Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

My boss put a word in with a manager of an AcronymCo group over in Massachusetts, letting him know that I was interested in making the move back East, and to keep me in mind for any forthcoming openings. It barely registers as a preliminary step in our goal to move closer to my home state, but the thought of it generated in me a little bit of excitement nonetheless. I immediately hopped onto the internet and started researching towns close to the campus. Bedford caught my eye, but I pretty much immediately ruled it out entirely as a candidate for our future home. Holy hell, is that one exclusive little town. According to its Citi-Data, the median income for a family is $112,000, in a population of 13,800. The median family income for the town we live in now is $68,000, and we’ve got a population of 255,000.

Housing prices drop dramatically over the New Hampshire border (not to mention the non-existence of sales tax), and certain towns in and around Nashua are within a 50-minute drive to the AcronymCo plant, and a two-hour drive to Portland Maine/J’s Oysters/the Old Port/every place I hold dear in this life/HOMEHOMEHOME.

The upshot of all of this being that if I can’t actually be IN Maine, I’ll settle for being CLOSE TO Maine. 120 miles away beats 2,771 miles away, HANDS DOWN. Transferring to the Massachusetts AcronymCo has the added benefit of, you know, not having to JOB HUNT. Hello, tenure. Hello, sabbatical #3 in 2016.

Ih, we’ll see. It’s a long-ish shot. But stranger things, and longer shots, have happened.

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Bill and I are working on resurrecting our MojoVation (that’s mojo and motivation). Gradually over the last few years, we’ve let the upkeep of our home slide a little. And as that upkeep slid, so did our positive attitude about, well, pretty much everything. We’re always happier when we’re busy, when we’re productive, when we have projects that we can work on together. So in 2011 we’re going to address ALL THE THINGS. Painting things and drywall things and fixing things and maintenance things and whatnot things. Which will make us happier. Which will, in turn, motivate us. Which will, in turn, inspire us to do MORE WITH THE THINGS.

The upshot of all of that being that when we’re ready to make the Big Move, the house will be in good order to sell, or rent, or sit idle. And if the Big Move doesn’t happen (but OH it will!), we’ll still have a house that we’re happy with. And people can come over and we won’t relegate them to just a few rooms. And we’ll have a guest room in which to put up the people that we really like.

Like you.

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It’s January of the calendar, which means that I have begun considering vacation destinations for this year. August’s trip to MotoGP in Indianapolis is already arranged but for the flights, but that only covers a few days and I have a full 21 days to schedule. THAT is a happy lunchtime occupation, let me tell you. That we’re going to Maine is a given – I was going to try to go for my cousin’s baby shower, but my aunt just called me two days ago to say it was being held the last Sunday of THIS month, which is too short of a notice to give my boss. So! Bill and I are probably going to go in the first part of June, when the weather is nice but the tourists aren’t overwhelming and we can meet the baby in person. I have made it clear to my uncle that he has to sit down with me for a couple of solid days, while I scan all of our old family photographs. Someone has to be there to tell me who the hell all the people in them are.

And then I got to thinking… it’s only a five hour drive from Portland to Montreal, and Montreal has this little race that’s held in the first couple of weeks of June every year. You might have heard of it… Formula One? So I thought, how COOL would it be to fly into Portland, hang there for a day or two, drive up to Canada for three or four days for the race, then back down to Maine to finish our vacation? Fast on the heels of that tentative plan was a G-chat message to my good (and handily-located) friend Sherry, who not only LIVES in the Montreal area, but has also been to that F1 race and has all the inside deets!

I swear to God, I don’t know how any of us got anything done, let alone had any FRIENDS, before the Internet.

Anyway, no plans are set in stone yet, but usually once we have a thought like this, for a vacation that we can get very enthusiastic about, we tend to run with it. Case in point.

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So! I get to wrap this day up by going over to Discount Tire to get the two rear tires replaced on the truck. Bill had to rescue me from the AcronymCo parking lot a couple of days ago, when I discovered upon trying to leave for the day that the rear driver’s side tire was flat. I called him, he did his Man Thing involving jacks and cursing and whatnot, and I was on my way again in a little more than half an hour. Beat THAT, AAA! We took the tire to Discount Tire, where it was discovered that the hunk of metal was embedded to close to the sidewall to be able to fix. They placed an order for new tires, which came in today, and that’s what I’m doing after work instead of drinking BEER. THEN we have to drop the truck off early tomorrow morning at the dealership for some scheduled maintenance, which may interfere with our plans to go up to Prescott for the day. Though if we can secure a rental car we might be okay.

Ain’t it grand to be a grown-up? $450 bucks that we didn’t anticipate having to spend and there goes my new flash. Thanks a lot, LIFE.

So, you guys have any grandiose plans for the weekend? Dish!

(Here’s Part Four, Part Three, Part Two, and Part One.)

Tuesday July 20th was my thirty-sixth birthday. If we could spend every single one of my birthdays doing exactly what we did on that day, I’d be perfectly happy.

Well, except for the getting lost part.

We checked out of the hotel in Portland at about 7:30 a.m., planning on driving up to Poland, picking up my sister, and heading up the rest of the way to Bar Harbor. We hopped on the freeway near the hotel, intending on taking the 495 to the Gray exit and driving from there to Poland. Except, stupid me, we took the 295 fork instead, headed along the coast instead of further inland, and I didn’t twig onto the fact that we were not where we were supposed to be for another half-hour.

So we had to backtrack, get off in Freeport, and take the back roads towards Gray. The back roads that I haven’t REALLY traversed in twenty years. That look… well, rather different than they did. More overgrown. Some new houses. A few new turn-offs. And the ever-present vague signs. I misdirected us a couple of times, causing Bill to get more than a little frustrated. But, seeing as it was my birthday, he didn’t unload on me like I probably deserved. I made him stop in Gray so I could pee, then we had to stop again to get gas, THEN we made it to Poland but missed the right-hander at the blinking light. We stopped at a gas station where I asked a random guy if he happened to know my sister’s family, which he did (it really wasn’t that much of a long shot that someone hanging around the local gas station would know where the Chair(wo)man of the Town Selectman Board lives). He got us turned around the right way, and we finally got to my sister’s an hour behind schedule, at around 9:15.

