Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye Maine

7/31/12 OK, as July ends, it is time for a long-overdue update. We have been traveling the last few days, and in these areas, that means the internet access is iffy. Then, we get to a place to stop for the night where we have good internet access, and we watch the Olympics instead! We are on highway 20, through New York, having left Maine early because we want to hook up with one of Elaine’s old friends in Michigan. Her name is also Elaine. She is having another round of chemo starting soon and her husband, George, has to have a heart valve replacement, so we are kind of hurrying to meet up with them while they are still able to see us and camp with us for a few days. This plan change was too bad, because we were on track to have a visit with Bob & Nancy Colbert at Cape Cod, and we had to change it. Hopefully, we can see them on another trip, because we know we will be back! We also want to see some things along the way as we head for Elaine’s family farm in northern IL. Plus Elaine is trying to adopt the 230 rule: she either drives until 2:30PM or 230 miles, whichever comes first. Too much driving and/or sitting either in the RV or car, is starting to get to our backs. Slowing down is just another concession to getting older, darn it! Maine was a delight, partly because it offered cooler weather, cheap lobster, interesting coves and coastlines, but mostly because we had fun social interactions with Boomer friends. Last posting we mentioned that a Boomer couple we had met at Quartzsite, in January, and briefly walked with there, Gloria & Charlie Goss, ¬ended up being parked next to us in the Portland Elks parking lot. That is a very nice place to stay because they have 5 hookups for RV’s (30 amps) on the edge of their parking lot, and it is in a nice, quiet part of town. There are lots of things to see and do in that area. One day Elaine and I drove up to Yarmouth to the Clam Festival.
It is a yearly event and very well attended (it was also free), so it was good that Delorme had allowed the use of their company parking lot and they ran shuttle buses to and from the main part of town. It was a very nice day for it, and we enjoyed looking at some of the booths of arts and crafts, sampling goodies for sale, and watching a zydeco band perform in the big tent.
We had missed the clam shucking contest, but they were having challenges between the volunteer fire brigades in various events unique to fire fighting. There was a very large area where they had food stalls, selling mostly greasy looking fried food, especially clams, and also expensive lobster rolls.
There was nowhere to sit because it was so crowded. We must have missed the best eating area because later Charlie and Gloria told us that they had found a great place and had enjoyed their first steamed lobster since arriving in Maine and it only cost $8. There were lots of stalls with things for sale, but we resisted and after admiring all the innovative things, we left.
The next day we managed to get up early and drive down to the ferry wharf in the Old Port area to catch the ferry to Peaks Island, which is one of the many islands in Casco Bay. Charlie and Gloria drove, and by doing this on Sunday, there was free parking at all the meters in town, which saved us quite a bit since they charge $3/hour at the ferry terminal parking. Plus we are all “Seniors” so it cost us $7.70 per couple for round trip tickets to the island. Here we are on the ferry:
As we went across the bay, we could see some of the landmarks, such as this lighthouse:
Depending on who you believe, the lighthouse museum people or the Maine Guide, there are either 65 or 70 lighthouses in Maine. This is because the coastline in Maine is so convoluted, with hundreds of fingerlike projections, giving this state almost 5000 miles of coastline! Also, there are about 2000 islands! So, despite all these lighthouses, there were lots of shipwrecks in days past. We also saw that some of the other islands were full of large houses enjoying the seafront views,
, just as on Peaks Island. The reason we went to this particular island is because the tourist info gal said there was a nice walk circumnavigating Peaks Island. So we got off the ferry and started looking for the walking trail, but the walk is actually on a seafront street. In the vicinity of the ferry ramp there were nice restaurants, a few stores, and some vendors. But it was a small area and almost immediately we were walking on streets with rather huge houses:
Many of them enjoy spectacular sea views. We have noticed that all over New England there are HUGE houses! Most of them are from bygone days when families were bigger, and several generations of family shared a home. There are also many homes in Maine, especially in the interior, where the houses are big, and have a large side building which connects them to a large barn. This is so they don’t have to go outside in the winter to get to the barn, I guess. There are also many houses that look like this:
