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Monthly Archives: October 2012

I’m late on this.  Work can be consuming and I just haven’t had the time.  Still, I wanted to make sure the Maine trip lived on for a bit.

The trip was from September 19th – September 29th of this year.  We flew out of Houston Hobby early on the morning of the 19th, first to Tampa and then on to a 3:55 PM EST arrival in Manchester, New HampshireManchester is not that large a town with not that large an airport.  Thirty minutes after arrival we were in the rental car and following our GPS.  Our destination was the Union Bluff Hotel  in York Beach, Maine,  barely two hours away.  The drive up was gorgeous, the Fall foliage was just starting to turn.

After a night of fine food and drink at the Union Bluff, on Thursday we headed along the coast on old US Hwy 1 with intent being to get pretty close to the Canadian border.  We had almost no plans but our thinking was to make our way up into Canada at the start of the trip and then leisurely take in the Maine coast on our way back South, eventually ending back up in Manchester for the flight home.  We drove all day Thursday, from one town to the next as we made our way up the drop dead beautiful coastline of Maine.  We joked that every turn and every glance was like a post card snap shot.

Very early on we realized that though the GPS would keep us from getting lost and make the drive from x – to y enjoyable, we really needed a good map to give us a sense of the big picture and of the local attractions.  After a couple of failures, we finally found a place that sold maps…Chuck loaded me up on maps and travel guides.  Unlike our Key West vacation in the summer where I drove most of the time, on this trip Chuck was determined to do the driving.  Neither Chuck nor I think too much about the other’s driving so if I couldn’t drive I could at least do the navigating.  Believe me when I tell you Chuck needs a navigator…it’s the reason I’m the helmsman and navigator on our sailing yacht.

All day we passed some of the most picturesque scenery one can imagine…and every town had multiple places to stay.  All seemed to have great views as well.  We passed through Bath, Maine right by Bath Iron Works, one of the most famous shipyards in the nation, if not the world.    A little further on down we passed through Wiccaset, Maine.     Even though we’d had lobster flatbread the night before, it was time for the first steamed lobster of the trip.  Everywhere we’d gone there were these little kiosk type eateries along the coast that advertised lobster or clam or both dinners along with lobster rolls.  We’d read these places were excellent places to eat.  We picked one that looked busy and gave it a shot.

Now, both Chuck and I had eaten lobster tails, but neither of us had ever had a whole pound and a half lobster put in front of us before.  Honestly, we were a bit intimidated…not wanting to look all unsophisticated and all.  So, we did what any newbie would do, we ordered the lobster dinner (that also included a pound of steamer clams) and when it came we nonchalantly ambled off away from everyone else and dived right in.  It didn’t take us long to get the hang of it, believe me.  Full to the top with fresh seafood, we continued on.

As the afternoon waned we found ourselves way, way up the coast of Maine.  As far North as we were it was getting darker a bit earlier.  The issue was that the extreme northeast coast of Maine is not a tourist destination so much.  All of the quaint, cozy, romantic cottages that had saturated the southern and mid coast of Maine had vanished.  The towns were very small (think Waterproof, Louisiana) and there was just no place to stay.  As it got later and later we became more desperate.  Further, we found the road was keeping us away from the coastline and much of the drive was in fairly thick woods, on a relatively small two lane asphalt road.  We finally got to a town named Columbia Falls, Maine.  Our GPS indicated they had a motel.  We followed the pink line to a place called The Blue Door Motel (I think that was the name).  It was set way back off the road, way off of the beaten track.  It was one of these places that looked like there might be blood on the wall…or used syringes in the night stand.  Chuck looked at me; I looked at Chuck.  “What do you think?” he asked, and then laughed.  I told him I thought that if we stayed in The Blue Door Motel we might be the subject of Stephen King’s next horror thriller.  We both laughed…and passed on The Blue Door Motel. 

We needed gas and a few miles down the road we stopped and filled up; Chuck asked where the nearest motel or cottages might be.  A foxy Mainard chick told him that there were three motels in a town up the road named Machias.  Off we went, with our fingers crossed.  We were running out of United States…after Machias, Maine the next town was Lubec.  After Lubec, there was no more United States.

