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.


The Hurst Road Finger Wave

12 09 2010

Contrary to what many people across America might think, Indiana is not flat.  Well, at least not the southeastern part of the state.  Rolling hills and, at times steep hardwood covered ridges reaching 1000 feet above sea level dominate the topography.  Our home is located in the extreme southeast corner of Washington County, about 20 miles to the northwest of Louisville, KY, as the crow flies.

A quick look at a topography map will indicate that our property in at the extreme northwestern edge of what is called The Knobs.  The Knobs is a range of hills and ridges rising up just to the north of the great basin of the Ohio River.  We live in the “low-rent” section of this prestigious area; in fact, the “white trash” area may be a more appropriate description.  Homes located to the south, on the tops of the ridges with stunning views of the river and the Louisville skyline are always in demand and quite often fetch seven-figure selling prices when, on that rare occasion, someone with an obvious case of temporary insanity decides to sell.

In order to traverse the 17 miles from I-65, just north of Louisville, to our backwoods home, a person must first travel northwest along state highway 60 which runs through a valley between two spectacular ranges of The Knobs; a turn to the north or the south will result in an immediate and significant climb to the top of ridges with breathtaking views of valley farmlands and multiple hardwood covered peaks as far as the eye can see.

Highway 60 is a very good two-lane highway.  It is generally flat with only the occasion gentle rise, fall or curve.  Driving five miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 55 is quite safe except in bad weather or when the deer are moving.  Just a few miles out of Borden and before crossing the Blue River on the edge of Pekin, we leave Highway 60 and begin the final 2.5 mile trek up the back of the ridge known locally as Daisy Hill.

When we first bought our land and moved out to the woods in 1981, the official address was simply Dan Grey Road; no street address, no rural route number, no box number, just Dan Grey Road.  Understand, Dan Grey Road twisted and turned on itself along the ridge of Daisy Hill for a good five to six miles, even crossing the county line and back again.  Still, with so few people living on the gravel road, the mailman didn’t need numbers—he just knew where everybody lived.

Fast forward to present day.  Many changes have taken place to the area along what was once known as Dan Grey Road.  Oh yes, the name of the road changed with the onset of 911 emergency service. The once-gravel Dan Grey Road is now black topped with official green and white county road signs designating it as Hurst Road.  Residents now has street addresses posted on the sides of their mailboxes.  We no longer give directions to our home by using landmarks, just the address number.

The jury is still out whether these changes are good or bad or neither.  However, one thing I do regret with the progress is the loss of what I will call the Hurst Road Finger Wave.  For anyone with rural roots, the finger wave is simply part of the culture.  It may be necessary to distinguish between the rural finger wave, which is given with the index finger of either the right or left hand, depending on which hand is resting atop of the steering wheel and the similar, but significantly different, urban finger wave given with the middle digit of either hand.  There is no need for the person giving either gesture to know or even recognize the recipient.

Unlike the urban figure wave, the origins of the rural finger wave have been lost in posterity.  Perhaps it goes back to the days of horse and buggy when the passing of another person was a rare occasion and the sparse population accounted for nearly everyone, like the mailman, knowing everyone else in a rural community.  In other words, you were expressing a greeting to either a friend or an acquaintance.

Being raised in a small town and spending lots of time on country roads as both a passenger and a driver, I learned the importance of the rural finger wave from my elders.  It should be mentioned that the finger wave must also be preceded by a very brief and therefore safe moment of eye contact with the driver coming in the opposite direction.  The operative word in that last sentence is “safe.”

As with many county-maintained secondary roads, there are very few, if any speed limit signs (legal speed limit on county roads is a maximum of 45 m.p.h.)  on Hurst Road.  There has never been a need.  Only a fool or someone unfamiliar with the road would drive in excess of 30 mile per hour with all the blind curves, hidden driveways and small but steep hills that can easily hide a log truck or tractor and plow taking their half out of the middle of the road.  It should also be noted that since Hurst Road runs along the top of a ridge, there is no shoulder to pull off onto.  If you need to swerve it is a downward journey through trees.  So the experienced and/or wise driver proceeds at a speed that will allow for stopping in the road rather than swerving, if the need arrives.  This cautious pace is ideal for participating in the  time-honored ritual of the finger wave.  Remember, it is not an official finger wave without the eye contact.  That means it takes two drivers, coming in opposite directions, both exercising the appropriate amount of caution to execute the maneuver of the finger wave and passing each other on the narrow county road with a mishap.

I suspect that the finger wave and eye contact may be similar to the eye contact between two basketball players just moments before attempting an alley-oop pass.  Making sure each driver recognizes that someone else is on the narrow road and that both drivers must work together to avoid a potential sideswipe accident is the practical result of the gesture.

I don’t think that type of unspoken cooperation is in vogue today for many people; especially among strangers.  Maybe it is just another example of the lack of civility and courteousness we see in our society.  If I am correct in my hypothesis then why do so many people no longer value and, in turn, practice basic courtesy?  Have our values changed? Maybe we refrain from any effort that does not bring about a positive answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Another explanation for the diminished number of country road driver who have the finger wave as part of their driving etiquette might have something to do with everyone being in such a hurry.  It’s really difficult to make eye contact (the prerequisite for performing the finger wave) when you are taking a blind curve at 45 m.p.h. while talking on a cell phone.

