My recent retirement from the world of work has made me give a bit more thought to how long I will be able to appreciate my new freedom. My expanding waist and failing cholesterol grades have forced me to consider the ‘E’ word, exercise.
Exercise was pretty good when I was a kid. There were the daily one-on-one hoop contests with my neighbor Richie. His garage faced the alley behind my house. There was an old hoop mounted at regulation height. We gave it a workout several times every week. Our favorite game was Skunk. In later years there were the pickup games on Sundays (10 guys play basketball for two hours and then drink beer at Lums for three) and the occasional hockey game on the local pond (Pat’s Pond, right off Church Avenue – long ago filled in and made into condos. I’ll bet they have water-filled basements).
Things are a bit different now. Three minutes of raking leaves or bending over to pick up yard debris bring on back pain and heavy breathing; not to mention the accelerated heart rate. Life is good so long as I spend it in a rocking chair. What to do?
I’ve tried walking. I did that with my wife once several years ago. I got a sprained ankle out of the deal. That took weeks to heal. Walking now usually means that I stay within one half mile of the house. I get to see all the houses on our street and a couple of other streets. On a good day I can spot at least 3 dog dumps, two moving trucks approaching at 40 mph, and maybe one person, usually someone who would rather look the other way than say hello. Boring. I’ve tried the stationary bicycle. It’s really stationary now since I gave that up (lasted only one day but it still counted as exercise). The best part of that deal was listening to Bette Midler on the stereo. Bicycling the neighborhood is a little better. I get to cover more territory, enrage more dogs, and joust with a better class of speeding trucks. Clearly I need to introduce an additional element of interest or this exercise will fade away while my girth increases.
So, today I introduced a bit of adventure to the routine. Instead of turning right on Skunk Hill Road I turned left and proceeded along Arcadia road. Arcadia road leads to the Arcadia State Management Area. This is a 14,000 acre wilderness area right next to my house (a mile and a half or so in distance). Along the way I passed various front yards. One is a hay farm that always has a nice collection of tractors, horses, and hay racks (see photo). Lately I have noticed some large turkey vultures hanging out in the field. Unfortunately the camera was not available on those occasions. Then there was the doorfront that had a pink four foot bunny rabbit on the stoop. I was more impressed by their neighbor who was obviously a big fan of John Deere products.
His mailbox is framed not by flowers but by a massive tire painted in green and yellow. The theme continues up the mail post and terminates in a small tractor model as the finial. It all seems to fit in well along this busy country road. I also discovered a really nice bed and breakfast that I had no idea existed. It’s called Fezziwig B&B. Their web site displays a real cozy retreat with awesome landscaping. I think I’ll be incorporating some of their designs into my own Hope Valley home.
I finally arrived at the south entrance to the management area. It’s just a dirt road with a single sign that explains the rules of use. I first checked the hunting regulations and found that I was between seasons. No blaze orange required today, which was fortunate because I left all that at home. I wouldn’t go in anyways during hunting season. It would be sort of like crossing the street without looking.
I began down the road and soon arrived at the first gravel pit. It was off to the right side with a short driveway entrance. This one was small, a few acres, and appeared to be inactive. There are a number of private residences and businesses sprinkled throughout management areas in RI. I missed the second one since the woods surrounding it were a bit thick. I was able to see it earlier though by using Google Maps. That one is massive and apparently still active. Hopefully it will be filled in one day so the forest can return (that’s what the law says, anyways).
The next stop was a huge field, maybe some 20 acres, just beyond the side of the road. This is a private hay farm that is mostly well posted (Private, Not a Public Road, Beware of Animal!). That’s right, they had every sign imaginable. They were arranged along the driveway sort of like the old Burma signs used to be spaced along highways. Unlike the Burma-Shave series I was not interested in reading the end of this story.
Just past Friendly Haven Farm (not the name they actually used) I came upon a small pond / swamp area situated between two small rises. Something was creating an unnatural roar that was almost mechanical in nature. It was coming from the pond. Geese? No, there were no birds of any kind. I listened a bit more and finally I had it. I was hearing thousands of frogs in love. It’s what they do in the spring (and for some, all summer). The linked video will give you a little taste of what I heard. Turn up the audio and hear a really weird symphony (cacophony?).
I wanted to get closer to make a better tape but this wetlands was adjacent to Friendly Haven and I wasn’t sure if their benign influence reached this far. Never tempt a landowner with a shotgun I always say. A bit down the road I encountered a sign that was situated some 15 feet off the road. It reminded fishemen about the limits on trout and salmon and mentioned something called a creel (I vaguely remembered this as being a sort of wicker tackle box). The body of water from whence the trout would leap was nowhere to be seen; I suspect one of the paths would get me there.
Then there was the gnarly sign. It was not about surfing (this is an inland park). This sign was so old that the tree it was nailed on had created a very secure frame around its edges. I challenge anyone to find a more gnarly tree. What did the sign say? You be the judge. The photo is about as clear as it was when I was standing there. I did make out the words ‘care’ and ‘shooting’. Can you decipher the rest?
By now the clouds had moved in. The temperature dropped some 10 degrees and the entire forest darkened. It was time to head home. Being the lazy type, I opted for calling my wife. Maybe she could come pick me up? My TracFone works well if you have four or more bars. I had one and sometimes none. I gave it a try anyways and luckily was able to reach Camille. I explained where I was (maybe a 10 minute ride; you don’t speed on a dirt road when you are driving a Honda Civic).
She agreed to come and pick up the old man. Twenty minutes later I was deeper into the forest and the rescue party was yet to be heard from. I decided to turn around. This place would not be much fun in the dark – apparently even the animals avoided it since I had not seen a single one. Then I received a call. I fumbled getting the cell phone out of its case and answered just in time to hear the word “where….?” and that was it. All attempts to return the call to my spouse failed. Oh well. I hope she turned down the correct road. Several minutes later I heard a car.
It was she who must be obeyed. When she stepped out of the car I was met with a slew of well-deserved admonitions. I convinced her to pose for a couple of photos and we then road home in the lightly falling snow. Exercise doesn’t always have to be boring. What to do for an encore?
Well, the final picture here will give you a clue. It was delivered today.
Recommended Reading: Walking by Henry David Thoreau
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