What a Finale

19 10 2011

Yesterday afternoon, Linda and I walked down a long narrow pier and climbed into a small dingy as we began our final Maine adventure.  We chartered a sailboat and captain for a sunset cruise and lobster bake.

We had initial scheduled it for earlier in our stay but,  according to Captain Jesse Archer, the seas were too choppy for an enjoyable cruise.  In his words, “It’s up to you.  I can sail in this weather but you won’t like it.”

As we made the sort trip from the pier to the mooring buoy where the boat awaited, I could see that it was a wise decision to wait on taking our cruise.  The water of Frenchman’s Bay was calm with a gentle southeastern wind–near perfect conditions.

Back in the day, I did some sailing on very small sailing craft but prior to yesterday, Linda had never even set foot on a sailboat.  I was hoping for two outcomes of the adventure.  One, that Linda thoroughly enjoyed herself while relaxing as she viewed natural beauty from a new perspective.  The second outcome I hope for was for her to understand my fascination with sailing and therefore be willing to take sailing lessons with me so that some day we could do some sailing in the Caribbean.

I knew that my first goal had been achieved when after an hour of sailing on the Ipswitch she probably hadn’t said half a dozen words–she was in the zone.  We opened a bottle of wine and drank it form old coffee mugs that Captain Jesse had on board.  The time onboard just flew by.  The only way I knew that we where getting close to our 3-hour scheduled time for the cruise was that I recognized some of the seashore mansions that we passed going our of the harbor at the beginning our our trip.

During the time on board, we learned something about the history of the area and the history of lobster fishing.  Earlier in the day we tracked down an old wooden lobster trap to bring home as a souvenir.  Jesse asked lots of questions about the design of our trap and confirmed that we got an authentic one that had some unique characteristics.

As the sun was setting, Jesse announced that the lobsters were ready and that we could either eat out on deck or at a small booth in the cabin.  We opted for the cabin since the temperature was dropping quickly outside.  We finished off our bottle of wine as we cracked and ate our lobsters.  I am sure that we still could not pass for locals if someone watched us crack and eat our lobster but we were better at it than our first endeavor.  I don’t know what the difference was but Linda and I both agreed that the lobster on the boat was better than the lobster in the restaurant.

As we were walking up the pier to head back to the car I asked Linda what she thought about sailing.  She said that she couldn’t believe how relaxing it was and how the sensation of movement across the water without sound made the whole experience so unique.  I figured that was the time to play my trump card.  I asked her if she could imagine the same experience with a warm tropical breeze and a tropical drink as we lay around on deck in shorts or bathing suits rather than parkas and Polarteks.  She smiled and said, “Yeah, I could see it.”

I think goal two was probably met.

We are heading home this morning relaxed and full of seafood.  We both agreed that we were going to eat nothing but seafood while here.  On the way back to the B&B from the pier we both said we wanted a big cheeseburger for supper tonight on the road.

I cannot image how our trip could have gone any better.



Going Where the Locals Go

18 10 2011

Much can be missed by not taking the road less traveled but how often do we ask why that road is less traveled.

Last night, Linda and I got up the courage to order two whole lobsters at a restaurant here in Bar Harbor.  It was the last night of the season for the restaurant and all the proceeds were being donated to the Bar Harbor Food Bank.  We weren’t aware of the charity dinner; we just heard it was a good place to eat lobster.  Fortunately, we made a reservation to eat an early dinner at 4:30.  Within just a few minutes after we were seated the place was packed.  And, it was packed with mostly Islanders as the locals are called.

When the waitress brought us our lobsters she was very helpful and patient in explaining how to crack and eat our crustacians.  She had so many customers to serve that one time and one time only was she going to tell us the tricks.  Linda and I glanced at each other with that caught-in-the headlights look and began to dig in.

Apparently, our lack of expertise and our need for remediation were obvious.  The couple next to us starting giving us pointers on how to extract all the meat from the lobster, just not the tail and the claws.  Over the course of the meal, a conversation ensued and, indeed, they were Islanders.  He was a native born inhabitant and she visited the island one summer back in the late 1960s when she was in college and never left.  If I would have found this place at age twenty, I’m not so sure I would have left either.

