Take Two: Block Island Triathlon

Over the weekend I took part in one of my favorite events of the summer: The Block Island Triathlon. I competed last year and loved every second of it. This year was different, I had a race team.

IMG_1387I must have made it sound easy or something as my mother, Karen, and friend, Evan, decided to sign up as well. My mother is a fit lady who loves to be active in many ways (especially Jazzy ones), and Evan is a runner who has never competed in a triathlon.
Mom was pretty confident. Saying ,“Michael Phelps isn’t even a stellar athlete” as we watch him carry the US flag at the Rio opening ceremony the night before. I guess she thought she could take him on the swim portion if she had to.

 

As race day approach we were all nervous about the weather with storms predicted. I said my prayers and wished for the best. Luckily, Saturday arrived with sun and smiles. We prepped our transition stations with “recyclable” footbaths.

At 9 am the race went off. I was in the first heat. Ekk.

The race consisted of a ¼ mile swim at Fred Benson Town Beach. It was tough as I was running into the water and headed towards the same buoy as the rest of the pack. There was a lot of arm flaying and no apologies.

When I ran out of the water and went to throw my sneakers on I swear everyone else was dilly-dallying. I had places to be. The bike ride consisted of a few close calls with cars and other bikers and only once did I yell “MOM!” at the wrong lady.

13901547_1233309526699427_8045180890117176352_nBy the time I got to the beach, I was pumped yelling, “These are my roads” to everyone I passed. The run was tough as the high tide meant wading through calf-deep water at some points. I was cheered on my beach goers loving my St. Lawrence T-shirt (and Cole Hann shades).

I finished in just over 1 hour and 30 minutes, third overall female and first in my age group. For anyone else that did the race, I had to search far and wide for the results (here they are) I am now the proud owner of the coolest T-Shirt on Block Island. So yes ,this blog post is somewhat a humble brag, but I know you care.

Besides me, my mom did phenomenal. She finished 12th out of 20 people in her age group. Take those Tri Veterans! Her biggest feedback was that the race was the perfect choice for her. The mixed training was better than simply training for a half-marathon that she had been interested in.
IMG_0963Evan crushed the game as well placing 2nd in his age group. I had to say no when he mentioned a “cool down” run after the race.

Block Island is a great place to race. There is one more chance this summer to “Run Around the Block” on September 10th. I won’t be able to be here for it so you might have a chance.


Have you ever raced on Block Island? Is Michael Phelps a stellar athlete? How many scoops of ice cream did I eat after the race? (Wait, don’t answer that)

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She definitely earned her cone.
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Block Party: Blues on the Block

IMG_1236Blues on the Block is a Block Island tradition that brings together many of my favorite things: music, early evening activities, sand, the list goes on and on.

On select Wednesdays at Fred Benson Town Beach Pavilion, join the “cool cats in town” for a shaking good time. This summer you still have one chance to go, August 3rd.

IMG_1226Go prepared. Music starts at 6pm going til about 8pm so make it a picnic. Serious tailgaters you know what to do here, but if you’re new to the game here’s your short introduction. Start with drinks, a nice wine says “I’m classy and I know it” and pairs well with a hummus spread. Throw in some pita chips and a quarter pound of sharp cheddar and you’ll be turning away the Queen from your beach blanket.

On Block with limited resources? Go the take-out route and pick up some pizza pies at Aldo’s. You won’t have to worry about utensils, and you’ll make your evening hassle free. Just remember “carry in, carry out” the seagulls are not hungry for your beer bottles.

So once your bottomless pit (stomach) is full, time to dance. The musicians at Blues on the Beach changes each night, but all of the groups play for the crowd and play very well. After 7pm once the crowd is really there, the platform in front of the Pavilion becomes a dance IMG_1229floor. To my surprise, people really dance (myself included) (yes that link is worth clicking)! Say awe when they slow it down for couples and enjoy watching older couples circle the floor (if your faith in love isn’t restored, you’re a cold one).
The night winds down as the sun sets and music fades. Blues on the Block is the perfect cap to a Block Island day.

If there is inclement weather, Blues on the Beach is held at Captain Nicks. So mark your calendars for August 3rd, you don’t want to miss this show.

Do you like Blues music? Is 6pm the new hot hour of the night? Is Bruno Mars considered Blues?

Bonus Blog

Today, I had my lovely grandparents on Block Island. They choose the perfect day to visit with calm seas, a farmers’ market and a natural-born tour guide with the day off. And hey, this isn’t their first time.