As we entered Machias it appeared to be a bit larger than most of the small towns we’d been through.  We passed the first motel…it was “closed for the season.”  We passed.  We passed the second motel…it was a lower case Blue Door.  We passed on it, too.  Finally we came to the third one…it looked fairly nice and they had a vacancy.  We stopped and checked into the last room they had.  When Chuck walked out of the office after checking in I noticed the sign changed to No Vacancy.  We had dinner and conked.

The next morning, after a super breakfast at Helen’s Restaurant, we headed out for the hour drive up to Calais, Maine to cross into Canada.  We had our passports with us and after a couple of questions the very nice CBS agent handed them back to us with a friendly “enjoy your trip to Canada” send off and we were on our way.  The goal for that Friday was to make it to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We changed the rental cars read outs to metric and set the cruise control on 110 kilometer per hour and enjoyed the drive.

The route we took was along the New Brunswick, Canada coast.  Most of that highway was the equivalent to the interstates here in the US.  The first place we came to of interest was St. John, New BrunswickSt. John in known for their reversing falls.   The rapids in the St. John River reverse themselves every six hours based on the extremely high tides in the Bay of Fundy; St. John is located on the Bay of Fundy.

Continuing North into New Brunswick it began to rain, a miserable, cold drizzle, just enough to make the driving a drag.  We passed by Moncton, NB and then a little further crossed the border into Nova Scotia.  When we crossed in to NS, we stopped at the visitor’s center…Chuck loaded me up with more maps…of New Brunswich, Nova Scotia, and even New Foundland.

So, mapped up, and tired of interstates, just outside of Amherst, NS I set the GPS to a southerly route that would take us on a more scenic route through Northwest Nova Scotia.  It started raining a bit harder.  It was quite scenic but, again, it was raining.  It was a two lane road that was up, down, and around for sixty or seventy miles or so.  Eventually, we arrived at the Minas Basin  and followed it on to Truro and another interstate on to Halifax.  The interesting thing about this particular jaunt were both the abundance of wild blueberry farms and wild apple trees.  The apple trees were everywhere and absolutely packed with apples.

In Truro, NS we picked up the main interstate into Halifax…being some 60 miles or so.  The drive on into Halifax went fast, punctuated by a pheasant we almost sent to the promised land but of which managed to not only dodge our car but a couple more behind us.  Pheasants are huge birds…also beautiful.  The closer we got to Halifax the foggier it got.  By the time we arrived at the Marriot on the harbor, it was pea soup thick.  We arrived around dark, about 6:00 PM Atlantic Standard Time.

Halifax, Nova Scotia  is one of the grand old cities of Canada, if not the world.  It reminded me a little of New Orleans and the  French Quarter, though quite a bit less risqué.  It was founded by the English and doesn’t really have the French feel to it that many of Canada’s cities have.  The Marriot where we stayed was right on the harbor, though you couldn’t see the water for the fog.  Reading up, we found that Halifax has 122 days of fog…one third of a year.  We crossed our fingers.  After checking in, we headed out in search of a fine restaurant and found it in a place called The Henry House  I had lamb shanks, mashed potatoes, vegetables and salad.

The next day, Saturday, it was still foggy.  We headed down to the wharf to check out the boats with the eventual destination being the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.   We toured a couple of ships they had along the wharf and came across two very impressive charter yachts…the S/Y Nashira II  and the M/Y Blue Moon.    It’s tens of thousands of dollars a week to charter the Nashira II and hundreds of thousands of dollars a week for the Blue Moon.  We had lobster for lunch at a restaurant over the water on the wharf.

We spent several hours in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  They had all kinds of things to see.  After the museum, we headed down the wharf to the Halifax casino…we won $500 in a half hour and then left.  Dinner that night was at The Cut …we both had steak sandwiches…delicious.

Sunday was set aside for the Bay of Fundy excursion.  It’s difficult to describe the day we spent at Burnthead, Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy.  We took lots of photographs but none of them really captured what it was like.  I don’t even think I’m going to try to express the trip.  Suffice to say that the average tide in the Minas Basin is fifty feet.  Every six hours or so the tide goes either up or down 50’-0”…average.  We talked to some locals during the day; they said the tide plays havoc on water activities for everything must be planned around the tide changes.  I bet.

