Thursday, June 11 — From Lincoln to Joliet, IL (499 miles)

 

Today was mostly a driving day, and not a very pleasant one! For one thing, we had a bit of a delay in the morning after a night full of surprises: We had quite a massive thunderstorm with pouring rain in the late evening, and as we were watching the rain come down in sheets, our smoke alarm suddenly started beeping, and water poured through the opening in the ceiling where it was mounted! We quickly moved the empty cooler in the spot, and when we called the building maintenance, they promised to come in the morning. But by that time, it had happened one more time (around 1 am in the morning), with more water coming through that opening. And then at 6 am, the actual fire alarm for the building went off in the hallway, and the fire department came with a couple of trucks! We actually assumed (not smelling smoke) that it was the same problem, and although Mark went downstairs, I and also our houseguest, Tricia, stayed in the apartment. Ironically, it was not the same problem–but it was a totally separate water issue in the sprinkler system, so it was still water-related!

We managed to go back to sleep after the firemen had left the building, and then waited until we got to talk to the maintenance guy, who came knocking at our door around 8:30. But the beauty of not owning a house, but a condo, is that we could then still take off rather than having to deal with the repairs, which involve a clogged drain on the roof–the building is responsible for that. We left at about 10 am, and then finally got on the road. We took off in the rain, and it pretty much rained all the way until we stopped–sometimes just a bit, sometimes in massive amounts, but it never stopped all day! So we just drove straight through to Joliet outside of Chicago, only taking a lunch break at a cheap diner somewhere in Iowa (“The Embers,” lunch box collection on shelves, that sort of thing). At around 6:30, we ended checking in at the Harrah’s Casino Hotel in Joliet, because I thought Mark should at least have a little poker after some really heroic driving with poor visibility and nasty road conditions. (Plus, his discounts make staying at casinos pretty cheap!) So we had dinner at the casino buffet (decent, not wonderful), and then I crawled into bed to read while Mark stayed and played poker for a little bit. But we were both in bed and asleep before 11.

 

Friday, June 12 — Joliet, IL, to Cleveland, OH (~ 502 miles)

 

 

We took it fairly easy in the morning, getting up about 8 and having
breakfast from our stash of yogurt and green tea in the room; we consulted
the weather that was coming our way and decided, against initial plans, to
push on through to Cleveland, rather than stopping in Toledo (I have friends I thought we might go see in both places). Again, we drove most of the day, but this time, always a bit ahead of the rain, so it was much more pleasant.  We had perfectly decent “freeway Chinese” somewhere on the way through Indiana, and once we were in Ohio, decided to take a slightly slower route, along lake Erie, rather than continuing on the I-80. So we went a little North in Toledo, and made our way through Sandusky etc., along the lake shore, which was actually very pretty where we could see it (in many places Road 2 and Road 6 were still too far from the actual shoreline. Sandusky was very cute, and we loved seeing the little old-style motels and cabin rentals still in business that have gone under in so many other places. But we didn’t get out of the car until we had made it to Cleveland’s Museum of Modern Art. My friend Paul, who is a Cleveland native, and whom we’ll meet tomorrow morning, had the insider tips we needed–i.e. that the museum is open until 9 pm on Fridays, and that it’s free!

We got to the museum a little after 5, had dinner at the museum cafe (very
nice, as in most museum restaurants–Mark had a roast beef sandwich and I had an Indian curry with chicken and lentils), and looked at the rooms and
pieces that interested us most. The museum has a nice cross-section of art
from around the world, nothing that rocked my socks off, but some neat
representative pieces (maybe I would have appreciated them more if it hadn’t been the end of the day?). I liked the mid-life Matisse that I saw, and a funny Max Ernst, and there were some design/craft objects that were
interesting, too. Mark liked a Matisse painting I hadn’t known, The
Windshield, On the Road to Villacoublay, from 1917, because it was such a
good road trip picture and fit our mood. The best part was actually the
space, since they solved the old building/new building problem of so many
art museums with a huge atrium with a glass ceiling over the plaza between
old (1916) and new. I also liked the “Gallery One” space, which has some
electronically enhanced exhibits, including a wall of touch screens where
visitors can tap on individual pieces to get more information on them. That
was fun!