Wendy left her car parked at the bottom of their hill (after chasing away some random guy that wandered his way up their private drive – she was suspicious and concerned about her kids, who were holding down the fort). I tinkled in the woods one more time (yes, I did – we were, literally, in the middle of NOWHERE and I didn’t want to risk Bill’s wrath by asking to stop at yet another convenience store somewhere along the way), then crawled in the back seat of the Camaro and let my longer-legged sister sit up front.

The drive up to Bar Harbor necessitates that one take the I-95 (hello tolls!) to Bangor, then head on over to Ellsworth, before finally getting back to the coast and Mount Desert Island. It takes about three hours, from Portland (it actually took us a bit longer, because of road construction around Ellsworth). One could traverse Route One all the way up the coast (which we have done before), but that takes more like six hours. Anyway, the ride up was all about catching up on family and friend gossip, talking about Maine politics vs. Arizona politics, and listening to some more of Taoist Biker’s Sunny Mix (I THINK we got through the whole CD during the trip). Wendy regaled us with anecdotes of Town Living Out Poland Way, and we laughed. A LOT.

It was about 12:30 when we got to our hotel – usually too early to check in, but they were happy to accommodate us. It also happened to be the same hotel that President Obama had been staying in, just a few days before. Man, were we grateful that we avoided all of THAT hot mess. I can’t imagine how crowded it got, with the gawkers and the secret service and the cruise ships. Those poor locals.

Anyway, it was getting on towards 1:00 and we were starving (no breakfast), so we headed up the road a very short way, to Jack Russell’s Steak House. I got a crab cake sandwich, my sister got the stuffed portabello mushroom, and Bill got a… burger? I think? Maybe it was a grilled chicken sandwich… oh, hell, like you guys care. Plus brews all around (natch). The Tour de France was on the bigger-than-life television, and the perspective it afforded made me dizzy in short order. We gabbed with a couple of the other patrons, and the bartender told us of the woes of having the President and the Secret Service invade the island.

Now comfortably full, we hopped back in the car, paused at the hotel long enough to off-load our belongings, then headed over to downtown Bar Harbor for some strolling and sight-seeing.

Bar Harbor with the tide out - from the pedestrian's walkway.

Bar Harbor with the tide out - from the pedestrian's walkway.

Flowerbeds were placed anywhere there was enough space.

Flowerbeds were placed anywhere there was enough space.

We strolled along the waterfront for a bit, then elected to get out of the sun and have a beverage at Quarterdeck. I had a blueberry mojito, didn’t take a picture of it. Didn’t particularly like it, so I switched to whiskey. That’s always a safe bet.

The harbor-side park from the vantage of the Quarterdeck second-story deck.

The harbor-side park from the vantage of the Quarterdeck second-story deck.

The Margaret Todd as seen from Quarterdeck.

The Margaret Todd as seen from Quarterdeck.

Wendy and Bill enjoying the view.

Wendy and Bill enjoying the view.

We hung out for a good hour before getting up to wander around some more. We sat in the grass of the harborside park for a little bit, watching the Margaret Todd come into dock, and watching the people enjoying the view and the weather.

The Margaret Todd

The Margaret Todd

The shore path

The shore path

Wendy and Bill wanted to ditch me temporarily so they could buy me birthday presents (yay!), so we strolled along the shops, split up, reconvened, and split up again. I bought the kids their obligatory Bar Harbor sweatshirts and t-shirts. Then I had a weird hankering for a cigar, so I scored a few and abruptly became the opposite of sexy. There’s a picture. You’ll have to go dig it up from my Flickr, cuz I ain’t posting it here.

Crowded Bar Harbor

Crowded Bar Harbor

Wendy and Bill, carrying mah loot.

Wendy and Bill, carrying mah loot.

Dinnertime rolled around, so we headed to Testa’s. Bill snagged the camera and took these shots:

Me at Testa's

Me at Testa's

Me at Testa's again.

Me at Testa's again.

Wendy and I both had the Seafood Newburgh, and Bill had… steak? The prime rib, I think? Man, I didn’t pay attention to his plate at ALL, I was so busy stuffing my own face throughout the entire trip. We noshed and moo’d and laughed outright when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert. Then it was back out into the cooling evening air. The lengthening rays of sunset had me grabbing my camera yet again as we headed back to the park to sit on the grass and watch the harbor.

I love sunset.

I love sunset.

And zoom out.

And zoom out.

Handsome devil.

Handsome devil.

Obligatory Wendy taking a picture of me taking a picture of her picture.

Obligatory Wendy taking a picture of me taking a picture of her picture.

The hill upon which we sat.

The hill upon which we sat.

The next stop on what turned out to be an all afternoon/all evening pub crawl was Stewman’s Lobster Pound, or more accurately, it’s deck-side bar the Eagle’s Nest. We sat and GABBED AND GABBED, and observed the lobsters being steamed down below us. Patrons would stop by the lobster tanks with their children, who got to touch and/or hold the lobsters before they (the lobsters, not the children) met their doom. Morbid, really. But oh so very tasty.

Bill's a happy camper.

Bill's a happy camper.

So is Wendy.

So is Wendy.

So am I.

So am I.

The ever-busy Margaret Todd, out for a sunset sail.

The ever-busy Margaret Todd, out for a sunset sail.

Lots o' lobsters steaming away...

Lots o' lobsters steaming away...

We finally decided to head back to the hotel for the evening, where I was presented with a beautiful silver necklace from Bill (I’ll have to take a picture of it to show you guys), and this amazing ensemble from my sister:

The things I do for you people.  The t-shirt says, "Say no to Pot."

The things I do for you people. The t-shirt says, "Say no to Pot."

So, backstory on that “crown”. When I was, oh, about eleven or twelve, my sister was staying in my Grandmother’s apartment for a while. One morning Grandma left Wendy a note, asking her to weed the garden for her. Wendy, believing me to be spoiled and also a slacker, wrote at the bottom of the note, “Why don’t you get Princess Tiffany to do it?” So I wrote underneath that, “That’s QUEEN Tiffany to you!”

She still has that friggin’ note. Anyway. She was looking for a princess tiara for my present, and the crab crown was the closest she could find.