We had lunch at the Spring House because why go anywhere but the best? Then we were ready for a quick dip. We headed to Ballard’s beach because of its location, but I did so begrudgingly. Ballard’s is too crowded for me with too much alcohol to worsen the situation. But it did the trick. We dunked and dashed, dodging Ballard’s finest.

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It was a quick trip, but these two did it right. I tried to offer them a hotel room, but they forgot their toothbrushes. Thanks for visiting Grandma and Grandpa, see you soon!

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Time for Shots: Photography on Block Island

There are plenty of reasons to put your phone away on Block Island. With plenty to see and do, the island is a welcome escape from technology. But what is summer if you can’t remember it in the depths of February when the days are short and the temperature is low. Here are five of our favorite places on the island to dig into the backpack and pull out the camera (but more often cell phone).

Whether it be for a selfie, a screen saver or a family photo these spots “capture” the island. Snap away and if you share the photo tag #Unlockedblock .

1. The FerryIMG_0892

It’s not everyday you’re on a ferry. Grab a shot of your traveling companions, your Bloody Mary or your wind-swept hair. A before and after Block picture might show you smiling a little wider and sporting a new t-shirt. The Block Island Ferry has a Friday photo contest. Upcoming themes include:

  • July 22: Pt. Photo Theme: A selfie or groupie on the ferry
  • July 29: Pt. Photo Theme: Wildlife on the island or in the water
  • August 5: Photo Theme: Favorite cocktail on the island
  • August 12: Photo Theme: A selfie or groupie on the beach
  • August 19: Photo Theme: Best Biking Experience on Block Island
  • August 26: Photo Theme: Your favorite place on Block Island

Submit your photo on Facebook or Instagram using the hash tag #BIFphotofriday on the specific Friday before 3pm.

2.IMG_1031 Abram’s Animal Farm and North Light Fibers

The farm is great place for an unexpected shot of a camel, a yak or any of the many animals at the farm. Don’t get too close; all animals deserve their personal space. Score a selfie with Cindy the Zedonk, for a fabulous one of a kind Instagram post.

IMG_34913. Mohegan Bluff’s Staircase

From the bottom or from the top, the view is desktop background worthy. Known for being a popular shot on the island make your angle an interesting one, don’t be afraid to change you’re focal point. Be there at sunrise for lighting that will feel magical or be there at sunset and enjoy watching the sky dance. The stairs and bluffs combination will inspire you when paired with the quote “there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.”

IMG_33854. Your frozen delight

At some point during your trip to Block Island there is going to be ice cream or some other frozen goodness. If you can help yourself, pause yourself before you devour your frozen treat. Find a scenic background near your scoop shop of choice and savor the beauty of the cone in a “freeze” frame. Or make it a family affair, have everyone put his or her cones in for a group shot.

5. Sunset

With a sky that likes to show off, Block Island sunsets are clearly worth the shot. Head west for the best views and do not be afraid to wait. The closer the sun gets to completely disappearing the better light. And if you are looking for a good time to capture a picture of yourself or group, wait until the last hour before sunset. It is known as the “magic hour” by photographers, it makes for amazing lighting and for every side to look like your good side.IMG_1205

How many like have you ever got on a BI instagram photo? Pics or it didn’t happen? Does anyone else like taking pictures of other people taking selfies or is that just me?

Block Island Farmers’ Market: A Craft Fair With Some Cucumbers

I have mentioned it before, but never fully post on the Block Island Farmers’ Market. And It is well worth the mention.

The Block Island Farmers’ Market open Wednesdays 9- 11:30am at The Spring House and Saturdays at American Legion Park in New Harbor. Its’ season runs from mid –June until October boasting all Block-Island produce, foods and crafts.

13407059_1137679179626066_1671465165789616405_nMost of the vendors at the market can not be found elsewhere on the island. Some of my favorites include Block Island Sweaters and Block Island Wildflower Honey from Littlefield Farm (sold by the one and only Hope Brigham). There are a few exceptions like Mutt Hut and The Spring House (my haunt), but for the most part the farmers’ market is the only chance to score some the island’s best offerings.

IMG_0922Like island-famous scones. They go for $1.50, and they go fast!

If you are looking to fill your pantry, the market is a good place to start, but it would be hard to survive completely off of the provisions of the market. The Spring House has fresh produce for sale at the Wednesday market, but one can not sustain themselves on vegetables and baked goods alone.

Meg Vitcoo of Mutt Hut heads the market making sure all vendors are able to have a fair chance of your market dollar. That means no purchases until 9am, so don’t even try.

