Stranger In A Strange Land

The Pawtuxet River. Rhode Island

Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians, and explores his interaction with and eventual transformation of Earth culture.  Thanks, Wiki!

This blog is not about this book (this time), but the title seems so relevant to something I was thinking about today (No, not how the word “this” is very popular in this paragraph!). I did enjoy the book though.

In the Fall of this year, I have once again signed up for a charity bike tour. The California Coast Classic. It’s a fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation. Last year it was canceled due to COVID, so I have never completed this Bike Tour. The plan is to bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles, California. 8 Days, 525 Miles. This requires some “serious” bike training! The first day is 85 miles and approximately 5,000 feet of climbing elevation.

Let me tell you something about where I live; The State of Rhode Island (until a few months ago, the official name was The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations-another blog for another day). A drive across the State is about 50 miles the long way. The highest elevation is 810′. Short of illegally biking up and down Routh 95 a few times and falling down off my bike a gazillion times, matching up a distance and elevation training ride may prove difficult.

Online, I came across a biking route from a local bike shop, that would give me 75 miles and 5200′ of climbing for one day (biking up and down many smaller rolling hills). It involves a circular route out of Providence at the bike shop, up to the farmlands (well, beyond the city limits anyway) around the Situate Resovoir, and back to the city. I have ridden parts of it here and there in small sections, but never the whole thing. It will still be a while before I am even in shape to take on such a ride, but I decided to follow some part of the route today, in my car to get the lay of the land.

Here’s an odd thing about Rhode Island; its landscape and history are diverse. In a very short distance, You can be around downtown Providence, or at the Ocean, or in a manufacturing district, or in a cornfield surrounded by cows. Many states probably have similar sections, but I’m not sure the “borders” between such areas are so close.

Years ago, when I worked as a construction Electrician, I would sometimes work in “rural areas.” At times, a house under construction was down a dirt road and the only landmark was a number on a telephone pole; if the pole had even been put in yet. Of course, in Rhode Island, distance is skewed by your upbringing; I was born in Boston, so I am exempt from certain geographic limitations such as living down near the beach with the “Swamp Yankees,” where “they” don’t come North of “The Tower,” which is only 23.3 miles away. Peg, are you reading this?

I was driving today when I floated in and out of recognized landmarks, retail plazas, and familiar roads, only to take a right turn somewhere and instantly become a “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Suddenly climbing and twisting along “main roads” that were so narrow, only one car could fit at a time. I know it must have been a tractor path, or an Ox Cart trail at one time because I could see the “road breach” an old “New England Stone Wall.” Two minutes later I’m driving through the middle of some pond that must have been backfilled years before environmental regulations would forbid it. An inch of rain would probably rise up and flood the road; thereby cutting off the edge of the “moat from the castle,” or in this case, the lower fields from the barn.

Many times today, I thought; “I have never been here before,” and I can’t believe I’m still in Rhode Island. From the top of the hill, I can see how close Route 295 (the other main Interstate road in R.I.) is. An Interstate road that I have driven a thousand times, yet I have never seen the land “tucked in,” 5 minutes away.

Some Texans like to brag that there are ranches in Texas that are bigger than the whole state of Rhode Island. “Really,” I ask. “Have you ever been there?” “No, they say.

Some New Yorkers brag about the Stature of Liberty. “Have you ever been there?” I ask. “No,” they say.

Yesterday if a Rhode Islander asked me if I had ever turned right instead of left, at the light, at the Apple Valley Mall, and gone up Cedar Swamp Road past the Mountaindale Reservoir, I would have thought they were a “strange person, talking about a strange land.”

Not today.



4 thoughts on “Stranger In A Strange Land

  1. Please let me know how to donate. Also, call Maddie and her husband Dan when you get to LA. They live in Little Armenia and would feed you, I bet. You’d love her husband, he’s a great guy!


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