Bike Ride - Summer, 2005: Across Rhode Island &
into Connecticut


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2007

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Bike Ride - Across Rhode Island &
into Connecticut

This will be the Lite versions of this account. No items coming from other sources, such as maps, will not be included. At this time only a short summary of the trip has been completed, first published over several editions of the Newsletter of Saint-Ansgar's Lutheran Church


This would be the second of three bike rides taken during the Summer. I left my wife at at three-day conference in Wheaton, Mass. and rode down to Newport, RI. The next day I took the ferry back up to Providence and rode down the far side of the bay and westward across the state. On the third day I rode on into Connecticut, reaching New London, where my wife picked me up.

My Lord Jesus Christ, receive my thanks for his constant companionship, help, guidance, and protection, without which I would never have been able to accomplish what I did.

  • Day by Day Accounts

    Day Mode Summary
    00 Thursday, June 23, 2005

    It was the long weekend of La Saint-Jean and my wife was attending a three-day conference at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachussets, just to the southwest of Boston. The last time she had attended this conference, I had tagged along, my bicyle attached to the car, and then had set out from Norton on my own for an excursion to Cape Cod, where my had fetched me at the end of the third day. This time I figured I would head in the opposite direction, to the southwest, to explore Rhode Island, Connecticut and, if I made good time, the eastern tip of Long Island.

    Planning for the trip was difficult for there were few campgrounds that allowed tents, and none that would take reservations. A massive bridge spanned the opening of the bay at Newport, Rhode Island, but there was no way to get across it by bicycle. Instead I chose the much longer route of taking the ferry from Newport back up to the head of the bay to Providence, and then riding back down the western shore.

    01 Friday, June 24, 2005

    The Friday morning, we drove from our motel to the conference site, where we had breakfast together with the other conference attendees. Then I bade farewell to Sheryl and set off along Mass. Hwy 123 westward from Norton. Although two-laned, it was a pretty busy highway. It did have a small, paved shoulder, but one has to be careful on Massachusetts highways, for there is an upward lip at the outside of the shoulder. If one strays to far towards the edge of the road, this lip tends to project one back out into the roadway. I guess this is good for cars. There are no true 'country' roads in that part of New England; one is never out of sight of houses and roadside businesses. In the 'country' they are simply spaced a bit further apart, and there are more trees.

    An hour or so brought me into the larger town of Attleboro, a quaint, old-time industrial town. From there Hwy 123 headed south and was less busy. I was paralleling the high-speed rail lines connecting Boston and New York and trains would flash by every half hour or so. Since the line was fully electrified, and so there was no forewarning of a train's arrival. It was hard to get photos of the trains, for at every bridge there were massive steel security structures, designed to keep on from seeing the tracks.

    I crossed into Rhode Island via some back road over the tidal inlet which formed the border, and quickly found myself thick in the urban jungle of East Providence. At the first opportunity, I caught Rhode Island Route 1A and headed south. At first it was a typical city boulevard, somewhat like Taschereau, but as I continued towards the bottom of the peninsula, the cityscape began to thin out slightly.

    At the bottom of the peninsula, I was turned eastward, to join the main flow of traffic at the point where the 'freeway' from the north ended. It was quite busy as I crossed over a twin set of bridges, spanning yet another tidal inlet. Stopping on the bridge's sidewalk to look around, I could see the tide flowing strongly against the bridgeworks. Below the low bridges were vast marinas, but none of the boats could come any further northwards. Just north of the bridge was a bike path, crossing an old railroad trestle. As I had no idea where it might lead, I stayed with the road.

    The far side brought me to the town of Warren. I turned southwards, through the town, and thankfully leaving the main flow of east-bound traffic. The line down the middle of the town's main street was painted in red-white-and-blue, and patriotic posters were everywhere. I passed a couple of churches called 'Eglise' and dedicated to 'Saint-Jean Baptiste', with some services given in French. At length, I came a point where the bike path crossed the main street, so I asked someone coming from the opposite direction where the path led. Through to Bristol, I was told. It was much more pleasant along the bike trail, which ran right alongside the bay for quite a length.

    Leaving Bristol, I had to cross over a very high suspension bridge. The sidewalk was must too narrow for my bicycle, so I had to stake my place on the roadway. Although I had a view out over the bay as from an airplane, I never would have imagined so much wind at the top. I could hardly look askance as I fought to control my bicyle and keep it within my narrow space. I was glad to get off. The bridge brought me into Portsmouth and just a little ways south was my campground. It was only about 16:00 when I arrived, so luckily they still had a space for me. I was an hour's cycling away from Newport, but it was the closest campground for tents that I could get.