We left at about 8:15 and found our way to the ice-cream place in the
vicinity that Paul had recommended–Mitchell’s on Uptown St. We even
managed to get free parking for the half-hour that it took us to have what
was truly marvelous ice cream. (I had hazelnut ice cream that tasted just
like really good “German”-Italian hazelnut gelato–very nice!). The GPS
then led us reliably to our hotel, which I had found en route through
Wikipedia. It looks a bit sketchy from the outside, but we have a
spectacular view of the downtown skyline, and the room is just fine. Time
to turn in!

 

Saturday, June 13 — Cleveland to Buffalo / Niagara Falls (ca. 260 miles)

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This was an eventful day! We checked out of our somewhat marginal hotel
without taking advantage of a VERY marginal-looking continental breakfast and took off to explore Cleveland instead. We found our way to the
Playhouse Square area, where there is quite a bit of gentrification and
remodeling going on, and after some Starbucks coffee/breakfast, walked
around there for a bit, before driving through downtown towards the
waterfront, along the lake, and then toward the Westside Market, where we
were meeting my old friend Paul and his partner Miguel (pronounced Michael) for some shopping and lunch. Westside Market is a 100-year old indoor food market, which offers traditional meat, veggies, and baked goods alongside international specialties, and caters to regular shoppers from the neighborhood as well as to tourists and hipsters. We saw some great baked goods, but we only bought a Russian tea biscuit (a good bit like a scone, but with more fruit) for later, and we had a great time people watching. There was a sort of balcony/gallery from which you could see the whole market hall from above–really neat!

Then we went to a little cafe/diner for some lunch; Paul, Miguel and I all
had a middle eastern pita roll, and Mark had a roast beef sandwich. Paul,
who was born and raised in Cleveland, had some great stories about going to Westside as a kid, and he also shed light on the uneven development we’d
seen, with some areas very run-down and clearly abandoned. Cleveland lost
2/3 of its population since its peak times, so it’s no wonder that some
areas were never built back up after the collapse of some of its key
industries. But the downtown is doing well, and the touristy area around
the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame showed lots of signs of life. That’s where we
headed after saying goodbye to Paul and Miguel, and we spent a couple of
hours at the “Rock Hall,” for short. It was an okay experience, but nothing
blew us out of the water. There were some interactive exhibits with lots of
audio and video, but the challenge of building a museum of VISUAL things
around and AUDIO experience did make for some shortcomings. We spent a bit of time in a temporary Paul Simon special exhibit with lots of interviews on video screens that was good, and we also liked a pretty experimental
11-minute multi-screen video about the rise and diversity (but unfortunately not the fall) of the music video since the beginnings of MTV. And a recreation of the stage of Pink Floyd’s Wall tour concert stage, with the creepy bug-like teacher lurking over us at the top of the wall brought back some memories of my second-oldest taste in pop. (I remember bring 14 and finally buying myself a copy of the vinyl double album after having
scratched up my boyfriend’s copy on our record player.) But the endless
array of that rock singer’s guitar and this other artist’s outfit for a
concert tour just got a bit old after a while. I guess I am past the age
where my heart goes aflutter when seeing John Lennon’s outfit from the cover of _Sergeant Pepper_ (the lime-green satin “uniform” designed by a costume designer for the cover).

