“Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,” the sign said.
Having lived in Massachusetts since early 2003, Rhode Island being beautiful isn’t exactly something we had to “discover,” as it’s less than two hours away and we’ve been there numerous times.
Newport has been a regular Christmas Eve site, and last year, we made sure to get there early so we could enjoy the Cliff Walk.
But this time was different, because when we crossed the state line, it was the first time we had been out of Massachusetts since the end of February, when we saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” at The Bushnell in Hartford.
It was good, even without Sara Bareilles.
As we were sitting in the mostly full theater, a woman in California had become the second coronavirus case of unknown origin (a woman from Oregon was reportedly the third), since she “didn’t have any relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient, said Dr. Sara Cody, director of the (Santa Clara) county’s public health department.”
“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission, but the extent is still not clear,” Cody said in the article. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”
I’m sure no one in the Bushnell that day realized we were nearing the end of the Before Times.
Augustus Van Wickle’s entry in the book of how the other 1 percent lived will show he ran the family mining company, bought the property that became Blithewold in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1894, spent the first summer with his family there in 1896 and died in 1898.
Skeet-shooting accident. He was 42. His wife Bessie was pregnant with their second child.
He was also a member of the Jekyll Island Club in Georgia, where Suzi and I went for our honeymoon and 10th anniversary. It is not a place for the light of wallet, which is why it’s a very-special-occasion trip.
The mansion only just reopened for private guided tours, but we stuck to the grounds of the 33-acre estate.
The flower gardens were enjoyable, and Blithewold is also home to a bamboo grove that felt inside like the place where James Bond would be looking for the bad guy in the climactic scene of the movie …
… and the largest redwood east of the Rocky Mountains.
As I’m a sucker for a water view, the best part was walking along Narragansett Bay.
You can do a lot of social distancing in 33 acres, but nearly everyone we saw wore a mask. When we were sitting on a bench by the water, we took ours off for a few minutes, but looked around before we did to make sure there was nobody even within shouting distance.
Really, it’s not that hard.
It was a fun trip, an enjoyable way to spend a pleasant Sunday, but not all that different from other historic mansions we’ve visited, including on Labor Day weekend.
And on the surface, Rhode Island isn’t that terribly different from Massachusetts, except for the people riding motorcycles without helmets, but Connecticut doesn’t require helmets for adults, so it’s not like I’ve never seen that before.
There was one other thing, though.
At the museum and the pizza place in town where we went for an outdoor lunch of slices and grinders, they took our name and phone number.
So if anyone who was at Blithewold or Bristol House of Pizza the same day comes down with coronavirus, they’ll be able to let us know.
Our meals from restaurants are either outside or takeout.
We have no idea when we’re going to go to a movie theater or any other kind of show.
Dreams of Switzerland aside, our next time on a train or a train could be … ?
And we’re going to have to figure out Thanksgiving and Christmas, hoping it will be safe and we can do it safely.
Maybe that’s why the simple act of driving over a state line felt like we were spreading our wings just a little bit more.
And we apparently weren’t alone. Suzi noticed a lot of cars in the Blithewold parking lot with Massachusetts plates.
Sure, Bristol isn’t that far, and it was a really nice day, but with cases starting to tick up, are people afraid their wings will be clipped soon?