Mark Tanner - Adventurer, Writer and Amateur Beatboxer



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New England and the last of North America

9 August 2000


The last time I saw Ian was in Vancouver, where I had promised him I would make it out to his neck of the woods to visit. That time had come as the coach pulled into Providence, Rhode Island, in the heart of New England.


Ian was there in his charcoal Toyota truck, and took me for a few laps of Providence taking in the landmarks and a couple of locally brewed ales, before heading to his place out in East Grenwich, about 20 minutes from town.


As much as I enjoyed the fast pace and the hustle and bustle of The Big Apple, I could get quite used to the complete opposite in Rhode Island. It was an idyllic setting in the fresh air at Ian's turn of the century family home, frolicking around the large grassy back lawn, lying in the hammock, eating from the barbecue and having evening soaks under the stars in the outdoor spa.


I had had a great run of hosts and Ian was no exception. By request we spent a few of days bathing in the warm salt water at the beach, one a short bike ride away through the park and the others on the Atlantic coast, accompanied with a swing or two of the putter at the mini golf. It was fantastic to smell the ocean air, play in the waves and toss a frisbee, well worth the $5 entry fee.


One thing that shocked me was the toys that people carted to the beach. Never before have I seen so many accessories as I saw on the sandy strips. I would have been hard pressed to find someone with just their towel and sunnies as you would back home, instead the beach was littered with brightly coloured deck chairs, chilli bins, umbrellas, and every other accessory that looks summery.


We day tripped out to Newport, particularly of interest to me as it is where the Americans held onto the America's cup for many years before loosing it to the Australians in the 80's. Newport is a pretty spot by the seaside, filled with yachts dotting the harbour. Families such as the Kennedy's and a lot of the rich New Yorkers, used to go there for there summer vacations. The holiday homes that lined the rocky coast were the nicest run of houses that I have ever seen, some of which would have been more appropriately termed castles.


After a look around the town and some oysters and beers, we continued our stretch around the Rhode Island coastline taking in the lighthouses and coastline.


Ian and I took a day out to Boston and Cambridge where I was heading after Rhode Island. Cambridge, home to Harvard University and others, was alive with young people enjoying the balmy summer evening, buskers and bars around the square.


I was lucky to catch up with Nick Jackson for a few beers, a family friend from back home who had gone over to Providence on a running scholarship and never came home. I caught him about a month out of wedlock, and met his wife-to-be, a lovely local girl.


It was back to Boston after Rhode Island, where I was staying with Jennifer, a friend of Les's from Vancouver. Boston had a nice feel to it, and although it was a large city, it had a fairly small-town, laid-back feel to it. The city is a large student town and plays host to 400,000 colourful students from all over the world studying in its many universities and colleges.


Boston was going through some big changes and for a large part was a big construction zone as the string of freeways that used to sever the city were being rebuilt underground in what the locals call 'The Big Dig', a controversial project that has gone billions of dollars over budget.


Boston is another city with a lot of history, and was where a lot of the rebellion against the English was focused around, with the most famous being the Boston Tea Party. I walked the historic trails reading of the history, which also took in some of the best shopping, markets and parks and the waterfront all chocka with buskers and people. My favourite neighbourhood was Little Italy, where the historic red-brick buildings lined the thin streets as the glass office towers glistened as a backdrop.


After Boston, I made the long trek back to Washington DC, via New York for a fantastic night at the boozer with Chris Johnson, a mate from University, who was working in the city for a few months.


I ended my time in the States with a nice couple of weeks back in DC with Mel, Robbie & Co, by the pool, singing karaoke, swimming at the orange-sanded, feet-staining, murky watered beach, playing mini golf, baseball cages, eating at diners and all of the other cool-American things, that I probably wouldn't be doing again for a while. I had a terrific birthday and set off the day after, London-bound on a British Airways 747.

Boston, Rhode Island and New England






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