As you know, in 2020, vacations are rare birds. In Rhode Island we live in the smallest state, it can be a little cramped here. For a long time, we haven’t been able to go to another state without having to quarantine for two weeks. On the positive side, the system has been working for the most part.
As lucky we are to have a vacation, it’s hard to balance that it’s simply going to be a different type of vacation.
We had plans to go to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, but when that wasn’t in the cards, we went to Plan B – Block Island. It’s still in Rhode Island, so we don’t have to quarantine, and but it is far enough from everyday life and chores.
My wife has spent the summer on a Facebook group about the hundreds of glass orbs that are hidden on the island. Of course just a few days before we go, The New Times has to publish an article about the orb hunting. At least I scooped them by writing about the glass orb hunting in early July
We’ve been to Block Island many times. While we don’t always look for glass orbs, we usually do. We haven’t found any, but we were hopeful that with the focus on it this time, we’d come away with an orb.
Did we find one? Before I get to that answer, let’s get to the personal finance aspect of the trip.
My wife has renewed frugality these days. Work hasn’t been the greatest this summer and early retirement in a couple of years looks good to her. Part of the retirement plan is saving up a nest egg. It had been going really well with COVID because our spending has been a lot less. I think that’s encouraged her to see what’s possible.
With that in mind, we wanted to go as cheaply as we could. That’s a bit of a problem because Block Island hotels in the prime time of summer are extremely expensive. Many of them were built in the 1600s. The rooms are typically very small, so we need a suite to fit two adults and kids. Our favorite place is usually $250 a night while school is still in session in early June. We’re able to get a discount because we have stayed there multiple times and book a few days at a time. We never book over the weekend when the price jumps up a lot.
This time, we couldn’t manage all the cost savings. Our trip is shorter and it’s prime summer, not the shoulder season. Prices were above $500 a night, so we went with a cheaper place. We didn’t think it would matter much because we would be out hunting orbs for a day and a half. We were wrong.
The Old Bakery Inn Review
We got a big place that was dog-friendly. For just under $390, that sounds like a lot, but it’s about the cheapest place of its kind available. We wanted the dog-friendly place because that’s an additional savings of around $40 a night of dog sitting. Also, the dog loves the nature and the kids thought they might be able to train him to sniff out the glass orbs.
That was the good part of the Old Bakery Inn. Unfortunately, the bad was kind of tough. The building itself was built in the 1600s, so I am grading on a curve. I don’t mind that the stairs are all twisted with centuries of a moving foundation.
However, the bathroom was a converted kitchen. Thus the place was both for us. This is important because we had a plan to cook our meals. Eating out at Block Island is very expensive. All the food has to be brought in by ferry. There’s no fast food or a value menu to be found. There are a couple of places that may have a slice of pizza that is cheap. I have to look into that next time, but we are rarely in the mood for pizza after a hot summer day at the beach.
Getting back to the cooking plan, my wife was itching to use her Instant Pot skills (read her Instant Pot Review). She’s been following a Facebook Group all summer where people seem to make only two things – cheesecake and Mississippi meatloaf. I think they probably make more in this group, but those are the only two things my selective hearing has registered. (Do I score points for honest?) The Old Bakery Inn’s bathroom/kitchen had only a small fridge. There were bowls, plates, silverware, or even a small microwave to reheat leftovers. There were 3 of the plastic disposable cups, not enough for the 4 of us. It wouldn’t have taken much for them to add a few of these cheap things. The other place we stay has all this and a big fridge and a stove – and the bathroom is separated from the kitchen.
Additionally, The Old Bakery Inn had no wifi. I don’t think I’ve been to a hotel that hasn’t had wifi in more than a decade. I had my mobile hot spot, but my data plan was quickly at the end of the 8GB before it gets sent to a crawl until the end of the month. I have to type this review up in Notepad and edit it with links later.