We got in our jammies and got comfy, and my sister pulled out a copy of this movie, which we watched on my laptop. It was actually written, directed, and produced by her TOWN MANAGER. The cheese. Oh God. You guys, the CHEESE. It was EPIC. Completely full of awesome.

Especially if you’re a little bit buzzed.

Dammit. Okay, Bar Harbor will not get wrapped up in just one entry. I have another entire day full of exploration to tell you guys about. I’m stopping here.

Our route is in green.

Our route is in green.

We took advantage of another free day on Monday the 19th to explore more of the “fingers” along the Maine coast. With Taoist Biker’s Sunny Mix in the tray, we re-traced part of our steps up the coast on Route One to Wiscasset, and took a quick run down 144 to Georgetown Island just to see what was there (trees. houses. quaint little villages. natch.). We’d skipped breakfast and it was getting on towards noon, so we didn’t pause but headed back up to the main drag and picked up route 27 down to Boothbay Harbor. Along the way we saw a somewhat greater density in population – more houses, a bit more traffic, lots of B&B’s sporting “solar-powered dryers”. Bill blinked at the sign – I chortled and said, “Clothesline.”

We found parking at the area Grange, guarded by a truly ancient and altogether adorable veteran gentleman. I’d just popped out of the car to give him our $7.00, so I didn’t get a picture of him. I think he was rather too dignified to stand for it, though I’m sure he would have endured with aplomb. He called me “dear” (de-yah) and slowly, carefully, shakily unfolded a walking map of the town. He pointed and said, “You’re here (hee-yah). You go this way, you find shops and food. You go that way, you find shops and food. Pretty much walk any which way, you find shops and food.” I told him, “Well, that’s what we’re here for!” He patted my hand (aww!) and I walked back to the car, grinning from ear to ear.

We made a beeline for McSeagulls, finding it almost from memory. Not tough, really, since it’s on the waterfront and the ocean is pretty damned hard to miss. It’d been over three years since our last visit, but it didn’t seem like it was that long ago at all, once we settled down on the deck with our beers and menus.

Bill, beer, and menu at McSeagulls.

Bill, beer, and menu at McSeagulls.

I guess I’m getting a little bit out of the habit of taking pictures of my food – a fact I’m sure Bill is grateful for. I had fried clams, he had shrimp scampi. We sat and breathed and endured the fussy newborn behind us, and the rambunctious three-year-old at the neighboring table. The family bought him a stuffed seal. The general consensus was that the seal was to be named “Sammy”. The boy decided “Bob” was better. Way to fight against the obvious, kid!

After lunch we took a short stroll among the shops and along the shore. Our visit was at the height of the summer tourism season, so it was vastly more crowded than our last visit. Still, it wasn’t horrible, though I’m sure the locals have a different idea of the definition of crowded.

Boothbay

Boothbay

Pedestrian Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge

Boothbay Harbor

Boothbay Harbor

Bought some blueberry jam at the Village Store.

Bought some blueberry jam at the Village Store.

Captain Sawyer's Place B&B

Captain Sawyer's Place B&B

We reclaimed our car (“Good to see ya, dear!”) and navigated our way out of the congestion that had accumulated while we’d been exploring. We took a quick turn around Southport Island, but any views of the water were obscured by the trees once we got away from Boothbay any distance. If we wanted any vistas we’d have to traverse some of the private drives, which we weren’t prepared to do.

So, up to Route One once again, we hit Damariscotta (pronounced dam-rih-scot-ah). Oh how I LOVE that little town. Historic and the very definition of quaint. (As an aside, I’ll have to go back and count how many times I’ve used “quaint” during this summarization.) We cruised slowly through, and spotted a likely little pub that we kept in mind for our return path. We headed down 129, taking the right-hand fork toward South Bristol and Christmas Cove (and isn’t that the best name EVER for a town?). The road just… stopped. Altogether. No signs, no warning other than the narrowing path and encroaching buildings until all of a sudden, hi! There’s the ocean. We paused and gazed for a few minutes, but then I saw a point on the map that I really wanted to see.

Back the way we came, waving at folks tending their yards (which is why I didn’t take many pictures of the villages – the folks living there were out and about, tending and doing, and probably wouldn’t appreciate strangers taking photos of them), nodding at the seldom car coming in the other direction, back up to the fork and turned onto 130 in the direction of Bristol, then New Harbor. I would totally live in New Harbor. Quiet, lovely old homes, secluded, peaceful. Did I mention secluded? This would be THE spot on the planet to go if you wanted to get away from it all. They probably don’t even have cable. Actually, I’ll betcha they don’t. Sure as shootin’ we didn’t have any cell service while we were down around there.

Past New Harbor we came upon Pemaquid Point. We paid the park fee and parked in front of the Pemaquid Point lighthouse, where we spent the better part of two hours wandering, gazing, and taking a million pictures.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Lighthouse and Bellhouse

Lighthouse and Bellhouse

Wandering around on the rocks.

Wandering around on the rocks.

Bill is enjoying himself.

Bill is enjoying himself.

More rock wandering.

More rock wandering.

Splish.

Splish.

Antics

Here I am observing the antics of another patron, who was climbing in a very precarious way among the rocks getting nailed by the encroaching tide. His wife finally gave up screeching at him and went back to the car to allow fate to decide his demise. He made it okay, so I guess she had the opportunity to hasten his demise herself.

We tore ourselves away from the waves (watching the tide come in can be mesmerizing), hopped back in the car and headed back up to Damariscotta. Tucked in a teeny nook between buildings along the main street, we’d spotted King Eider’s Pub on our way down to the point. We found on-street parking fairly close by and, taking note of the one hour limit, walked down the sidewalk to the pub.

King Eider's Pub in Damariscotta.

King Eider's Pub in Damariscotta.

We scored a couple of beers and a whiskey (after pausing at the bar inside for a moment – we were fascinated that the barkeep stepped out the back door and picked fresh mint from the garden in order to make another patron’s mojito), then sat out on the minuscule deck and watched the bustling little down as dusk fell.

Rogue and whiskey.

Rogue and whiskey.

After finishing our drinks, we ducked into a nearby store really quick to see if we could find Bill some new shoes – his Columbia’s were starting to come apart at the seams. No luck, though, so he scored some superglue to perform emergency repairs. Then it was BACK in the car, BACK onto Route One, and headed back southwest to make our way back in the direction of the hotel (back back backety back).

