Sunday, October 30, 2011

North Carolina's coastline

Oct. 23-29, New Bern and Emerald Isle, North Carolina

Studying the map of North Carolina’s coastline left us unsure of where to head next.  I had romantic notions (what’s new?) about going to the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk, but after seeing what a narrow strip this area is coupled with the weather forecast of high winds and possible thunderstorms, we decided to follow the H on the weather map which landed us in the Southern Outer Banks region which included the historic towns of New Bern and Beaufort, and the Emerald Isles. 

The KOA at New Bern was our first stop in this region.  We were majorly unimpressed with the KOA but held high hopes about visiting historic New Bern.  It did not disappoint.  We had a fantastic two hour walk around the town and waterfront which was nothing short of charming.  The town was filled with notable landmarks which included the homes of famous people dating back to the 1700s and references to the notorious ghosts who haunt the streets.  Another highlight were the artistic depictions of the many bear statues that anchored almost every block as mascots of New Bern (somehow related to Bears).

We learned that Pepsi was created in New Bern, N.C.

One night at the New Bern KOA proved enough and we were off to the Emerald Isles, not knowing what to expect.  We chose to stay at a place we heard was expensive but worth it—Holiday Travel Park.  The website showed sites right on the ocean but I have learned to be skeptical of such claims.  The first good sign, from my point of view, was the simple elegance of the office where we checked in (always my job as Vic stays in the coach with the perros). The office woman showed me the site map and I chose ocean view over ocean front as she explained that in the ocean front places you could only hear the ocean because there was a sand dune separating the ocean view sites from the actual shore.  I also have some trepidation about ending up in a site which would be crammed up against another one with no privacy.  None of these concerns proved legitimate as this campground was well laid out and the area we chose afforded us a perfect view of a beautiful sandy beach that was a popular spot for surf fishing and shell collecting. Score!  The only downside from my perspective was that campfires had to be self-contained and elevated off the ground—translate: you need to have your own outdoor fire pit (which we do not have—yet.) 
This whole trip I have been dreaming of finding a campsite right on an actual (walkable) beach and this place exceeded my expectations.  The best part was how noncommercial this area is—much like the Oregon coast near Newport or Florence.  We were able to take the dogs on the beach and even let them go off leash as there were several spots where no one was around.  The other surprise for me was the popularity of surf fishing on these beaches: you could even drive your Jeep onto the beach with all your fishing gear and set up three of four rods into the surf.  I also saw something new in the little carts on wheels everyone seemed to have for their rods, coolers, fishing gear, etc.  Some were even attached to the front bumpers of their vehicles for easy transport.  I really wanted to get a short term fishing license.  There was even a pier within walking distance where I would not need a license and could rent a rod, reel, rigging and bait for 24 hours.  I did not take advantage of this, but a seed was planted for our longer stay in Florida.
Park entryway to beach (about two minute walk from our site)
The beach by our campground was deserted enough to let
the dogs go off leash for a little treat.

Our beach was a popular spot for surf fishing.

This fishing pier, only a short walk from our campground
Aside from amazing walks on the beach, we were about to experience a real first at this campground as they were holding a Halloween Bash weekend that was nearly sold out  and we were going to be a part of it.   We had no idea what we were about to experience.  I reviewed the literature advertising the event and decided we needed to find a Dollar Store to find some cheap decorations.  The main event seemed to be the contests for best Halloween decorations at overnight sites and another category for long term sites. We also needed to be prepared for up to a hundred trick or treaters.  We ended up finding a Target Superstore that had mega-size bags of “fun size” candy bars for the trick or treaters and cheap decorations for the motorhome. I ended up stringing orange lights with a five-foot blow-up bat in the windshield area inside and stringing glow-in-the-dark skeletons and LED ghosts around the outside of the motor home.  Well, this proved to be humble compared to what showed up.  Campers came with trucks full of Halloween decorations that were astounding.   One woman a few motorhomes away spent three or four hours setting up a display for which she had six pages of instructions from the internet--complete with an actual boiling cauldron with smoke, a lifesize Count Dracula and witch with a whole bar of special potions, and sound effects carried by a wireless  speaker system.   Highly entertaining.  The park also had an impressive amount of elaborate decorations which included animated figures and frightening sound effects.  They also put together a haunted house that scared me so much I had to ask the people in front of me to stay with me through the various rooms.  Something about the sound of a chainsaw and gory scenes of amputees that sets my imagination off in the wrong direction. . . .