After we got back to Halifax Sunday from watching the effects of the world’s greatest tide shifts we decided it was time to split from Canada.  The trip, after all, was supposed to be mostly Maine.  We had already spent three days in Halifax and had two places we wanted to see in Nova Scotia before catching the ferry back to St. John, New Brunswick and back on down to the States again.  We decided we would check out the next day, Monday 24th and shoot for a Wednesday crossing on the ferry out of Digby.

The next day, we did check out and headed for Peggy’s Cove and their beautiful lighthouse.  Like everything, it was gorgeous.  HERE  is the live webcam for the lighthouse.  Just down the coast from Peggy’s Cove was the memorial for Swiss Air Flight 111   that crashed just offshore at the mouth of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia in September 1998.  The memorial was quaint, but very clean and well done.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon were spent following the coast line and we wound our way around Mahones Bay on our way to Lunnenberg, Nova Scotia.    Lunnenberg is world famous as being one of the most renowned wooden ship building towns on the planet.  It was simply gorgeous.  Lunenberg was where both the BluenoseBluenose II, and the replica of the HMS Bounty were built.  The Bounty was commissioned in 1960 by MGM for the 1962 movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Marlon Brando.  The Bluenose and Bluenose II are almost sacred sailing fishing schooners to the Nova Scotians…very famous.  We didn’t know it at the time but Bluenose II was undergoing a major restoration and was to be launched the following Saturday.  That Saturday was the day we were flying back so it really didn’t matter.  HERE   is the live web cam of the Bluenose II as it sits for its refit.

We arrived in Lunnenberg around 2:00 PM and after taking in the harbor and some of the sites we settled down for lunch overlook the harbor.  HERE  is the Lunnenberg Harbor live web cam…it was located on the building we had lunch at.  There are worse view to have over lunch for sure.  Of all the lobster we had, the lobster lunch in Lunnenberg was the best.

Though we had an idea of the time to travel, it was always iffy.  After we left Lunnenberg we decided to drive to Yarmouth, or thereabouts, and try to find a nice romantic cottage.  After passing up several promising accommodations on the way, when we arrived at Yarmouth we found they had almost nothing…everything was closed for the season.  We lucked out in finding a room at a Best Western.  We did eat at a fabulous restaurant there, however…named Rudders.    I had fresh caught Nova Scotian salmon…what else.

Over dinner and drinks, it was decision time.  Our initial plans were to drive to Digby the next day, catch the ferry out late that afternoon to St. John, spend the night in St. John, and then on Wednesday make the couple of hour short drive back into Maine, ending up in Bar Harbor by the afternoon.  But…we were getting tired of Nova Scotia; by all accounts, with the exception of Cape Breton, we had seen much of what it had to offer.  We were ready to get back to the States.  If we had stuck to these initial plans fully six of our ten day vacation would have been in Canada.  So, we revised the schedule.  The new schedule had us awaking at 4:30 the next morning, Tuesday 25th and driving to Digby in order to catch the 8:00 AM ferry to St. John…and then on to Bar Harbor, Maine the same day.  And, that is what we did.

Tuesday dawned fairly cold, the coldest day of the trip so far, at 38 degrees.  The 45 mile ferry ride across the lower Bay of Funday was quite chilly.  We hoped to see whales on the passage but we didn’t…a little late in the season, we were told.  The ferry ride was uneventful, really. 

Once off of the ferry, we made good time toward the border.  Around 12:30 AST, and just a few miles from the US-Canadian border we needed gas…and food.  After tanking up we saw this diner called Carmen ‘s.  It was a stand alone old building in the town of Stephen, New Brunswick.  The parking lot was jammed with cars.  We decided to give it a shot.  I had a plain double hamburger that was the very best I’ve ever, ever eaten.  The waitress told us their burgers were awesome…she was right.

After lunch, we headed for the border crossing.