We hit a bit of traffic and were both doing the pee-pee dance by the time we hit Woolwich and pulled into the always-necessary Taste of Maine Restaurant. It may be somewhat of a cliché to the folks who live in the area, but there was MANY a Mother’s Day that found me and my family escorting Grandma to a nice early dinner there. In fact, Bill and I took here there during the last visit home shortly before Grandma passed away (source of the infamous “I’m over here!” story). Their television commercial hasn’t changed ONE BIT in my entire lifetime. Still the lobsterman on the sign throwing his thumb over his shoulder and saying, “Taste of Maine Rest’runt. Route One Woolwich, just north of Bath.” Throw a fully loaded Maine accent in there and you’ve got the picture.

Taste of Maine sign.

Taste of Maine sign.

We requested a table out on the deck so we could watch the fading light over Harrison Bay. I wasn’t very hungry so I just ordered a bowl of clam chowder. Bill went to town on a surf and turf.

The view from our table.

The view from our table.

As we sipped our beverages we started to notice some very clear bird calls. Bill cast his gaze around, and spotted the osprey tower off to the side of the restaurant. Apparently about twenty years ago the owner of the restaurant built the tower, confident that the osprey would find it and build a nest. Five years later, that’s exactly what happened. For fifteen years the same mated pair have been coming back year after year to lay eggs and raise their young. A few years ago, they installed a webcam which streams a live feed into the lobby, and the BioDiversity Research Institute maintains a blog about the ospreys’ activities. Our visit was fortunately timed such that the male, female, and both chicks were still inhabiting the nest.

I fitted the camera with the 2x converter and the 70-200mm telephoto lens, and handed it to Bill. He spent an enthusiastic half-hour snapping shots from the deck and from the outer-wall staircase along the side of the building closest to the tower.

Mama osprey and her two chicks.

Mama osprey and her two chicks.

A wider shot of the nest and tower, webcam off to the left.

A wider shot of the nest and tower, webcam off to the left.

We spent a very pleasant hour enjoying the weather and the fading light, and fielding several phone calls from my niece Sable, who wanted to know when we would be back in Portland so she could stop by with her boyfriend for a visit. She’d actually been calling all day, but we were out of cell reception most of the time. I guess if we ever move back to Maine I’m going to have to get a satellite phone.

Back on the road, I got these shots from the car of the cranes at Bath Iron Works, while we were crossing the bridge over the Kennebec River. My uncle used to work there nights all throughout my childhood. I would LOVE to get a tour of that place sometime, and get up close to the AEGIS destroyers they build there. I keep wanting to get to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, too, but somehow we never end up there.

Bath Iron Works

Bath Iron Works

BIW

BIW

We finally got back to Portland at about 8:00, and immediately got started on doing a couple of loads of laundry to see us through the duration of our trip. A very nice guy, who rents a room right across from the laundry, provided us with some soap and dryer sheets. Sable arrived at about 9:00 and hung out with us for an hour or so. We all sat around the room gabbing and surfing the internet on my laptop, looking at vacation pictures and listening to music of Sable’s choosing. Then she and her boyfriend headed back out, Bill and I wrapped up the laundry situation, and we hit the sack.

(I think I can wrap up this recap in two more entries – one about our stay in Bar Harbor, and one about our stay at Grandma’s house. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway!)

We had a pretty mellow, casual day on Saturday the 17th. We eschewed breakfast (ha! pun!) for an early start, and took Route 1 south to Saco. Saco itself is a really neat historic old town. I’ve only ever been through there – next visit I want to take a pause and explore a little. The downtown area has been rather revamped lately; they seem to have done a great job.

We took the turn down 208 to Route 9, and wended our way towards Kennebunkport. We just cruised through the UNBELIEVABLY CROWDED little town (mostly trying to get at The Clam Shack, it looked like), as we just really wanted to see how long it would take us, at a leisurely pace, to get there from our hotel (about an hour).

We took 9A up to Kennebunk, then caught I95 in Biddeford. At that point I got a call from my sister Wendy, asking if Bill and I would like to join them for a couple of hours at Tripp Pond, up by their house. So we hit the 495 and rolled on up to the Gray exit, then cut over on 115 to Windham for a bit of lunch at Charlie Beigg’s. Then we battled through the lake traffic headed up the 302 (everyone was headed to Sebago on such a hot, sunny day), then cut off at the 85 to hit the 11 in Poland.

Don’t you just love how I’m giving you all the route numbers? Trust me, I’m keeping it simple. Most of these roads are referred to by more than one number. For instance, the 302 is also the 35, until it turns into the 121 up by the town of Raymond. The 115 is also Route 4, Route 202, and eventually 35. There are so many different ways, and so many different back roads, that lead to where you’re going. The flippin’ Atlas & Gazetteer is a godsend.

Following my niece Sable’s “you can’t miss it” directions (aided by the map), we easily located the group of them at the pond’s edge. It amuses me that what passes for a “pond” in Maine is easily a “lake” in Arizona.

Tripp Pond

Tripp Pond - Named after my father's side of the family, I think. "Tripp" is my maiden name.

Tripp Pond

Tripp Pond

We were immediately greeted by my oldest nephew, Lucian, who barely paused long enough for a hello and a hug before he was drooling over the Camaro. Not unexpected for a car-obsessed sixteen year old boy. We came upon the rest of the kids first – Sable (almost 18), Ethan (14), and Tristan (11), and we all exchanged hugs. I was doing a pee-pee dance by that time, so I just gave my sister a quick hug and waved a hi to the rest of the gang (my sister’s husband, his sister, and HER husband… got that?) before I followed the trail down to the porta-potty. Then I headed back to the beach and we all sat and gabbed for a few hours. Most folks were in and out of the water (like bath water, it was), but since I didn’t bring my suit I just contented myself with wading a bit along the shore.