Rico was frightened by this talking and moving skeleton.
Eyeballs fresh off the grill anyone?

I wathched the set-up for this witch's
brew table which took several hours.
This whole family dressed as the Flintstones, complete with the car.

This pumpkin won first place--no surprise to me!
A mellower Halloween Madness highlight:  I woke up on Saturday morning with a start, thinking there was something I needed to do.  Vic was surprised as I threw on my clothes and asked for the key to the Jeep.  Before I was even totally awake, I found myself driving to the local Food Lion to buy ingredients for my mother’s favorite fall pie.  The campground was having a pie contest and I found myself inspired to make my mother’s recipe for Upside Down Caramel Pecan Apple Pie—a recipe I had never tried before.  I hurried back to the motorhome and lit the propane oven as I had only two hours before the pie had to be submitted to the judging panel.  It was fun to suddenly have a task I had to complete on a short timeline after drifting through the days with no real commitments to fulfill.  My biggest concern was baking in the propane oven as I had not yet done this, but all went well. I took out the finished pie from the oven about twenty minutes before the deadline and set it down outside on a picnic table in an outdoor temperature of about 55 degree, hoping it would have time to cool sufficiently before the taste test.  I also had to accomplish the feat of flipping the whole pie upside down onto a platter and hoping it all came out in one piece.  I did this outside by myself and at first it didn’t seem to budge causing me to think the caramel was burnt to the bottom of the pan.  I just held the inverted pan and rubbed it gently like a genie lamp and voila—the whole pie gently slid onto the platter. I lifted the pie pan to look at it and felt dazzled by the result.  It was flawless looking with the caramel a perfect golden glaze over whole pecans arranged in a perfect circular pattern.  Regardless of any contest, the creation of this pie was evidence of my mother’s spirit living within me.   I felt grateful for the inspiration to participate in this event. And, just to top it off, I won the contest and the judges only ate half the pie.  Vic was so glad all was not lost to the contest. . . .

Collecting seashells:  I get a little obsessive about looking for the perfect seashell while walking on a beach that holds promise.  I have always loved collecting shells, interesting pieces of wood, or rocks from various places that I have traveled.  I was surprised that the Atlantic beaches here had so many shells.  I have always been searching for the elusive whole conch shell like you would find in the tourist shops—the ones you can hear the ocean in and use as a bugle like the boys in Lord of the Flies.  I managed to fill my pockets several times over on each ocean jaunt and then was faced with Vic’s question of what I intended to do with all these shells (in a motorhome that has limited storage).  He agreed to humor me by storing my collection in one of the storage bays until I decide their future.  It has been a bit of a challenge for me to live in a space that is so generic (but lovely).  My need to hang pictures, display photos, arrange fresh flowers in vases has gone dormant for the most part but is stirring to be expressed in other artistic callings (shell mobiles?)

The weather in the Emerald Isles has been unseasonably cold (as you can see from how bundled up Vic is in the beach photos)—especially at night with temperatures in the 30s.  This front was part of a major Nor’easter that dumped several inches of snow in New England which resulted in canceling Halloween in some communities because of the downed power lines and icy road conditions.  Time to head south!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Visiting basketball country

Oct. 18-22, Raleigh, North Carolina

We found a state park in Durham (Falls Lake) situated midway between Raleigh and Chapel Hill. They even gave us the resident senior discount of 25% reducing our nightly cost at the park to $21.  The park was huge with several different areas for tent camping or RV use.  There were very few other campers around, making it feel quite isolated.  There was a large lake and dock for fishing (another time I wished I had a fishing gear) and the dogs were able to run in the open as there was no one to complain.

