We nearly forgot about lunch! I stepped out of the tourist shop to find Panera Bread waiting for me. It was a clear sign from God, and it was way past time to eat. I got a sandwich with turkey, cheese and avocado. No no wait, it was artichoke. I knew it was something exotic and green. Very yummy, of course it was huge so I ate half of it and bagged the rest for supper.
Back at the free parking lot, I looked for a way out and was dismayed to find the exit passed by a toll gate. Except, there was no one in the booth and no gate lowered. So I crept up (in the Toyota I mean), looked around for cops, finally convinced myself that the sign had, indeed, said "Free Parking", and pulled out as unobtrusively as possibly. At that moment, I swear a warning beeping started. It wasn't coming from the toll gate, but I got out of there quick. Within range of the speed limit of course.
The scenic drive was a slow start. There were LOTS of pedestrians walking Thames Street. I was a little sorry to be in the car at first, but it was sunny, I rolled the window down, and the breezy breezes beckoned from places away by the bay.
Once you get to the edge of Newport, you turn right, onto Wellington Avenue, past Newport Harbor and onto the little peninsula that juts out into Narragansett Bay. This is the Scenic Ocean Drive. (So it's not quite the ocean... ) You wend your way along the loveliest windy roads through beautiful hills and slopes and orchards and wall-circled properties. For about the second time in my life I was driving under the speed limit and content to do so, trying to take everything in.
When you get around to the southern tip of the peninsula (farthest from town) you suddenly find that you are driving right next to the bay! And suddenly there are lots of cars parked up to your left, and people out on the wall or down by the bay or flying kites, and you'd gladly join them, but for the life of you, you seem to have missed the only entrance to the parking area and you drive on and on for a half-mile of torture till finally there's one last entrance to parking before it ENDS, forever. Whew that was close.
There were really-truly rocks down by the water! There was some sign warning people about climbing on the rocks but plenty of people were down there, so I set right out to explore. I think maybe I clambered out a little farther than the other people. Found out pretty quick that wave-splashed licheny rocks are awfully slippery. When you get down into a crevice among the rocks where you can't see anyone else, and a big wave comes sloshing in - wheee! - it feels like being in Neverland! Which part of the Peter Pan story, I'm not sure.
Got my fill of staring at the bay, of clambering over big rocks, little rocks, flat ones and slidey ones piled in some kind of beach. And then I stooped down and saw that a lot of those little rocks were actually shells! Immediately filled my pockets for the kids back home.
Quite a few people were flying kites in the open field behind the parking area. One of the kites was incredible. It was like a two-winged bird, and the kite-flyer had two handholds on separate strings they could use to pull it down one way, then another, only it looked more like a roller coaster ride because the wind was so strong that the kite tugged back for every tug of theirs, they could lean back at a 45-degree angle!
On with the drive. Wellington Avenue had long since turned into Halidon Avenue, into Harrison Avenue, into Ridge Road, into... humm... maybe after that they ran out of Avenue names and just call it Scenic Ocean Drive. Once you get to the southeast corner of the peninsula, you start passing some very decided mansions and their fine lawns. For a minute I tried imagining I lived here, that this was my neighborhood, and some afternoon I might run out to see my friends up at one of the other mansions.
If you go to Newport, you have to go on the Cliff Walk. This is on the east side of the peninsula. You turn off the Scenic Ocean Drive onto Bellevue Avenue. I'm pretty sure this is a famous street. Anyway, it would be incredible to walk down. Tree-lined, side-walked, huge-mansioned avenue. Well, at some point, when it feels right, or maybe when you see the sign for the Forty Steps, turn right AGAIN and cut straight back till you see open sky between the trees. Park somewhere along the street and walk down till you see the bay. The Forty Steps are a steep rock stairway down to a ledge overlooking the bay. I forget their significance. Or you can head off in either direction on the Cliff Walk - yes, it's a walkway along the "cliff", bay on one side and mansions on the other. So lovely. You can get your lungs very full of fresh, open-water air. And you may very well pass people talking in French or German or British English or some other language...
My goodness, this is sounding way too much like a tourist guidebook. Let's get back to the story.
It was now approaching 5 p.m. and someone was getting very decently worn out, and decided to start the hour's trek to Raynham and the hotel. First she had to get out of Newport. This was not easy. Tourist towns are never easy. And frankly, Eastern roads are royally difficult. I think I gave the Eastern drivers a couple of good surprises: "But how does she not realize that the left lane is allowed to become a turn-only lane with absolutely no warning? Don't they drive by sheer Road Instinct in other parts of the country?" Yes, it was very fun. Somehow, eventually, I escaped Newport.
I know I'm not the most brilliant with directions, but this time my sense of time and space got way off. Once back in Providence, I knew I had about 45 minutes to drive to Raynham. But by the time I thought I had navigated the first half of Mapquest directions and had 10 miles left, I was just leaving Providence. Mapquest told me about 10 times to take this or that slight turn onto this or that street... finally I realized this just meant "Stay on 44 East" and after that it was a piece of cake.
How lovely to reach the hotel and crash! The hotel was way too easy to find. Next thing to right off the highway.
I guess most hotel rooms have two beds, but I just could not believe it when I stepped into the room and realized this was all for me. Yikes. I was ecstatic to find that my room did, indeed, have an iron and an ironing board!
I went to scope out the neighborhood. WalMart was right across from the hotel. The DePuy facility was down the very same drive as the hotel and WalMart. This all sounds delightfully handy, except, here's the quaint part: this drive was divided. So the only way I could get to WalMart was to... well, to be honest, I no longer remember what convoluted turns and turn-arounds I had to do. I do recall that the very last day, when I returned to the hotel before heading out, I suddenly figured out how to do it, and wanted to beat the steering wheel and scream with laughter, or maybe hysteria. But, at least driving to DePuy in the morning would be easy.
Lights out on Part 2, as Sharon happily irons out her travel-wrinkled clothes for the big day tomorrow.