If I Had $1,000,000 (Rhode Island, Pt 5)

I didn’t realize how busy Thursday ended up being until I looked at the pictures from the day.  Usually, choosing a song to use for the entry title (and backbone, based on the song’s lyrics) is the hardest part about writing for me.  But Thursday, September 29, 2016 presented a different problem.  Too many themes to pull from based on the day’s events: bridge, beaver, mansions, cliffs, family, etc…

I ended up going with this one.

If I had a million dollars
Well, I’d buy you a house
And if I had a million dollars
I’d buy you furniture for your house

It sounded innocuous enough.  Late morning through late afternoon with aunt Donna and uncle Rick, sightseeing on the islands of Rhode Island, and then an early dinner at the house of uncle Jim and aunt Joann.

By the way, 5:30 is early, right?  Ignore time zones, just think in regards to the place you are sitting as you are reading this.

When we moved to Texas, we would always eat supper around 5:30pm.  But southerners didn’t really roll that way, and they would take their vittles closer to 7pm.  Somewhere along the way, my family kind of fell in line with this new paradigm and started eating later.  Dinner probably got progressively delayed, 5 minutes at a time, until we were eating at a more Godly hour.

Man, now I feel the need to say that this is no way to complain about our dinner time on this day, but to point out a difference between northern and southern cultures.  That’s the only one that pops in my head. Yup – pretty sure.  In fact, yes – I’m positive.  That’s the only one.

Anyway, the four remaining siblings left that morning in the back of Donna’s van with Rick riding shotgun (is that phrase used up north?), and we Leemings all got to revel in the scenery without the silly distraction of driving.  And the first stop was Jamestown, once we crossed the bridge that just happens to be a post-tensioned, double-cell concrete box girder structure.  For those who might be curious.

(That last description of the bridge, while accurate, is what we in the Leeming family call “an inside joke”.)


Our first stop was a pull out area where out-of-towners can park to take pictures of the next bridge we would cross – the Newport Bridge.  That’s probably an over simplified use of the bridge name, but the Jamestown Bridge is actually called the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge.   And Jamestown is evidently on Conanicut Island.  Neither really rolls off the tongue, so just hang with me.  I’m casual.


From there, we headed to Beavertail State Park.  The combo of this time of year not being peak tourist season, the fact that it was a weekeday, and also that the weather sucked (overcast, rainy, and chilly – and my southern ass is being generous on that last one) led to a stress free walk around a portion of the park.  And there was a lot of cool information there.  For example, did you know there is a German U-Boat at the bottom of the ocean in this area?  That close to US soil? It happened at Point Judith, which is the name of the lighthouse we tried to get photos of the night before.

Small state, big heart.

(Remember that description.  I might use it again.)

I did enjoy this time with my uncle Rick.  We walked around together most of the time, including venturing into that spare aquarium.  Seriously.  I’ve seen “live pet” departments at Wal-Mart better than this collection of sea life.

Also, to be fair, both Donna and Rick told me up front that the aquarium was completely over billed.  Anyway, I typed all that just to post this photo of Rick and I, one of my favorite pics from the trip.


So now here are some more from Beavertail photos before we get to lunch.  Oh, lunch! You so completed me this day!

We started to make our way to Newport (on the island of Aquidneck – no lie, I look this crap up) but we got side-tracked by, of all things, cows.

I could lie and say it was the windmill built in 1787 (!!!) or the view of the Jamestown Bridge, but it really was the cows that made us ask Donna to turn around the van.  Forget the fact that an engineering marvel from 229 years ago was still kicking or that a $4 fee gets you one way on a suspension bridge, we had to have photos of the “Oreo cows”.


These are actually Galloway cows, which just means they drink a lot of bourbon, think that anyone younger than 60 is an idiot, and like to corrupt impressionable sports columnists. (Sorry – that was a joke for the DFW P1 crowd.)

“Forget that stupid joke, John”, you’re thinking. “Where are the windmill photos?”

Well, here they are. Complete with stonewalls, which I love.  Don Quixote would be proud.

Lunch was at the Newport Creamery, established in 1928  (and oddly located in Middletown).  Remember me mentioning lunch?  Well now I was really hungry after seeing Oreo cows.  So I ordered hot dogs – covered in sauerkraut, mustard, and a sweet red relish (under the dog). And eventually a banana and chocolate chip Awful Awful (it’s like a shake) to go.