Our first day we toured around the Duke campus with the specific goal of finding the Hall of Fame.  There was a coaching camp going on in the stadium, but we were able to go in and experience the intimate size of this famous court. Vic really seemed to enjoy conjuring up his memories of championship games played here and the many famous players whose legacies began here.

Hair color challenge!  Vic said he had never seen me with such gray hair before—a strong hint that I needed professional help. (I am just not yet ready to let it go; in fact, my leanings are toward the opposite--maybe go cherry! Although I would love to save money in coloring my hair myself, the idea of doing this in such small quarters seems less than desirable.  I used my internet skills and found a salon in Raleigh that had outstanding reviews.  My colorist, Maximo, was quite a colorful guy (pun intended) and the results were fantastic.  He was able to just look at my multi-colored hair of blonde, auburn, and walnut and create his own blend to complement this mix of colors.  He also put a toner on the blonde which has become quite bleached out to make it less startling.  Maximo was a find!

Visiting Chapel Hill—another college basketball legacy.  Vic was happy to visit the Dean Smith center.  We also enjoyed seeing a display of athletes earning letters which included Michael Jordan and several others who Vic remembered as players who later become NBA legends.  The display was sponsored by endowments from Vince Carter, another well-known alumnus of U of NC.

Chapel Hills is another town I had fond memories of from a visit in 1977 to hang out with a college friend, Chip Enslin.  I have no idea what became of him, but he also carried the title Enslin III so I am imagining him as a liberal lawyer somewhere on the East Coast.  I remember liking the university atmosphere then and still found myself enchanted by the mixture of hip atmosphere and southern charm. 

Chapel Hill highlight for me: discovering the legendary Crooks Corner restaurant: a James Beard winner for authentic Southern fare.  We drove past it twice as it looks like a remodeled gas station covered in southern vegetation.  I had heard about shrimp and grits a few years ago, and this was the time to try it as it is the most well-known entrée on the menu.  It was amazing—local shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, garlic, and cheesy grits—how can you mess up?  Vic went for the Carolina barbecue which was also amazing except he discovered he has no palate for collard greens.
Crooks Corner signpost
Another important sidelight: I realized we were going to be in the Triangle cities (Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh) over a weekend and that sent me to the internet to locate our previous minister from Unity Church of Corvallis who had returned to North Carolina. I found him in Raleigh as minister of his Unity Church of the Triangle in Raleigh and convinced Vic that we should go to a Sunday service at his church. I even made sure he was giving the sermon and not some guest minister—I was excited to experience church for the first time in ten years!  Attending the church did not disappoint:  Unity Church of the Triangle, Neusom Holmes’ church, was an architecturally stunning church in the heart of Raleigh. It was exhilarating to walk in and hear phenomenal music (especially the lead guitarist) creating such joyful music—you couldn’t help but feel open and uplifted.  Having attended Unity churches for many years, it was also comforting to know the rituals and even some of the songs.  Not only was Neusom a special person in my own spiritual path, he was the minister who married Vic and me in 1999 which included couples counseling before we exchanged vows.  Neusom’s sermon was about the power of prayer by connecting with the spiritual dimension of life through meditation.  As I had so fondly recalled, Neusom included several humorous moments in the sermon by referring to his own idiosyncrasies and weaknesses as a human being. To sum up, his example of prayer was to help him “forgive everything .”  In thinking about how much I suffer (in my mind) about my own shortcomings, I imagined taking on such a request; as a result, a rather large tear formed in my eye and fell down my face: could I both forgive every little thing I have done and those things that I have held as perpetrations against me?  Powerful stuff and somehow it seemed part of destiny for us to be at this service on this day.  Last comment: the congregation was overwhelmingly welcoming. I could imagine myself as a part of this group of people doing good, sharing connections and talents in so many ways.  Perhaps the greatest connection that made this experience so special to me was that my mother introduced to me to Unity and I could feel her spirit hovering over us with delight. . . .