Regardless of the reason, I miss the good feeling I get when I greet a passing stranger knowing that the selfless gesture made each of our days’ just a little better.


The Old Man and the Camaro

29 08 2010

Something interesting happened recently as I was making my weekly pilgrimage to the local landfill.  We live way out in the country and private trash pick up service costs about $30 a month.  Since we recycle and put most of our kitchen waste in the compost bin, we only have a couple of bags of trash a week.  It just didn’t seem like money well spent so I combine my dump run with any other little errands that I can in order to economize on the twelve mile drive into the county seat.

Along the way, I saw that someone had a fire engine red Camaro parked out by the highway–it was for sale.  I knew it was a mid to late 1960s model, and from my 60-miles-an-hour inspection looked to be in good shape.

Like so many boomers I am now at the point in my life where I could buy a toy like the Camaro in question without having to go borrow the money or sell a kidney.  We all know there is nothing cooler than some fat and bald old fart driving a really cool muscle car, right?

After I made my deposit at the landfill and checked off the other items on my list–I am also at the age that if I don’t make a written list my efforts to economize are for naught because I will invariably forget something trivial like paying the telephone bill or going to the doctor’s office to get blood drawn.  The really important stuff like buying beer or seeing what new varieties of garden seeds are on the shelves at the local hardware store always stay at the forefront of my memory–I decided that I would stop and see what the guy was asking for the Camaro.

I have never been a big fan of Cameros.  I don’t have anything against them but the Chevelles and Corvettes were what always got me hot and bothered.  Still, this car was from my glory days and I wanted to see how it looked.

As I pulled up the driveway, I saw two men standing there having a conversation.  I could tell even before I got out of the car that they were posturing themselves physically; they must be sizing one another up in preparation to haggle over the Camaro.

As I approached them I was a little hesitant because I didn’t want to queer the deal for either one of them.  After all, I knew I was just a looker, not a buyer.  Apparently, my approach offered one the the men, who I later learned was the seller, a chance to break off the conversation as he greeted me.

Cautiously, I inserted myself into the conversation with something like, “I’ll bet you guys are talking about the Camaro, right?”

Duh!  I always was good about sensing things like that.

The seller replied in the affirmative and said, “Are you interested?”  Talk about all sorts of ways to interpret and respond to that question.

I didn’t give him a direct answer but rather asked what model was it; I was thinking 1968.

“It’s a 1967.  It’s about 80% restored.”

“What are you asking for it?”

“$10,900.  Another $5000 and it should be in perfect condition.  There needs to be some body work done.”

Apparently, the man who I assumed had been negotiating with the seller as I arrived reached his breaking point.  He unleashed a diatribe emphasizing his expertise with restoring muscle cars and how this Camaro had so many problems a person would be crazy to buy it at that price.

All I could think was, “Slow down, dude.  I’m not going to start a bidding war.”

I honestly thought that was his fear; boy, was I ever wrong.

After the man finished pointing out all the problems with the Camaro he started a rant on what the hell is wrong with cars today and how they are all crap.

Finally, after the seller and I did not take the bait and just stood there for at least five minutes, the guy ran out of wind and left.

As he was pulling out onto the highway, he stopped, got out of his vehicle, walked around the Camaro shaking his head before going on his way.  Oh, I guess I should interject that he was driving an old, rust and primer colored Ford Ranger pickup.  I guess he was in the process of restoring that as well.

As I turned back to the seller, his whole expression had changed.  He was relaxed; almost mellow.  He said, “I don’t know you but was I ever glad that you pulled up.  That guy was busting my chops about my Camaro for at least twenty minutes before you pulled up.”

“You are more patient than I would have been.” I replied.

He explained that normally he would not have put up with it but he figured the guy was just using it as a tactic to whittle down the price.

“I figured out that was not his game, though; he never asked me the price.  I think he’s just one of those guys who gets some sort of warped pleasure out of complaining about everything.” the seller postulated.

I said, “I guess there are people in this world who would gripe if you hung them with a new rope.”

We both laughed and talked about the Camaro.  I think the seller knew I was not a buyer and I knew he was not going to try and sell it to me.  We just enjoyed the conversation and never missed the grumpy old man.

However, I have not been able to get the old man out of my mind.  Is a person born with a genetic tendency towards a certain way of viewing the world?  What were the old man’s parents like?  Did they see the world as a place filled with obstacles rather than opportunities?  Were they the type of people who not only saw the glass half empty but also saw the glass as being cracked, chipped and dirty?

I have known people like the old man my entire life (stuff for another blog). Does the act of pointing out what is wrong make them feel better about themselves or is it actually the only way they see the world around them.  Of course, on the opposite end of the scale are people who see nothing wrong with anything.  At least those people don’t rain on every damn parade they can find.

It seems to me that the Buddhists have it right when they recommend “The Middle Path”.