A Small Race and Enormous Mansions -Newport, Rhode Island

Shortly after we began our 50 state quest, Mike gave me a trip to Newport, Rhode Island as a birthday gift.  Although during the years we have been running we had previously run races in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Caroline, we were now purposefully pursuing our quest. We chose a small 5K race in a town just outside of Newport that benefited Silveira Kindergarten and Nursery School.

We settled into our B & B, the Samuel Durfee House, late on a Friday night in March.  Our room was charming and comfortable.

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When we arrived at the race early the next morning, we savored the perks that come with running a small race: easy parking, no lines for the bathroom, and a true sense of community. The weather was dreary but the vibe among runners, spectators, and volunteers was upbeat. The slightly hilly course traveled through several quiet neighborhoods. Mike and I had been training at different paces so I urged him to run ahead instead of sticking with me.  It was a good plan because he ended up having a terrific time and placed second in his age group.  I had a more leisurely run.  In fact my pace was slow enough that I read a text that had come in from our house/pet sitter while I was running.  She informed me that there had been THREE mice in the dog food bag that was stored in the woodshed of our old farmhouse when she scooped up that morning’s food.  EEK!! Obviously something more daunting than a paper bag was going to be needed to thwart those determined little creatures from creating an all-you-can-eat buffet in Bentley’s dog food.

Mike ended up winning a $50 gift certificate to the Custom Coffee House, a local coffee shop.  Although we thought that it was terrific, we knew it was unlikely that we would return to the area soon enough to use it again, so we went on a mini-shopping spree before we left town, buying coffee, pastries, and assorted non-perishable treats. What a fun extravagance!

Our post race lunch was at Cafe Zelda.

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We loved the atmosphere.  It was Restaurant Week so we were able to enjoy a three course lunch for $16.00 apiece. It was a wonderful spot to recap our race experience and to plan the next part of our visit to Newport.

Since neither of us had ever been to Newport we were anxious to tour one of the fabled grand mansions.  We chose The Breakers.  We donned the headsets they provided at the entrance and wandered throughout the opulent rooms, stunned by features such as platinum-leafed panels.

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It truly was stunning but since I love to cook, my truly favorite spot was the enormous kitchen with copper pots hanging over a long wooden work table and a butler’s pantry with two floors of glass front cabinets filled with dishes and glassware.

We returned to our  B & B for some afternoon tea and cookies and a chatty visit with one of the innkeepers, followed by the decadent treat of a nap.

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Later that evening we continued to enjoy the benefits of Restaurant Week at the Gas Lamp Grille, which provided a delectable meal in a pub-type atmosphere.

The drizzly weather was gone the next morning and we eagerly headed to the Cliff Walk.  The views of the mansions and the ocean were breath-taking.

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We even indulged in a few shots that included us.

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We returned home to Maine later that afternoon having checked Rhode Island off of our quest list.  But more significantly, we had supported a small, local race that benefited a worthy cause and we had explored a new area that we had talked about visiting for years.  We are finding that these aspects are two of the benefits of our 50 state quest journey that we are particularly cherishing.

Date Run: March 31, 2012

State: Rhode Island

Quest Race #: 6

The Bottom Line:  Although this race does not appear to be run at this time, it was a perfect little race for our smallest state.

Running with the Kenyans!

 

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The Beach to Beacon 10 K finishes at the Portland Head Light. Don’t let the snow mislead you. The race is held August 1, 2015. There’s a pretty good chance the snow will be gone then.

To use a Maine phrase, you have to be “wicked” fast to run the Beach to Beacon 10K.  And this has nothing to do with your running abilities.  Registration for this incredibly popular race literally fills up within about 5 minutes!  This year’s online registration opens to the public on Friday, March 13 at 7:00 a.m. So if you want to run this amazing race, start limbering up your fingers!