Unity Church of Raleigh, a very special place to visit

Had to take this photo of a charming little restaurant right
across the street from the chuch in downtown Raleigh

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Carry me back to old Virginny

Oct. 18-Oct. 22, Stafford and Williamsburg, Virginia
Our plan from here is to go down the southern coast of the eastern shoreboard avoiding the big cities as much as possible.  Vic and I have both visited most of the major Washington D.C. memorials so we decided to bypass those on this trip.  I did want to visit my ex-in-laws who live in Woodbridge, Virginia just outside D.C. so we planned our “southern” itinerary starting just south of D.C. 
My ex-father-in-law
We had a lovely lunch with Frank and Mary (my former in-laws) and enjoyed hearing old and new stories about their lives and family. More nostalgia for me as I reminisced with them about my marriage to their son Paul and the early days with our boys, the cousins, etc.
We took a lovely drive from our campground in Stafford, Virginia out to Monticello (about 75 miles away). It was a perfect fall day to visit Jefferson’s estate with a high of about 70 and a gentle breeze.  The countryside with horse farms and rolling hills was a bucolic scene and Monticello exceeded our expectations.  We walked around the gardens and slave quarters while awaiting a tour of the house itself.  The views from the grand porch made it easy to understand why Jefferson rarely left his Monticello after completing his presidency.  The simplicity and elegance of the architecture made me want to build a home of our own design someday.
The lovely Monticello

Jefferson's garden
Vic with Thomas
Our next stop took us back to the Revolutionary and Civil War days: historic Williamsburg. We stayed in a KOA here also where we lucked out and received passes to Williamsburg from campers we met which saved us $70. Neither of us quite realized what awaited us there—a complete replica of the original village including actors and artisans who actually reproduce the silversmithing or candlemaking of the time.  We especially enjoyed eating in an old tavern with candlelight and menu items authentic to the times.

Sign for the pub we had went to for lunch
We contemplated going to Jamestown and Yorktown and maybe heading to Virginia Beach but the weather was chilly and wet. The high pressures were leading us south.  We decided to go to what Vic refers to as basketball heaven: the Raleigh and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The haunting fields of Gettysburg

Oct. 12-15, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
The famous Bloody Wheatfiled
described on the plaque below

