Somehow on our Overland Expo to TBEX expedition, we managed to fritter away six days in Massachusetts, some of them actually successful. It was time to move on, though. Originally we planned to quickly cruise through Rhode Island but the boys were jonesing for some beach time so we set out to spend a couple of days on the coast, Rhode Island-style.
In a rare scenario on this expedition, we found that we didn’t have to race to our next destination. We leisurely packed up camp in Concord, Massachusetts and set out for the short 100-mile trip to Fishermen’s Memorial State Park in Narranganssett, Rhode Island since its location is fantastic for exploring nearby state beaches and Block Island.
Roger Wheeler State Beach…
Those of you who know me realize I’m not really a fan of the beach so this was a stop simply to fulfill Fred and George’s travel whims. They humor me on many things so I do have to throw them a bone from time-to-time. I figured I could get at least a little quality with my camera while they had their salt-water fun.
So after setting up our home-sweet-home at Fishermen’s Memorial, we headed out for the beach action the boys were craving. The campground location put us within a few minutes of Roger Wheeler State Beach and being late-afternoon on a random Monday, it was nearly deserted.
They had a pretty slick set-up going on. The generous facilities (think restrooms, showers, rinsing areas, concessions) were quite conveniently located in relation to the parking lot and beach front. Picnic tables allowed me to keep my camera gear out of the sand which was excellent. A lot of times on an outing like this, the setup isn’t terribly well thought-out so it becomes an exercise in frustration, making it not worth the effort.
I didn’t get that at all here. It seems like even during very busy times, the setup probably works very well. In all honesty, I’d probably take the boys to the beach more if we had easier access to a place like this. I’ll never be a beach person but, as beaches go, I have to say it wasn’t half bad. I actually enjoyed it more than any I’ve visited in my home state of Florida.
After such a relaxing time at the beach, we opted for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Aunt Carrie’s. I’m not a food blogger but, just FYI in case you’re ever in the area, I’ll say that it was a middling experience. I can’t say I’d recommend it… but it wasn’t awful either. I’m a sucker for scallops and mine were pretty good but I thought the kids dinners were overpriced for measly portions.
So here’s things get wonky for us in Rhode Island. You see, one of the reasons we picked this location was in order to visit Block Island. In researching our visit, I realized we wouldn’t be content with simply hanging out where the ferry dumps you off once you arrive. Block Island offers a lot of activities and boasts a little town with shopping and what-not but that’s not really our scene, right? We wanted to visit the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge for some good nature and camera time for mom and a unique place for the boys to explore.
The problem we ran into was transportation. Once there, we’d have to be able to get to the north end of the island… with everything we needed for the whole day, including my insanely heavy camera gear, food, water, etc. Between the timing of ferries, the distance we’d need to cover, and our load, we had a logistical problem with the on-island transportation offerings.
Instead of trying to rent something on Block Island, I opted to just put Blubaru on the ferry so we’d have everything we’d need and be able to do things on our terms. Having just drifted into town, however, I didn’t have a ferry reservation so I took a gamble. After talking to the ferry operators, I felt I had a decent chance to make one of the few unreserved spots available on the morning ferry so we reported to the waiting area early as instructed to secure the number one position in line.
So we sat for something like two hours, listening to podcasts to pass the time and even grabbing a quick geocache that was nearby. The ferry dude was giving me a thumbs up… it was all looking very good. We spent the bulk of the time in near-certainty our gamble would pay off. And then two giant dump trucks showed up that needed to get to the island for work that day.
That was it, we were out, our morning wasted and my mood soured. The ferry was about to leave and the ferry dude asked if I could just grab my stuff and get on without the car. It wasn’t humanly possible to get all of our stuff together we’d need for the whole day in the few minutes we had.
Soooo, suddenly without a plan for the day, we had to improvise. After a little research through the wonderful technology that is a smartphone, we found where we’d be spending our day… Great Swamp Wildlife Reservation. There were a handful of geocaches to be had and we were intrigued by the notion of what a Rhode Island swamp might have to offer.
Having salvaged our day with a lot of fun geocaches in Great Swamp, we headed back towards camp but since we still needed dinner, there was one stop we really had to make…
It was a worthwhile stop… entirely yummy. It was a bit the spendy side but after our experience at Aunt Carrie’s I really wanted a decent meal. The boys did a great job tromping around the swamp and being agreeable so we just decided to go for it. We didn’t get to eat at Fred’s back in New Brunswick so it seemed like we should at least get to eat at George’s.
When training pays off…
After dinner, we high-tailed it back to camp to batten down the hatches for an incoming rain storm. Clearly mother nature decided we’d been dry for a couple of days and that was enough. With heavy rains in the forecast, I did a little advance camp breaking that I would normally have saved for the morning.
In the frenzy of an unusual camp evening, Fred managed to open the car door into is upper lip, leaving a respectable gash. All packing came to a halt as I had to address the problem. And here’s where having Wilderness First Aid training paid for itself…. I knew it wasn’t a problem. I could reasonably assess and deal with his injury. It was well beyond a simple band-aid fix but since I knew how to clean it and dress it with more appropriate bandaging, I had him fixed up and we were back to packing in a matter of minutes. He was good as new in a few days time.
Prior to my WFA training, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or proper tools and materials on hand. Without that training, I would have spent the night in a Rhode Island emergency room because I would have been unsure if this was something that needed stitches.
Insult to injury…
We were already dealing with the brewing thunder storm and Fred’s lip-busting antics and for some inexplicable reason, the park suddenly closed our camp area’s only bathroom. I was dumbfounded. I’m sure they had a good reason but they didn’t bother to tell us what it was. All they did was put up a tacky little sign that said to use the restroom in the other camp area. Only, that camp area was nowhere near ours.
So apparently if we needed a middle-of-the-night potty run we would have to trudge over a quarter mile in a downpour. Uh… No thanks. Not cool.
On that note, we spent a fairly restless night waiting out the thunderstorm in the tent, trying to make sure we were going to stay dry in the pounding rain. The next morning, rather than try to prep breakfast in the rain on top of trying to break camp I made a deal with my little camp helpers. Break it down like champs and they’d earn a trip to Dunkin Donuts on the way out of town. Let me tell you, with that kind of incentive, we were out in no time. That, plus we all really had to pee…
And with that we headed out to our next point of interest, Philadelphia.