There was also no coffee maker. What kind of hotel/inn doesn’t have a coffee source? I’m not a coffee person, but my wife is. Fortunately, she brought a cold press cup of some sort and was able to make her own. I had suggested that we bring iced coffee with us, but my wife wanted to try this. (This is an old Aruba travel trick we’ve used in the past. There was no Dunkin’ Donuts in California where we lived, but then went on vacation to Aruba there was one. It was a long walk, so we’d get enough iced coffee to last for a few days.)
There are actually two televisions, so the kids could watch a Phineas and Ferb marathon, while the adults can watch something else. That was a very good feature. We weren’t out hunting orbs as much as I thought we’d be, so it became necessary. Ironically, the kids had been watching all the Phineas and Ferb episodes anyway since there aren’t too many Disney+ cartoon shows.
We ended up doing fairly well in saving money on food. We brought our own beer and drinks (Diet Coke, flavored squishes like Mio). We brought our own milk for cereal. We brought a couple of reusable “Dixie-Cup” material bowls, which was perfect for the dog to eat and drink (and the kids’ cereal). As we were running out the door, I switched out the cooler to an old Brookstone picnic one I had gotten in college. It comes with its own plates, cups, and flatware. It served us well.
My wife packed a bunch of dry goods like chips, pretzels, nuts, etc. She also packed some cheese, butter, some pasta, 1.5 pounds of ground beef, and Kraft Mac and Cheese. This was enough to make dinner for the kids with the InstantPot. We had simple peanut butter and deli meats for sandwiches on the trail. We didn’t need to eat a single meal out, but we ended up eating a couple of them out anyway.
The first meal was when we first arrived. We didn’t have access to our room yet and we didn’t have a place to settle down for lunch. We went to a Mexican place, Calavaras, which has been a highlight in the past. Unfortunately, this time they mixed up my wife’s and my burritos. They wrote shrimp on the one that was pork. So she started to eat that one and I started to eat the other. It’s a very good thing I didn’t have a shellfish allergy. However, between the ferry ride and the shrimp, my stomach wouldn’t be good for hours.
I felt like complaining about spending $50 for the burritos (and the nachos for the kids) only to get a mixed-up order, but everyone is having a tough 2020 and it wasn’t going to make the situation any better.
The next restaurant visit was for drinks and a brownie sundae. The kids simply needed a break from orb hunting. My wife and I had one adult drink and the kids had juice. That ended up costing us $45. I’m tempted to go spend $45 at Burger King and take a picture of what it would look like. For kids would have preferred all that Burger King (spread over a week), but that’s simply not in the cards at Block Island.
We could go to the single grocery store on the island, but that’s expensive too. Maybe I’ll do a cost comparison sometime. For now, if we can bring most of our food, it’s better to avoid it completely.
Glass Float Hunting
It may sound fun to take a 6 and 7-year-old on a treasure hunt. It is fun. However, their legs got tired in the hot sun. Sometimes I got tired myself. Other times our 11-year old dog got tired. Because my wife is super-human, she never got tired.
I think we were out hunting for orbs for around 16 hours over the 3 days and 2 nights. What did we find?
Nothing. We found a lot of places where hundreds of orbs out there could be hidden, but no orbs themselves.
This was incredibly frustrating for the kids because they had just assumed that we’d find an orb. Although we tried, we couldn’t limit their expectations. At one point we walked about a half-mile to a lighthouse (you couldn’t drive there) that we received a tip on. It was a tough walk on squishy beach sand or slippery rocks if you went to the ocean. Doing all that work for “nothing” was the last straw for my 7-year-old. That’s really when everything started to unravel… and understandably so.
That’s when we settled on the before-mentioned brownie sundae. Sometimes life doesn’t work out how you want, but you pick yourself up and continue on. Next year, they’ll be a year older and more prepared to search longer and better.
I don’t like to an article on a negative note. We ended up recharging our batteries well. We came back home energized to get back to our day-to-day lives.