Vagobond in Rhode Island

Vagobond in Rhode Island

1/13/09
The trip from Boston to Providence was only about a half hour. The only thing I really noticed from the train was some interesting graffiti with characters from the Bullwinkle and Rocky show on it.

My friend Lena was working all day and I figured this was a chance to do a few things I had been neglecting, like figure out where I was going and where I would stay. This has been a fairly constant problem since leaving Ogden. For some reason, I had thought I would have a day or so to arrange for couch surfing, plan my route, and all that jazz while I was in Utah, but it never really materialized. I’m glad the time went like it did, with family and new friends, but since catching that 3 am train in Salt Lake, everything has been more seat of the pants than I had expected. It’s why I arrived in Chicago not knowing where I would stay and why I still have no couches arranged anywhere else. A big part of the problem is that crossing the United States by train takes some time and I have been spending time with friends and family wherever I can. The fourteen day USA Rail Pass simply doesn’t provide enough time for all of that since at least five of those days have been spent on the train. I think my friend Kevin who I met in SLC is on a much better plan with 45 days to complete 16 legs, but then, he paid twice what I paid for my fourteen day, 8 leg pass and that’s the way it is.

So anyway, I arrived in Providence and began what I considered a bit of a spa/personal day by finding a café with wireless internet called ‘Benders’. Great vegetarian food, responsible green business, good coffee, and warm.

I uploaded pictures from Boston, updated my blog, and found an old fashioned barbershop online. Having found it, I set out to get my haircut. Bob’s Barbershop. Great haircut, nice guy. A Rhode Islander who has been cutting hair for the entire 37 years I’ve been alive. Definitely the best haircut I’ve had in a long while. I attribute that to the fact that it was the first time in a long time that I had a white guy cut my hair, after all, I am a white guy (really!) and it makes sense that a white guy would understand white guy hair better than say a Vietnamese woman or a black man. Anyway, great haircut. My next plan was to do some laundry and go back to Bender’s and arrange my couches and travel plans…

Lena called and had left work early. Lena is one of my favorite people in the world and I was totally stoked to see her. We used to ride the school bus together. She lived in a little town called Ono in a geodesic dome that she helped her family build. Lena is really like no one else in the world. So we met up at the biggest hotel in Providence. A few words about Providence are necessary here. It is one of the oldest towns in the United States and was essentially founded to provide a haven for those who were suffering religious persecution. It has more coffee shops than just about anywhere I have ever been. There are colleges everywhere you look. The architecture is old and beautiful and it doesn’t seem to have that ‘tourist restored’ look. It just is what it is. I like Providence a lot.

Lena picked me up and we went up to the campus district of Brown University where I bought a very necessary scarf and a Rough Guide to Europe. We had tasty little treats from an Italian bakery. After this we proceeded down to the town she lives in, Warwick and spent a little time catching up and drinking some very nice wine. I was able to get my laundry done (thank goodness!) and then it was time for bed. Lena’s couch was quite comfortable.

In the morning, we had eggs Florentine and I got to meet her boyfriend Ken. Ken is a great guy. In their garage are 5 or maybe 6 motorcycles and the house is well stocked with great beer, wine, and plenty of 12 year scotch. Not to mention Ken’s keyboards, a half dozen guitars, and plenty of amps. We had an impromptu blues jam session where I got to clean out my harmonica and then Lena took me to Newport to see what real mansions look like. Good Gawd! Everything from the mansion where Arnold pops out of the ice in True Lies to The Breakers. We also saw the Tennis Museum. I’m glad to see Newport in winter since I have the feeling that the rich tourists would be more than a little annoying in the summer months.

We picked up a couple of live lobsters down the road from Lena and Ken’s and for dinner had an incredible surf and turf. Ken generously shucked the lobsters for us and so I was able to eat delicious ‘lazy man’ New England lobsters. I was just a little shocked that the way you buy lobsters is you poull them out of the water and drop them in a paper sack to take home.

The forecast was for snow overnight and there was some concern that my newly arranged train to Philly and then New York would be cancelled. I had opted to stay an extra day in Rhode Island and so my last day of train travel on my pass, I still had two legs of travel left. So I decided to take a day trip to Philly and see some of the sights and then to go to New York in the evening and stay in one of the Manhattan Hostels for a couple of days while I figure out how and where to go in Europe. It’s sort of funny that I don’t know yet.

In the morning, I woke up at 5 am so I could catch my train. Lena and I did a little bit of New England snow shoveling in the driveway and she drove me to the station in Providence. The train was on time. Providence with a couple of inches of snow before dawn is one of the prettiest sights I have seen thus far. Now I am on the train on the way to Philly and we will see how this last day of train travel goes.

I still don’t know if I will be able to get a cheap flight to Europe quickly or not. We will see.

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