An hour out of the Big Apple on my 2004 BMW Rl150R, I spy surly, fat, gray clouds rushing belly-up behind me in the mirrors. I, in turn, rush east on the super-slab of I-95 through Connecticut. I'm on my way to begin my tour of the biggest lil' state in the Union, Rhode Island
Day One: Watch Hill
The clouds retreat as I cross the Connecticut border into Rhode Island. Hopping off I-95 in this southwestern corner, I head south on Route 3 through Ashaway and Westerly, then work my way on Route 1A up the coast to Newport. My goal for today is to photograph the town of Watch Hill, but the sun is already sinking in the sky. A few other riders are about: a lovely postwar BMW with a sidecar passes in the other direction. The goggled rider and passenger offer salutes in de rigueur black leather.
Come back and play with me, I whisper.
My first stop in Watch Hill is the Ocean House Hotel, recommended by my father-in-law. It's 136 years old, and a landmark hotel for over a century. With white-gloved waiters, historic architecture, and elegant ballrooms, it's out of fashion, but I stop to ask if I might book lodging for the night anyway. They tell me it's under renovation - although it's due to reopen in the fall of 2005.
I ride back to Watch Hill's Main Street to photograph the marina. It's Sunday and Watch Hill is very quiet. The whitewashed, clapboard storefronts and seafood restaurants present a quintessential New England coastal scene. I almost expect to hear old sea chanteys or to see spectral visions of Ahab and Moby (the cetacean, not the singer) rising from the waves. Rain can come at any minute, an old woman warns me from her perch in a donut shop.
Before it does, back on Route 1A, I find a gem of a hotel for the night: the Shelter Harbor Inn. The conversation among some of the other lodgers and yours truly turns to motorcycling. Dan and his wife have ridden twice across the country on Harley-Davidson Sportsters. Ouch, that's an awful narrow seat for 3,000 miles, I thought, like sitting on an armrest from New York to California. But, hey, maybe I have a more sensitive keister than most. It turns out Dan got the motorcycling bug again when he recently ran a raffle giving away a new Harley-Davidson. He was in charge of storing it all spring until the winner was declared and apparently he had trouble parting with it, so he bought one just like it from the dealer! We swapped stories, compared riding experiences, and came to the conclusion that all riders have more in common than not.