This year marks the eighteenth Beach to Beacon 10K.   The race, which was founded by gold medal Olympic marathoner and native Mainer, Joan Benoit Samuelson, attracts world class runners. The route begins on a quiet, wooded road and travels through scenic Cape Elizabeth.  The course is lined with exuberant spectators who offer encouragement, upbeat music, and welcome mistings from their garden hoses. Runners are rewarded with periodic gorgeous views of the ocean.  The last portion of the race has several rolling hills.  As you near the end of the race you turn into Fort Williams and run along a curvey uphill portion for a short distance before you enter the last approximately .1 mile that is packed with spectators. Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in the US, is visible just beyond the finish. The combination of the dazzling Atlantic Ocean and this quintessentially Maine lighthouse make it truly the most spectacular finish to any race we have run.

My long-time friend, Mary, first introduced me to this race in what I believe was the inaugural running of this now famous race. Mike and I have run it several additional times over the years and we always feel honored to be able to take part in such a renowned event. We have run scores of races and The Beach to Beacon is truly the most phenomenal race we have done.

Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon race director, is the race director of the Beach to Beacon 10K.  So it is no surprise that the entire race is impeccably organized.  The volunteers are fabulous. The route is scenic with just enough hills to make it feel like a bit of a challenge. But one of my favorite parts of the race is the awards ceremony when a veritable “Who’s Who” in the running world is presented as the winners are announced.  Runners from Kenya and Ethiopia are always in the top spots. Having the opportunity to run in the same race as these legendary athletes makes the race just that much more exciting.

State: Maine

Quest Race #: 1

Date Run: August 7, 2010 (as well as other years)

Bottom Line: The Beach to Beacon 10K offers a stunning course and the opportunity to run with world class runners. Whether you come to race or to watch, being on the Maine coast in August is the perfect time to experience our fabulous home state.

February- “Do Something New for 30 Days” Recap

When I chose going someplace new each day as my “try something new for 30 days” plan for February, I assumed it would be a breeze.  We were already planning to travel to Houston for four days to visit family and friends and to run the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon.  Since we had never been to Houston, I figured that would easily take care of four days. I imagined filling the other 24 days of February with visits to new restaurants, shops, museums, and even just detouring from my normal routine to a slightly different path as I traveled along my everyday routes.

February 1st was easy.  Mike and I went to Portsmouth to Runner’s Alley to pick up a few things and stopped at The Fresh Press for hot chocolate and a coffee.

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The atmosphere was neat and it was fun to try a new spot.  So far, so good.  Easy!

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The next day we had another Nor’easter so I barely left the house.  Traveling to the barn to feed the horses seemed like an accomplishment.

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Bentley was the only one who seemed particularly happy with the weather.

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My only travel that day was virtual when we watched the movie, “Chef”.  It was fabulous, by the way.

The next day was a work day and by evening I hadn’t ventured to anywhere new.  No problem!  As I drove to a neighboring town to do an errand, I turned off the road I’ve driven on literally a hundred times onto a side road.  It had just snowed which made this new neighborhood look even more unfamiliar.  I was truly surprised to come across a large, old brick building beside the river that appeared to be some sort of old public water works building.  It was dark, so I wasn’t able to see it completely but I was so intrigued that this significant, interesting building was about a block from my usual path and I had no idea it even existed. I was enjoying this going somewhere new plan.

We had yet more snow that week which left the roads snow covered.  Eager to maintain my “going somewhere new” endeavor, I decided to take a slightly different road home from work.  The roads were still sloppy and I did have a tiny nagging thought that this might not be the best day to venture into uncharted territory, but the road I had chosen was (I thought) well-traveled and I convinced myself that it should be fine.  I had front-wheel drive and snow tires, which seemed sufficient for this plan.  So off I went, turning off the main road onto another road that was notably more snowy than the previous one. Undeterred, I  continued on with my plan.  The next intersection was where I would take a left and head off onto my new path home.  The moment I made the turn I realized how awful this decision was. Looming ahead of me was an immense, snowy hill!  Alas, there was no turning back because if I stopped or tried to turn I would immediately be stuck in the inches of slushy snow that covered the road.  There was nothing to do but floor it up this mountainous hill.

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This photo was obviously taken after the snowy road adventure. It looks completely benign. But it wasn’t!

