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.

To Insure Proper Servitude: Tips for Tips

IMG_1057Gratuities are never expected, but always accepted. As someone who appreciates a nice tip (I mean who doesn’t), I wanted to investigate the tipping environment on Block Island. Who works for tips? What does proper etiquette call for tipping the many given services on the island? As an island employee I can relate to feeling let down after providing stellar service, but I know I don’t exactly how many others feel, as I don’t work solely for gratuities.

On the island, the offering of a tip can unintentionally offend another. Or a tip can be innocently forgotten when one might be anticipated. There are the experts’ opinions, but there are also certain caveats to Block Island worth consideration. The uniqueness of the island offerings means unfamiliar situations can arise.

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Most innkeepers do not expect tips for themselves, but notice if someone else does the housekeeping. Housekeeping staff works to make rooms feel new to guests every day. So if cleaning is done by housekeeping staff, the industry guideline is to tip “$2-$5 per night”, dependent on the number of people in the room.

Keep in mind that more than one housekeeper may clean your room, so tip daily during your stay to make sure the correct individual receives the payment. There may be an envelope in your room, or leave a note with a thank you so it is clearly a tip.

Island Transportation

Transportation around the island is different than the mainland. Because taxis are often called for over the phone versus being hailed (or requested through an phone application), the time invested in a ride is greater. The standard tip rate for cab drivers is 15 to 20 percent of the fare.

On the island a $25 ride puts the tip at about $3-$5. Cabs might cost more on Block Island, but on Block Island most drivers are willing to answer any questions you have about the island as well. The friendliness of drivers is not something you find in the average mainland driver. Yes, the cabs might cost you an arm and a leg to begin with on Block Island, but an extra dollar or rounding up of the cost can help make sure you are fondly remembered (and swiftly picked up again)!

If you are transporting yourself around the island on a rented bike or moped, be cognizant of the service you are provided by the person renting the vehicle. The process of fitting riders, testing the bikes and keeping the bikes in top condition is a formidable task.

Island Eats

Restaurants

One place many are attuned to standard gratuities is in restaurants. The typical expectation is 15 percent for adequate service and 20 percent for exceptional service. If there is a comment card included in your bill, fill it out; it is a free way to voice your appreciation on top of a tip. If you are enjoying your company and spend a little extra time at the table, remember to increase the tip as you are IMG_3537with holding the table from the server to serve another party.

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Consider how much “service” the counter is providing? Is the barista making your drinks and food as well? Is the food being delivered to you at a table? The more service provided should increase the tip percentage. Consider these questions when someone is scooping ice cream or making your breakfast sandwich. In many Block Island eateries counter staff is providing service that is nearly equivalent to that of a full-service waitperson.

Bartenders

The experts say “$1/drink (or 15% of total bill). Pre-tip for better service.” If the preparation of the drink is a show, reward their efforts accordingly.

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Musicians

The island is speckled with musical talent. As a passerby it is impossible to tip every musician. If you stop to enjoy the music for a minute, it is courteous to leave a one to three dollars. If there is a musician is playing in a bar or restaurant that you are in, he or she are
likely being paid. If you especially enjoy the performance, a tip is easiest way to show it.

Concierge

If she’s cute, tip accordingly 😉 No, but seriously as a concierge I only expect to be tipped if I do something extraordinary.

There are people serving all around the island sometimes expected and sometimes in unexpected way. Being aware and thankful is the first way to show gratitude. If you enjoyed the service and it met your standards, a few dollars shows that. A small tip can make a big difference to the tipped, especially on Block where the cost of living is greater than on the mainland. And if you don’t feel money is appropriate a clear thank you in person or in a note can voice your appreciations.

IMG_1268Who do you sometimes forget to tip? Have you have gotten an unconventional tip? How smoothly can you pass a hundred dollar bill?

 

Block: 5 Letter Word for Paradise

If you haven’t heard, there are power issues on Block Island this weekend. A fire at the Block Island Power Co. on Friday evening is leaving some in the dark. The town is rotating which parts of town are receiving power at any given time in order to conserve the limited energy.

So in the midst of a crisis, keep calm and carry on. I present my Block Island crossword puzzle. Print it out, take it to the beach and enjoy! No electrical power needed just brain power (and some serious island know-how).