After a couple of hours in the Hall of Fame, we got back into the car and
took off, for the 3 1/2 hour drive to Buffalo, NY. It was an uneventful
drive, this time actually with sunshine, but since it was all Interstate, we
only caught a couple of glimpses of Lake Erie. We got to our hotel at about
5:30, went to a nearby Ruby Tuesday’s for the salad bar for dinner, and then
decided to go to Niagara Falls yet that night rather than waiting until
morning, since we had good weather and still quite a bit of daylight left.
It was about a 40-minute drive to the falls, and we managed to find street
parking right outside the state park, and do all the free stuff (seeing the
falls, but not getting on any boats or climb down to the bottom of the
waterfall) in the two hours or so we spent there. The falls are impressive,
but the park is super manicured, and the surrounding area on both the
American and the Canadian side is very built up with both industrial stuff
and casinos and hotel. So it’s hard to overlook the hypercivilized
environment and just focus on the falls, especially if one knows that their
“majesty” is so very much controlled by people–humans divert a huge part of the water upstream for power, even more during the non-tourist season. But there were some beautiful sites from which we could see the American falls and Horseshoe falls, and there was also good people watching. It was very busy throughout the state park, and tourists from all over the world were speaking all kinds of languages, but surprisingly, the dominant tourist
group were multigenerational Indian families. It was surprising to see so
many saris and other traditional outfits, especially the grandmas, who
tended to be most traditionally dressed. We walked around and looked at the Falls from various angles until about sunset, and then drove back to our
Buffalo hotel. We have no idea how far we want to get tomorrow!

 

Sunday, June 14 – Buffalo, NY, to Rutland, VT (370 miles)

We had a fairly early start and checked out of our Econolodge around 8:00
after the usual minimal continental breakfast in a teeny tiny lobby area.
We drove all morning, with a lunch break at a Wendy’s at a Utica, NY, exit.
We had beautiful sunny driving weather, but didn’t see much except the
occasional glimpse of the Erie Canal. Then we turned north toward Saratoga
Springs and went on to Rutland, VT. We have friends there, Rich and Monica
Lloyd–a former Hastings College professor and his wife, who moved there
three years ago when he signed on as president of a teeny college called the
College of St. Joseph. When we realized that Rutland wouldn’t be much out
of our way, we texted them to see whether they were home. They took the
whole afternoon off for us and even had us stay overnight, so it was a great
visit. Rich took us on a tour of the college (his offices and pretty much
all administration is in this enormous Victorian home that is also open for
functions and business meetings–very impressive. The campus is big and
lush and green for a teeny tiny college with only about 250 full-time
students–but as Rich pointed out, small is a positive in Vermont, and the
college is actually growing. They have big new scary plans for expansion by
adding a physician’s assistant masters program, and he showed us the
building in the next town over that they plan to renovate for that
purpose–it is the former headquarters of a huge marble quarry operation
that was given to them by a company that is leaving town, and it is made
entirely out of marble–as are some of the town’s public buildings and even
sidewalks. Wow. After the tour of the two “campuses,” we sat on Rich and
Monica’s back porch and had local white cheddar cheese, crackers, and apples for dinner. We talked a lot of shop, of course, but Mark also showed Monica travel pictures. And Mark and I explored their back yard–which was actually several acres of lush, green forest to ramble around in. We even
saw remnants of an old stone wall–looked like a border demarcation, but
Rich and Monica weren’t quite sure what that was for. That was great, as
was the whole visit. It had been our first day with some actual sun and
with the humidity quite high, it was quite warm–as warm as it ever gets in
Vermont, they said. We got to bed at about 10 pm–great day!

 

Monday, June 15, Rutland, VT to Bar Harbor, ME (now 1919 miles total)

 

This was another day that was mostly driving–the smaller roads in the
northeast take a while, but we also had quite a bit of Interstate travel.
We drove from Rutland through Vermont and New Hampshire to the coast of Maine, gradually driving out of the rain, and stopped in Portland for a walk through the old harbor area (pretty, but in a touristy kind of way) and
lunch–I had a very yummy seafood chowder and mark a pretty unexciting
chicken sandwich, and we both had lovely hand-churned ice cream afterwards.  We went a little further on the interstate, but near Brunswick turned east to go along the coast on highway 1, through all the little coastal towns.  Since it was still drizzly, we didn’t stop anywhere, but they are cute–lot so Victorian downtowns and B&Bs. We saw one place we’ll return to–about an hour from here in Bar Harbor, maybe–but it was after 4 pm and we were eager to get off the road. So we drove on to Bar Harbor and started looking for a hotel, since we wanted to see the views and options first rather than booking on line. We eventually settled on a cheap revamped 50s hotel
without much of a view, because it is just a mile from downtown but pretty
quiet and charming in its 50s sort of way. We checked in and walked to the
touristy downtown area, which also features access to a sandbank “bridge” to an island that emerges only when the tide is low, and walked over and back (two hours later we checked again, and it had disappeared–always
fascinating, especially since we heard that some tourists just don’t get it
and regularly get stuck on the island). We found ourselves a mediocre pizza
restaurant and walked around town a bit–I needed a rain jacket because we
actually managed to forget mine, and we found a tide-me-over. Then we met up with our friend Richard Loutzenheiser from Hastings, who has a house here and who is here this week with his wife and a family friend. He gave us a bunch of travel tips and we’ll meet up with them all on Wednesday. We walked home and were in bed by 10 pm again!

