As mentioned in April’s update, we arrived in North Scituate, Rhode Island around the third week of the month and planned on being there for three weeks while we joined other NOMADS’ volunteers, helping to open Camp Aldersgate for the season. What is Camp Aldersgate? This 65-year old camp is an accredited (American Camp Association) outdoor ministry site of the United Methodist Church. There are specialty camps (age-related or guys or gals only); family camps, leadership camp; and living arts (a week spent painting, dancing, performing, crafting and making music.) The summer staff and volunteers are carefully screened and may come from anywhere in the world. They must take a 200-hour intensive camp training program, one of the longest and most thorough camp training programs in New England. They are then ready to greet campers of all ages. Camp Aldersgate is frequently used as an adult retreat center with overnight accommodations available. There’s something for all age groups here – and what a beautiful outdoor setting, conducive to retreats.
Camp managers Lee and Jenn have been there five years and are very passionate about their work. They are both pretty amazing folks – Lee especially impressed us with his ability to think through just about every nut and bolt needed for our project, designing the renovations, ordering all the necessary supplies. And this from an attorney – what a career shift!
Team leaders Joe and Joyce gave us a tour of the job site after we got set up. Our team’s project for the next three weeks – install bathrooms and showers in three of the 20’ x 30’ cabins. Each of these cabins, set up to provide sleeping quarters for about ten campers, needed showers, sinks and toilets installed for handicapped and non-handicapped use, with the materials and floor plans sized accordingly. Our first thoughts when seeing the cabins – holy cow! We’re going to do what and by when??? The materials we’d need – lumber, cement, sinks, toilets, doors, heaters, fans, doorknobs, locks, floor tile, etc…were stored in and around the cabins, which all still had their bunks, desks and storage closets – just walking around in the cabins was a major challenge. We certainly had our work cut out for us, but as we discovered each day, progress was slow but steady – we just took it one step at a time.
By Sunday afternoon, the rest of the team had arrived – Alan, Luann, and Hank and Karen. Joe and Joyce scheduled a get-to-know you meeting and provided a lasagna dinner with all the fixings – a great way to kick start our three weeks. NOMADS’ work days are Monday through Thursdays, working about six hours a day, with short morning and afternoon breaks as well as a lunch hour.
Beginning with week one, all hands pitched in to help clear a path in the cabins by removing the attached bunks and desks, removing the carpet, sorting some of the materials and salvaging what was re-usable, and digging ditches to the proper depths needed for the new plumbing. By the middle of the first week, the roll-off dumpster was about two-thirds full with stuff removed from the cabins but at least there was now room to walk around and work in the cabins.
The double windows in the rear of the cabins were removed and doors were framed in their place. Each ‘window replaced with a door’ project had to be completed the same day to keep the elements out of the cabin. Larry and Joe started working on that and eventually, Alan and Hank helped, learning new skills in the process. In the meantime, the gals learned how to carefully install new cedar shakes around the new doors – a tedious job but challenging, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. To give you an idea of how time consuming it was, it took a full day for two of us to get just one door frame finished.
Week two saw us starting to frame the interior walls for the new showers and toilet rooms – each cabin, even though they appeared to be the same size, had its own unique construction challenges. By the end of our third week, we all wished we could have gotten more done but a lot was accomplished during our time there (plenty of work left for the team coming in behind us) - starting with the deconstruction that took most of the first week and ending with all doors installed, shakes replaced, and almost all the walls framed. Drywall had to wait until the plumber and electrician were finished with their work. The biggest challenge we faced was rain most work days. Granted, most of our work was indoors (we managed to get the doors installed and cedar shakes replaced on the few sunny days) but you still had to dodge the rain drops getting lumber to the cabins as well as tromping through mud in the process. The weather never slowed us down though – we just dressed appropriately.
In between our working, we managed to get in several potluck dinners, a game night, dinners out, sightseeing and geocaching, as well as attending a couple of concerts.
Alan discovered a down-home restaurant called the Gentleman Diner in Chepachet – lunch there was reasonably priced and quite good, with breakfast available all day. Another place we visited was the Country Chowder Shack –they serve some awesome clam strips. Tavern on the Main in Chepachet has lots of history and has been an operating tavern since the 1700s with original flooring and furniture still remaining. And according to our waitress, it’s haunted and has been featured on several TV ghost shows. Food is plentiful and very good, with complimentary soup and freshly baked rolls. In fact, we enjoyed our lunch there so much, we made arrangements to have our final dinner with the rest of the team, as well as Lee and Jenn and their son. The Tavern’s dinner for two specials can’t be beat for price and the amount of food you get – certainly worth a stop when you’re in that area.