The railing on the top flat part of the roof is called a “Widow’s Walk” because these houses usually belonged to sea captains, and were built overlooking the sea, so the wife, who had been left behind would walk up there and look for the return of her husband’s ship. Many times the ship never returned and she became a widow. The walk around the island was about 4 miles, and we had lovely views almost the entire time:
Having Gloria and Charlie along meant that they could take pictures of us too:
And the day was sunny with a perfect temperature. Eventually we found a lovely place to have a picnic overlooking the water:
The local people were very friendly and we learned a lot about the island in our conversations with them. There are many rental houses on this island, and one guy says he gets $1300 a week, plus his place is booked solid a lot of the year. Yes, real estate is expensive there, and property taxes are very high, especially for waterfront property. There were lots of for sale signs, as well. As we returned on the afternoon ferry, we were glad we had arrived early because the ferries going over were packed. And we learned that it costs $82.50 to take a car over to the island!!! When we got back, we went to Trader Joe’s for wine, then stopped at a gas station where local lobstermen were selling their catch. We grilled lobsters
and Charlie and Gloria got their fill of lobster after a lesson from Elaine on how to kill and clean them, as well as eat them. She is an expert on getting every morsel. You can see from this picture that they were enjoying the meal:
Monday we drove inland to Monmouth to the property of Paul & Judy Johnson, where Herb & Anke Staffenski were already parked on the lawn. Both of these couples were our neighbors at Boomerville in Quartzsite in January. Paul and Judy have a small house there on 3 acres. Here are our rigs parked there:
Judy had prepared a nice meal for us all and we had a campfire afterwards:
In the 3 days we were there, we enjoyed many happy hours and joint meals as well as being shown around the local area by Paul & Judy. Here is Herb holding his new dog, Tessie:
Judy’s daughter, Jenny, joined us for dinner the second night:
Here is Elaine with Jenny’s 2 daughters, Alia & Aya:
When Paul & Judy showed us around Monmouth, the first stop was the spectacular town theater and library called Cumston Hall.
They have quality theater productions regularly in this venue which was donated in the early 1900’s by a grateful town resident who made good. At the time, it cost $20K to build – now just repairs cost more than that! Paul & Judy also took us on a hike through the property next door which Paul used to own and on which he built a nice house 25 years ago. He owned 65 acres there and kept 3 when he sold it, which is where their new house is built. Here is the creek area:
and here is where Paul & Judy were married 6 years ago:
They both had lost their spouses to cancer and met in a bereavement group. Ethan, the guy who bought their house and property, has a large garden and built a small produce stand which sits alongside the road:
He puts produce from his garden there,
with a sign telling the prices, bags to be filled up, and a locking mailbox for people to deposit the money. We were regular customers at his stand! This is a common thing to do throughout Maine and we would have stopped to buy more produce as we drove places, but there was nowhere to park an RV! Our last day there Anke drove us over to the coast, where we saw lovely coves, such as this:
We walked down a short trail to the Giant’s Staircase:
And drove to another lovely cove where we had a seafood lunch overlooking the water:
Nearby there was a place selling local lobsters,
and here is the price sheet:
We bought 11 of these beauties and put them in a cooler for the drive home:
Paul & Judy couldn’t find their large cooking pot, so we all steamed a few in smaller pots. Here is Paul with his:
Then the feast began!
The cheaper lobsters are the smaller ones that have softer shells, called “chicken lobsters” or “soft shells”. They are usually a pound to a pound and ¼. The price goes up as they get bigger and the shells are harder. We got 11 lobsters for $54 and many of them had pretty hard shells and were full of good meat. Yummy! The next day we got Jenny to take a picture of the 6 of us before Herb & Anke, Elaine and I left and drove over to the Rockland Elks.
They camped near us for several days at the Elks Lodge and Anke went for a walk with us along the Rockland Breakwater, which is a mile long and has a lighthouse at the end of it.
In this picture of us on the breakwater,
you can see that the big rocks are pretty flat, but it still required vigilance to walk out and back because it was slightly uneven and there were small gaps between the big rocks, so it would be easy to sprain or break an ankle. Our last excursion in the Rockland area was to the scenic little seaport town of Camden.