 

Tuesday, June 16, Bar Harbor Area (2xx miles of driving loops!)

 

 

 

 

The weather gods were not with us today! It was either drizzly or foggy or
both, so we drove around a lot not seeing much by way of views. But we got
a good sense of some of the area and know of some places to go back to. And
we got to spend some time with an old friend of mine, so that was great.

We started out with a drive along the scenic loop road through Acadia
national park, but even though some parts are beautiful in the rain, we
clearly have to go back because you couldn’t see out into the bay / Gulf of
Maine. So we hope to do that when it’s nicer tomorrow. We then drove
through the middle of Mount Desert Island (the island on which Bar Harbor
and the national park are located) and on through the town of Ellsworth to
Sullivan, where my friend Cecily lives right on the bay in a house that her
parents, friends of the Andersons, built there when they retired. I hadn’t
seen her in 13 years and we had a lot to catch up on as we had coffee at her
place and then went to Ellsworth for lunch at a fun cafe in an old Victorian
schoolhouse. We also checked out the view (drippy as it was) at the bottom
of her property, where she can look across the bay to an island. After
lunch, we took a bit of a drive from her place to the nearby “forgotten
part” of the national park, the Schoodic peninsula past the teeny town of
Winter Harbor. The rock formations at the beach head were great, and Mark
and I clambered around in it for a bit(Cecily passed, because the rocks were
slippery–she lost part of her right leg to diabetes a couple of years ago
and gets around amazingly well, but that was a bit much!). But again, the
views were nonexistent.

About 3:30, we took our leave from Cecily, and we drove back to Mount Desert island, with a bit of a detour when we discovered these great tidal falls that were in full whitewater action as the tide was going out and got pushed over a bunch of rocks. We drove the western loop through the west half of the island, and despite fog and some more drizzle, we stopped at a famous but VERY short lighthouse from the 1850s–the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse.  Again, fun rock climbing, and a fog bell from a buoy made it very atmospheric, but no views. We drove past Southwest Harbor and through a little town that had exclusively those little clapboard white houses that make up so much of this island’s housing, without the mix of minutely restored Victorian B&Bs and fake-old posh resorts that we found in Bar Harbor–a town that’s sort of like Estes Park or Jackson Hole in that it is all tourist-oriented and partly super-elite. Except that here, there are
probably more super-rich than even in Jackson Hole–before a big fire in
1947, the whole town was big resorts and mansions, and according to Richard, Martha Stewart, Susan Sarandon, and various political figures live here, as well as the last Rockefeller son, who is 100, and lives at the edge of the national park, for which his dad (John D.?) bought and donated most of the land.

We wrapped up the day with cheap Chinese dinner and an hour at the
laundromat, and then crawled into our hotel room bed to await the allegedly
improving weather forecast for tomorrow.

 

Wednesday, June 17 (Bar Harbor/Mount Desert Island)

 

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Today was pretty much a perfect vacation day on our book! I woke up super
early, before 4 am, and then got rather restless as it was getting lighter
outside (we are far north, and it’s almost midsummer–so this feels like
northern Germany in the summer in terms of daylight hours!), especially
since the weather forecast had not lied and I caught glimpses of a clear
sky. At 4:25, I finally gave up on going back to sleep–I took my shower
and told Mark I would go watch the 4:47 am sunrise from the porch in front
of our motel room. Of course he was a good sport and joined me–it was
great to see the sun come up over the ocean. We then had some quick tea and yogurt and packed our stuff to head into Acadia National Park early. We
drove up to the highest elevation in the park, Cadillac Mountain, which at
1500 feet feels as alpine as it gets, given how shirt the growing season is
here. At 5:30 am it was bright and sunny up there, but also extremely windy
and quite cold. But so beautiful! The blue water, lush green foliage and
harsh pink granite make for a fabulous mix, and we loved the little islands
we could see (Maine has thousands of them; these were the Porcupine Islands, and they looked like the ridge on a stegosaurus back to me).