At one point we were joined by Gary (one of Wendy’s friends) and his kids. It took a while for Wendy to convincingly explain how it was, exactly, that I was her sister. “Naw!” he kept saying, “You don’t have a sister!” To which I responded with, “Oh I assure you, she does.” I guess his family used to be neighbors with my grandparents, back when they owned a chicken farm in Upper New Gloucester (not the house I grew up in). He knew Wendy when she was little, but this was before I came along (Wendy and I have different fathers), and they lost touch for quite some time in between, so that when they reconnected, I’d already grown up and moved to Arizona. When we finally got it straightened around, he asked who my father was. My sister got an odd look on her face, but responded with, “Sid. You know Sid.”

“Oh, SID! That rascal!” Gary waxed enthusiastic – apparently my father and his dad were cronies back in the day. Since Wendy has a less than positive history with my father, her step-father, and since I wouldn’t know him if I fell over him, it was an awkward interlude. Gary, bless him, seemed to be completely oblivious of the discomfort. And told me several times that I look just like my father. Which made Wendy grimace.

Don’t know why. It’s true.

Anyway, after that it was a lot of conversation about politics. Wendy and her husband George are both red hot Republicans, and very conservative… in their political views, at least. With Wendy the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Poland, and George her avid and involved supporter, it’s never very hard to turn the conversation to politics. When we wore that subject out, George and Gary started entertaining us with tales of their misspent youth. The running theme seemed to be the manners in which they pulled one over on the authorities.

The afternoon was waning by the time we said our goodbyes, and we firmed up the plans to pick Wendy up on Tuesday morning for our trip to Bar Harbor. Then Bill and I headed back to Gray to hop the interstate back down to Portland. We parked, headed up to our room to freshen up, then got dolled up for another evening down in the Old Port. We took the hotel shuttle this time, and were dropped off on Commercial Street right in front of J’s Oyster.

The place was a madhouse. Completely packed. We put our names in and tried to stand out of the way as best we could in the tiny, crowded little place. After about twenty minutes we were seated at the same little table by the door that we sat in every time we’d visited back in ’07. It was a happy coincidence that just served to amp up the warm fuzzy mood we were already in.

We started with the chilled lobster cocktail, which was delicious. Bill ordered the king crab legs. And, you know, I should have take a picture of just how absolutely, joyfully gleeful Bill gets with a plate full of crab legs at J’s. Like a kid at Christmas. Blissfully happy, nearly giggling. Yes, giggling. Bill. Instead, he took pictures of me. And said that Heather owes him.

Me at J's.

Me at J's.

Me at J's.

Me at J's.

See those people sitting behind me? They had to be the most fucking ANNOYING people I’ve ever had to endure. Loud. Repetitive (something about how one of them fell into a lake or something – you’d think I’d remember the details, since they repeated the whole story, at the top of their lungs, seventy times). Drunk. Did I mention loud? Thankfully, they left when we were about half-way through our meal. I also entertained myself by speculating on the story of the older couple sitting near us (whom I was looking at in the first picture up there of me), at the end of the oyster bar. I caught dribs and drabs of conversation – apparently he’s a career man in the Merchant Marines, nearing retirement. They were just so sweet with each other, so obviously in love, that I wanted to walk over and introduce myself just so I could know them. Much to Bill’s relief (I mentioned the urge to him), I didn’t.

I had myself a lobster roll, and shucked the steamed littleneck clams (“steamers”) that came with Bill’s meal. I set them all to soak in the broth, then dunked one in butter and made Bill try it. Which, to my surprise, he did – he doesn’t usually eat something when I try to make him. He LOVED it. Apparently, it was not what he was expecting at all. I advised him not to LOOK at the clams he’s eating, just stick ’em in his mouth and chew. Apparently, I shall be responsible for all future clam shucking and turtleneck removal (“turtleneck” is what we called the membrane on the neck of the clam when we were little, which needs to be removed before eating and is, quite frankly, gross stuff to have stuck under your fingernails).

After we were stuffed, we departed J’s and wandered around in the twilight for a little while, taking pictures.

Custom House Wharf

Custom House Wharf - and, charmingly, there was a bum passed out on the edge of the wharf, off to the right of this picture.

Commercial Street

Commercial Street

Wharf Street in the evening.

Wharf Street in the evening.

Fore Street

Fore Street

Then we made a beeline for Bull Feeney’s (they don’t seem to have a website up at the moment, but here’s their Twitter), a Scottish pub with the largest selection of single malt scotch whisky outside of Scotland. As an aside, did you know that if it’s Scotch it’s spelled “whisky”, and if it’s Irish or American it’s spelled “whiskey”? I looked, on their menu (which I kept a copy of as a keepsake) which features all types (heaviest on the scotch, of course), and they got it right. As I expected they would. Anyway, every time I walk in that place (and I’ve been there a few times!) I want to just move in and never leave. All the old wood, exposed beams, fascinating angles. The quality of light that’s a photographer’s dream. And a downright jolly staff. I asked permission, and spent some solid time wandering around, taking pictures.

The breakfront behind the bar.

The breakfront behind the bar.

The upstairs dining area.

The upstairs dining area.

Lots of murals painted on the walls.

Lots of murals painted on the walls.

We befriended Joe, our bartender, and he encouraged our selection of an Islay single malt scotch – Ardbeg Limited Release, which tasted like sucking on a peat bog, but in a strangely delicious way. I stuck pretty loyally throughout our vacation to the Shipyard Summer Ale, and Bill to the Shipyard Export.

Ardbeg Limited Release

Ardbeg Limited Release, sitting on the scotch menu.

Joe behind the bar, Bill sitting at the bar.

Joe behind the bar, Bill sitting at the bar. This was taken on the landing of the staircase leading up to another bar and dining area.

The… troubador? Minstrel? Dude singing Irish drinking songs in a Scottish pub, kept everyone entertained and singing along. One in particular sticks in my mind, something about a woman who thought she was a queen, and the audience shouts out, “and she was!” Can’t seem to track it down via Google. I’d… uh, had a few.

And she was!

And she was!

Oh, we just had such a wonderful time. I’d go back there right this second, if I could.

This is going to be a completely impossible job. How hard is it to set down in words every moment, every nuance, every memory of ten full days of life? Have you ever tried it? It’s tough. But I feel like I need to make an attempt. Because this was possibly the best visit home I’ve ever had.