Many of the old buildings have been restored and are shops catering to tourists now. Also, they have developed the harbor area
and there are lots of nice restaurants and outdoor porch areas overlooking the water for eating and drinking. It was another lovely day when we were there, and we enjoyed walking around. We had a last lobster buying drive with Herb & Anke, and they showed us their favorite campground overlooking the water. Then they left to go meet up with other friends and share their newly cooked lobsters, before returning to their son’s place near Auburn, ME.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Traveling West

Have been trying to get a blog post done for 3 days now but have been sidetracked because of watching the Olympics! GO USA!!!! Will try to get this done tomorrow (July 31).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Portland, Maine

7/19/12 Hello from Portland, Maine. Yes, today it is cooler here – in the high 70’s, with that prediction until next Monday too. And, as planned, the very day we got here, we went right down to the fish store on the waterfront and bought 4 lobsters. It was too humid to boil or steam them in our RV, so we went on the internet and got some advice on how to grill them. Elaine watched the video on it and then killed them, and I grilled them and they were delicious.
Yesterday we exercised, walked the Maine Mall, then had an oil change for the RV. Herb & Anke Staffenski, Boomer friends who parked near us in Quartzsite last January, arrived at about 3PM and then we had delightful Happy Hour with them,
and Anke fixed us a delicious dinner.
They have a new little doggie now, named Tessie, so we all went out for a walk after dinner. Today they left, but we will be seeing them again Monday, when we all get together again at Paul & Judy Johnson’s in Monmouth. The last time we posted, we were with George and Diana Ruelens in Harrisburg, PA. It was a great visit in which we did lots of visiting and shopping and no sightseeing, other than walking around the local riverfront park for exercise. As usual, we had some delicious and healthful meals with them too.
George graciously pumped out our tanks, helped us fill with water, and fixed the burned out ends on our electrical cords. They have been Boomer friends of ours for years and we were delighted that they contacted us (after reading on our blog that we were in the East) and invited us to visit. Then we drove north again, heading for Larry & Joyce Space’s cabin on Lake Hortonia, Vermont. We have been friends with Larry & Joyce for a long time as well, and spent many months in 2004 traveling down to the Panama Canal with them (and several other rigs). But we had never seen their cabin/home even though it has been in Larry’s family since 1926.
When we first arrived, their daughter, Tanya, and her son Zach (4), and daughter, Willow (6), were there, so we got this great picture of them all:
And we had a couple of nice meals outside at the picnic table:
Their cabin is right on the lake, so we had to park our rig down the road in a field next to an abandoned dance hall. It was good exercise to walk down to their place. Larry has spent a lot of time rebuilding the inside, adding a large living room and some bedrooms where the old porch used to be, raising the whole cabin 3 feet, etc. and he has done a beautiful job. Here is a picture of Elaine in the living room:
The day we arrived and the next day were very hot. Luckily their lot is fairly heavily wooded and is cool and shady. We spent some time in our bathing suits down by the water, and Elaine went into the water
where lots of little fish started nibbling on her legs! Later, Joyce took us for a ride around the lake in their small aluminum boat. Here is a picture of their cabin from the water:
There are cabins, and even large homes, built all around the lake, and on some of the small islands in the lake, there are also some cabins:
Larry & Joyce were in the Peace Corps in Ghana in the 1960’s and previously they had made a nut stew for us, which we really liked. So Elaine asked them to fix it again. All of us drove over to Brandon, the nearest larger town, to shop for the ingredients. On the way, we stopped at one of the covered bridges in the area:
It is quite a scenic town with lots of history, and now with art galleries, antique and ice cream shops, wine tasting places, etc. There were a lot of faceboard type things all over town with chicken themes, so Joyce was a good sport and put her face in the holes and we took pictures:
Down the block was a typical-looking New England church:
The oldest building in town probably is the Brandon Inn from 1786. It has been in continuous use since then!
The inside has been renovated but still maintains the same theme as when it was built:
One of the well-known local artists is Warren Kimble, so we visited his studio/shop and he was in there working. This work of his is in the front:
He was very personable and had an extended conversation with Larry & Joyce, who know him. His works go for $12K and up!!! Other interesting artistic works were scattered all over town:
There is a local winery outside of town in a fairly remote location, so they had a tasting room in town. Here we are enjoying some of the tastes:
We bought a couple of nice whites. Then we took this picture of Larry and Joyce by the waterfall, which is on the river running right through the town.
Just next to this spot was this building, showing some of the damage from the huge deluge of water which went through this town when Hurricane Irene zipped through this area last year.
