas abounded in every direction. The little state that ranks 50th in all the states for land area  made a much larger impression with its multiple beaches, natural beauty, historic architecture, and scrumptious local food from the ocean and garden alike.  We didn’t make it to Providence, and we hadn’t seen the northern sections of the state’s boundaries, but we were enamored regardless of what we had missed.

 

Our spot at Wawaloam. #42

Our spot at Wawaloam. #42

A side view of the famous Breakers Mansion.

A side view of the famous Breakers Mansion.

These tiny cemeteries are all over Rhode Island (and all of New England). This one was between the 9th and 10th holes on the Exeter Country Club Golf Course. There was another one like this across from our campsite at Wawaloam.

These tiny cemeteries are all over Rhode Island (and all of New England). This one was between the 9th and 10th holes on the Exeter Country Club Golf Course. There was another one like this across from our campsite at Wawaloam.

We were looking for a spot to sit with the dogs when we spotted this fun set-up.

We were looking for a spot to sit with the dogs when we spotted this fun set-up.

Such a cool restaurant at one of Newport's many harbors. There was no wall facing the water, so it was truly an indoor/outdoor space.

Such a cool restaurant at one of Newport’s many harbors. There was no wall facing the water, so it was truly an indoor/outdoor space.

Narragansett Bay

Narragansett Bay

We parked next to this wonderful beach in Newport in order to take the dogs on a stroll along the famous Cliff Walk.

We parked next to this wonderful beach in Newport in order to take the dogs on a stroll along the famous Cliff Walk.

One of the vistas from Ocean Drive in Newport.

One of the vistas from Ocean Drive in Newport.

A view of Newport Harbor

A view of Newport Harbor

 

 

 

 

Rhode Island Part I: Worden Pond

Our first stop in Rhode Island was at Worden Pond Family Campground in Wakefield. The campground is directly across the street from Worden Pond, which is really a lake. Up here they call all lakes ponds, regardless of size. Where we are from a pond is a little tiny hole of water, and a lake is big body of water. Here everything is a pond. Maybe it has to do with the depth of the body of water… I’m not really sure about all of the details when it comes to lakes vs. ponds.

We selected this campground based primarily on price and location. The rate was reasonable, and it was close to many beaches we wanted to see.  They had water and electricity, but no sewer connections. The campground did have a ‘honey wagon’, so we planned to be conservative with water. When our tanks got full, we would schedule the honey wagon to come empty us for a $15 fee. As usual, we only made a reservation for one week in order to see about the place first. If it was nice we would extend our stay, if it wasn’t, we would move to an alternate location for the rest of the time we planned to be in the Ocean State.

Well, let’s just say Mike started researching alternate campgrounds while enjoying his coffee on our first morning at Worden Pond.  The campground was not scary. The bathrooms were clean enough for me to use their shower as part of our water conservation effort. I was initially bummed I had to pay one quarter per 8 minutes of hot water, but our nice neighbor let me in on a secret. The last shower stall in the ladies bath house worked without quarters. Whew, that was good news. I take really long showers and my quarter supply would have been diminished immediately. We had free Wi-Fi, but no DirecTV signal. The park did not have cable, so we had two over-air public access channels. Fine for mental diversions, but not great during college football season.

The place was very big. Most of the sites (more than 300 of them) were occupied by ‘seasonals’. The owners had about 20 designated spots up front, across from the playground and pavilion, for travelers like us – coming and going for short stays. Everyone else had permanent campers to which they traveled from regular houses on weekend get-a-ways. A few of these campers were occupied by full-time residents. The spots were pathetically close together and about 90% of them were piled high with junk and toys. There was trash on the ground everywhere. It wasn’t even fun to walk the dogs around the perimeter of the camp because all the litter was so depressing.

To top it off, someone in a neighboring subdivision had a pet wolf-dog that they let roam loose. One morning as I was getting ready to take the dogs out, I accidentally glanced through the side window of our coach and saw him wandering around. I left the dogs inside and went out to see what the deal was. As I approached him I could tell he wasn’t the friendliest of canines. He was part growling, part howling at me as I sized him up. Just about then our neighbor in a pop-up tent warned me that he “would stay away from that dog, if I were you”. Then he proceeded to tell me how he watched the wolf-dog attack another camper’s dog as they were out walking with a leash. Great. Mike came out and shooed him off. He went one way, while the four of us went the opposite direction to do our business. When we returned to our bus, there was a large pile of crap in the middle of our ‘yard’. Nice doggie. We got the message. We ended up dealing with the stupid stray wolf-dog every morning. He would roam the campground beginning around dawn until he had scavenged and tormented all he wanted. Then he would climb back over the rock wall fence and head home, I presume, to sleep for the rest of the afternoon.

