While I decided to title this post as Providence, Rhode Island, so everyone would have a good sense of where we are, we actually stayed the week in Oneco, Connecticut at River Bend Campground. The drive east from Poughkeepsie, New York was all the way across Connecticut along I-84 and was a pleasant drive after the constant traffic of the past month. We saw this as a break from the traffic with Boston on the near horizon. When we pulled into River Bend Campground, they were a little surprised that we were not from Rhode Island, as the state line is only a few miles to the east and most of their guests live there. They were very nice and welcomed us for the week and we found that we were one of the few guests during the week. There were quite a few RVs parked in the campground, making it look fairly busy, however, these were all seasonal guests that come out for the weekends over the summer. We had a very nice grassy site that had not seen much use since last summer and we were quite content. We enjoyed watching the two rabbits come out to feed in the grass every morning and evening, as well as, the Canadian geese with at least a dozen chicks in tow. We did question whether we were moving north too quickly as the temperature dipped into the 40s for a couple of nights, but then the temperatures rebounded getting back up into the 70s by the end of the week. I am certainly not complaining as I know that Alabama has temperatures in the 90s all week!!
On Tuesday, we decided to take care of the situation with the truck that we had been dealing with since William’s a month ago. When they changed the oil and air filter in Maryland they informed us that the anti-freeze was leaking out around some gaskets in the exhaust system and to keep an eye on the fluid levels. Since then, we would add anti-freeze every morning before going anywhere and by now we had added about 1.5 gallons to leak out on the ground. It was not a large enough leak to see it pool on the ground or pavement, but I was not comfortable with the situation, especially when we pulled the RV. Since there was not much to visit in the area with regards to National Parks, we decided now was the time to get it fixed. So after dropping by the local Ford dealership in the area on Monday, we took the truck in the first thing Tuesday morning. They got right on it and determined that the leak was due to the upper radiator hose and not the gaskets in the exhaust system. Replacing both the upper and lower hoses with the new O-ring design would only cost around $500 instead of the couple of thousands to fix the gaskets. However, they also found one of the ball-joints to be worn and need to be replaced. Therefore, we agreed to have all the ball-joints replaced with a total bill just over $1500. We left the truck with them for the next couple of days while they ordered the parts and installed them. In the meantime they provided us with a “loaner”, a 2015 Hyundai for no charge. It was certainly nice driving around for the next couple of days with a car with good acceleration and Kal could easily park!! We better appreciated the tradeoff we have made with using a truck pulling a fifth wheel, instead of a motorhome pulling a small car. We still believe we made the right decision, but it was nice to see how the “other half” live.
We were not sure how long it was going to take at Central Ford, so we had not made any other definite plans for the afternoon. Through talking with the campground hosts on Monday and the guys at Central Ford, we found out that Foxwood Casino was only 20 miles to the south. We had not been to a casino since Florida, so we decided to check it out. Unlike the small casinos in Florida with at most a single hotel and maybe 500 slot machines, Foxwood Resort and Casino is another story. It is a huge complex with 6 major high rise hotels, 3 casinos, a huge Tanger Outlet mall, and major evening live entertainment. Consequently, it was very confusing negotiating this single huge complex trying to figure out where the casino was. Most of the parking was for one of the hotels or the outlet mall with no mention of the casino. The reason for this is that there is at least one casino conveniently located from each hotel and you just park anywhere you want. We easily found a parking spot and walked straight into the casino. We spent over 4 hours in the casino which included lunch and although we both lost our $40 it was well worth it. All the other casinos we have been in recently are now penny slot machines that take a minimum of $0.40 to play, which severely limits the fun you can have for $20-$40. However, this casino had a lot of slots that you could play for $0.10-$0.30 and get full action. We got a lot of playing time on our money, even though it would have been nice to win a bit more often.
