Moving on in our New England exploration, we find ourselves in Newport, RI. The drive from North Adams was fairly short – still not much indication that October is here. There just isn’t any color out here. Our time in Newport was spent in 80 degree, humid weather. We’re unsure if this is weather as usual around here, or if it’s some weird abberation. In any case, we wish it would cool down a bit.
We lucked out with our campground choice for this stop. Without much information, we chose Melville Ponds CG in Hope Valley – about 8 miles from Newport. It was a gem. Don’t think I would want to be there in the middle of the summer though when it’s crowded – there seemed to be very few bathrooms and showers for the number of sites in the park. But, for this time of year, it was perfect.
Newport is a city of extreme contrasts. We pedaled into the city on our first full day there, across an extremely complex route. We love Google navigation – never would we have figured out how to get to the places we want to be via bike without it. It has become an indispensible tool for us in strange places.
We pedaled through a neighborhood of tired duplexes which were located very near the Naval Station. A few toys were scattered in some yards, landscaping and flowers were nonexistent. Twenty turns, and five miles later, we’re in downtown Newport. Prim Colonial homes in impeccable condition line narrow streets, showcasing their glorious late summer blooms. It’s a visual delight. I never seem to get tired of streets and views like this. We passed St. Mary’s Church, where JFK and Jackie were married in 1953. Another curiousity in Newport was a croquet lawn, located at the Tennis Hall of Fame. We briefly watched three elderly players, dressed in their proper whites, whacking the wooden balls with their elaborate mallets. Genteel to the extreme.But, our main quarry for the day was to wander the Cliff Walk, a 3.5 mile (one way) meander alongside the famous mansions of Newport. These magnificent summer ‘cottages’ were built in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. Many have undergone several renovations. The most famous of these mansions undoubtedly is The Breakers. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt, it’s a staggering display of wealth and oppulence. Currently, the Breakers, as well as several lesser-known, and slightly less extravagent homes is owned by the Newport Preservation Society, and is open to the public for tours. We elected not to tour (although I’d love to go back and do that sometime), but to gawk at the magnificent exteriors and beautiful setting of these homes along the Cliff. Incredible as it may be, most of these homes are still privately owned. This truly is the old 1% in action – the upkeep on these palaces must be staggering. I really cannot imagine life on this scale. The first portion of the Cliff Walk, where we chained up our bikes, it an easy-to-walk, paved path, accommodting strollers of all ages and abilities. The problem we had was that it was beastly hot and humid. Here we are, walking along a cliff on the Atlantic ocean on September 29, and it was absolutely airless. We plodded along, stopping to admire the homes and the spectacular view. The easy paved path ended somewhere past the Breakers, and the next two miles involved scrambling over a seawall of huge boulders. We struggled – so hot! And, naturally, we hadn’t brought water along. We finally got to the end, hoping to find a spot to grab a bottle of water. Nope. We had to walk another 3+ miles back to our bikes. We grabbed cold bottled water at the first party store we came to, and had most of it downed before it was even paid for it. Will we ever learn?
After breaking camp the next morning, we decided to wander down to the wharf, since that was one area we hadn’t seen the previous day. We saw an obviously damaged wooden sailing ship in drydock called the Providence. The huge wooden mast was snapped off. Apparently, the ship fell off its cradle during a blizzard last winter, shearing the mast.The Providence was the official Tall Ship for Rhode Island, built for the 1976 Bicentennial. News reports in the winter said that the ship would be repaired, and ready to go by summer, but apparently those plans went awry.
Now that our time here is up, I’m sad that we didn’t plan to stay longer. There really is more ground to cover than we could manage with the short time we had. Although we travel at a very leisurely pace compared to most campers we know, there still just isn’t enough time to squeeze everything in. So much to see, so little time. Story of my life.