If you complete the puzzle, snap a picture and send it my way (jennamead7@gmail.com). I’ll send you a limited edition wine-cork keychain. I would say those who read the blog regularly have a big advantage on this.

Click here for a high-resolution copy: Block Island Crossword

 

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Dying to know the answers? Message me and I’ll send a copy.

What do you think of my crossword? Do I have a future as a puzzle guru? What did you get for 8 across?

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Stay the Night: The Darius Inn

If you are looking for a cool place to stay on Block Island, the Darius Inn is the perfect place. Located on Dodge Street, this Inn offers larger suites and standard size rooms.

6Allegra_Anderson_Photography_Block_Island_Photographer_Darius_InnThis place is eclectic. Every decoration, book, and room were selected by sisters Becca and Christy Zendt. For the past three summers, the sisters made the inn their own. A certain personality is felt when you enter the Inn’s lobby and its one of intrigue and excitement. All the rooms are embellished with Block Island inspired pieces, and every room is different.

The Place

On the first floor, there are mostly suites with separate rooms that can sleep up to 6 people. FYI, the first floor rooms are PET-FRIENDLY. The rooms are decorated with charm and originality.68Allegra_Anderson_Photography_Block_Island_Photographer_Darius_Inn

Most of the furniture in the rooms is repurposed Block Island finds. The suites include modern efficiency kitchens (which if your like me is important for bedtime tea-making). All of these rooms have private entrances and some even have porches that let guests sit out and watch Block Island stroll by on Dodge St.

Upstairs the rooms are a bit smaller, but more affordable. There is sitting parlor and a communal porch for that people watching previously mentioned.25Allegra_Anderson_Photography_Block_Island_Photographer_Darius_Inn

The Perks

There are some additional perks for staying at the Darius. First off, though they may not advertise, is the perk of a totaly laidback vibe and feel. This place lets you feel at home in paradise.

 

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Happy Hour snacks are just as pin-worthy.

In the morning, breakfast is served. Guests can try homemade recipes of foods they have probably “pinned” but never had time to make.  (You can follow Darius on Pinterest too.) Coffee and tea are available throughout the day as well.

 
In the afternoon, Happy Hour serves up exactly that “happiness”: drinks, bites and a little bonding with your neighbors. Enjoy it in Darius’ backyard (yup, add that to the perk list.)

Additional services include bike vouchers and casual concierge services. The Darius also offers to “stock your fridge” with guest’s lists of groceries for a fee.

As a social media hog, I appreciate the Darius’ Bag trend. Guest can purchase the famous bag and tote it with them around the world. #wheresyourdarius #socialmediagoals

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The Props

As a sister of four, I give total props to the Zendts for working together and creating a cool, but also functional place to stay on Block Island.

The rest of the summer is fairly booked, but a number of one-night weekday stays are available. Rates for rooms begin at $195 and range to $565 for apartment style suites. To check availability visit dariusblockisland.com. The Inn is worth the follow on Instagram with fun photos and Block Island beauty.

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All photos are from dariusblockisland.com and Darius social media.

 

Have you ever stayed at the Darius? What’s your happy hour? How many sisters of mine will read this and want to open an inn with me?

Visit Block Island

Summer is just around the corner. That means your trip to Block Island must be coming up too. If you don’t have your trip planned yet, don’t worry. I’m here to help.

I will now be providing travel planning here on Unlocked Block.This will always be accessible through the Visit Block Island page.

Fill out the form below with some basic information about your trip, date, travel companions and budget. With this information and my insidIMG_6173er knowledge, I will put together a preliminary plan for your trip including available hotel rooms for your desired dates, activities for your visit and even restaurant recommendations. I will let you know of any special events going on during your visit as well.

After your review of the plan, I can book any of the reservations for you if desired.

I want all to experience what Block Island has to offer. If you take any of my plan for you and have a great time then I have fulfilled my goal.

Say hello to Block Island’s newest travel agent, Unlocked Block.

Click here to submit an inquiry.

 

Pre-Island Preparations: Booking on Block

Block Island is a great day trip, but why would you want to limit your island adventures to just the sunlit hours. With an exciting nightlife and more activities than one could ever accomplish in a short day, come to Block Island, and stay a while.

