Divine Providence

Rex Saffer the AstroDoc
6 min readJul 26, 2022


I have just returned from the Summer North American Bridge Championships (NABC), hosted at the Rhode Island Convention Center (RICC) in Providence, RI. The tournament spanned an 11–day interval from Wednesday, July 13 through Sunday, July 24. I drove up from my home in Broomall on Thursday the 14th and played in my first sessions the following day. I had planned to play for nine days in a row in a variety of events with three different partners and did get to play for eight of those days. It was only my second NABC, the first having taken place back in Spring 2018 in our own Philadelphia.

If you are not a bridge player, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs and continue with my descriptions of Providence itself and its environs, as well as the two bicycle rides I made while there.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Our tournament results were spotty — we did not play particularly well for much of the time (but see the next paragraph for a description of our last day of play on Saturday the 23rd). One notable success, at least in our own eyes, took place when we played in the Senior Swiss Teams National Championship. We were decided underdogs, by a long shot, having far less experience than almost all the teams entered in the event. But we did win two of our eight matches the first day of play, earning our very first “Platinum” masterpoints, all 0.84 of them, LOL. This may not sound like much of anything, but for players like us in the lower levels of the event, this was a VERY BIG DEAL. Still, we were eliminated at the end of this qualifying day of play and did not advance to the second day of play, where the eventual winner and runners–up were decided.

Then on Saturday the 23rd, the very last day of our stay, we were entered in the Bracketed Swiss Teams event. “Bracketing” is a way of grouping players and teams with similar levels of expertise and experience so that very strong teams do not encounter and slaughter weaker teams. There were three of these brackets, A/B/C, and our team had sufficient “chops” to be assigned to the A bracket, the highest of the three. We played very well the entire day and actually won the event, finishing significantly ahead of the next closest opponents. We were rewarded with several “Gold” masterpoints and got our names printed in the tournament’s Daily Bulletin. It was a very satisfying way of ending our experience there.

From left, Rex Saffer (Captain), Frank Morgan, Betsy Cutler, and Bob Cole

That said, I should also say that I tremendously enjoyed the whole tournament. I was privileged to play against some of the very best players alive today, as the NABC always draws a strong contingent of players and teams from countries all around the world. There were also many familiar faces there, friends and friendly opponents alike from our Northeast region of the country. Evenings after the end of the afternoon sessions were opportunities to get reacquainted over food and drink, and to swap tall tales of derring–do and legerdemain while rehashing recently played hands of bridge. It is wonderful to be a member of this community.

Providence, RI

From its Wikipedia entry,

Providence is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. One of the oldest cities in the United States, it was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a Reformed Baptist theologian and religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He named the area in honor of “God’s merciful Providence” which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers. The city is situated at the mouth of the Providence River at the head of Narragansett Bay.

Conspicuously absent from the Wiki is the observation that Providence is poignantly beautiful. The city center is extremely well planned and spectacularly CLEAN. The Providence River runs right down the middle of the city North to South and broadens into the Bay. Providence’s proximity to the ocean and the prevailing wind patterns at 42 degrees North Latitude deliver a brisk daily breeze, freshening each afternoon to between 10–15 mph. Wind generators dot the landscape, evidence of the city’s progressive culture. Thickly forested rolling hills punctuate the dense cityscape, and dozens of parks line the river and bay on both sides. So very pretty.

My partner for Sunday the 17th was unable to play, so I took the day off along with two women with whom I have played Swiss Teams in the past, and with certainty will do so again in the near future. We strolled up the street from RICC to the Union Station Brewpub. I had a locally brewed IPA and ate their fish and chips lunch entrée. I have not seen such a generous portion of cod in a loooong time. The best restaurants use cod, lesser ones haddock. Sometimes you see Alaskan pollock, easily as good as cod. The fries were crunchy on the outside, soft and steaming on the inside, finest kind.

I am definitely not a “foodie”, but there are certain dishes for which you might say I am a connoisseur. Fish and chips qualify, as does coleslaw, which also came with the dish. I give the fish an A–, the fries an A, and the slaw a B+. The pub decor is dark yet well lit, if that makes sense, and we had a nice booth. The service was excellent, and our server gave us a great tip for what to do afterwards, see below. Great experience all around.

After lunch we took our server’s advice and strolled across the river to make our way to the Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum. Top marks there as well. We stayed for about three hours and were able to visit three Exhibitions: 1) Drawing Closer — Four Hundred Years of Drawing from the RISD Museum; 2) Trading Earth — Ceramics, Commodities, and Commerce; and 3) 18th and 19th Century American Galleries. It would take several more blog posts to do the abbreviated tour justice, so please use the links above to delve further.

It was pretty darn hot outside, but while we were in the museum a passing cloudburst had left large puddles of standing water and dropped the temperature about 10 degrees. Did I say I brought my bicycle with me? I have a rack I can attach to the trailer hitch on my Subaru Forrester, and did so, and drove up with the bike. I thought I was staying in an economy hotel about 1.5 miles from the venue and had planned to commute to RICC on the bike. But upon arrival in Providence, when I drove to my hotel I found it was nine miles from RICC! Only then did I recall I had not been able to reserve the nearby hotel.


I had packed my riding gear with me, so after the museum visit I drove over to the East Bay Bike Path, a 14.5–mile, beautifully paved hiking and biking trail. From the Bike Path Public Parking location, I biked a nine mile section of the trail southeast along the Bay, then eastward to my turn around point, then back to my starting point. Eighteen miles total in about two and a half hours. I stopped twice to rest my under–exercised, overweight 70–year–old corpus and get my heart rate and respiration down to non–lethal levels, and to hydrate, as I was sweating like a hog at a barbecue. Discounting those rest stops, my average velocity when in motion worked out to be about 10.5 mph. I made a second, similar ride later in the week.

East Bay Bike Path

Why would I do such a thing at this stage of my life? Well, I am training up for the beginning of the Great Cycle Challenge on September 1, see my web page at https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/RexSaffer, and my previous blog post at https://rexsaffer.medium.com/take-up-the-challenge-103a3ec089b9. This will be the second year I have participated. If you are able, please make a donation to support research to help cure pediatric cancers, the leading cause of death by disease for kids.

If you haven’t visited Providence, hasten thee there, for verily it is surpassing wondrous.

All the best,
From Broomall, PA on Monday, July 25 at 9:30 PM,



Rex Saffer the AstroDoc

Retired Physics Professor, Motorcyclist, Bridge Player, Voracious Reader, Philosopher, Essayist, Science/Culture Utility Infielder