As we drove through Vermont on our way to New Hampshire, anytime we were near a river, we saw many buildings that were severely damaged from that event. Somehow we never think of hurricane damage this far north! Once we got back to the cabin, we had a very nice nut stew dinner in Larry & Joyce’s dining area:
You can see how light and airy the new addition Larry added to the cabin, where the old porch used to be. The nut stew dinner was delicious, unusual, and we recommend that you ask Larry and Joyce to fix it for you if you are camping together with them. They are wonderful hosts. Here is a picture of the 4 of us, which Tanya took before she left:
The day we left their place, we stopped in Woodstock, VT, in the Green Mountains, where there is an unusual National Historic Park called the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Farm. We were totally unaware that by the mid-1840’s, Vermont, and probably most of New England, had been pretty much devastated by too much logging, irresponsible land use, and over grazing by sheep, which was one of the main economic endeavors. George Marsh, whose family built this beautiful home
in the early 1800’s, was one of the first to study and write about land rejuvenation and preservation, and the effects that man’s destructive actions were having on the entire natural world. His work was continued, and his home bought in 1869, by Frederick Billings. He was a Vermont native who had made his fortune in San Francisco, during the Gold Rush, and also later, in the railroads. Billings, MT was named after him. He returned to VT, bought this home and built a farm that would be a model of wise stewardship. He developed one of the first programs for scientific forest management, as well as building the finest dairy herds in the country. After his death, his wife and daughters continued his work. Then, in 1934, his granddaughter, Mary French, married Laurance Rockefeller. The Rockefeller family also had a fierce commitment to conservation, and had created or enhanced over 20 national parks. Together, Mary & Laurance continued to work for conservation under the next 5 presidents, and upon their deaths, the estate was given to the National Park Service. It is an interesting place to visit, because there are miles of hiking trails in the forests around the estate, and the formal gardens are a treat as well. There is a separate farm tour. The excellent movie and exhibits at the National site helped us realize that the beautifully wooded hills and valleys we had been traveling through in the East, and especially in Vermont, would not exist today without people like these, creating new ways of thinking and showing everyone else how to rebuild the forests and use their farms in a new way to conserve the soil and ecosystem. We then went to the Quechee Gorge, which is a deep river gorge, 163 feet below the bridge, crossing the Ottauquechee River on route 4.
There are hiking trails along the riverbanks which are shaded. There are also several touristic shopping areas nearby. We parked behind the Charlotte Winery, which is a huge lot and probably RVers could stay here if they asked first. We went in to the shop and tasted some of the wines, buying a couple and having a nice chat with the lady who ran the place.
Then we proceeded ¼ mile down the road and stopped at another strip mall place where there was a Cabot Village store. Cabot is a big cheese producer and in this store it was possible to sample quite a few of the products. All were delicious, but we ended up buying a cheddar cheese flavored like buffalo wings – spicy and delicious!
In the same strip mall, was a spirits place where we could sample specialty vodkas, one of which was made using Vermont maple syrup.
It was definitely better than the plain vodka, but still not something for which we would pay $44 per bottle. After all these adventures, we made it here to the Elks Lodge in Portland, Maine. Parked right next to us is another Boomer couple – Charlie & Gloria Goss. We met them last January in Quartzsite. They have been joining us periodically for Happy Hours,
and exploring various nearby towns on their motorcycle. Tomorrow they might join us for the Yarmouth Clam Festival, and Sunday we all will take the ferry over to Peaks Island in Casco Bay, where we will have a picnic and a hike. Today Kathe Kirkbride, a friend from our Panama trip in 2004, and her new partner, Deborah, picked us up and we all went out for lunch together in the Two Lights part of Portland. We had lunch at the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth.
There are picnic tables outside overlooking the area where the ocean surf pounds these rocks.
There was a garden area where they had 2 “rock-ing chairs” (made out of rocks) and here is a picture of Kathe and Deborah sitting in them.
One of the 2 lighthouse in the area is nearby:
There was a small painted lighthouse nearby,
and later, when we were walking around the Old Port area of Portland, there was another one down by the wharves.
There were many touristic shops down there, and also this appropriate mural on one of the buildings:
We had a great time walking all over the old downtown with Kathe and Deborah, and we didn’t even stop to buy any lobster!