So, there’s not much to say about Thursday the 15th. We got up at an inhuman hour (3:30), the shuttle picked us up right on time, the flight left on time, the layover in Ohio was tolerable (as was the beer cheese soup I had at one of the restaurants in the terminal). The flight arrived in Boston on-time (5:15 pm), and we acquired the Enterprise shuttle to the rental lot with relative ease. We scored a Camaro, which at first blush seemed wicked cool, then proved to be annoying and uncomfortable throughout the trip. So! Bill won’t be begging for one of those any time soon.

We took a slightly wrong turn getting out of Boston Logan, but got straightened around easily enough. Not that it mattered much, time-wise, because we were stuck square in the middle of rush hour traffic. Bad timing. All the friggin’ TOLLS we had to pay didn’t improve things, either. The roads finally cleared when we were nearly to New Hampshire. We pulled off briefly for the required stop at the State Line Liquor Store (no sales tax!) and grabbed a bottle of Gentleman Jack (for my uncle). The place is altogether too convenient to the highway.

The bridge over the Piscataqua river crossing from Portsmouth NH over into Maine is always a moment I treasure. One of these days I’m going to take a picture of that bridge, and that “Welcome to Maine” sign. In the meantime, enjoy this one by James Lee on Flickr Creative Commons:

Piscataqua Bridge by James Lee

Piscataqua Bridge by James Lee

We found the Eastland Park Hotel quite easily, since it’s one of the tallest buildings in the Portland skyline, adorned with a big, bright red neon sign proclaiming the name of the hotel. It’s in the uptown Arts District area of the city, away from the Old Port and the waterfront where we stayed the last time we were in town. Only a fifteen minute walk from the Old Port, but through a rough-ish (by Maine standards) area of town that we didn’t want to traverse at night.

Anyway. The hotel was quite nice, and we were situated on the thirteenth floor, with only the roof-top bar, the “Top of the East”, above us.

Eastland Park Hotel Lobby

Eastland Park Hotel Lobby

Our room at the EPH

Our room at the EPH

A blurry night shot of the city from the vantage of our room.

A blurry night shot of the city from the vantage of our room.

We off-loaded our luggage and parked the car in the adjacent parking garage (at a “discounted” rate of $17.10 per day), then sat in the lounge in the hotel lobby. We had dinner (a great salad with steak and FANTASTIC fresh cukes for me, ribeye for Bill) and sipped on beers while I acquired and perused a city map. Then we decided to check out the Top of the East bar, as we’d been given coupons for free drinks for each night of our stay.

The bar offeres a nearly 360 degree view of the entire city – Back Cove to the west, Portland Harbor to the southeast, and Casco Bay to the northeast, plus the entirety of the Commercial District, Arts District, and Old Port. The West End historic residences were immediately to (wait for it) the west, and the hospital I was born in dominates a nearby street. As we sat and looked across Portland Harbor, we could see the Portland Head Light, across the harbor in Cape Elizabeth, winking away every four seconds. Yes, we counted. We watched the Casco Bay Bridge raise and lower a few times as it let marine traffic through.

We could have (and did, on a couple of occasions) sat there for hours, watching the city bustle away.

The Top of the East

The Top of the East

Top of the East

Top of the East

Foggy Portland Harbor

Foggy Portland Harbor, with the Head Light's wink barely visible in center horizon.

The bed in our room was hard as bricks, and the pillows even harder, if that’s possible. That’s pretty much the only complaint we had about the place, though.

Friday the 16th we got up at a decent hour and had breakfast in the hotel lounge (free coupons!). We took a stroll down to the Old Port, just to see how long it would take us to “get there from here”. Fifteen minutes and we were standing in front of J’s Oyster.

Monument Square

Monument Square near One City Center

Monument

Civil War Memorial in Monument Square. "1861 - 1865 More than four thousand men were enrolled from Portland in the Army and Navy for the War of the Rebellion. More than three hundred were killed in battle or died in service. Honor and grateful remembrance to the dead, equal honor to those who, daring to die, survived."

J's Oyster

The hole-in-the-wall that is J's Oyster.

Fore Street

Fore Street - the black specks are seagulls.

We hiked it back up to our hotel, and got the car out of the garage. Armed with the Maine Atlas & Gazetteer, we took my old commute down Washington Street where it turns into Route 100, into Gray and Route 115, which lead us to Yarmouth. Which is when we decided that we would NOT be attending the Yarmouth Clam Festival after all. The town was a zoo, the weather was close to ninety, and both parking AND shade would be a nightmare to find. That decision made, with little disappointment I might add, we eventually made it to the ever-popular Route 1, and headed north up the coast.

Coastal Route

The route of our first day's coastal exploration is in green. Click for a larger map.

We turned down the finger leading to Harpswell, making our leisurely way down to the point. The road was crowded in with trees, trees, and more trees. I just soaked up all the green. Every now and then the trees would thin a little, and we could see glimpses of water on either side of us. Presently the trees cleared out, and we were in the midst of tiny little fishing villages straight out of “Message in a Bottle”, or really any other movie that takes place in coastal Maine. The houses either crowded up right next to the road, or sat far back away, in the middle of a field or right on the water. It was a steely gray day, with the sky just about matching the color of the ocean. As we cruised slowly through the little villages, folks working in their yards would turn to watch us pass – some waved, some of them clearly wondered what a couple of flatlanders (with “Mass-hole” license plates to boot) were doing in their neck of the woods. There was deep pride of ownership demonstrated everywhere – flower beds, freshly painted fences, carefully tended lawns. American flags and those colonial looking windowsill draperies adorned nearly every home. Every little town sported a grange, town hall, Methodist or Episcopalian or Baptist church advertising a chowder or baked bean supper.

Harpswell

Harpswell

We got to the end of the road – literally, for the ocean was right in front of us – and turned around. On the way back Bill stopped the car at the side of the road so I could get the shot you see above. It was a very tiny road, with absolutely no traffic at all. A single car came along as I got out of the car, and I paused to let them pass before I realized they were pausing to let me cross. I grinned at them and waved, and the driver waved back before going on his way.

Small town manners. I miss ’em.

We headed back up the finger, through Cooks Corner, then down again toward Bailey Island. It could have been the exact same road as the one we traversed down Harpswell way, so ubiquitous are those little coastal villages. We crossed over onto Bailey Island (it’s accessed by a very short, rickety bridge – they’re rebuilding the more modern one), headed down to the point to see what we could see, then turned and made a beeline to Cooks Lobster House.