As the conversation progressed and we exchanged backgrounds along with the obligatory comparison of how many grandchildren each couple has, they made suggestions as to where we might want to go that the very few tourists even know about.  Bingo! We hit the motherlode.  They told us about a place that they go all the time for seafood because it is so good and so reasonable.  After they told us about the place I had to make sure I heard them correctly–a soft serve ice cream snack bar?  Yup! As they say on the island.

We got back to the B&B after dinner and shared our experience with the Matt and Kristi, the innkeepers.  Matt’s eyes lit up and confirmed that Jordan’s Snack Bar was a great place to eat seafood.  That led to a whole other conversation.

As I wrote in a previous post, our first night in Bar Harbor we ate at the Thirsty Whale.  The Whale as the Islanders refer to the place is a pub with all the positives and negatives that term implies–we loved it.  Matt said that he knew based on our earlier conversation about how much we enjoyed the Whale that we were not the type of people to want/need/expect fancy, and quite often, over-priced food.  He did say that he knew we liked good food, though.

He  went on to say that if we like the shoreline on the island that we should go off the island and drive the hour or so to a spot across the bay called Schoodic Point.  He said most tourists never got over there but it is the best place in the are to see the surf crashing on the granite boulders and cliffs.  In addition, he told us that we would be going right past Jordan’s as well as going through some classic small fishing village.

Based on our new information, we changed our how plan for the day and are we ever glad we did.  Thus far, our trip to Schoodic Point has been the highlight of our trip.  Although I will admit watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is a close second.

I think I leaned something about traveling yesterday.  It is important to do the touristy things but it to get the real flavor of a place, you need to find out where the locals go.  If I was traveling to Paris, of course, I would want to go up in the Eiffel Tower but I would also like to eat where the locals eat and shop where the locals shop.  Staying in a B&B for multiple nights seems to me the ideal way to accomplish this.  At least that is the story I’m sticking to at this point.

Tomorrow we do a only planned activity which we hope will be the crowning experience of our trip to Maine.  As a surprise for Linda, I chartered a 100-year old shrimping boat and captain for a three-hour sunset cruise around the bays and islands along with an authentic Maine Lobster bake.  I’ll take lots of pictures and post about it tomorrow evening from our hotel.


Acadia and Expectations

17 10 2011

After spending the last two days exploring Acadia National Park as much as our old, arthritic knees would allow us, I have come to a conclusion–our expectations were unrealistic.  We went everywhere well-informed tourists should go in the park but still our expectations were not met…

…they were exceeded!

We thought it would be beautiful but, to be honest, it is breathtaking.  We both agreed that we have never seen so much spectacular scenery in one place.  Rather than rambling on about it, I thought I would include lots of pictures and advise anyone who has never been to Arcadia to put it on your bucket list.

Thank you, Mr. Rockefeller.


A Bigger Pond

15 10 2011

We got a good night’s sleep and woke up early, as usual.  The rain was gone but the wind was blowing very strongly.  As I have noted in previous posts,  we will fix our coffee and sit out by fish pond, watching the sunrise.  There is something very peaceful about the sound of the water and somehow the whole experience of being close to water seems to help us think clearer and makes it easier to solve any issues we may be facing.

This morning we decided that we needed to do the same thing in order to figure out what we are going to do during our five days in Bar Harbor.  Since we intentionally made no specific plans except for a fluid list of  “wannado’s” there was a lot to figure out before we set out on our adventure around Mt. Desert Island . We needed our fish pond but that was 1300 miles away.  So, we had to adapt and drink our coffee on the back porch of the Saltair Inn.

It’s such a nice bed and breakfast.  Matt and Kristi, the innkeepers, are super; no wonder the Saltair Inn is rated as the number one B&B in Bar Harbor.  As we sat there drinking very good coffee, Linda said that usually we can take care of any issue that faces us as we sit by the pond but today we just needed a bigger pond.  Fortunately, one was available in the backyard.

Problems solved.


Just Fine!

15 10 2011

No pictures with this post but you would not believe the beautiful scenery we have viewed over the last 24 hours.  I-84 through Pennsylvania’s Pocano Mountains at this time of year is beyond description–maybe even more beautiful than Brown County.  Yeah, I know as a born-and-raised Hoosier that may sound like blasphemy but it’s true.