In the choice to stay on the island for a night or few, hotel reservations come into question. There a number of hotels, inns and small Bed & Breakfasts on the island.With my job being what it is (Front desk employee extradorare), I have learned a thing about what it takes and what should be known in booking on the island.
3697928494_251bc4fdf7 The Hotel Manisses has a number of properties that it manages, this is it’s main building.

  1. Book early: The Block Island summer season is a short one. There are only so many weekends within that season and you’re not the only one who knows about this perfect weekend escape. That being said, there is no time better plan your trip than on a cold February day after your boss has yelled at you for missing the arbitrary 9:45am deadline. Your future self will thank you. Hotels mostly open up their bookings in October for the following summer, so if you can commit to a visit earlier do so. I know that last minute getaway is exciting or romantic, but try this, book the trip don’t tell your travel partner, and boom “Surprise Honey! We’re going to Block Island next weekend and we don’t have to sleep on the beach!” Tell me that isn’t exciting, romantic AND less itchy!
  1. Exercise your Right to Reserve: Most hotels have a two-week cancel policy. This means you put down the deposit (somewhere between half the cost of your stay or sometimes the entire), and have up to two-weeks prior to your arrival date to cancel your booking and only pay a cancelation fee (often around $25). So if you do book that weekend in July back in October, only to find out that’s the weekend Maroon 5 is in town, ring up your hotel and feel the good karma as some late comer on the wait list gets to live out your weekend while you and Adam Levine stare into each other’s eyes.

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The Blue Dory is located in downtown, has rooms with ocean views and daily fresh baked cookies!

  1. Age is Just a Number: There are a couple of extra consideration you must have when booking in BI. The hotels of the island are mostly Victorian style and with this beauty, comes age and with age comes experience. Okay the point, the hotels of the island are not the cookie cutter Holiday Inn, they are not sleek and simple, they are grand and historic. So rooms are sometimes awkwardly interestingly shaped, bathrooms a little bit smaller (you see. people used to be smaller you know), and yes, things will creek.With the age factor contributes another item to add to your deliberations, many of the hotels do not have air conditioning. Some do, don’t me wrong you can find it if you want it, but the structure of the older buildings has not allowed for AC to be added to many hotels. In defense of the rooms without AC, Block Island is a breezy place; it stays cool throughout the summer. There are hot days for sure, but you are unlikely going to be in your room in the heat of the day anyways. A last big note, there are not many rooms on Block Island that are Handicap accessible. The rooms in many hotels can be up a flight of stairs (or two!). If stairs are an issue, let the hotel know and they can do their best to accommodate and keep you on the lowest floor possible.images-2

An inside look at a room at the historic National Hotel

  1. Check Out of the View: ackurs_300x200Block Island is an ocean dream; the island sites are jaw dropping. Is it important to you that you have the ability to see a humpback whale leaping from the ocean while you sit in bed? If so, you can definitely find rooms that allow, but if you don’t mind leave the room for your site seeing, save a pretty penny and opt for a room without a view. When your eyes are closed and you are sleeping in bed (which is really why you have a room) what is visible from your window means a lot less
  1. Sharing is Caring: Another way to save a few bucks (enough for a few rounds of drinks, at least), is to accept shared bathrooms as an option. I know it sounds like a hostel, but the hotels of the island make sure it is kept classy. In many of the small inns, you are likely only sharing the lou with one or two other rooms. Many people say they don’t even see the other guests. So pack your shower shoes, you know you can do it; I mean if you use public restrooms for goodness sake, what’s the big whoop?

When it comes time to actually book be bold.  Ask about the amenities provided (free breakfast, beach towels, cots in the room), sometimes these are provided only if you ask. Ask for a discount, as well! It may sound like you are being cheap but when there is a real live person on the other end of the phone (not just booking through an online site), you much more likely to be received in your request. Last thing to note, let your hotel know if you are coming out to the island for a special occasion (i.e. birthday or anniversary). The hotels want you to have a great time (and might even comp some Champagne ;))  so that it becomes a annual event!

With a little background into what to think about (and when) in finding a place to stay on Block Island prioritize your essentials (i.e. timing, AC, your own golden toilet) and you will be able to find a room that does not break the bank but spoils you senselessly. For up to date availability contact the Block Island Chamber of Commerce at (401) 466-2982. They can often answer a field of questions about hotels, directions, and the island in general.