    I learned of a secondary road, the 'naval supply road', that ran along the base of the cliff, right alongside the bay. It made for a more pleasant ride in than the highway, and near the end I passed a line of huge aircraft carriers at dock.

    Newport, Rhode Island, is a very trendy, beachfront town. It got so crowded I had to dismount and walk my bike through the narrow streets. Beyond town is a rocky point covered with such vast estates that one truly feels in the country for the first time. I kept going until I finally got to see the open ocean. Then I rode around the point and came back to explore the lively town at dusk.

    By the time I was done eating and ready to head back, it was quite dark. Although I was equipped with lights and reflective gear, I felt a bit nervous out on the main highway. Still, I had decided not to take the empty shoreline road after dark, feeling the company of lots of cars to be somewhat comforting. It was an hour's ride back and I was quite happy when my head hit the pillow in my sleeping bag.

    02 Saturday, June 25, 2005

    I awoke bright and early in my tiny tent at the campground in Portsmouth. It was Saturday morning, the second day of my three-day bicycle excursion across Rhode Island while my wife attended a conference. I was on the eastern side of the vast bay around which stretches most of Rhode Island, and only ten minutes by car from its western side. Alas, I was on a bike and the bridge was closed to bicycles. I would only reach the western side, across from Newport, late in the afternoon.

    I awoke at 05:00 and was all packed up and on my way by 06:00. I had reservations for the ferry to Providence at 08:00 and was nearly an hour away from Newport. I dropped off the highlands and rode in along the almost-deserted Navy Road, passing a line of huge aircraft carriers near the end. I had time for breakfast at a diner before arriving at the dock for 07:45.

    The passenger and bicycle ferry was right on time for its first morning run. There were only a handful of passengers as we sped inland along the bay. It was a hydrofoil ferry, and so was quite fast. Providence, at the head of the bay, would only be an hour away. I stood out on the roof deck, braving the strong, cool wind, as I watched the landmarks of the previous day's riding pass by on the Eastern shore. When we reached Providence at 09:00, I was only a few minutes ride from where I had been the day before at Noon. At the very end, I had to come down off the roof deck as the ferry barely scraped through the tiny opening in this vast sea wall designed to protect Providence from the fury of hurricane flood tides. The dock was jam packed with people getting ready to head back in the other direction.

    I set off cycling southwards along the western shore of the bay. At first the route was through the rather seedy port section of Providence, but soon I was on a residential, coastal drive... Which came to an abrupt end just as soon as I was getting used to it. The shore cut westward and I had to follow streets and boulevards west to the next major southbound road, which would eventually become a quiet, residential shoreline avenue, until... This process kept repeating itself. Sometimes I was on nice quiet roads. Sometimes I was on busy boulevards.

    Eventually I connected with U.S. Hwy 1 and headed south. The two-laned highway was actually nicer than the busy boulevards, for I was provided with a nice, wide shoulder. Soon I was able to exit onto U.S. 1A, heading down along the coastline. I crossed under the western side of the bridge from Newport at around 16:00 and reached the crowded beach town of Narragansett-by-the-Sea at 17:00. Once again, I was treated to a brief view of the wide expanse of blue ocean.

    Westward from Narragansett, things started to get really weird. I had been following a marked Rhode Island bike route most of the day. Suddenly, at the intersection where U.S. 1A rejoined U.S. 1 proper, now a freeway, I lost the route. I doubled back several times before I realized that they intended bikes to head up onto the freeway. With great trepidation, I rode up the entrance ramp and then stuck to the far right of the six-foot wide concrete shoulder.

    I had passed two interchanges before I saw a police car sitting up ahead, hidden so as to catch speeders. I thought my goose was cooked, for he had surely seen me, and there was no place to go anyway but forward. I took the bull by the horns and rode right up to him, apologetically explaining that I had lost my way and was doing my best to follow the bike route. He looked, uncomprehendingly, at me and said that this WAS the bike route! Further along, there were no more interchanges and I began to see mailboxes and driveways coming right out to the freeway. It was a strange kind of road: A divided 4-land highway, but no crossings. A crossroad would join one side. Cars would have to drive westward for a few miles to a "U-Turn", then they could go back eastward again to pick up the very same road on the far side of the highway.

    I was racing to get to Burlingame State Park, which had the only tent campground in all of western Rhode Island, and they did not take reservations. With a wrong turn and a 30-minute excursion riding in the wrong direction, I did not end up getting to the campground until well after 19:00. I was most thankful they still had a place for me!