We then drove the same route through the park we took yesterday, but this
time with sunshine and views! We stopped at virtually every pullout, but
our favorites were Sand Beach (a dumb name in any other place, but actually sandy beaches are a total rarity here; this is the only one in this area) and Otter Point, which has a great view and then a path to backtrack to it along the cliffs right by the shore. Beautiful.

At about 8:30, we made our way out of the park and drove to nearby Northeast Harbor. We had coffee, a pastry and a to-die-for fresh-baked cake donut for a snack, and then found the boat that we were booked to take a harbor/bay cruise on. Our friends Richard, Lorraine and Rebecca (from Hastings) met us on the boat. The tour was about 2 1/2 hours long and included a ranger as a guide and a stop in one of the few remaining islands in Maine that are occupied year-round, Little Cranberry island. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and our guide, but the absolute highlights were the seals that were sunning themselves on a rock, including a very sleepy seal baby, and two osprey nests. We also saw a bald eagle from a distance, but it was quite a distance! The island visit was mildly interesting, but I was surprised to see so many cars in such a small island–about a dozen right by the harbor, even as only 85 people live there year-round–300 in the summer when the summer residences kick into gear. Bathe last part of the cruise led us into the actual Somes Sound (a kind of fjord, but apparently missing some sort of trait that would really make it a fjord in the strict sense) and we had the coast very close to us on both sides. The guide talked a lot about the wealthy mansions on both sides, which was a bit boring–but it IS great that the original super rich who moved here in the 1880s and then for the next five or six decades, tended to follow the Rockefeller example and donate their land to the government.

We got back to Northeast Harbor a little before 1 pm, and had lunch with
Richard, Lorraine and Rebecca at the old and authentic Azicou Inn. We sat
on the terrace, which had a fabulous view of the entire harbor, and had a
good, although not outstanding, lunch including a popover, which is
apparently traditional here. I had a lobster roll, but it was just ok; Mark
had a standard hamburger. But we had a good time and the view was truly
amazing.

After this late lunch, mark and I drove back to Bar Harbor through the park,
and took a short nap to recuperate from the already long day. We got back
up at 4 and walked downtown, because we wanted to catch the low tide and
walk back over the sandbank “bridge” to Bar Island and hike to the top.
That was fun, as was rambling around the sandbank, which we had seen fully submerged on Monday night). Then we found ourselves a restaurant for a lovely salad and a good pizza, walked over to a main-drag ice cream store for a scoop of overpriced ice cream , and walked back home (5.89 miles without an issue, yay) to call it a day. A fabulous day!

 

Thursday, June 18 (Bar Harbor / Mount Desert area)

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Another perfect vacation day! We headed out early in the morning for a
series of small hikes. We started by driving back to Sand Beach in Acadia
National Park, still one of our very favorite places in the park, because
Richard had told us that there was a trail directly to the left of it
heading up to a cliff/promontory, Great Head. It was a fabulous hike,
complete with climbing around on the big chunks of granite that were part of the cliff, looking at some tidal pools, and generally enjoying these
fabulous Maine views of ocean, forest, and granite cliffs all in the same
area. A lot of the trail was just up granite surfaces, and that was fun
climbing. After that, we went to one more spot in the park that we wanted
to explore a little, Jordan Pond. We didn’t go on a real hike from there,
but we wandered around a little and saw the lake and walked a few hundred
feet on the famous carriage roads. There are miles and miles of these all
through the park, built by John D. Rockefeller in super high quality, and
although they’d be a perfectly fine gravel motor road anywhere else, they
don’t allow any cars–very far-seeing of Rockefeller, who had these built in
the early 1900s, up to the 1930s. You can ride bikes, have horses, and of
course walk, but they are about two car widths broad and really well
maintained. We also saw one of the gatehouses that forms an “entrance” to
the carriage house area, but I thought it was a bit goofy–built in perfect
imitation of French 16th-century tudor-framed houses in the 1930s.
Rockefeller also had a thing about granite bridges over and under the
carriage roads, and apparently no two are alike–we saw several, and they
are very pretty, blending into the landscape well. That was his goal–he
also instituted the tradition of using big squarish blocks of granite, set a
few feet apart from each other, as “guard rails” along the road–we learned
that they are called “Rockefeller’s teeth” around here.