We embarked upon our first excursion a couple of days after setting up camp. Our first stop was to an alternate RV park about 10 miles from us. We wanted to see if Wawaloam campground in Exeter was any nicer than where we were. They had sewer connections but only 30 amps of power. We could do with less power far more easily than we wanted to do without another sewer connection. We took a beautiful drive on the back roads to get there and were pleasantly surprised with what we found. No litter, nice landscaping, clean and neat seasonal sites… much better. We booked our reservation before we left; paid in full for the time we intended to stay there.

After that, we headed toward Route 1A. Seems like we have been on Route 1A since May! We wanted to hug the shoreline of Narragansett Bay as we drove back south toward Worden Pond.  We headed east from Exeter and found the beginning of the scenic drive in Wickford.  I was making mental notes of all the places I wanted to come back to after we relocated to our new spot. The weather that day happened to be incredible. It was an insanely sunny and warm Wednesday. When we arrived at Narragansett Town Beach, it looked like the entire population of the State of Rhode Island had decided to play hooky! The parking lot was completely full and there were people everywhere. We wanted to get out and look around, so we kept driving to find a parking spot. We passed the Narragansett Pier and the iconic Towers (the only remaining structure of a once elegant Victorian-period casino).  We kept driving to see what was next, and the road became a meandering path of magnificent homes and mansions on both sides of us. The estates on the east side of our drive all seemed to be perched on cliffs overlooking the bay.

We found another beach farther south. Scarborough Beach was a public beach that had hiking and biking trails in addition to sand and shore. We weren’t dressed or equipped for a beach excursion, but by this time we were anxious to find a spot where we could get out of the car to soak up some of the sun and fresh air. We decided we wanted a bar with an outdoor patio and a view of the water. We found a spot where Old Ocean Road met Hwy. 108. It was called Hammerhead Grill. It was near the edge of the water with a great view facing east, and it had an outdoor patio. Just what we ordered… sort of. The summer season was over. This means that even though it was a beautiful day, the patio was locked and apparently bolted. We had to settle for an indoor table with a view through glass and screens. It was still a nice scene, but the air wasn’t quite as fresh as an ocean breeze would have been.

Next to the Grill was what looked like a secret trail heading toward the water. A narrow sand and shell pathway with tall walls of sea grass and other vegetation wandered toward the sound of waves,  mischievously curving back and forth to block the final view until the very last minute of the passage. When we emerged from the maze, we arrived at a beach of rocks and pebbles. The land curved out in front of us to the south, so we could see the Point Judith Lighthouse just across the water. They say Rhode Island is the Ocean State because they have so many beaches. What was amazing to me was that the beaches were all so different from each other. Just a few miles up the road the beach had been sand and flat. Now it was sloped and we were standing on large rocks and pebbles. No hint of sand after the secret path ended. After we took in the view and snapped a few photos, we headed back in the car to find our next stopping point.

While we were at Happy Jack’s Sports Bar the previous week, we were visiting with a Harley-Davidson couple who had stopped in for some wings on their way home from a day of riding. They told us about a place called George’s of Galilee. When I looked at my map I found out it was just around the corner from us. It was time to take the advice from the locals and try the place they recommended. We drove about another mile down 108 and turned left at Galilee Escape Road. I liked the sound of that!

Overlooking the Block Island Sound in a picturesque fishing port, George’s of Galilee Waterfront Seafood Restaurant has been serving its signature dishes since 1948. It appeared as though the owners of the restaurant had expanded its dining spaces and outdoor patios over the years as the popularity of the establishment increased. They had about five separate dining rooms and as many outdoor patio spaces. We decided to sit upstairs on a deck that overlooked the beach and also the adjacent channel through which ferries and boats passed. We shared some appetizers and ordered the lobster pizza with a spinach and fruit salad to take back home with us. As the sun started setting to the west, the shadows got deeper and the ocean breeze became much more brisk. Since we didn’t bring jackets, it was time to drive back home before it turned completely dark and much colder.