Our entry into Pennsylvania marked the start of the Civil War history tours Vic had been looking forward to on this trip.  Gettysburg is a powerful place to start. I had no idea it is called a national cemetery.  We stayed at the local KOA in Gettysburg and even there could feel the sacredness of the hallowed ground.  The campground store sold lots of memorabilia and tickets to the local attractions. I discovered we could buy a cd and book for a self-guided tour of the park which we did the following morning.  The tour took about 2 ½ hours taking us from one famous battlefield to another. You could park your car at the various battlefields an and listen to a powerful narration of the battle the took place in each various locale--including the sound effects of muskets and cannons blasting.  We usually took the opportunity to stop the cd and get out of the car to view   the open fields imagining a battalion of men marching to their deaths.  In only three days, over 55,000 soldiers (from both sides) lost their lives.  It was apparent that the topography played a major role in the extreme number of fatalities.  Having lived in the West for so long, it seemed amazing to envision this war taking place in what is now people’s backyards. 
We also enjoyed visiting the historic town of Gettysburg where there were many tourist attractions, re-enactments, and ghost tours.  One of the highlights was finding an historic tavern called McClellans, part of the Gettysburg Hotel est. in 1797, on Lincoln Square which had a beautiful turn of the century mahogany bar from England. Good English pub food and a fitting end to a haunting day.
Our $200 wrong turn
Our departure from Gettysburg turned out to be a painful lesson in following the navigation more closely. We were on a back road trying to get to the main road and made a wrong turn (with the Jeep in tow).  The challenge in this situation (when there is no short way to reroute us) is to find a parking lot large enough to turn around.  We thought we found one at a county farm station, but as we grew closer to the blacktop area we realized we would need about two more feet to make the turn. At my urging, Vic cut the corner wider than the blacktop using some of the grassy area to give ourselves a little more room. The minute our front tires hit the grass, our 30,000 pounds caused us to sink.  Vic knew we were in trouble immediately and had the good sense to stop before our back axle had hit the grass.  I was thinking we would need to get towed, but all we had to do was unhitch the Jeep and then we were able to back up the motor home back onto the blacktop.  There was no one around the county building as it was Saturday, but we started to feel guilty about the large scar we left in the grass.  Before we had time to write a note and leave it, a truck drove up (word gets around pretty fast in these parts) and a county worker got out. He said we had two choices: leave insurance and id info with him so we can get billed for the damage or wait and let the local sheriff come to deal with it (which he said would most likely result in adding a ticket for trespassing).  Well, the choice then seemed easy, so we requested that he give us an estimate before calling our insurance company as we were hoping the cost would be low enough that we would prefer to pay it ourselves. Bummer, but no damage to our motorhome or Jeep, and, most importantly, no one hurt. So, we chalked it up to a lesson learned. Do not trust the grass.  We had been parking in so many grass fields in campgrounds that perhaps we had become overconfident about such a maneuver. Obviously, this field was a wet one--the green color might have been a good clue!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Leaf-peeping in New England

Oct. 11-Oct. 13, A quick trip through New Hampshire and Vermont
The view from our motorhome window on New Hampshire Hwy 302

Following some tips from fellow campers in Camden, we planned a route which would take us up through New Hampshire and down through Vermont to Pennsylvania.  The New Hampshire scenery through the White Mountains on Hwy 302 was lovely--especially the Crawford Notch area and Mt. Washington scenic vista--and the colors were the best we had seen so far.  We spent the night in a campground that sounded like it would be a picturesque stop in North Conway, NH. We were a little suprised how close the campground was to a busy street full of Wal-Marts, etc. as it was called the Saco River Campground. The best surprise in the campground was hearing the sound of an old time steam train at dusk. It turns out that North Conway is well known for its steam locomotion train which tourists can ride thourough various routes through the White Mountains. The campground was a decent place but we were not inspired to stay any longer than one night as we both felt ready to move on. 
Our motorhome in a sea of cars
near the Crawford Notch rest area
Our travels through Vermont turned out to be one of our misadventures as we had forgotten about the damage caused by Hurricane Irene.  We had heard that Route 100 through the Green Mountains would offer the best scenery in Vermont but it turned out to be the main path of the hurricane's destruction as theflood waters cascaded down the mountains through central Vermont causing extensive road damage with several bridges washed out and large gullies carved into the roadside.  I had called the state of Vermont highway department to see if Route 100 was a good idea for a large motorhome, not even thinking about the flood damage, and he said would double check and call me back. He did and said the roads would be fine.  They were not fine. Even if the flood damage had not been there, we would not have been comfortable with the narrowness of the road and windy turns through the mountains.  Poor Vic managed to negotiate miles of construction zones and one lane detours. It was a good thing we had stopped at Ben and Jerry’s factory before we got onto Route 100 as the reward of our own pints of Cherry Garcia and Heath Crunch ice cream helped ease the transition back to relax mode after this horrendous stretch of our trip. 
To make matters a bit worse, I decided we could make it as far as Rutland, Vt. but when we arrived at dusk, we learned there were no campgrounds in the area.  This was the first night we actually considered staying in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but after making a quick phone call to what looked like a viable option, we discovered a place about 30 miles away--breaking our rule for arriving at a campground in the dark.  The campground, Iroqouis Land Family Camping in North Clarendon, turned out to be a big open field on a farm, but they did have 30 amp electric hook-ups and water.  We actually liked the pastoral setting.  There was a full moon hanging above rolling hills and the stars were incredibly bright making the place seem a little more magical at night than what it looked like the next morning. (The Ben and Jerry's also helped.)  Again, we both agreed the next morning to keep moving on toward Gettysburg rather than exploring the southern regions of Vermont.  
A barn in brilliant fall color somewhere along Rte.100