    I had passed a decent looking restaurant a mile or so back east, so I set out at dusk along the other side of the freeway. I was treated to a great meal on an indoor terrace overlooking the ocean and an inland bay. Then I had to return, at night. Luckily, I was well equipped with lights by that time, having done a number of nighttime rides. I was six feet away from the cars, at the far edge of the paved shoulder, and could see them coming up behind me for a long time by their headlights anyway. It was with the unlit cyclist, dressed in dark clothes and riding in the wrong direction that I almost had an accident. How could he miss my lights? He must not have been looking. We missed by inches as he flew by I climbed back up the hillside and into the state park and was nestled in my tent by 23:00, ready for the next day, when I would ride on into Connecticut.

    03 Sunday, June 26, 2005

    I awoke before dawn at my campsite under the pine trees at Burlingame State Park in Rhode Island. It was Sunday, the last day of my three-day cycling weekend. My wife would be finished at her conference by 15:00, at which time I was to phone her and give her directions to come and pick me up. I had until 15:00 to ride as far as I could. It was for this reason that I was out on highway U.S. 1 in the dawn mist of 06:00.

    I had thought that if I could reach New London, Connecticut by late morning, I might have time to take a quick ferry ride over to the western tip of Long Island, New York, and still be back by the time Sheryl would come to get me. Alas, this was not to be.

    The highway continued westward through Rhode Island pretty much as the evening before. I was riding along the wide, paved shoulder of a four-laned, divided highway, which the state fathers considered a bike route. Indeed, this was the only through road heading to the west. Not too far along, I came to a smaller road heading off to the seashore and to a point jutting out into Long Island Sound. I had a decision to make: Should I continue west and try to make New London, or should I abandon this notion and enjoy the quiet road and the seashore? I chose the former and rode straight on into the town of Westerly, the last town in Rhode Island. At the entrance to town, the "freeway" finally dissolved into the town's main street. When I stopped briefly for some breakfast, the restaurant was just opening.

    I would have missed the crossing into Connecticut if I had not been looking for it. The main street descended a sharp hill into the older, historic section of town. There was a small bridge over a tiny, fifty-foot wide river, and then I was in the next state. I did not come to the 'Welcome to Connecticut' sign until I was leaving town, to the west.

    At once, there was a long, serious climb. By the time I reached the top, inching along at a pace hardly faster than one could walk, the bare minimum to keep the two wheels upright, I could see out over the whole countryside behind me. All the lowlands were still covered in mist.

    Over the ridge and then down into Stonington did the road lead me. No longer was U.S. 1 a major artery; it had now reverted to a narrow, two-laned country road. The traffic had all been shifted over to the Interstate. West of Stonington, the highway more or less paralleled the shoreline. To my immediate left were the main-line railroad tracks of the high speed trains between Boston and New York. These electric trains would come flashing by with almost no warning.

    Mystic Harbor was next, a typical, quaint little New England waterfront town. The old waterfront section, with its antique drawbridge, was awash with tourists.

    Another hard, sharp climb followed. It was clear to me by then that I would not be taking the ferry to Long Island that day. When I came down on the far side of the bluff, I had the momentary thrill of hitting 50km/hr for a few, brief minutes. Once at the bottom of the hill, I proceeded to get totally turned around. I had been worried because my road map showed the Interstate as being the only bridge across the wide river before me. I feared there might not be any way to get across to New London by bicycle. I finally found a policeman who was kind enough to direct me to the well-hidden bike lane approach for the massive I-95 span over the river. From the top of the span, I could see the submarine base upriver and the massive 'Electric Boat' works downriver, where they built the submarines I found my way down to the Ferry Dock of New London, but it was almost 13:30 - too late to take the ferry to Long Island. I located a nice, waterfront park where I might wait for Sheryl and then rode carefully over the route she would have to take through town to find it. Armed with my notes, I rode on out to the municipal beach. At 15:00, I called Sheryl and gave her the directions. I knew I would then have at least another hour before I had to head back into town. Sheryl was happy that my directions had led her right to the spot, along the waterfront of this strange city that she had never visited before.

    It had been a nice, three-day ride, despite the 'highway' experience in Rhode Island. I was looking forward to my third ride of the season, to begin in just a couple of weeks: Down the West Coast of Ontario.

     

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    Prepared by Roger Kenner
    First Written: April, 2006 - June, 2006: This version: 2007