We had been pretty good with our water conservation efforts back at camp, and I was getting very itchy to do laundry. If you ask Mike, he’d say I have a ‘thing’ for laundry. I must admit, I am happiest when I can wash and put away at least one load of clothes, or towels, or sheets each day. It helps our tiny house stay clean and well-managed. If our living quarters are going to be compact, the environment is much more pleasant when our surroundings are neat and tidy. Our current logistics were such that if I ran the washing machine, our grey tank would need to be emptied soon afterward.

I walked to the front office to schedule a visit from the honey-wagon. This is when the funky mojo we had at Worden Pond Family Campground got even worse. I tried to schedule an appointment and the guy wanted to know if our black tank was full or if it was only our grey tank.  During the check-in process he reminded me we did not have a sewer connection, but informed me we could dump our grey water straight on the ground… because the “drainage was so good”. I thought to myself, GROSS, and told him we didn’t mind paying the $15 fee to empty our tanks. Now it was time to empty them and he reminded me that we could dump straight onto the ground by our spot. I assured him we were prepared to have the truck come around and take care of us. Then he became a little more straightforward with what he meant. He basically told me that if the black tank was full, they would come to us. Then he explained that they didn’t have room in their septic system for the grey water, so it just needed to be dumped on the ground “since it was good for the soil”. Really? Disgusting bath, kitchen and laundry water is good for the soil at your park? Oh well, never mind then. I went home and ran a load of laundry. Mike and I were so mortified with what came next, we waited to dump the tank late that night after each of our neighbors had gone inside to bed. We finished our stay repeating the same awful task each evening, counting the days until we got to move to Wawaloam. This place was even trashier than I first imagined!

The negative factors at our campground in no way influenced our over-all impression of the State of Rhode Island. The geography was so varied for such a small state. At one minute we were driving through hilly terrain shaded with a dense tree canopy, and one mile down the road we would be parallel to dramatic cliffs and blue ocean vistas. Money Magazine named the South County region “One of the 12 Best Places to Vacation in North America”.

On Saturday Game Day we did a little bit of exploring before settling in at a local sports bar to watch college football. I’m always asking Mike to drive down Highway 1A. I’m curious to take the road that leads to the end. There are many Highway 1A’s in America. Today, 1A was east of us toward Watch Hill and Westerly. My friends from Foxwoods Casino told us we needed to visit there.  Wikipedia says Watch Hill is an affluent coastal village in the New England town of Westerly. It sits at the most-southwestern point in the entire US state of Rhode Island. It came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th century as an exclusive summer resort, with wealthy families building sprawling Victorian-style “cottages” along the peninsula. Watch Hill is characterized by the New York Times as a community “with a strong sense of privacy and of discreetly used wealth”, in contrast with “the overpowering castles of the very rich” in nearby Newport.[2] Today, it is best known as the backdrop for the Ocean House, the only Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Rhode Island. In reality, I’m guessing today it is best known as the place where Taylor Swift recently purchased a reported $17 million oceanfront mansion. (I knew which one it was immediately because it was the only mansion with a guard in the front drive).

I’m going to put Ocean House on my list of places to which I would like to return as a guest. My list started with Little Palm in the Keys. Then we found that place in New York called Mohonk Mountain House. My next entry is this grand yellow and white Victorian treasure perched above Block Island Sound. The tiny village of Watch Hill has only one block of commercial businesses. We were there mid-morning and the place was packed. All parking spots on the streets were taken. There were a few parking lots that were full or closed. We had planned to get out and walk the dogs around the area, but we couldn’t find anywhere to deposit our vehicle. We cruised the area, circling the block a couple of times. Finally, it was time to give up. We left Watch Hill and drove toward the small town of Westerly. Maybe we could find parking there.

We had better luck parking near a beautiful community park in the center of Westerly. Fortunately for us, we stumbled upon Wilcox Park at a time when the dogs really needed to stretch their legs. The historic park was originally designed by Warren Manning with specimen trees, shrubs and display flower beds on fifteen acres. Fifteen acres is a large municipal park. It also had a koi pond, dwarf conifer collection, a fountain, monuments, flower gardens and perennial borders. Pathways through the park crossed over carpets of perfect green grass. Families played with children on blankets, or snapped photos near the duck pond. A party of wedding patrons was even gathering near a corner gazebo for an afternoon ceremony. It was a perfect setting. How many times do you get to say “today was a walk in the park”! We wandered around the rest of the downtown streets before making our way back to the car. The dogs were tired, and it was time to start part 2 of our Saturday. It was time for football.