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A long awaited return to Maine

Sept. 26-Oct. 10, Bar Harbor and Camden, Maine

We crossed at the border from Quebec into Maine near a place called Moose River. The U.S. Customs experience was the antithesis of entering Canada. Again, the signs were confusing (especially mostly in French) and we ended up in the truck lane. No one was around to help us at first, then a man came out and said we had to back up and go through the car lane.  He obviously hadn’t considered our inability to back up with a car in tow. After explaining, he let us go through the truck lanes.  He came aboard to look at our papers and ask a few questions, then told us we would have to pull over for a more complete inspection.  I had not been totally honest about purchasing wine and liquor in Canada so immediately I felt uneasy.  They also asked a lot of questions about the dogs’ paperwork and if they were bought in Canada.  We were asked to step off as they did the inspection and after about ten minutes they came out with a bag full of produce (my beautiful red and orange peppers and some citrus fruits) that they explained were quarantined. Sad for us, but oh well.  At least they didn’t take the wine and cognac!
The trip through the Moose River area and south to Bangor was incredibly beautiful. The higher elevation near the Canadian border caused the leaves to be almost at peak color. Our route on Interstate 201 returned out to be a remote two lane road that was often bordered by whitewater rivers and an abundance of moose crossing signs. The autumn colors, the untamed rivers, and hilly elevation made for some stunning views as we dropped into the coastal area of Maine. (i later discovered this area is known as the Switzerland of Maine.)
Fall color along Moose River
Our first destination in Maine was Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. I had been here 34 years ago and fondly remembered its stark beauty. The first challenge was finding a campground that was affordable and close enough to the park area. We chose to stay at an Encore park in Ellsworth, Maine (Patten Pond Camping Resort) that was advertised as a handy place from which to explore Acadia. It was at least 30 minutes away and tucked into a lake area that looked more like a swamp. The place just didn’t feel right, so after one short night we decided to move on to the Narrows Too RV Resort, another Encore park closer to Bar Harbor that had ocean front sites (for more $$$). Decided to splurge on a waterfront site for seven nights for which you would get one night free. The ocean front turned out to be more of a bay but we definitely had a water view and a good place for a campfire which I had been missing since McClain State Park in the UP.
Acadia Nat'l Park

On our first night in Bar Harbor we had to have live lobster. Several people recommended a lobster pound (outdoor picnic type place where you choose your lobster from a tank, buy it by the pound, and they cook it outdoors in sea water heated by a wood fire. Vic and I shared a 3 # lobster served to us in a large cake pan with melted butter of course. Another couple asked to join us at our picnic table and they helped us negotiate the best way to eat the lobster without having to use the metal cracker or tiny forks. It’s hard to believe how abundant this creature is in Maine. I don’t think I will tire of it.
Acadia National Park is phenomenal. We played tourists and went to the visitor center where we watched a short film on the history of the area. It is rare to see a national park set aside on the eastern shoreboard where real estate is so highly valued. The coast of Maine is quite rugged and notorious for the granite rock outcroppings everywhere which makes the land difficult to build on. The park is traversed with carriage roads which Rockefeller funded in the 1930s. These roads are now used mostly by hikers and mountain bikers. We hiked a loop around a well-known place called Jordan Pond. It is famous for the only restaurant in the park which serves popovers and high tea. It definitely seems incongruous to have such a genteel setting amidst backpackers, etc. The legacy of Jordan Pond fits better with the notion of taking a carriage ride in the countryside. I liked the indulgent side of enjoying tea and crumpets with cloth napkins at tables spread across a large hillside (on a day when, in my pre-retirement life, I would have been in the classroom!).
Vic and the pooches
on Acadia trail