We then left the park and had lunch in Northeast Harbor–at a cafe called
the Colonel that had sold us the fabulous donut the day before. But their
lunch was pretty blah, and their homemade bread/rolls were boring. So we
consoled ourselves by buying another donut to share (even though the cost
made me gulp–who has ever HEARD of a donut that costs $ 2.11 including
tax?). We then took a drive along the waterfront that we had seen from the
boat yesterday (Sergeant Drive) and headed to the fabulous public gardens in town. There are two, an Asian-inspired azalea garden right across from the Azicou Inn, where we had lunch the day before, and then another further up the hill called Thuya Garden, which has all kinds of glorious plants (and 5 gardeners to keep it maintained). A 2-mile loop hike through forest took us from the one to the other and back, and it was wonderful–better even than the gardens themselves. Mark took a lot of plant pictures of some awesome blooming flowers and bushes, and then we also got to visit the Thuya lodge.  This is the “cottage” (spacious, but not crazy–a couple of big rooms and a kitchen downstairs, a couple more rooms upstairs, deliberately rustic but with a huge library) where the original owner of this land, a man named Curtis, lived. He was another trailblazer philanthropist in the area–who decided that the non-wealthy regular folks in the area needed access to hikes and cool views, as everything was bought up by the wealthy vacationers. He built the lodge and landscaped the terraced land below and above (where the garden now sits), but made sure the path up remained public access. When he died (in the 20s), he left the land and the lodge to the town, who wisely appointed a friend of his who was a landscaping architected (and woodcarver) as a “steward.” That man in turn designed the gardens and fine-tuned the terraces, which made for a fabulous path down out of the garden with views of the harbor and many sit-down/lookout spots.  Beautifully designed.

Our last hiking stop was on the “quiet side” of the island, i.e. on the
western half–we drove to a dead-end parking lot below a hill called Beech
Mountain (mountains are not very high here, but I guess it counts, because
you can see so far). There was a steep 0.4 mile hike up to the fire tower
on top, and another 0.7 hike back down, with more beautiful views of the
ocean, the freshwater lakes on the inside of the island, and the forest in
between. A fun way to wrap up the hiking of the day! It was gloriously
sunny and in the 60s all day, so we were never too warm, but we did get a
bit grimy and sweaty, so we went to the motel to take showers and rest up a
bit. Then we drove to Richard and Lorraine’s house and had a simple dinner
with them and Rebecca. The house is inland, but completely awesome–a
unique design by a very modern-minded architect, and with a very
Scandinavian / space-saving design and a very steep-slope roof that prevents snow and rain from staying on the roof, even without gutters of any sort.  There are two bedrooms and a big loft area with office and reading space, and lots of light-colored wood and white paint. A bit much in terms of knick-knacks everywhere, but the design is beautiful, as is the rock garden outside–lots of granite, mostly there before they built there! R & L come there multiple times a year between May and October, and are clearly very happy to have this place for regular vacations. We talked over dessert and coffee, and left at about 9:30. Because it was a clear night, we took a
detour into the park and up to Cadillac Mountain to see the stars. But it
was very windy and cold up there, so we only lasted a few minutes. We could
see the stars above and the lights of the harbor towns below, but it was
spooky with the high winds, which actually blew entire CLOUDS of pine pollen across the road–dense enough that we at first thought it was fog! It was a great end to a wonderful day.