Of course, OUR game was going to be broadcast on the fabulous LHN… which meant we were hoping to find it on the radio later in the evening. We had already given up on the possibility of actually watching the Longhorns play Ole Miss. We had to settle for watching the A&M vs. Alabama game that started at 3:30 that afternoon. We picked to watch it at a nearby Tavern called Mews. It was the perfect bar. They had tons of televisions, an excellent beer and scotch collection, and autographed $1 bills plastered all over the walls and ceiling. We were so lucky. The perfect park and the perfect bar in the same afternoon! We shared some buffalo bread and a Sicilian calzone while I worked on the $1 bill we were going to leave on the wall. The waitress brought me a Sharpie and a stapler. When the game was over we went home and built a campfire. We sat beside the flames for the rest of the evening and listened to a live stream of the Texas Game on Ole Miss Radio. We tried to listen to UT announcers, but our website made us pay money and then the feed was faulty. We finally gave up and listened to our opponent’s announcers call the game. The signal was strong and steady… the charge was zero. Way to go longhorns. Oh yes, and we lost the game too. Must have been more of the bad mojo from Worden Pond.

We saved the best for last on this stay. Our last Sunday in Wakefield featured glorious weather. The clear blue skies and crisp air made for a wonderful backdrop as we took our bicycles on the 30 –minute ferry ride to Block Island. Our neighbors back in Voluntown had told us the best way to see the island would be to take our bikes for the day and explore at our own pace. It was a fabulous suggestion. When we got off the ferry, we decided to ride on a loop around the island. Mike was our leader. I was following him on the narrow street we shared with cars, mopeds and pedestrians. The roads were sloped and curved, so I was getting a good workout on my legs too. We were off to a great start with clean air, gleaming sun, and exercise all at once.

We were making our way to the Southeast Lighthouse as Mike detoured to the right on a whim. I thought he had probably seen an historical marker or an interesting building. I must say I was NOT expecting him to have spotted 2 camels in the distance. What? And, was that a yak? Did I just see that kid feeding an alpaca? Yes, we certainly needed to get off our bikes and check this out. We had stumbled upon the Abram’s Animal Farm, which is a family owned farm that services their adjacent Manisses Hotel. The farm provides fresh produce for the hotel’s restaurant, but the owner started collecting exotic animals years ago.  He had quite the collection of various species all mingling amicably in a large sloping fenced-in pasture. Did you know the result of a cross between a zebra and a donkey is called a Zedonk? Well we saw one with one eye! The Abram’s family has managed to collect llamas, emus, kangaroos, a gigantic tortoise, several species of exotic birds and pheasants. Of course they also have the usual cows, sheep, and chickens sprinkled into the mix of animal menagerie. We hung out for a while. The farm provided cups of food for the animals in the pasture. They had an honor system where you could leave a dollar and feed an animal. The llama just took whole cups out of the human’s hands and tipped them back like a shot glass. The yak would open his mouth wide, bearing his huge square teeth, and wait for people to pour the cup down his throat. I hope the camel’s name was Mr. Wednesday, because he stood proud and regal while we all snapped photos of him posing for the camera. He was loving the attention. The whole experience was so unexpected to begin with, we couldn’t stop grinning at how bizarre everything seemed at this private, but welcoming, make-shift petting zoo.

Back on bikes, we continued up and down and UP and down Spring Street until we reached the Southeast Lighthouse. I was ready to put my transportation down for a minute and walk the jelly out of my legs. This stately lighthouse is not necessarily tall at 52-feet, but it doesn’t have to be because it sits high atop the Mohegan Bluffs. Its elevated location allows its flashing green light to project out into the ocean. That is important since we were spending the afternoon on a 7,000 acre “stumbling block” of the New England Coast. Built in 1874 under order from President Ulysses Grant, the building is now a Registered Historic Landmark. According to Coastal Living Magazine, the historic structure is even counted among the top 15 Haunted Lighthouses in America. Legend has it that in the 1900s a keeper murdered his wife by pushing her down the steps. Her spirit never left her home. It is said she harasses men only—by shaking them, lifting their beds, or even locking them in a closet or out of rooms. We stayed safely outside and admired the building from afar. I did not want Mike getting locked in any closets because I didn’t want to lose my biking buddy for the rest of the day. After admiring the majestic view and attempting to capture some of the beauty on our camera rolls, my legs felt strong enough to tackle a few more hills.