I’ve always been more apprehensive coming back into my own country than I am going to someone else’s.  As we drove up to the border we were asked the standard questions…what was the purpose of our visit to Canada?…was the car a rental?…how long were we in Canada?…were we bringing anything of value in?…cigarettes?…alcohol?…firearms?…blah?…blah?…and BLAH?  We answered the questions with easy answers but however we answered them was not what the border agents wanted to hear.  They asked us to pull over so they could search our car.  We did, and then went inside their offices while they did so.  They put us on the Group W bench.  LOL  Then one of the agents came in and asked another agent to run our passports through the system…the other agent did.  After about a 15 minute or so wait, the border agent returned out passports and welcomed us back into the United States.  It wasn’t that big of a deal…still.

Somewhere along the trip down to Bar Harbor we came to the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory in Bucksport, Maine.  Yes, we went to the top.  And, yes, it was scary as hell…but the view was magnificent.  We took in Ft. Knox at the same time.

Anyway, by 3:30 or so that afternoon we were pulling into Bar Harbor, Maine.   We were in Bar Harbor because that is where Acadia National Park is.   After shopping around for a bit, we found an older motel with a great view of Frenchman’s Bay.  After checking in we found a great place to eat before coming back and planning the next day, Wednesday, September 26th my birthday.

The next day, we got up and had a great breakfast.  The day was pretty much left up to me…birthday girl and all.  I wanted to climb Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard, in Acadia National Park.   The first thing we did was buy a small backpack…loaded up with water…and then headed to the park visitors center to pay the fees.  There, we found out that because I had just turned 62 that very day, for a $10 fee I could get a lifetime senior citizen pass that would get me and one other into any National Park for free.  Not exactly my idea of a birthday present, but a deal nonetheless…we paid.  We also got info on their hiking trails.

Back at the car, we decided on a “challenging” intermediate trail and set off to find the trailhead.  The trails are rated beginner (a paved or smooth path), intermediate (marked path) or advanced (iron bars connected to cliffs).  A week or two before we were there one girl had plunged 60 feet or so to her death on an advanced trail.   A check of the link will give you an idea of the advanced trails.  We made it a point to find our intermediate trail.  We found it, parked, and headed up the mountain.

The intermediate trail was marked with a blue rectangle of paint every so often.  The trail was a trail, not a built path.  We had to climb over rocks and up the side of stone faces.  There was nothing technically challenging about the hike, but it was anything but like walking up a nice manicured path.  For two old, out of shape goats like Chuck and I it was a real challenge.  The mountain is only 1,528 feet high but it starts basically at sea level…say El. 128…so, at it’s easiest, it’s like walking up a 140 story building.  Couple that with multiple switchbacks and one does a lot of walking to get to the top of it.  The higher we climbed the foggier it got.  When we finally got to the top after almost three hours of continuous climbing it was so foggy, windy and cold, that we really couldn’t see anything.

Except for the very top, however, the views going up were breathtaking.  Going down the mountain was not a whole lot easier than going up, though quite a bit faster.  By the time we got down our legs were killing us…up and down took us about four and a half hours.  When we got back to the car we just set there with it started and the heater on…exhausted.  It was only a fifteen minute or so drive back to our place.  When we first got out of the car our legs almost couldn’t support us.  We got all our stuff and made it up the stairs to our place.  After a very hot shower we felt much better…no time to dilly.  After all, it was my birthday.

We were too tired to do a lot of looking for a nice restaurant on my birthday.  We opted for a local place that was recommended.  The wine was great; the food was pretty good.  As the night wore on, the drinks flowed, and our 1,528 foot intermediate mountain hike ballooned to a twenty thousand foot technical climb complete with bottled oxygen and Sherpa porters somehow…somehow…Chuck and I got into a food fight.  It started out innocently enough but quickly escalated into string beans being thumped and masked potatoes being flung…we called it a draw when I caught a lemon wedge perfectly in my fork’s sweet spot…sending it squarely over my man’s left shoulder and into the middle of the table of the couple behind him.  They diplomatically set the lemon aside and continued on with their meal as if nothing had happened.  We laughed and cracked up to no end.  Finally, we felt we had probably used up all of our grace points, paid the bill and eased out as cowardly as we dared…only to crack up again in the car.  What a night.

Back at our place, we decided to head out on down the coast the next day.  The plan was to check out, have breakfast, and the head to the Rockport/Rockland, Maine area…find a nice cottage, and hang out…some more.  It didn’t turn out like that.