For Wednesday, we decided to take advantage of our small car and head into Providence, Rhode Island to the Roger Williams National Memorial. Since it is only a Memorial, we did not expect very much at the site and we were not surprised to find out it was a 2.5 acre park in the center of Providence. It was a nice park along the river and we learned a lot about Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island by watching the film and looking at the few exhibits in the small Visitor Center. For those of you that don’t know, Roger Williams founded the Rhode Island colony in 1636 when he fled from Boston before the Puritans arrested him for preaching freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. In other words, he did not agree with the Puritan Theocracy that governed the Massachusetts Bay colony at the time. Along with his family and some friends they bought land from the Narragansett, rather than just taking it away from them and named the new town Providence. Other dissidents followed and by 1643 had established the towns of Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick and Roger Williams returned from England with a new Charter for the colony that promised freedom of religion and the right of self government. This Charter was used by the state until finally adopting a new State Constitution in 1843, the last state to do so. We also leaned that the official name of the state is Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations. The best feature of the Memorial that we were allowed to park for free in their small visitors parking lot while we explored the city, for which we were conveniently located.
So after eating lunch at the Memorial we headed across the river to the Rhode Island State House, which was built in 1904 and has the third largest self-supporting marble dome in the world. It is impressive from the outside, but even more so from the inside looking up into the dome on the rotunda in the center of the State House. Not realizing they offered free tours of the State House in a small museum off to the side of the rotunda, we proceeded to just wander around looking in the Senate and House Chambers, the Library, and the portraits of all the Governors dating back to Colonial times. We learned a lot more about Rhode Island history from reading the plaques under each portrait. The most impressive item, was in the small museum once we found it. They have the original charter on display within a steel vault that is locked up at night, or at least they would have had it on display if it was not currently being restored. They did have a very good copy that you could look at though… Just to know that this document still exists today, while at the same time there are no portraits or images of Roger Williams himself. That just was not his style. After the State House we walked the historic district according to a walking tour map they gave us at the Memorial and saw a number of historic buildings, churches, and Brown University dating from the 1700s and early 1800s. We also learned of the history of the deep water port and rivers which have changed a lot over the years. At one time they had a bridge across the river at the end of the bay that was over 200 feet wide with shops and other businesses on it! Even with this walk around Providence we returned to the campsite in time to pick up the truck from Central Ford and everything was fixed and looking good.
So on Thursday, it was back on the road with our repaired truck to Springfield, Massachusetts to explore the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. When we first pulled up to the Historic Site, we were very confused since the signs were all about Springfield Technical Community College which was registering for summer classes at the time. The buildings certainly looked old enough to be part of the Armory, but other than that there was no sign of the Historic Site. However, once we circled around to the back of this large area surrounded by a steel fence we came across the Visitor Center for the Springfield Armory. It turns out that once the Armory was closed down in 1964, all of the buildings except for the Arsenal was turned over to the state and it became a community college, and a large one at that. Except for the exterior of some of the buildings (there were new buildings mixed into the complex as well), the only historic artifact is the Arsenal where they stored the rifles. The Springfield Armory has a long history dating back to 1777 when General Washington approved the location for storage of firearms and ammunition during the Revolutionary War. The location was ideal during the early years of the war when the fighting was in the Northern colonies. It provided access to three rivers that converged at this location, the most important being the Connecticut River, and had roads to New York City, Boston, Albany, and Montreal. More importantly, however, it was north of the falls on the Connecticut River which made it safe from attack by the British navy. Once the U.S. Constitution was ratified which strengthened the Federal Government and allowed the creation of a national army, Springfield was again chosen, along with Harpers Ferry, to produce the muskets, swords, and hand guns needed beginning in 1795. With the capture of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War, Springfield was the primary source for armaments and in 1891 was the location for all weapon development and testing for the army. Over the years the Armory has seen a lot of changes as it shifted from water to steam and finally electrical energy and many advances in weaponry. It was at Springfield that saw the advances in interchangeable parts and assembly line systems of mass production. Over the years they designed, tested, improved, and produced huge quantities of rifles, hand guns, swords, machine guns, and other small armaments. The most noteworthy were the production of muskets that were converted from muzzle loaded to breech loaded Springfield trapdoor rifle, the clip loading magazine Model 1903 rifle of WWI, the semi-automatic M1 rifle of World War II of which they produced over 2.5 million by the end of the war at Springfield. It was a massive operation that was finally closed down in 1964 as all production was now done by private contractors and Springfield was only involved in the testing. There were two impressive artifacts in the museum that made the trip worthwhile. The first special lathe made by Thomas Blanchard in 1819 to mass produce wooden rifle stocks. They have the actual lathe he made to demonstrate the principle and you can see how it worked. As the lathe turned a rough rifle stock a cutting blade would shape the stock through tension against a metal template that was rotating at the same speed. Pretty neat!! The other impressive item is the large “Organ of Muskets”, called that because the muskets are held vertically in a structure that makes it look like a pipe organ. This is by far the largest collection of Civil War muskets I have ever seen in one place. However, this is just a small sample of the display of rifles and other armaments in the museum. If you like antique rifles, this is a must see! We did take a short walk around the grounds outside the Arsenal, but there is really not very much to see as the rest of the site is now the Community College. Before we left the site we opened the hood of the truck to check the anti-freeze fluid levels and found it down a significant amount, much lower than we had ever seen it!! We should have checked before we left the campground, but we didn’t and now we were looking at potential more problems. Fortunately, we still had anti-freeze with us, so we filled up the reservoir and headed back to the campground.