Hot Tip: Pack your cash, most vendors are cash only.

The new locations offer a view (at Spring House) and reason for New Harbor exploration (at American Legion). Take the chance on Wednesday to score an awesome seat for lunch on the porch at the Spring House after the market and on Saturday grab a donut from Payne’s on your trip.

IMG_0957Stop by the Spring House shed for Unlocked Block sightings. Mention this post and I’ll give you a wine cork keychain (a $5 value!).

Have you been to the farmers’ market? What are the fruits of your labor? What is your spirit vegetable? (Mine is eggplant)

Chopping Block: Clam Chowda’

Seafood diet? No, I prefer the “see food and eat it” diet. Block Island is home to many great seafood dishes. One to highlight on a chilly rainy May day: chowder.

There are different types of chowder, and I am going to break it down clearly because you don’t want to order one type and expect another. That would be a tragedy. So to be clear:

New England Clam Chowder051119065-01-chowders-on-map_xlg.jpgThis is a cream based chowder, definitely the heaviest of the bunch. It is thick and creamy and likely served with oyster crackers. Fun fact: In 1939, Maine legislature introduced a bill hoping to make tomatoes in chowder illegal.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder– This chowder brings all the ingredients of New England but substitutes the cream base with a clear broth.

Manhattan Clam Chowder– This chowder has a tomato-based broth that actually was first cooked up in Rhode Island. GASP.

Long Island Clam Chowder– Less well know, this variant of chowder takes the cream-base New England chowder, but it adds chunks of tomatoes to the stew. See can’t we all just get along?

So where does that leave Block Island, an island located in Rhode Island, in New England, but just a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Long Island?

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Students serve up chowder at BIMI’s CHOWDA’ Fest (Jack Lynch).

Luckily every year on Memorial day week Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI) hosts CHOWDA’ FEST. I had the pleasure of attending this event. There were chowders from 12 local restaurants and I was able to try them all. I was sent on assignment from the paper so below is an honest unbiased journalist take.

So if you are looking for some solid stew when you are on the island the top three prizewinners are a surefire best bet. The winning chowders were:

First Place: Winfield’s-This cream-based chowder included muscles, leeks, jalapeño peppers and an extra smokiness from the added bacon. Be warned this is not a regularly appearing dish on the Winfield’s menu, but its top place speaks to the quality of Winfield’s cooking. If you want to try it, you better ask nicely (with a hundred).

Second Place: The National-This was also a cream-based chowder that was a crowd favorite for its traditional flavor. Creamy, nothing unexpected, but rich. Plus this one is one the menu.

Third Place: The Oar– Another cream-based top finisher. What could be better than a bowl of chowder with a heck of a view? I didn’t try this one but it surely was a crowd favorite.

DSC_4124Honorable Mention: In talking with others at the Chowda’ Fest, Bethany’s Airport Diner was mentioned multiple times. Plus when I was at the airport making a hotel pick, I loved the feeling of fabulousness that is small plane travel. Plus the prices at Bethany’s are reasonable.

On Block Island restaurants typically flirt with both New England and Rhode Island chowders, but the democratic blind vote of the Chowda Fest seems to speak for the masses (or at least show some statistically significance right?): Block Island prefers New England Clam Chowder.

So grab your spoon. I’ll bring the oyster crackers.

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Luckily, I had some help taste testing

What type of chowder do you prefer? Is there a favorite place that you like to get chowder from on Block Island? How much do you want some chowder right now?

Ferry Facts

 

People love Block Island. They just sometimes don’t love getting here, but done right the journey to Block can becomes of the fun of the trip. Here are a few facts about the people, car, and stuff moving ships that bring visitors to Block.

1.There are two types of ferries.

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Load it up.

 

The traditional ferry operates year-round and carries most of the “big” stuff including cars, mopeds, mail, and my favorite, PEAPOD. The traditional ferry takes approximately one hour from Point Judith, the only port it operates from. Beyond cars the boat also offers crate transportation. For $9.50 you can load a crate with all of your stuff (great if you are living on the island) and it will be brought on/off the ferry for you.

IMG_0031.JPGThe fast ferries (also know as Hi-Speed) carry a lighter load and a Godzilla engine. It flies the seas but only carries passengers and bikes. The ride times vary from the different ports the fast ferries depart from, which brings me to my next point…

2.There are multiple ports.

Depending on where you are coming from the ferry you take may change. There are ferries arriving on Block Island from 4 states! So no excuses, get to Block. Click the individual ferries’ names to be linked to their schedules.