Lee and Jenn had recommended Athens Pizza – not much on ambience but the pizza was very good. One of the menu items is a New York System hot . We asked the owner how that was different from a regular hot dog. Even though it’s called New York, these wieners are now made just in Rhode Island and are a Rhode Island tradition. The owner fixed us one to try on the house. A hot dog is smothered in a special secret sauce, ground beef and onions and is pretty good – must be a pretty popular item in the area – most of the Mom and Pop restaurants featured this local specialty.
One evening, we met Lucille’s cousin Marcel, wife Priscilla and son Rob at Gregg’s Restaurant in Warwick. Not only do they have homestyle meals, they are known for their desserts – huge portions! We each chose something different and after returning to Marcel’s home, we shared our desserts and still had leftovers. What was particularly memorable about the evening is that the restaurant’s computers were down but the wait staff never skipped a beat. Orders were written by hand and brought to the kitchen and your meals brought to you soon afterwards. Your tab was then added manually (with a little help of phone calculators) and some old-fashioned ‘ciphering’ done for your change. If you paid by credit card, they pulled out the old trusty manual swiping machine. Business as usual – impressive.
One fun place we visited while out sightseeing was Seafood Sam’s in Sandwich, Massachusetts, located in Upper Cape Cod. You place your order at the counter, then are handed a plastic lobster pager that lights up and vibrates (but no snapping claws) when your order is ready. We ordered two different baskets – one clam strips and one scallops, and shared them – it is a toss-up as to which was better.
One very special meal was prepared by John, one of Camp Aldergate’s leadership staff. He recently returned from spending three months in Kenya and was introducing his guests to Kenyan cuisine. We had ugali (a bread-type product made from maize), sukuma wiki (vegetable dish with kale as a primary ingredient), githeri (corn and beans, very tasty), kachumbari (another vegetable dish with tomatoes, onions, peppers and mild spices), nyama choma (ground beef dish), and chapati (round flat bread, similar to a tortilla.) The ugali was interesting – the texture is slightly mushy – you knead it a little and form it to a spoon shape and use it to scoop some of the other dishes. We found this to be an acquired skill and taste. The sukuma wiki, which means ‘stretch the week’, usually is prepared at the beginning of the week and makes an appearance at every meal until it’s all eaten. John said you’d want to eat as much of it as possible early in the week as you’d get tired of it towards the end. Our taste of Kenyan food was certainly the most unusual meal we had during our stay in Rhode Island and pretty good for being foods we’d never been introduced to before. The meals were certainly quite healthy with their diet primarily vegetable-based. John also narrated the slide show of his trip to Kenya – a very special evening.
Another cuisine we tried for the first time was Portuguese dining at Churrascaria Marques Grill and Restaurant. Churrascaria is a form of meal preparation involving open flame grilling. The pitcher of sangria we all shared was out of this world – way better than the bottled version commonly found in stores. We all agreed the food was very good and portions quite generous.
You may be wondering if we did anything else besides eat! Eating seems to be the most popular event with RVers but we did do other fun things. The Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church in Chepachet has monthly Sunday afternoon concerts. Marilyn Knight, the church’s organist, along with Klancy Martin (a Carnegie-Mellon graduate, performer with several symphonies and music instructor at two different Putnam, Connecticut schools) entertained us with some delightful music, both traditional and contemporary.
Our favorite musical duo, Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly, who are Rhode Island residents, had a concert at the Blackstone Theater in Cumberland. This was the first time we heard them play with their friends and fellow musicians, John and Heidi Cerrigione (vocals, auto harp and bass) and Cathy Clasper-Torch (fiddle). Aubrey and Elwood are great on their own but having these three talented musicians accompany them really rounded out their repertoire. Most of the NOMADS crew joined us, as well as Marcel, and all were equally impressed with the music and musicians.
Speaking of Aubrey, Larry took a couple of private penny whistle classes from Aubrey at their home in Warren. She was impressed with how quickly he picked up the instrument. It had been years since he was a fife-playing member of the Naugatuck Fife and Drum Corps. His penny whistle playing will complement our dulcimer playing when we get together with fellow players.
