As Rhode Islanders, explaining the state is not actually an island and it is not an extension of New York can be a common occurrence when traveling out-of-state. Tired of this, Roberta Humble decided it was time to bring Rhode Island to the rest of the country.
An English professor at the Community College of Rhode Island, Humble has created four trivia games and written six books about Rhode Island, including “Little Rhody And The Other 49,” a book that features interesting facts and details about Rhode Island and the other 49 states.
“It’s a tribute to America, but a super tribute to Rhode Island,” said Humble, explaining that the book shows all 50 states in a positive light.
Humble presented those facts at the National Conference of Secretaries of State, which was hosted in Rhode Island in July 2010. She used that presentation to write “Little Rhody And The Other 49,” which was officially published in 2011.
Following her presentation, Humble said many requested she give the presentation in other states. So Roberta began the process to apply for a sabbatical from CCRI two years ago to pursue her goal of bringing Rhode Island to America. Once it was approved, she worked with many Rotary Clubs and Secretaries of State to book the speaking engagements.
Her sabbatical project began in January 2013 with a trip to four states in the South: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. She gave a dozen presentations in a period of almost three weeks.
The entire trip was paid for on Humble’s dime. She flew to her first destination and rented a car to drive to different states.
In an article for The Westerly Sun, Humble wrote, “traveling alone is not always easy, but the people of the South were most hospitable and helpful.”
During an interview with the Beacon, Humble admitted she was surprised by the kindness she saw, not only with those she met during presentations, but in strangers walking down the street.
“They have a slower way of life,” said Humble when asked about the biggest difference between the areas she visited and Rhode Island. “We are too planned up here.”
Humble returned to Rhode Island in mid-February for a short break. She began the second leg of her tour in March, returning on April 12. This time she traveled to South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, a trip that lasted four weeks.
“I’m not too sure how to refer to this area. I’m gonna call it the North,” joked Humble.
Humble said she was once again struck by the kindness of strangers in these states.
“People out there are very welcoming; they smile when they see you,” said Humble.
On a whole, Humble believes her trip was very worthwhile. She achieved not only her goal of bringing Rhode Island to other parts of the country, but had the opportunity to learn new things herself.
A lover of history, Humble made sure to address the importance of Rhode Island in America’s history during presentations.
“We are home to religious freedom,” said Humble, who added that attendees were “impressed” after hearing about the Burning of the Gaspee and Rhode Island’s other contributions to American independence.
In between presentations, Humble was able to explore.
“It is much more fun to see stuff that is not on the top tourist lists,” said Humble. She visited many historical sites.
Humble’s home in Warwick Neck is filled with antiques, so she says she could not resist visiting antique shops during her travels. She even found a toy replica of the Nautilus from the 1950s.
“I brought back the toy,” said Humble, adding that many of her friends were surprised she found an item with such a Rhode Island connection.
If she had to choose, Humble says her two favorite states to visit were Arkansas and Montana.
In Arkansas, she says the Clinton Presidential Library and Central High School, which was the first high school to be integrated, were interesting sites.
Humble also took part in a very unique activity in The Natural State, visiting Crater of Diamonds State Park to dig for diamonds. “You can keep any diamonds you find,” said Humble, who sadly admitted she did not find any.
Montana was a state Humble had always wanted to visit and it did not disappoint. She described the wide-open spaces and landscape to be unlike anything she had seen. She even said if given the chance, she would consider living there.
She took the time to visit the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, which is known as one of the best dinosaur museums in the world. However, Humble was surprised that a full T-Rex skeleton was not on display. “They are all on loan to museums on the East Coast,” she said with a laugh.
While she enjoyed Arkansas and Montana, Humble admits every state had its charms.
“Rhode Islanders are missing out by not traveling; people in the West need to see the East just as much as we need to see [the West],” she said.
While she enjoyed traveling, Humble is happy to be home.
“I like all of Rhode Island,” admits Humble. “We have everything here and you can do it in a shorter amount of time than other places.”
Humble says she has no plans to travel to more states for presentations yet. Instead, she will be taking on a new role as Commander of the Rhode Island Commandery, Military Order of Foreign Wars. The Order supports college scholarships, JROTC, ROTC, veterans, military monuments and military buildings, including historic armories.
Humble will become Commander today and one of her goals will be to increase awareness and support of the Order.