Eating popovers at Jordan Pond,
Acadia Nat'l. Park

Bar Harbor, the town at the base of Acadia is another treasure of a place. We especially enjoyed walking the harbor side looking at the wide range of boats including major cruise ships. Most of the homes here are grand and yet were probably originally built as summer places. Vic was struck by the amazing number of white steeples in each town and the numerous old cemeteries dotting the hillsides. A shopping highlight for me was finding a pair of wool socks with lobsters on them (the nights are getting chilly here!) We also found a dog boutique that carried hooves stuffed with peanut butter or cheese spread. The dogs loved them!
Bar Harbor beach house

Staying a week in one place is a new phenomenon for us.  The weather turned a little rainy and we endured our first thunderstorm.  Used this time for catching up with laundry and downloading photos for the blog I am trying to create.  Had more trouble with the DISH network; finally had to call the Winegard company, maker of the dish, to find out how to change our settings to the Eastern satellites.  Found out what we needed to do and called a technician to come to the park to set it up for us.  I could have done what he did, but learned some other things along the way. He set up the remote so it would work from any place in the motor home and changed the sound system for DISH to work on our home stereo system—unexpected bonuses of his expensive visit.
We took a fairly long journey to Stonington, Maine, a place that once held for me the perfect notion of a Maine coastal community—a small rocky harbor with masts swaying in the sunshine, the sound of the bell buoys clanking in the distance, a white lighthouse perched on a cliff.  Not much had changed in 35 years—Stonington was still the same sleepy harbor town and a photographer’s dream come true.  Enjoyed some chowder at a little café, walked the hilly streets, and imagined living in a simpler time. 
A view of the picturesque harbor in Stonington, Maine

Decided to visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturday in Bar Harbor and couldn’t believe how small it was.  Managed to find plenty of goodies though including grass-fed beef, locally made bacon, and artisan cheese.  Took another long walk on the Bar Harbor waterfront that led to a path in enough to be the front of historic private homes.  Tried to imagine the lives of successors of many generations of old money who built these impressive estates.

A week in Bar Harbor seemed enough as I was especially ready to head south to Camden where I lived in 1977. We decided to try the state park right in Camden. Most of the sites were heavily wooded but there were about 12 sites out in an open field which even included a view of the bay across Highway 1. The first night we were there, none of the sites in the field was available, but the next day one opened up and it turned out to be terrific. The cost was around $25 a night and the sites in the field had 50 amps. The state park was incredibly busy with “leaf peepers”—people coming to see the fall color. Also the park has the access road to a well-known lookout area on top of Mount Battie. Hikers, mountain bikers, or tourists in cars all paraded up the mountain to see the incredible views of the Maine coastline and fall colors.
View of Camden Harbor from Mt. Battie

A lucky double rainbow over Camden

The classic schooners of Camden harbor
One of the first things I wanted to do in Camden was go and find the old house where I used to live.  I knew the street was Megunticook, but it wasn’t until we were on it that the house# popped in my head: 39 Megunticook.  A small apartment on the second floor of a typical old New England house.  It used to be white with black shutters, but now it is yellow. It looked amazingly the same.  I have a photo of myself and Paul (first husband) where we are on the front porch drinking PBRs.  I closed my eyes and tried to bring back that young girl I was then with so many dreams and idealistic notions about how my life would go.  I wept a little for the lost dreams but also gave thanks for the unknown twists in the road that brought me back here 30+ years later.   
39 Megunticook where I lived in 1977 in the top right apt.