We stayed the night in Scranton but did not run into Dwight or Michael.

We drove for eleven hours today with rain the whole way.  This was our light day for driving.  We pulled into Bar Harbor at 6pm and immediately got lost.  A quick call to our B&B and we were in our room 15 minutes later.  To be honest we were totally exhausted but in a good way.

Shortly after confirming with the innkeeper that a pub we read about on the web was a good choice for a casual meal we found a parking place just a half a block from the front door of The Thirsty Whale; this is where the locals go.  We quickly found a table next to the front window so Linda could watch people walking down the street in the rain.  As we were enjoying a heaping plate of clams, shrimp, scallops and haddock along with bowls of authentic clam chowder and washing it down with wine and local micro-brews a guy and his wife walked through the front door and we made eye contact.  He was a jovial fellow and asked, “How you doing?”

I took a sip of my blueberry ale and said with all the sincerity I could muster,  “Just Fine.”

We both just grinned.

Tomorrow we will start to explore Acadia.  I will try to post some pictures.


To What End?

12 10 2011

Last weekend was an awesome family experience.  Along with our youngest daughter and her husband, Linda a I were in Chicago to support/encourage/root for/care for our oldest daughter who was running her first full marathon.  For those who do not have distance runners or triathletes in your family it may be difficult to understand why it is so important for family members, friends and loved ones to be there when someone runs that distance, especially when it is the first full marathon, ultra-marathon or triathlon.

Without going into the details of the whole experience we did what you should do to support the runner(s) and had some quality family time in a great large city.  Of course, there was a lot of time for conversations ranging from IU basketball to politics to food to finaces and, of course, blogging.

As many of you are aware, our youngest, Cass, is a big-time blogger–I mean BIG TIME. It’s her second full-time job and she has millions and millions of readers (that is not hype/exaggeration–she really does have multi-million followers of her blog, Back To Her Roots).  She and her husband, Craig, are the ones I always go to when I have questions about blogging and photography.

Anyways, over the weekend, I told her that I have written quite a few drafts for my blog over the last couple of months but have only posted one or two.  It seems like all I am doing in these drafts is rambling on about my thoughts–not a big stream-of-consciousness kind of guy–and have no real direction with what I want my message to be.  I guess I figure that I need to take into consideration my audience, as small as it is, and not upload posts that are basically self-serving and offer very little, if any, insights into me or my downhill view of the world.  When I look back on my past, most of the things that have gone terribly wrong in my life can be traced by to me being myopic and ego-centric.  That idea is fodder for a never-to-be-written autobiography, but my point is that I am very cautious about doing something that is purely self-servicing. Doing that has usually ended up biting me in the ass someway that I never saw coming.  I guess that is one of the more common outcomes of being self-centered. I’m still self-centered, i.e. selfish, but I am aware of it and try to compensate for it in hopes a being a better person.  Some days go better than others.  Thank goodness I have a wife and family who love me for what I am and in spite of what I am.

My daughter told me that being self-serving is one of the major motivations for people to blog in the first place.  I got thinking about what she said and quickly concluded that she is correct.  In my case, I started blogging as a means to deal with the emotional difficulties involved with taking care of my mother in the last year of her life. I knew going in that it would be a taxing experience but what are you going to do.  I believe that people should do the right thing even if they don’t want to or it takes a toll on them–knowing what is the right thing to do seems to be the challenge for most of us. I wanted to have some sort of chronological record of my emotional evolution through those months in order to look back and, hopefully, learn something I could apply to my life as well as pass on some wisdom to my kids.  The blog seems to have served me well in that aspect.  The same thing could have been accomplished with a journal but, hey, why not share the insights; they might help someone else to exorcize his or her demons.

All of this brings me to the point of this post.  We are getting ready to go to Maine in the morning for a well-deserved vacation and many people have told me to make sure I post to my blog about our experiences.  I am not sure I will do that.  Not because I don’t want to share–well, maybe a little–but rather because I don’t think I will have anything worth sharing.  In other words, to what end?  I will be taking my laptop and camera but I don’t know if I will be posting next week or ever again.