I love my guy to death but when it comes to stopping for accommodations he is, to say the least, ponderous.  He simply can’t make up his mind.  And, that…drives me crazy.  He did that to us in Key West, he attempted to do it to us in Nova Scotia, and he did it to us in Bar Harbor.  I was determined he wasn’t going to do it on this leg…how wrong I was.

The next day, before we even left, we agreed that the first nice place with cottages and a harbor view we would stop and check it out.  I made him look me in the eye and agree he would.  So, off we went.  As we got near Rockport, a really pretty area of Maine, I pointed out a nice place…he didn’t stop.  I pointed out another…and then another; he didn’t stop at either of those, either.  And, then there were no other nice places.  An hour of messing around had gone by.  He turned around and went back.  Two of the three places I pointed out weren’t good.  We went into the third and it was perfect.  We asked for a room.  The lady said she “wasn’t sure” if she had a room…and then looked at a man who had just walked in the door and asked, “do I have a room?”  He said, “No…you don’t…the room I looked at is fine.  I’ll take it.”  The man had taken the very last room…LOL  I was livid.  Because we dicked around and my guy hadn’t stopped like we agreed, we lost the room.  I threw up my hands and got back into the car.

I didn’t need to say anything else…Chuck knew he was in the dog house.  Further, he knew I wasn’t about to say another word.  I just sat back and watched him drive, scanning the roadside for almost any place to stay…we drove for an hour or so like this.  I did know, however, that Wiccaset, Maine (where we stopped on the way up to have lobster) was on the horizon somewhere…I knew we could find a place to stay there.  As we got closer to Wiccaset there was a sign that said Boothbay Harbor Recreation Area.  Poor Chuck swerved into the intersection, frantic not to miss an opportunity to get in good graces…up a one way street the wrong way!  By this time I was feeling sorry for the guy…I had to laugh, and did.  I know, I really know that Chuck would do anything for me and I can never stay upset at him being him very long.  The closer we got to BoothbayHarbor it was obvious we would find a nice place to stay.  The closer we got I saw my husband’s life force return…LMAO.  We laughed.  He called the road we were on his Highway of Redemption.

After quite a drive we arrived at Boothbay Harbor, Maine.    We stayed at The Fisherman’s Wharf Inn with a great room, and great view.  After we checked in we took a walk through the town…it was lovely, gorgeous really.  As we walked along the waterfront we saw the three huge masts of a tallship and walked to check it out.  The ship, in dry dock, turned out to be no other than the Bounty, that I mentioned earlier was used in the movie, Mutiny on the Bounty.  We could walk right up to her.  We were amazed.  I had scallops wrapped in bacon for dinner.  This was really our last night of vacation…it was Thursday 27th.  On Friday we had to be back in Manchester, New Hampshire for our early morning flight out on Saturday.

Friday morning we had the breakfast buffet and then checked out before walking all along the harbor for one last look.  As we headed back up the highway to get from Boothbay Harbor to Hwy 1 it started to drizzle.  We’d been lucky with the weather…it had been good.  But all day Friday as we slowly made out way down the lower Maine coast it began to rain harder and harder.

By early afternoon there was only one place we wanted to see, Kennebunkport, Maine.  Bush #1 had his summer home there.  We wanted to see the area because it was supposed to be so pretty but the rain put a damper on the views.  We did go to Kennebunkport though.  And, on the way out, Kennebunk as well.  These are very affluent areas…lots of money there one can tell.  We laughed for we had only been back in Texas for a few days when the Kennebunk Prostitution Ring brouhaha blew up.

We arrived at the airport Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire around dark on Friday 28th in a driving rain.  We ate at the hotel before taking advantage of their in-room pay-per-view first run movies.  We watched MIB III and Prometheus…good movies each.

Our flight out was at 6:55 AM Saturday morning…first to Atlanta and then on to Houston Hobby.  The flights went well.  We were back in Houston at 11:30 that morning.

It was a good trip.  We had lobster and seafood until we couldn’t eat any more.  One reason for the trip was to check out a possible location for a summer home when we retire…that was a success.  The weather cooperated.  And, the cat was alive when we walked in the door…pissed off, but alive.