I convinced Vic that we should go for a sailing cruise on one of the famous Camden harbor schooners, the Appledore. We went for a two hour sail on a fairly warm Saturday morning. It was relaxing but the winds were still and that made the time go pretty slowly. They did serve tasty Bloody Marys which helped make the sail more interesting.  It felt great to be out on the water even if it wasn’t as adventurous as we had hoped.

Saturday morning--time to visit the Camden Farmer’s Market—three times the size of the one in Bar Harbor. Again, produce was not the main offering. Several booths had bakery, jams, pickles, meats, cheeses, and crafts such as hand-knit goods and pottery. I indulged in buying some homemade crab cakes and freshly butchered Muscovy duck breasts. (I so appreciate our big freezer drawer.) 
One of my favorite outings!

Time for a haircut and my prince of a husband was willing to drive me all the way to Portland (about 80 miles) where I found a Vidal Sassoon trained stylist to cut my hair (as my Oregon stylist, Clemente, recommended).  Seemed rather far to travel but I wanted to see how much the city had changed anyway and we were not going to be going this way on our way to Niagara Falls (our next big destination).  We brought the dogs and Vic had the good fortune of being able to wander around the old town area with them while I was getting my haircut by the owner, Sherri, at Ferricchia’s.  After my fantastic haircut, we explored the downtown streets and found a Thai place for lunch (yes, we were growing tired of clam chowdah and lobstah.)  We both agreed that Portland, Maine had a similar vibe to our Portland although the Oregon Portland is more heavily populated.

I noticed myself feeling sad as our time in Maine was coming to an end.  The fall colors at the coast were not peaking as predicted and the weather kept getting cooler, so we decided to pull up stakes at the park.  I felt quite at home in Maine and think my reluctance to leave had more to do with the timeless feeling Maine promotes.  My trip back to my former workplace, The Whitehall Inn, certainly amplified this feeling as it was exactly as I remembered it: the same chess sets in the main sitting room, the baby grand piano where Edna St. Vincent Millay played and recited her poetry, the rocking chairs on the porch—even the smells of the antiques and old tapestry rugs.  I was hired here as a prep chef and trained as a sous-chef  making my first lobster bisque and cooking eggs benedict for Chet Huntley, a well-known patron of the Inn.
My former workplace in 1977, The Whitehall Inn in Camden

Final days in Camden and a just a few more places I needed to see: Rockport, the Andrew Wyeth Museum, and Lake Megunticook. My best memory of Rockport (a small picturesque harbor just south of Camden) was taking the backroads there as it took you past a farm with the locally famous Belted Galloway cows.  I used to love seeing these cows in the meadow on the old country road that linked these two harbors. I also remember that if you were unlucky, the cows would be in the barn rather than in the field. The first time we drove this way, that was the case, but on the way back to Camden I insisted on giving it another try.  The photo below may be my favorite shot of the trip. I just love cows (almost as much as monkeys!).

The legendary Belted Galloway cows in Rockport, Maine

The famous Christina's World painting
(copied from internet)
After visiting Rockport Harbor, we continued on to Rockland, home of the Farnsworth Art Museum. Andrew Wyeth's most famous painting, Christina's World, has always been one of my favorites. I seemed to recall seeing it when I visited the Olson House (the backdrop and subject for many of his paintings). It was gratifying to see the museum thriving and to see a varied collection of his works--and Vic sincerely enjoyed it too!

Last fieldtrip--Lake Megunticook. This was the place where we would go to swim, drink wine, and howl at the moon when I lived here in the 70s.  It seemed much quieter now than I remembered it (imagine that).  We found the "beach" I used to visit and discovered it was one of the few places on the trip so far that allowed dogs off-leash. The colors were really starting to turn here and the sunlight on the leaves and water was perfect.  For some reason, other than knowing this was the last "must-see" place on my list, I felt a sense of completion in reliving my earlier days in this magical part of the country.
Barrett's Cove Park on Lake Megunticook