The next stop is what is known as the Cliff Walk.  Or mansion tour.  Or 40 Steps.  Or all of those.

The previous day, my uncle Jim took us to see his brother in law’s house to “see how the other half lives”.  But today we saw how the 1% live.  I’m talking about the heir to Campbell’s Soup, and also possibly the inventor of the Downy Ball. I have to admit that I can’t verify the Downy guy, but he ranks right up there.

And, I gotta tell you, if being in the 1% means that people will walk past my house taking photos, and other weirdos will take their shirt off on a chilly day and lay in my vast lawn?


Well, yeah.  I’d still take being part of that 1%.

We walked the 40 Steps (which is exactly what it sounds like, 40 stairs down and 40 back up), and then we started to walk The Cliffs.

I could make an easy reference to the neighborhood in my current hometown that also goes by The Cliffs, but I won’t.  So I’ll just tell you what I expected when I heard we were going to walk “the cliffs”.

I expected danger, or at least a rural setting.  I had no idea The Cliffs was basically a sidewalk following the Atlantic Ocean along the backyards of some giant mansions.  I’m not complaining, but maybe they should rename the walk as “The Cliff Huxtables”.

Too soon?

The scenery was amazing, though.  And I also learned about the superstition of placing a padlock on something permanent to signify a “love lock“.  And that’s all I need – another superstition.  Can I get A-389 padlocks on my carry-on?

It was souvenir time.  We were now going to the tourist trap part of Newport, and that is exactly where I belonged.  This mansion part of the island had no room for the likes of me and there was even a sign to prove it, though I somehow did not get a picture of this.  There was a sign at the entry to 40 Steps and the Cliff Walk that read “No smoking in any public park, or in any open areas.”

I might have butchered the exact wording, but what I got out of it was that Newport, Rhode Island was the only place I had ever been where you have to go inside to smoke.  Considering the winters they have up there, that is the worst anti-smoking campaign that I have ever heard of.

Nothing very exciting happened while we were shopping in Newport, unless you count the time I threatened to use Uber to get back to my hotel because we all got separated and Glenn was texting non-specific things like “I’m over here”.

But I was able to fulfill my postcard quota here.  In addition to the koozie I bought in Newport (bringing my trip total up to 3), I was able to get more postcards for Jen.  The plan was to send her one for every day of the trip, so she ended up getting one postcard with a UConn photo and 5 all showing Newport because, let’s face it, I panicked.  If only Shartner’s Farm sold postcards…

Want some Newport pics?  Sorry.  I’m only going to post my favorite one.


The evening ended with the 4 of us remaining siblings (and one spouse) gathering at my uncle Jim and aunt Joann’s house.  Our aunt was preparing a genuine spaghetti and meatballs dinner (with Italian sausage, as well) and it was blissful.

And remember earlier when I was noting the difference in dinner time preferences between the north and the south?  Well, we arrived for dinner right around 5:30 but didn’t eat the main course (appetizers included shrimp, crackers, cheese, and pepperoni) until close to southern time.

We had great, interesting conversation both before and after dinner, and I came to a realization.

New Englanders really love Tom Brady.

Oh, besides that?  There was this one…

Other than my siblings, my uncle Jim is the only remaining link to my mom, blood-wise. My mom’s parents are both gone (and none of us kids ever knew her real mom, a prelude to tomorrow), as is her younger sister.  Jim is all that is left, and I guess I wish I knew him better.

That’s not to suggest that he made himself unavailable, because we are all guilty of that to an extent.  And it is not limited to my mom’s side of the family.

All it means is that I’m making a goal of getting back up to Rhode Island once a year, and I’m leaning towards planning it around my mom’s birthday because it’s in the summer and teachers can actually take time off during that time.

No, I’m not a teacher.  But it is still important, because Jen is.

So are you ready for one of the worst family portraits ever?


The next day was Friday.  Brother day.  The last full day in New England for us Texans.

And also the 1 year anniversary of our mom’s passing.

If I had a million dollars
I’d be rich
– The Barenaked Ladies, “If I Had $1,000,00”


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