Glory glory glory.

Our visit coincided with a lull in the usual bustling activity of the place, and we got a great booth right up against the windows. I got my first lobster roll of the trip, Bill ordered the baked haddock. And we therein began a tradition – we WILL be going back there every time we visit from now on. I can’t believe I never took Bill down there before. Won’t be making that mistake again!

Cooks

Bill peruses the menu in our booth at Cooks Lobster House.

Inside Cooks

The interior of Cooks Lobster House.

Lobster roll

My lobster roll - sorry, couldn't wait so I took a bite before I took the picture.

Up the finger again, and down the next one towards Phippsburg, and Popham Beach. We arrived just before high tide really hit. The beach was rapidly shrinking and patrons were scrambling to move their belongings away from the encroaching water.

Popham Beach

Popham Beach

At low tide a person can walk all the way out to the island you see in this picture, and collect sand dollars and sea glass. Bill and I took the kids out there back in ’99 when we all stayed with Grandma. Anyway, we spent an amused hour watching their frantic activities, then grabbed the 495 in Brunswick to make a quick trip back to Portland. We crashed for about an hour, then got ourselves together for an evening in the Old Port. We hailed a cab from the hotel for the short ride down to the waterfront, and got dropped off on Commercial Street. We strolled up to Wharf Street and checked out a handful of establishments before settling on dinner at Havana South.

We were seated at a great table on the patio, though we had to endure the hooting and hollering coming from a private party across the way at 51 Wharf. Bill ordered the ribeye, I ordered the scallops, and we amused ourselves snapping photos as we waited.

Wharf St

Wharf Street as viewed from our table at Havana South.

Bill at Havana South

Bill, perusing the menu.

Me at Havana South

Me, perusing Bill.

Bill, I’m sorry to say, did not enjoy his steak. The chef paired it with some strange sort of chocolate sauce, of all things, and rather unappetizing greens. I felt bad, since my scallops were excellent. Still, we had a great time people watching and enjoying the fresh night air. After finishing dinner, we headed up to Fore Street and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar at Gritty’s. I stepped outside for a few minutes to call my cousin Laurel and make plans for Sunday. Then I made myself comfortable at the bar, where Bill and I had a couple of beers, a ton of laughs, and departed at around midnight in an excellent frame of mind. We grabbed a cab back to the hotel, went up to the Top for a final cocktail, and went back to our room to crash… and whatnot.

Old Port

The Old Port at night.

Wharf Street at night

Wharf Street at night

Gritty McDuff's

Gritty McDuff's

Oof. I’ve spent hours on this entry. Clearly, this recapping business is going to take some time.

I can finally say we’ll be in Maine “next week”. We’re close enough now that I can start seeing the extended forecast for the days we’ll be there – as of right this second, the day of our arrival should be sunny and 80 degrees. Of course, that also means I’m a bit over halfway through my Sabbatical, but that’s okay. I have a good feeling about life. We’re going to experience a positive change in the near future, one that will make us very happy about the direction our life is going in. I know this to be true.

You’ve gotta be upbeat about these things, you know? I’ve suspended my goal-tending for the duration of this vacation, but I’m a goal-oriented girl at heart, and I enjoy forward progress. So it will actually be good, in a way, to get back to the grind. Buckle down on the debt. Figure out how I’m going to finish my degree. Manage my fitness goals. Take the next step in my career. I have thoughts and vague notions about the achievement all of these subjects, but I have told myself not to worry about any of them until August. So that’s what I’m going to do.

My goal for the next month is not to make goals.

I applied for a new writing gig, and was accepted. It’s for the folks that manage the articles for such sites as eHow and AnswerBag (and thanks very much to Sherry for pointing me in their direction!). It’s a much more structured format than I’m used to, and much more heavily managed by editors. It’s good experience for me. Our articles are even graded, after a fashion, with a rating system. I’m delighted to be able to continue to pad my writing resume – eventually, some day, I hope to become a full-time writer, and these types of writing gigs that I’ve collected can follow me wherever I happen to live. Which jives quite nicely with our wish to move back to Maine.

Oops, there I go, goal-tending again. See? I can barely help myself.

I have my follow-up appointment with the OB-GYN this morning, to make sure everything is kosher after the Essure procedure. I feel mostly back to normal, perhaps less energy than usual but I can just as easily chalk that up to Aunt Flo, who stopped by a few days ago for her usual visit. I can also chalk it up to my deplorable eating over the past several days – I keep saying I’m going to give up bread, then keep eating sandwiches and hot dogs and hamburgers. Oh, it is to laugh. I’ve been gently getting myself back into the exercise routine – I hope by the end of this week to be back up to the pre-procedure levels of cardio and weight training.

I have a little over a week to finish and pre-schedule all of my writing obligations to take me through to the other side of our Maine vacation – nine more total as of this morning, which would have been less had I not slacked off completely yesterday. And this it the part where I shamefully confess something to you all.

See, up until this point I have snobbishly refused to read Nora Roberts, because she’s so prolific and supermarket check-out-ish that I figured she would hardly meet my (vague) standards for authorship. Laws, how I was wrong. I loved her Irish Trilogy so much that I personally rated the first two a coveted score of 10/10, and the last one a 9/10 (just because it didn’t hold my attention to quite the same degree). I loved ’em. So that’s what I was doing instead of writing. Fortunately I got a bunch done on Saturday and Sunday, otherwise that nine article obligation would have been closer to fifteen.

I think I mentioned on Twitter or something that following our anniversary dinner at The Keg last week, Bill ordered a glass of port to enjoy in lieu of dessert. It was absolutely fantastically delicious, and after we got home we got to thinking that we needed to buy us a bottle of our own. So I called the restaurant to find out the name – Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port. I got my butt down to BevMo and secured a bottle. We have been enjoying a wee dram every now and then with a bit of raspberry-infused dark chocolate, or these frozen chocolate lava cakes that I discovered at the grocery store, microwaved per instructions, sampled, and deemed OH MY FREAKING GOD GOOD.

And, of course, as you saw a few days ago, I had to take pictures of the bottle. Because it’s cool.