Where have you stayed on the island? What has your experience been in booking? When it comes to hotels do prefer to splurge or save?

Type A Itinerary: Love like This

Have I found my Block Island soul mate? My summer love? Ha, no. But my cousin Shannon and her husband Joe visited the Island this weekend and reminded me of how great of a place the island is for couples. Here is Shannon with a break down of a romantic anniversary weekend done island style.

 

Having grown-up in Rhode Island and visted the island many times before, Block Island was a pretty getaway following our Jamestown Wedding last summer. To celebrate a job well done (one year of happy marriage) Joe and I returned to our island escape.

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9 am- The Love Boat

We caught the traditional ferry out of Point Judith. We were last on ferry with our moped. But we felt like total VIPs because we had the privilege of having to say with the bike for the ride, but we were happy to; upstairs the ferry riders were packed in like sardines and struggling to even come up for air. Like the frugal fannies we are, we came prepared with our own drinks and snacks. #yoursavingsaresexy

10:30am- Stairway to Heaven

With our own moped and island knowledge, we knew exactly were we wanted to head once we docked. The moped makes a few miles drive seem like we are somewhere and Europe and I just met Joe at a Beret and Baguette Sale. The Mohegan Bluffs provide the setting for love and other drugs of hormones to get the blood pumping. I mean descending cliffs with the assistance of a well tanned muscular man makes the blood start pumping. On top of that when we summited the stairs on our return, we have accomplished something together, and the bond is strengthened, gush, gush, gush, I know.

12pm- We are The Champions

Joe and I know this island. We know which spots we love, which spots have lines and which spots we refuse to leave the island without hitting. We both have a sense of GO, so hitting all of them is doable. Mudslides at Champlain’s Marina was the first bar we hit, followed by a short wading walk to The Oar. We met up with another couple shortly, but we stuck to our guns and bulleted to our next to-do. A little foresight in our planning made hitting all of our favorites a breeze.

3pm- Come Sail Away

The cool thing about Block Island as a getaway is that it is not an extremely exotic distant place. So we know people here, like my cool cousin Jenna who lives on the island. Jenna brought us over to the Block Island Club for Stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and a nice dip in Great Salt Pond. Jenna reaffirmed to Joe he married into the right family.

5pm- Looking the PartIMG_3811

Looking good for Joe is part of the fun of marriage. Jenna and I stopped by The Tipsy Mermaid to find some “That’s my hot wife” clothing.

6pm- Don’t Stop Won’t Stop

Up the hill to the Spring House for drinks with a view, was a great way to start the evening. Blueberry Lemonade was my cocktail of choice, and I can highly recommend it. The slowed down pace of the lawn, views and atmosphere of the Spring House allowed us to just relax and talk while Jenna probed questions on just how Joe and I came to be the pair that we are.

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7pm- 69 Kittens

On the return to our hotel, Joe and I stopped by Yellow Kittens for nachos the size of the island itself and margaritas to wash them down. We had visited the spot on our Miny-moon, and it was great to return, plus our real honeymoon had been in Mexico so a hint of lime sents us right back.

8pm- Love Shack

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We stayed the night at The Barrington Inn, located in New Harbor. Our room was great with a full sized bed, which left no complaints from us; There was even a twin size bed as well in the room which left us questioning, should we put the bed on Craigslist and get a roommate? The highlight of the room was the porch, and having a private sunset drink was romance that makes Nicholas Sparks cry.

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10pm-Keeping The Flame Alive

My cool cousin had a great spot for us to have our final drink and dessert of the day. Chocolate Espresso Martinis and S’mores at The National Fireside did the day justice. Chatting around the fire with strangers about who we are, where we come from and just how great we are reminds us of what we have together. The firepit itself reminded us of the most memorable moment of our first year together, building the patio in the back yard of our new home.

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Our trip to Block continued with a morning of mimosas on the beach, with Old Post Bagel Shop scones and a ferry ride home more in love than ever before #hatersjustbejealousofmyman

Block Island is great spot to spend a night or two and feel a world away with your honey. The convenience of getting there coupled with the options abound once arrived means everyone is happy and in love.

What do you think of Shannon and Joe’s weekend adventure? What other romantic activities have you found on the island? What is the most romantic spot you’ve found? How do you keep the flame alive?