Taking Route 1 through Boston was our longest day in the car so far. Winding our way around and under the city in the pouring rain could have gone smoother, but at least the traffic in our direction moved steadily. We had expected more fanfare when we finally reached the Rhode Island border, but alas there was not even a sign to welcome us to the Ocean State. Or, for that matter, any signs for Route 1 to guide us through its labyrinth of turns as it disappears and reappears through the streets of Providence. Many U-turns and furrowed brows later, we came out on the other side of Providence to find Route 1 back to its old, predictable self. We pushed through our hunger to get to Narraganset, where we hoped to find a supermarket, Wifi, and a state park on the ocean. Our only wish fulfilled was the supermarket, where we learned from a chorus of shoppers and employees that the state park was not on the water and that we should have made reservations weeks ago as camping on the weekend fills up statewide, especially the weekend before the Fourth of July.
Taking the counsel of our steadfastly optomistic bagger, we continued on Route 1 to Charlestown and Burlingame State Park. As it turns out, his lone voice was the correct one and we managed to find a decent spot amidst the 800+ other sites, mostly full. With the blistering heat (good preparation for Florida), we were pleased to learn the park has its own lake-front beach. We were soon splashing in the cool water, eager to spend three nights in the same place. Our only real disappointment was the overall lack of informational and educational resources from the park itself. Most state park campgrounds we’ve been to try to make some connection between visitors’ behavior and the overall health of the park and protected resources. It was a bit unsettling not to see any signs discouraging campers from feeding wildlife, burning native firewood, etc. With so many people, single actions can quickly multiply with undesirable consequences.
The next day we explored more of the town and were thoroughly impressed by the Kettle Pond Visitors Center, part of the Nanigret National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to Burlingame. Here, learning about the natural world and humans’ impact on it was front and center. Interactive exhibits in the main hall teach visitors about the plants and wildlife in the refuge and details the fascinating transformation from naval air field to restored natural habitat. An adjoining conference room was well stocked with puzzles and games to complement the information in the exhibits. The atmosphere here was a complete change from the state park. We ended our visit with a short hike to the newly opened observation tower affording views of the ocean and Block Island out to sea.
Returning to camp, Five Ball showed he took some of the messages from the visit to heart and enthusiastcally made it his mission to pick up any litter that dared cross his path. Knowing what an uphill battle he faced with the nearly thousand people sharing the same space with us, it seemed best to humor him in his quest that seemed destined to make little difference. The more we watched him zoom from litter to trash can again and again, the more we realized it is he who had something to teach us. We’ve had countless people on this trip tell us that what we’ve planned is impossible: there’s no way to travel with five people in a van so small, there’s no way to enjoy the journey itself while driving with young children, there’s no way to make our family feel at home when we’re changing locations so frequently. However, every day we do the “impossible”. It reminds of the Harry Potter series that we are presently reading aloud. The train to Hogwarts at Platform 9 3/4 by all means should not be possible. Nonetheless, Harry gets up enough speed and runs right through the wall, the wonders of the wizarding world awaiting. For us, this trip is our ticket to the wonders of spending our time together as a family. Five Ball has it right: meet the seemingly impossible running full speed.