 

Friday June 19th (Bar Harbor to Calais, 220 miles)

 

Today started out with a breakfast at the 2 Cats in Bar Harbor, a restaurant
we really wanted to try out. It had a wonderful banana-pecan pancake and
lovely fruit, but sadly, I had an upset stomach and wasn’t up for much in
terms of food. We did buy two of their diner mugs because we liked the name and logo so much—but were told by the waitress that the actual cats live at the owners’ house next door. Then we left BH behind, after four wonderful days there, and headed northeast. The drive wasn’t that much fun because it was raining for most of the way along the coast to Lubec, ME, the easternmost town in the US. We went to see the Easternmost lighthouse in the US just as it stopped raining, and I was satisfied—like the other ones
we’ve seen, it wasn’t tall, but at least it was red-and-white striped! And
it had a Fresnel lens, not some modern substitute.

From Lubec, where we barely stopped, there is a bridge to an island called
Campobello, which is already part of Canada, and Richard had tipped us off
and told us to go there: it has an International (Canada/US) Park because
FDR’s summer vacation residence (“cottage” with 17 bedrooms) in the teens and 1920s is on Campobello. So we got our passports out and took a look (beautifully restored cottage, and not as ostentatious as it sounds, with
pretty small, simple rooms—but obviously, one traveled with an entourage of servants to take care of everything). Not knowing that much about
presidents’ biographies, I hadn’t known that he had five kids, and had a
good time with the pictures that featured the only daughter, Anna, looking
very grumpy as a teenager. I also hadn’t known or remembered that he
contracted polio right on this island during his summer vacation. We then
explored the rest of the island, which is about ten kilometers long and
pretty narrow, and had a ho-hum meal at a restaurant by the public golf
course—-chicken noodle soup sounded just right since I still felt “off.”
Then we drove to the very end, to another lighthouse, with the sun just
starting to come through. It’s a cool island on a little cliffy island that
can only be reached when the tide is low—which it wasn’t at the time.
Campobello has about 900 people year round, 1100 in the season (which again has barely started here), and who knows how many day visitors. The only thing that made noticeable that we were in Canada is that a lot of flags
were flowing and that the signs were bilingual, but everything was really
absolutely the same as on the Maine coast—even the accents, unsurprisingly, which were just as heavy in this part of Maine, and don’t sound either “Canadian” or “East Coast,” so I would really have to study them to figure out what’s distinctive.

We then drove further along the coast, now in sunny weather, to get to
Calais, again directly on the Canadian border, but frustratingly pronounced
“Calless,” which my brain just refuses to do, even as I could handle
Loo-beck for Luebeck, which is clearly the naming inspiration for Lubec! We stopped on the way, though, since we found “our” perfect motel, The
Redclyffe Motel, in a teeny non-town named Robbinston. It’s just classic
drive-up-to-the-room motel rooms, but the affiliated restaurant (which we didn’t try) was a run-down Victorian complete with gingerbread cutouts, with shabby paint but a brand-new bright-red metal roof, and—that was the important thing—the rooms overlook the bay that we are on. They are barely open for their season and we are pretty sure we are the first ones in our enormous room since last fall—we got a discount because one of the window panes has a long crack from last winter’s unusual amount of snow (16 feet at one point) bearing down on the roof. I cannot imagine living here in the winter, and we saw many, many homes and lots of land for sale, waterfront property or not. We checked in around 4:30 or so, and since there was a teeny rocky beach within 100 feet, complete with boat dock and public park, we rambled around a bit and took in the view. Then we drove the 12 miles to Calais and found ourselves a diner with more ho-hum food and looked around a little bit. The city is small, with about 3,000 people living there now, while in 1870, when the port and the lumber industry were in their prime, there were over 6,000. The classic main street area, with former shops and banks, was right on the waterfront, still recalls the bustling business, but there is barely any tourism here now—there is a big visitor center, but it is targeted toward Canadians coming into Maine for locations further south and west. The walk along the waterfront was interesting because you could see the foundations, and in one case, the wooden structure, of the dock buildings that used to be there in the St. Croix River that connects this port to the Bay of Fundy. We also found out that the walk, which also got us a little bit into a wooded area, underneath the bridge that leads to St. Stephen in Canada on the other side of the river, was the beginning of a walk/bike trail system that leads all the way down to Key West (called the East Coast Greenway, although much of it is just roadside biking).