I picked up as much speed as I could/dared and gripped the steering wheel as I climbed the hill.  Things started off fine but I quickly began to lose speed.  My wheels were slipping and the car was going slower and slower.  My heart was pounding and my palms were sweating as I silently prayed (literally) that I would make it up the hill.  As my forward motion steadily decreased, I began to downshift my automatic transmission, hoping that would give me a little more umph.  My mind was reeling with questions about what I would do if I couldn’t make it.  Who do you call?  “Hello, AAA?  I’m stuck half way up a hill in the middle of the road and I can’t get up.”  My car slipped more and more as I inched up the hill.  The accelerator was pressed to the floor as I willed the car to keep creeping forward. Miraculously, I crested the top of the hill going about 20 mph.  I was shaking and my heart was thumping when I turned the corner onto a relatively flat road and headed for home.  Well, that was exciting!

Not every foray into a new place was quite so dramatic.  We tried some new restaurants including 7th Settlement , a fantastic brew pub in Dover, NH that brews their own beers on the premises and serves locally sourced food.  We loved the lively, welcoming atmosphere. Our service was stellar and the food was exceptional.

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I couldn’t stop exclaiming over the Harvest Salad of baby kale, roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, blue cheese, and dried cranberries.

A couple of days my new place was simply a different trail in our woods.  When the temperatures finally edged above the teens, Hannah and I ventured out on snowshoes.  The snow was so deep that the fencing around the pasture was literally ankle high as we walked by on top of the packed snow.  As the horses watched us travel beside their pasture we commented on how lucky we were that they didn’t want to venture anywhere beyond their mere suggestion of a fence.

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My snow shoes are ancient but excellent for forging a good trail.

 

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Hannah shot this photo.

We loved being outside and trekking through a new portion of the woods. Our trip was relatively short because it was almost dusk. As we returned to the house we commented on the unusual, wide tracks that we hadn’t noticed on our way out.  We have had a porcupine living under the barn that makes a similar track.  But somehow it seemed different. Then we noticed that it seemed to originate in the field where the horses were….but were no longer! Realizing that we had inadvertently inspired them to try going somewhere new also, I tried to rush back to the barn to see if they were there.  Hannah retraced our path back into the woods. It’s hard to convey the feeling of desperation that wafts over me when I realize the horses have disappeared.

The snowshoes that minutes ago had handily tromped out a broad trail were now unwieldy as I tried to run (not possible) along a narrower, bumpy path.  I eventually pulled them off and made my way back to the barn.  Relief washed over me as I saw Molly standing at the barn door. However, that was fleeting because she darted down the driveway and Chelsea was no where to be seen.  I dashed into the barn to nab a scoop of grain- my only hope to lure them back to the barn.  Thankfully, our ponies are huge fans of grain.  A few shakes of the grain scoop and they trotting into the barn and all of our adventures had a happy ending.

Another late afternoon I set out into the woods on snowshoes on my own.  It was just beginning to snow (again) and the woods seemed especially inviting.  The snow was crisscrossed with a myriad of tracks, making me wish I could have seen the creatures that had been traveling throughout the woods.

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The snow made interesting formations on the fallen trees and beside the streams.

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Another day, I traveled to Portland with Hannah and enjoyed an hour of doing work in a new coffee shop while she was at a meeting.

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On the last day of February, Mike and I spent some time in the Old Port section of Portland.  We braved the still shocking cold and walked to the ferry terminal where we wistfully imagined a summer trip to the surrounding islands.  We contentedly immersed ourselves in a bookstore and then met Hannah for lunch. She suggested going to Duckfat which turned out to be a marvelous little restaurant that served scrumptious, unique food in a spiffy setting. It was a perfect way to end my month of going somewhere new.

I  loved consciously thinking about going somewhere new all month.  Whether it was traveling across the country to Texas where everything was new, driving down a different road, or just literally, taking the path less traveled (to paraphrase Robert Frost) this venture has provided some unexpected adventures as well as lovely moments of change, beauty, and enjoyment.

My plan for March is to experiment with photography by using different settings, filters, and apps for both my iPhone and my digital SLR camera.  I’m looking forward to honing my skills and learning new techniques.

Although I have only completed two months of doing something new, I find that I am carrying over the activity from the previous month into my actions and thoughts as I move into the next month.  It seems that it really is true that doing something new for 30 days can make a change in your life. Making a deviation from my normal routine has added a welcome spark (and sometimes even a jolt) to my life.