This is the first in a monthly series on bicycle trips. The driver was stopped at the intersection, too. He put his water delivery truck in park, jumped out with two bottles of water, handed us each one and said, ''Don't tell me you're lost."
Of course we didn't. We weren't lost, at least not yet. We were just having a stop-sign negotiating session and he used our map to show us how to get along on the rolling country roads on our bicycles.
Bounded by Massachusetts and the salty Sakonnet River, southeastern Rhode Island is a genteel land of weathered-shingle homes, farms by the ocean, cows by the sea, and New England icons of neat stone walls, historic cemeteries, white church steeples, and small towns.
Horses, goats, and sheep share the landscape with elm, oak, and apple trees. Waves crash against land at Sakonnet Point not far from where fishing boats wait to be taken out to sea. Wealth resides quietly behind perfect, angled stone walls. General stores like Wilbur's by the commons in Little Compton are a flashback to yesterday, selling everything from sandwiches to clogs.
A stone wall marks the outfield at the ballfield in Adamsville, and a memorial for the legendary Rhode Island red hen is right next to the backstop. It doesn't matter if the traffic light is green or red at Tiverton Four Corners. Stop for an ice cream cone at Gray's, or a sandwich at Provender, and linger a bit on the benches or among the collection of small shops and galleries.
Swans swim by reeds, herons take flight, farm stands offer juicy produce, deer nibble in fields at dusk, and kite surfers get air by Fogland Point Beach. Cycle over to Sakonnet Vineyards and end the day's ride with a tasting.
The idea was to bring the bikes and ride the country roads of Tiverton, Little Compton, and Adamsville. With the state's free bike map as a guide, we put together two days of loops totaling about 40 miles: 27 one day, 13 the next. A helpful innkeeper gave suggestions, as did a librarian we met during a pit stop. The cycling is relatively easy, with a few hills. Wind can be a factor, and some of the signs on back roads are inadequate. That's when you stop a local and get back on track. The person we stopped said she is asked directions almost daily.
South of the Sakonnet Bridge, Route 77 hugs the west side of the land. It winds, has a narrow shoulder, and is a decent road to bicycle. Farther south, from Tiverton Four Corners, the road is more bucolic as it meanders into Little Compton, passing yellow daffodils, the vineyard, farm stands (Walker's and Country), the historic Wilbur House (1690), lobster traps, stately columned homes with cupolas, manicured golf greens, and finally, land's end with a lighthouse at sea. Never are the sight and smell of the sea far away.
The finds are the back roads, like the flat Swamp Road. Not quite the bayou, there are plentiful skunk cabbage, farms, and field. You know Little Compton is near when the steeple of the United Congregational Church comes into view. Cyclists need to stretch, and Common Road has cemeteries, like Our Lady of Fatima Cemetery, for wandering. The town was settled in 1674 as part of the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts, becoming a Rhode Island community in 1746. Stoke the internal engine at Wilbur's or Corner Cones. The Thursday Thrift Store is also open Saturdays.
Next to Wilbur's, a restaurant is being built, replacing one that burned down. Across from the 1832 church is a time capsule in a garden, to be opened in 2054.
Adamsville, settled in 1675, has hills into and out of it. Hang out by the ballfield or head over to Route 81 and F. A. Simmons Groceries for snacks and such. Route 179 is the link between Adamsville and Tiverton Four Corners, which is on the National Register of Historic Places with shop buildings dating to the 1700s.
A most relaxing ride, between 10 and 15 miles round trip, is on Tiverton's back streets paralleling Route 77 along Neck, Seapowet, and Nannaquaket roads. It is an easy and excellent swatch of the rural Ocean State with water, horses, swaying reeds, marshes, farms, swift bends, wooden bridge, Portsmouth vistas, and even walking trails on Seapowet's Emilie Ruecker National Wildlife Refuge.
Turn around at Route 77 or pedal into Tiverton for rewards like the fried clams at Evelyn's. It's not summer until you order out from a clam shack or ice cream stand. A Highland Avenue hill leads to an observation tower and a gull's-eye view of Rhode Island.
Marty Basch's latest book is ''Twenty-nine Hills." He lives in New Hampshire and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.