They call it "tourist season" -- 04/11/02

One of the disadvantages of living in coastal Rhode Island is that it is such a beautiful area.

People have been enjoying summer vacations at South County Rhode Island beaches for generations. [Technically it's Washington County, but everyone calls it South County... it runs along the Atlantic coast from the village of Westerly on the Connecticut border to Narragansett and North Kingstown on Narragansett Bay.] There's only one problem with that; I live here now and the summer crowds are quite annoying.

The supermarkets are crowded, certain roads and highways are congested, there are lines to get into the movie theatres, and the beaches are packed with people.

And every year at least one magazine contains an article detailing the joys of vacationing in Rhode Island. Last year somebody (Money Magazine? I can't remember.) named South County as one of the best destinations in the country for summer vacations. This year both Family Fun and Yankee Magazine are praising Rhode Island as a vacation spot.

Family Fun picked Narragansett along with San Clemente, California and the Lake Erie shore area of Ohio as being the three top family spots for beach vacations. The story describes Narragansett and its neighboring towns in South County: "The diverse landscape is overflowing with historic farms, vegetable stands, saltwater ponds and 14 sandy beaches and offers the chance to fish, kayak, hike and cycle in a pastoral paradise." The article even mentions my bike path, the one following the former roadbed of the Narragansett Pier Railroad, the one I bike and run on. [That's for us locals, you darned tourists stay away!] They even mention two of my favorite local seafood restaurants: Champlin's in Point Judith and Aunt Carrie's in Narragansett. Look, to get a table at Aunt Carrie's for dinner in the summer can mean at least a half an hour to an hour wait (or more... and they don't take reservations)... Champlin's has no table service, you place your order and wait for them to call your number... but in the summertime the line to their order window can run across the room, out onto the upper deck, down a flight of outsiide stairs, and into the parking lot... hope you're not too hungry 'cause you're not going to get fed for an hour. Hey, we really don't need more people standing in that line! At least they didn't mention the Main Street Fish Market and Seafood Restaurant in Wakefield. (You can buy fresh fish to take home and cook or get cooked fish for take away or eat in their restaurant section... BYOB but there's a package store sharing the same parking lot.)

The Yankee Magazine publication -- 2002 Travel Guide to New England -- describes South County as being the most beautiful area for walking or biking or driving and goes on to say "Its farmland maintains that lost-in-time look with stacked stone walls, piled up when 17th-century farmers first dug these fields. Beyond the farms, you'll find mill villages with hand-hewn stone buildings and picturesque waterfalls -- and houses, from the row of white clapboard Federal homes in Kingston to the Victorian cottages in Narragansett."

The Narragansett Times newspaper (publishes Wednesdays and Fridays, year 'round - "Serving Narragansett and South Kingstown since 1855") pondered this in an editorial this week: "Will our roads be more congested? You bet. But if you're caught in traffic on the way from Wakefield to the Pier, think about those tourist dollars being pumped into the local economy... plus taxes to enrich municipal coffers as well." They console themselves by remembering that we get to live here all year 'round and conclude that tourists have less environmental impact than heavy industry and "Plus, we know all the back roads. We don't have to be stuck in traffic. That's one little secret best kept out of the magazines."

Of course true old-timer natives here abouts -- they're called "Swamp Yankees" -- are a crotchety and contrarian breed -- You might find one driving a battered pickup truck with a bumper sticker that reads Piping Plovers Taste Just Like Chicken... in which case look closely at the back bumper 'cause there's probably another bumper sticker that asks If They Call It "Tourist Season", How Come We Can't Shoot Them?

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