The Point Judith ferries (Traditional and Hi-Speed) leaving from Narragansett, RI offers the shortest distance to Block. This port offers the greatest number of trips daily. Be sure to look at the day of the week on the schedule as well. The traditional ferry takes 1 hour while the fast ferry takes 30 minutes.Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 10.39.15 AM.png

After Point Judith, the most popular port is New London, CT. This fast ferry, operated by the Block Island Express, takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, so take a motion-sickness pill if you’re prone to being a victim of the waves. Starting July The 7th, on Thursday nights the BIE sends a 3:10 boat to Block with an 8:10 returning boat for“2 for 1 Dinner Run”. The half priced tickets allow for a wonderful short trip to the island to enjoy a dinner and a sunset. Be sure to reserve your spot.

The Fast ferry from Newport, RI allows the rich and beautiful people of Newport to visit Block Island. The only caveat of this port is that it normal makes only to round-trips daily. The travel time is approximately 60 minutes. This boat operates June 25 until September 5.

If you want to skip traffic, Fall River Hi-Speed Ferry operates one-round trip daily from Fall River, MA. The trip is 2 hours and 15 minutes. Starting June 25 the ferry leaves at 8:30am and departs at 5:55. The boat does stop in Newport.

Some people forget about the ferries that come from Long Island. The Viking Superstar ferry arrives in Old Harbor (versus New Harbor where all other ferries arrive). The boat sends one round-trip from Montauk, NY. The trip takes one hour. Just know that if you are traveling with big bags and staying in New Harbor, you might want to consider a cab!

3.Reserve your right to reserve!

Most of the ferries let you breathe easy and reserve your spot on the boat ahead of time (through their websites!). When the season is in swing it can be difficult to even get on a ferry at a peak time of day. There are stand-by lines.

Here are the times you should make a reservation:

  • You are bringing a car on the Traditional ferry (do this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE)
  • You are traveling “in-season” on a fast ferry o

When you don’t need to:

  • Mid-week high season
  • Typically anytime you are just a passenger on the traditional ferry
  • Mopeds, they do not take reservations for mopeds or bikes

 

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These people only made it on thanks to this truck. Timeliness people!

4.Be Timely

Ferries leave on time. Give yourself ample time to arrive, park and buy tickets at the ferry on the mainland. There is always some sort of unexpected traffic that you will hit and the boat don’t care.

On the island side, there is a little less to worry about, but still make be there on time. You won’t be the only one getting on the boat.

5. There is parking (and transportation on the other side!)

At each port, there is a place to park your car. But be prepared, you will have to pay. On the island side, taxis wait for your tourist dollar to cart you to your hotels with your heavy bags. Inquire at your hotel if they offer guest pick-up (ahead of time). They typical may not, if you’re nice you never know.

6. The boats are weather permitting.

High winds, storms and other “acts of god” may cancel the ferry service. Normally the ferry companies will email you if you have a reservation, but if things look ominous outside give the ferry a call or check the website and spend less time sitting on your suitcase in the parking lot.

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Seriously, I can’t get away from this guy.

7. You will see those people again!

Make sure you are kind and considerate to the people you ride the ferry with. Block Island is a small place and if you cut people off in the rush off the boat, you will continue to bump into them again and again.

What’s your ferry fact to add? Do you have a favorite drink on board? Do you have to be a conservative to ride the “traditional” ferry? 

Help Float the Glass Floats

The Glass Float Project returns once again this summer to Block Island. The hidden glass floats, otherwise known as “Orbs”, are a Block Island tradition that delights and frustrates visitors throughout the summer. The softball-sized, hand-blown glass balls are scattered across the island to be found by lucky souls.

The glass balls are crafted by Eben Horton, and funded by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and Block Island businesses. To support the project, a Kickstarter campaign in progress until May 19.

If you help fund the project you are REWARDED! Here are some highlights, be sure to check out the site to see the full details and to donate.

  • $10 or more: Glass “coin” and subscription to the email34c88b2336445ea426bccba4a37f839a_original alerts of when more floats are being hidden
  • $50 or more: Your own signed float
  • $60 or more: Pendant Block Island Necklace
  • $70 or more: Special extra large float
  • $90 or more: Solid glass float paperweight
  • $150 or more: Exclusive blue glass float
  • $250 or more: Signed Gold leaf float

So far the campaign has raised $6,500 of its $8,000 goal. The project works with the Nature Conservancy to encourage visitors to explore all that the island has to offer. Giving helps support this mission (and might help you find your own orb this summer!). Give here.

 

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All photos from The Glass Float Project.