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Vacation adventure time: Laura and Rob go to the boardwalk!

Oh, the dire consequences of a week without internet. I am now stuck with days worth of blog fodder, which, due to my attempts to keep posts short(ish), must be doled out piecemeal. I will begin with one of the several lowlights of our ultimately wonderful vacation: our visit to the Niantic Boardwalk.

Before departing for our vacation, I solicited several tips from coworkers and friends who grew up in the area. For this I was much obliged, as there is not much to do in southeastern Connecticut. Yes, there are some beautiful beaches and cute seaside towns, but Cape Cod this ain’t. So when we we’re ready for lunch on a nice sunny day, we decide to take the advice of a friend — oh, let’s call him “Bave” — and venture to the town of Niantic for a stroll on the famous boardwalk and some delicious fried delicacies.

We set out with visions of a bustling stretch of beachside boards flanked by restaurants, shops, and perhaps an arcade. (I believe Hampton Beach may have fueled this fantasy, not that I’m proud to admit it. Although skee ball RULES.) Perhaps the difficulty we encountered in finding this mecca should have been an indication of its merit — but no, no. We drive on, past a few shipyards and dinky snack stands, and finally find the boardwalk parking lot, which — surprise, surprise! — is shared with Amtrak. (Did I mention that Connecticut purports to be “full of surprises”? It’s on a billboard located about two inches from the border — and for better or for worse, it has proven to be true.)

Oh, I should mention at this point that we are absolutely starving. This tends to be the prelude to most of our memorable misadventures.

A path leads us underneath the railroad tracks and onto the boardwalk. At first glance, it is beautiful. Niantic Bay is a pretty semicircle of beach that cradles a rock-studded haven for little boats and shorebirds. That concludes the Travel Writer portion of this blog entry. As we walk, we realize the following fairly quickly — but not quickly enough:

A) There is NOTHING — and NO ONE ELSE — on this boardwalk.

Quickly followed by …

B) “NOTHING” means NO restaurants, shops, arcades … or EXITS.

Yes, we are 100% TRAPPED on this boardwalk. To the left of us: Niantic Bay, which is rapidly losing its scenic charm. To the right of us: a steep, rocky slope that is majestically crowned by the Amtrak tracks. To remind us of Amtrak’s existence, a train will occasionally barrel past with horns blaring. And ahead of us? Another half-mile of boardwalk, which, I should mention, isn’t actually made of boards at all. It’s that weird rubber stuff that they use in kids’ playgrounds; perhaps they’re protecting against potential face plants from people like me, who are rapidly losing hydration whilst TRAPPED on the boardwalk in 90-degree heat. And did I mention that we are completely starving?

We look a bit further to our right, and we see the place where we’ve been told to have lunch. As my friend “Bave” did not make the food recommendation, we trust it, and want desperately to see it through. But short of hopping Amtrak’s six-foot fence and dashing across the tracks, we cannot get there, because the only exit to this godforsaken place is at the very end. As we’re about halfway across the boardwalk by now, we figure we might as well keep going. After all, food is basically equidistant from the car …

… except for the fact that it’s NOT! Had we turned back, we could’ve picked up the car at the entrance to the boardwalk and driven the half mile to the restaurant. Instead, because we just hate the thought of giving up — a flaw that both of us will come to curse by the end of this vacation — we decide instead to walk the remaining half mile of the boardwalk … and then BACKTRACK and walk to the restaurant. Which, of course, is another half mile.

So that adds up to a mile before food. It is 90 degrees outside and the sun is throbbing. We may or may not have indulged in a few cocktails the night before — which doesn’t seem to bother Rob, but the fear of dehydration is causing me some distress. I want nothing more than to hop the boardwalk railing and collapse into the soft sand, crying, “Save yourself! Leave me! (But if you have the strength, please return with some fried clams.)”

Incredibly, I do nothing of the sort — although I do complain a lot. Rob, being awesome, understands the suckiness of our situation and allows me to do so. In fact, he even joins me. After what seems like an eternity, we finally, finally, finally reach the exit. There is another tunnel leading us back underneath the train tracks, and on the other side — oh, glory! — a gas station. We buy some water and soldier on.

This is what needs to be fixed in southeastern Connecticut: Places like this may be entertaining for someone who’s stuck living here and has nothing else to do, but for a tourist? I don’t think so!! If cruise ships keep dumping thousands of people in the area, they need to give them something to do. For a half mile, we trudge past auto body shops, bait and tackle shops, and one cheesy clothing store. We can’t really see the pretty bay from here, not that we care. All we care about is food — and at this point, I don’t even care if it’s good.

Incredibly, it is good, although it’s definitely not good for us. Rob has a delicious cheeseburger made with beef that I estimate as 35% fat, and I have clam strips. We both get shitty beers.

And then, another half mile walk back to the car! Fortunately, we are sustained at this point, and it isn’t as horrible as the walk that preceded it — even in spite of the fact that we are now filled with grease.

I look over a railing, tempted by a sign touting shellfishing. I see a giant fish carcass, maybe three feet long. Most of it is gone, save for the tail, bones, and head (though a gourmet seagull has plucked out the eyeball).

It is the coolest thing we have seen all day. We take a picture, and then give an onlooking seagull some leftover fried clams. He enjoys them immensely. It is halfway through our vacation, and we want a rematch.

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