Some of the interesting geocaches we found: the Glocester Town Pound, a rock enclosure built in the 1700s for stray animals and the only remaining one in America. One cache was in Chepachet, located by the one room schoolhouse. Nearby is a statue of what looks like a Mr. Potato Head but with elephant features. The statue is Betty, the Learned Elephant potato head and here is her story: It happened on the night of May 24, 1828. Little Bett, a 12 year old elephant, and her trainer Hachaliah Bailey had just put on a show in Chepachet and were crossing the only bridge out of town. Suddenly shots rang out from a nearby gristmill. Little Bett was cut down instantly in a blizzard of musket fire. She never had a chance. The next day her carcass was skinned on the spot and the hide was shipped to the Boston Museum. Seven men were eventually found responsible for the shooting and two of them were dropped from the Masonic Order for their deed. For 150 years most were mum about Little Betts murder until Chepachet’s historian persuaded the Rhode Island General Assembly to proclaim May 25, 1976 "Elephant Day". – The interesting things you find in small towns!
While we were discretely searching for this cache, we thought we got busted when a man came up and asked if we were interested in the school house. Rather than admit what we were doing, we quickly said yes and are sure glad we did. Tom is the assistant town historian and a wealth of information on not only the school house but he is one of the re-enactors for the Gloucester Light Infantry, part of the Rhode Island militia. He gave us a private tour of an old armory being used as the group’s meeting place. The armory also stores two original and still operational Revolutionary war cannons used during re-enactments and displayed during holiday parades.
He arranged for us to get a private tour of the Evans one room school house by Edna Kent, the town’s historian who lives next door – it was amazing to see an 1857 pull-down map of the United States on the school house wall, in its protective glass case. Glocester has a ton of history – we’ll have to take time when we’re next in the area to check out more of the historical buildings.
Our day trip to Upper Cape Cod was more scenic than informative. We were a few days’ too early to visit several of the attractions. Our first stop was the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center. We picked up a geocache there then walked out to the end of the canal to Cape Cod Bay. Our next stop was Sandwich to visit the grist mill but only saw it from the street.
We visited the Sandwich Glass Museum and saw an incredible demonstration of glass blowing. The docent made a glass pitcher with a twisted pattern and handle but because she didn’t have the handle quite lined up, and much to our dismay, she destroyed the piece afterwards, recycling it to be melted down. But as she said, she would try again. Successful pieces end up in the gift shop.
The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company was the earliest of several glass factories in Sandwich and the one responsible for the lasting fame of Sandwich glass. Founded in 1825 by Deming Jarves, he chose the area not because of the beach sand (too impure) but because of the nearby shallow harbor and the possibility of building a canal to ship goods. For 62 years, the company made blown and pressed glass, plain and decorated. The museum has multiple galleries displaying the various types of glass products made by the Sandwich Glass Company and others. We learned about how color and chemicals were combined to make glass in the 19th century, including using uranium – eek!
Competition from Southern and Midwestern glass factories, along with a general worker’s strike, caused the factory to close in 1888. There were a couple of attempts to re-start the factory but they were never as successful. Glass was last produced there in 1907. No buildings remain, just a bronze tablet marking the factory’s location.
It was time to leave Camp Aldersgate and the many friends we’d made there. On the way out of town, we stopped to get the recall work done on the motor home at Tasca Ford in Cranston, thanks to Marcel’s suggestion. We pulled out of camp by 7 am and were at Tasca’s lot thirty minutes later. Marcel picked us up for breakfast and by the time we got back, the motor home was waiting for us. Klondike Camping Resort and Otis – here we come! It was an easy trip of less than 150 miles. Brian and Bonnie had come up for the weekend and prepared supper – the potato soup hit the spot on a cool afternoon. And being waited on was pretty good too!
We quickly got back into our routine when in this area. We enjoyed pizza at the Russell Inn – our first of what we’re sure will be many visits between now and when we leave the area mid-October. We attended Sunday services at the First Congregational Church in Lee – it was like homecoming, seeing church friends we hadn’t seen in two years. Mother’s Day, we drove down to Cheshire, Connecticut, and took Larry’s mother to lunch at the Olive Garden.
We started our walks within Klondike but somewhere, we both picked up some horrific colds and visited the nearest walk-in clinic in Pittsfield, about 30 miles away. Armed with some antibiotics (Lucille had pneumonia and Larry bronchitis), we stocked up on cold supplies and hibernated for most of the rest of May. We did surface long enough to attend Klondike’s first social event of the season – cocktails and appetizers Memorial Day weekend. And of course, the Sunday morning breakfast was as good as always and still a bargain for an all you can eat, cooked to order breakfast, for just $6.00 a person.
The month ended with our celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary – time sure does fly.
Coming up: We plan on spending time here in Klondike through the middle of October but will take a couple of road trips – one to Vermont to visit family and friends; another one to visit Boston for longer than the day trip we made in 2008. If you will be in the area, please give us a shout – we’ll give you the grand tour.