The next morning we check the anti-freeze levels again and it did not appear to have lost very much if any fluid over night. So, first thing in the morning it was back to Central Ford to have it checked out. They quickly got the truck in and hooked up to pressure test the system and found no leaks!! The repairman was very apologetic about either not filling the reservoir fully or more likely not getting all the air out of the system. In any case, he could find no leaks and suggested we check it for the next couple of days. We have checked it over the next couple of days and again before leaving on any long trips and found no problem, so I suspect it was air in the system. The rest of the day on Friday was spent in the campground doing laundry and working on this blog, which I am still struggling on getting caught up with. As anticipated, the seasonal campers began showing up on Friday night, so the campground got a lot busier even though it was never anywhere near half full. However, the seasonal campers have a regular game of bingo every Friday night and Saturday afternoon, so we joined in. We each bought a $3 card, whereas nearly all of the regulars bought larger cards with 9 squares instead of our 3. Consequently, we did not come close to winning any of the games, but had a good time.
On Saturday morning we headed south to the coast of Rhode Island to a place that holds a warm memory for me. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Oklahoma State University, I got a call from a friend that I had made in our dorm at college. He had a job opening at a luxury hotel in Rhode Island to work with him as a houseboy for the summer. At the time I was working in an iron foundry grinding the fins off of gears and crankshafts with permanently black hands and cramped fingers. I obviously jumped at the chance even though the pay was not guaranteed since most of it depended on sharing tips from the guests. I grabbed a plane to Rhode Island and arrived at Weekapaug Inn, right on the coast. My job was to work with Phillip Nelson as the houseboys in the Inn. Every morning we would sweep off the sidewalks, reset the furniture from the previous nights activities, vacuum the halls and any rooms requested by the chambermaids, restock all the linen closets, and any other odd job that needed to be done. After folding the laundry every afternoon, our time was free to swim, sail, or play lawn bowling on the grass. As I remember it was the best summer of my life. Weekapaug Inn was a great place to work with a staff filled with other college students from all over New England. It was nostalgic to return 43 years later to find essential the same inn. There was a major restoration done in 2010, but it still looked the same to me. I had a chance to meet the current manager that was excited that I had returned. He showed me a number of photographs of the Buffam family that owned the inn for 4 generations (I worked for the third generation Buffam) and pictures from that time period. Kal ran into one of the staff that worked at the Inn in 1983 and we traded stories about the place. With his help I was able to identify the changes that had been made, such as the garage that once held the fancy cars of some of the guests had been replaced and moved and the location of the dorms I lived in that are no longer there. It was great to see the place again and feel so welcomed once again. The main difference is the change in the business model. During my time there most of the guests were long term staying for months at a time and the Inn was only open for the summer season. Now the guests are mostly younger, staying for only a few nights to a week, and the Inn is open all year. However, the atmosphere was the same that I remember. We drove around the area to see if there was anything else I remembered, but I so rarely left the Inn since I did not have a car, that nothing seemed familiar. So we headed back to the campground for the afternoon. Once again we joined the other guests in bingo, where I managed to share a win and got back all but $2 of what we spent. I have to thank our neighbors who we were sitting with at bingo for pointing out my “block of 6”, which was the bingo game we were playing, or I would have missed out on the win. We decided on Sunday to take it easy rather than going to any of the near State Parks and enjoy the campground. Yes, of course I did spend time working on this blog as well.