We then went back to the motel, and decided not to do anything else. For
one thing, I was still not feeling well and went to bed early, and for
another, it was late by at least one time zone here—our phones keep toggling between EST and the next time zone, and since our computers are still on Nebraska time, it’s been a little confusing. When Kati called from Mountain time in North Platte and wanted us to do something before the end of the business day, it got really bizarre because the business day here had been over for two hours!

 

Saturday June 20th (Robbinston, ME to Millinocket, ME–216 miles)

Today was a half-and-half mix of driving and hiking. We drove on mostly
slow state roads from our inn by the seaside near Calais to Baxter State
Park- in the Mid-region of Maine–another travel tip from Richard. We only stopped twice on the way, once for a huge garage sale and bake sale in a
teeny town not far from our starting point, where we could have picked up 78 records for cheap but just bought a couple of bar cookies instead, and the
second time because there was a marker for us crossing the 45th parallel,
and we are geeks.

We got to Baxter State Park (BSP) around 1 pm. BSP is a large park (200,000
acres, and according to Wikipedia, with only 55,000+ visitors
annually–compared to the million that come to Acadia every year), and what makes it interesting is that its motto is “forever wild”–it is a
gravel-road, no water, no electricity park with tent and cabin camping and
day visits only, and they are very good/very strict bat their Leave No Trace
stuff. It is mostly famous as the location of the highest mountain in
Maine, Mount Katahdin, which has two peaks connected by a ridge that people like to hike. But it is not a day hike–the ascent on any of the trails
takes 8-10 hours total, and most people hike to the halfway camp and then
start for the mountain in the morning. Mount Katahdin is partly famous
because it is the northern trailhead for the Appalachian trail, which has
always fascinated us–and this day can go down in history as the day we
hiked 0.01% of the trail, about 2.2 miles of the 2,200-mile trail!

But first we had a picnic lunch in the park entrance area, right by a lake
(our first picnic on this trip). We got a so-called “moose ticket “to go
into the park–all the day-hike parking spots were already taken, given how late we got there in the day, but this allowed us to go into a particular
area for just three hours to look for moose. We drive to the designated
area and got on the Sandy Stream Pond trail. We didn’t see any moose,
sadly, although we did find lots of moose tracks in the mud by the trails. But we did get to take a 2.5 mile hike around a lake with a beautiful view of
the mountain and some very nice woods around it. Presumably, Every hiker goes up to Mount Katahdin, so we only ran into 7 or 8 hikers total on this trail. Then we returned to the entrance station, returned our moose pass, and were allowed to go in again and hike, since it was now 3:30 or so and more parking had been cleared. We drove to another area of the park and went for that hike on the Appalachian Trail–from near our parking lot to two falls in the river named little and big Niagara. They were absolutely beautiful, and because the rocks around them are all granite and stay dry, we could climb really close. We even saw traces I’d an old mill works upstream from the falls. We walked the AT back after we had seen enough of the falls, and failed miserably taking another AT proof-that-we-were-there selfie on the trail, with the tell-tale white trail mark on a tree (we hate selfies, but at least it made us laugh). The mosquitoes were getting pretty bad, even with the bug spray we had with us, so it was time to leave, even though for wildlife, we only got to see a beautiful dragonfly-type bug, a jackrabbit and a small red squirrel.

By the time we had driven back out of the park after our hiking half-day,
and into Millinocket, it was 7 pm. We found a doable motel which had what
we really wanted–a roadside Chinese restaurant at the end of the building!
We had a decent, cheap meal in the almost deserted restaurant, where we were the only guests, with only two calls coming in for takeout while we were there. The whole town is a little sad; it is trying to survive on tourism
since its key industry, a major paper mill (Great northern, which had been
there since 1899), went under a few years ago–and there are just not enough tourists around, even with all the pretty lakes and the state park right there. After dinner, we just turned in and did our daily journal logistics.