It’s a measure of how well Bill accepts the inevitable that he didn’t even blink when I started hauling out my little mini photo studio getup. It’s what I do, people, and he knows better than anyone else that I take pictures of, and write about, just about everything. Case in point (the bastid).

So! Yeah. I’m kicking off the start of one busy-ass week by procrastinating. You expect nothing less and nothing more of me, my beloved readers. And that’s why I love you.

I got up at 6:45 this morning. Not sure what the hell is wrong with me.

I submitted an application for a new writing gig, and just as I hit “submit” I realized that I was one digit off on my area code (though it’s correct on the resume that I attached). SIGH. That’s what I get for trying to be productive before 8:00 in the morning. Hopefully it won’t make a difference – I get the impression that they communicate primarily via e-mail, and that I got right.

I got a ball head (this one) for the new monopod (this one) that I bought, and I can’t understand how I lived without one before. I’m going to need to get either a ball head to go with my tripod, or a new tripod that jives with the ball head. Also, typing “ball head” so much makes me feel a little dirty.

Two weeks from today we’ll be in Maine. Contrary to my usual habit of starting lists months in advance, I only started making a travel list yesterday. We’re going to try to pack light and do laundry a couple of times while we’re there. Yeah, whatever. We always have the “pack light” goal, and the last time we flew we nearly had to cough up an extra $50 for going over on the weight allotment.

Once I passed the age of ten, I fell out of love with fireworks. Now, I did go see fireworks last year while I was visiting with Heather – that was, of course, much more about being with Heather and having a good time, than seeing fireworks. The time before that was back in 2003, when Amanda and her friend and I were visiting my sister and her family in Maine. We went to the annual fireworks show on the Eastern Promenade the night that we arrived. I went because my sister and her family were going, we were in Maine, the girls were excited about it, and we were in Maine. Hmm. Now I’m wondering if I really fell out of love with fireworks because it’s such an exercise in torture to see ’em in Arizona (too fucking hot, even at night).

I am currently participating in Women to Women’s Personalized Program for hormonal imbalance. Since I went off the pill, I felt like my body needed a reset. I’m a couple weeks into the three-month program, which involves taking these essential nutrients, along with this herbal equilibrium supplement, on a daily basis. Since Women to Women was my gyno when I lived back in Maine, I really trust them. I will, of course, let you all know if any of this made a difference once the three months are up.

Speaking of supplements, Gadget and Gypsy are wicked old and creaky. Gadget has his bad back and his seizures, Gypsy her bad hips and her reverse sneeze, plus Gypsy is pretty much stone blind and deaf now. Then Gypsy started getting fatty tumors – one over her eye, one on her nose, one on her belly. I was looking around for a nutritional supplement that would address a multitude of ailments, and came across NuVet Plus. After half a bottle, I started seeing a noticeable difference in Gypsy’s fatty tumors, and neither dog seemed quite as gimpy. I’m now just starting their second bottle, and the tumors on Gypsy’s eye and nose are gone. Gadget hasn’t had a seizure (at least not that I’ve seen) in a long time, and I only had to dose him with aspirin once in the past two months for his pain. Of course, no supplement is going to help Gypsy’s vision and hearing, but we just yell louder and gesticulate more dramatically to get her attention. Poor dumb dog. So. Yeah. I recommend the stuff. They make it for cats, too!

Today’s plans involve something along the lines of laundry, grocery shopping, sun-bathing, and a light weights workout to ease myself back into my fitness routine. It’s been a week since the Essure procedure and I feel pretty much back to normal. Well, as normal as it gets for me, anyway. We have no plans at all for the long Independence Day weekend, other than perhaps grilling up some burgers and dogs on Sunday, and maybe catching a movie.

What plans have you guys made for the weekend?

My vacation planning and reservations-making for our Maine vacation is officially done. I will pay more for the car rental than I really wanted (luxury! we’re going to be in the car a lot, after all, and driving a fun car is part of the vacation experience for us), but on all of the other stuff I feel like I got a pretty good deal.

Stalkers take note (and Bill, since this info is primarily for him). Thieves, belay that since we’ll be having a more than capable house sitter at the time. He can kill you with his thumbs! And then Gypsy will eat you.

Arriving in Boston on 7/15, driving to Portland and staying at the Eastland Park Hotel. From the 16th to the 20th we will find plenty of stuff to do (Portland Head Light, J’s Oysters, the Yarmouth Clam Festival, maybe a drive down to Kennebunkport, perhaps a Windjammer Cruise), Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are only a couple of hours away…).

We will then pick up my sister on the morning of July 20th (my berfday!) and drive up to Bar Harbor (staying at the Holiday Inn Regency Sunspree Inn and Resort). Perhaps on the way we will have lunch in Boothbay Harbor or Camden, or make side-trips to Fort Popham or Fort Knox – my sister has seen neither and she’s lived in Maine all of her life! I encouraged her to be a tourist in her own state, but her response was, “Yeah, and who has that kind of time?” Anyway, the three of us will fart around up there for a couple of days, then drive back to New Gloucester (dropping my sister back off on the way) on the 22nd and stay with my Uncle (at my Grandmother’s house where I grew up) until the morning of the 24th, when we will drive back to Boston and fly home.

At which point I will cry. But at least the flight home is direct, so there will be no chance of us getting stuck in Philadelphia again.

The final FINAL thing I have to do to finish ALL of our summer travel reservations is book airfare and a rental car for that little motorcycle race thing in August. I hate having stuff like this hanging over my head, have you noticed? I mean, August is FIVE months away, yet I have this nagging at the back of my mind to get it all done. Which will probably happen in the next week or to. I am an obsessive vacation planner, have you noticed?

Anyway. I’m totally stoked. Over all of it.

Pimpin’. Cuz it’s mah blog.

Posted: September 16, 2009 in Maine, Pimp, UpTake
Tags: , , ,

I just submitted an UpTake entry that I’m particularly proud of:

I Left My Heart in Portland, Maine

Stumble, Twitter, Reddit, Digg, etc., if you would be so kind. UpTake’s got a contest going on and I’d love to win it – a gift card to whichever contributor gets the most hits on a single entry, from now until September 30th.

Thanks, guys!

Also…

Posted: May 6, 2009 in Maine
Tags: ,

I’m so proud!