Spring Street turned into Mohegan Trail and then Lakeside Drive. The houses we passed were all quintessential New England summer houses, with Victorian details juxtaposed against hearty brown shingles outlined in piercing white trim. They seemed to be randomly scattered across the landscape facing all directions to take advantage of the views and the wind-flow. Some of the cottages were small and conservative, while others were large estates that sprawled onto landscaped lawns at the end of winding primitive drive-ways. The properties featured lots of space between each other, so it seemed like owners and guests would really feel they were getting away from everything when they spent time there.  As inviting as the architecture was, the island’s scenic natural expanses were even more spectacular.  There were meadows and ponds. Fields of gardens were sectioned off with stone walls. Yellow wildflowers dotted the canvas of green grass.  All with the backdrop of the blue Atlantic Ocean shimmering off in the distance until the sky met the water. In the early 1990s, the Nature Conservancy named Block Island one of the “Last Great Places on Earth.” I definetely felt like we had discovered an enchanted treasure on this daytrip.

We rolled into New Harbor after a couple of hours and arrived at the inevitable… it was time for a drink. We found a great spot called The Oar nestled on the banks of The Great Salt Pond. They had sets of Adirondack chairs set out on the grass at the water’s edge facing several marinas. We were happy to sit back and sip our bloody Mary’s while we watched all the boating activity in the busy harbor. Our next stop was on the patio of the Beachead Restaurant across from Crescent Beach. We shared some seafood nachos for lunch and continued on our way, completing our circle back at Old Harbor. It was still too early to board our return ferry. We parked our bikes on a rack near the terminal and continued our pub-crawl on foot.  We found an outdoor bar right on Ballard’s Beach, basically adjacent to the docks. They had a one-man band playing Pink Floyd. (Think about it, kind of impressive). We lingered there for about an hour until the clock told us it was time to get to the ferry. I was reluctant to end the fabulous field-trip we had taken that day.

That night after our campfire, we didn’t have to dump our grey tank onto the ground – thankfully. We planned to drive ourselves to the dump station on the way out of the park in the morning. Like it or not, they were getting some grey water in their septic system. When I went to bed on our last night at Worden Pond, I quickly drifted off to sleep and dreamt all night of washing machines and long hot showers in my own bathroom. I think we both were eager to make the shortest-drive-ever over to Exeter and get set up at Wawaloam.

 

The beach at Galilee.

The beach at Galilee.

I always imagined the first thing we'd see on Block Island would be... camels?

I always imagined the first thing we’d see on Block Island would be… camels?

Looking toward Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island.

Looking toward Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island.

A fishing boat near the Port of Galilee.

A fishing boat near the Port of Galilee.

The first stop after our bicycle ride on Block Island was at a place called Oar. They had Adirondack chairs perched at the edge of the water so we could relax and enjoy the view of New Harbor.

The first stop after our bicycle ride on Block Island was at a place called Oar. They had Adirondack chairs perched at the edge of the water so we could relax and enjoy the view of New Harbor.

Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island.

Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island.

We drove down one of Rhode Island's designated Scenic Byways to get to Worden Pond Family Campground. This is a stretch of Ministerial Road.

We drove down one of Rhode Island’s designated Scenic Byways to get to Worden Pond Family Campground. This is a stretch of Ministerial Road.

Looking out on Rhode Island Sound toward Point Judith Lighthouse.

Looking out on Rhode Island Sound toward Point Judith Lighthouse.

We are aware it is illegal to deface American money, but we took our chances and marked on a dollar bill so we could add it to the wall at Mews Tavern. They gave us the sharpie and the stapler, so we figured it was safe.

We are aware it is illegal to deface American money, but we took our chances and marked on a dollar bill so we could add it to the wall at Mews Tavern. They gave us the sharpie and the stapler, so we figured it was safe.

We couldn't watch the Texas game on the fabulous LHN, so we went to the local tavern and watched Alabama vs. A&M instead.

We couldn’t watch the Texas game on the fabulous LHN, so we went to the local tavern and watched Alabama vs. A&M instead.

Our view of Block Island as we approached on the Ferry.

Our view of Block Island as we approached on the Ferry.

The sky was magnificent on our last evening at Worden Pond Family Campground.

The sky was magnificent on our last evening at Worden Pond Family Campground.