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  1. #1
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    Mar 2005
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    Default Down East RoadTrip:

    Day 1: Friday, June 8th. The second worst day of any fly/drive RoadTrip is the day you fly to your destination. The worst day is, of course, the day one flies home as it means the trip is over. How bad this has become is highlighted by the fact that a few small 'scores' made our particular flight relatively pain free: It was non-stop (PHX to BOS) so no layover anywhere or the chance of missing a connection. The seat next to me was unoccupied so I got to store my 'personal item' under the seat in front of the middle seat and still have my 'full 31 inches' of leg room. (The fellow in the window seat used the actual empty seat for his stuff.) And when the man in front of me reclined and felt my knees digging into his back, he un-reclined; for which I thanked him profusely! Seriously, what do those small 'victories' say about the current state of air travel?

    Day 2: Saturday, June 9th. This was the day of the event which provided the excuse for this trip, my niece's wedding in Boston. It was a mid-morning event on the waterfront with great views of Boston harbor and both working and pleasure water craft coming and going. And, of course, it was a great chance to catch up with family. The festivities lasted until mid-afternoon at which point we ransomed our car from the parking garage and headed north through New Hampshire (where I used to live and work) and southern Maine (where I also used to live and work as well as attending undergraduate school) to Freeport. Even though much has changed in the intervening xx years (don't ask, at least there are only two digits!) the feel of the place was still much the same and certainly different from my current home in Arizona. There was a bit of a screw-up with our motel reservations and we had to adjust on the fly, but managed to book accommodations just down the road at a better place for the same price for the next couple of days. Have I mentioned that my wife is one of the best shoppers and negotiators on the planet? We did walk around Freeport a bit in the evening and of course stopped in at L. L. Bean's, but that was it for 'adventure' on this day.

    Day 3: Sunday, June 10th. Our first real day to ourselves, we had semi-purposefully built a two night stay in Freeport into our plans so that we could finally relax just a bit, decompress, and get over the last of any jet lag. After sleeping in a bit (still early on our body clocks) we had breakfast and headed down the coast first to Wolfe Neck State Park for a hike along the rock-ribbed coast of Maine and then on to Bath for a visit to the Maine Maritime Museum. Besides the ship-building and lighthouse keeping exhibits of the museum, we were very much in luck at the museum as they had just finished restoring a Bath-built schooner, the Mary E, which had sunk, been salvaged, and then lovingly refitted. The ceremony celebrating her return had just happened the previous day and so we were among the first tourists to walk her decks. And as we toured this roughly century-old schooner we had views of some of the Navy's newest Burke- and Zumwalt-class destroyers being built just up river at Bath Iron Works. A quick stop on the way home to start laying in provisions for the rest of the trip was all that was left before calling it another successful RoadTrip day.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-28-2018 at 08:47 AM. Reason: Adding subtitle

  2. #2
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    Default Down East RoadTrip: Getting Serious

    Day 4: Monday, June 11th. And our first modestly heavy driving day. I should note that as I have aged I take much less joy and have almost no sense of achievement in just laying down miles. I'd far sooner enjoy seeing, experiencing, and accomplishing things. So today our goal was 'only' to get to Southwest Harbor, ME and get settled into our home on Mount Desert Island - the site of Acadia National Park. We made one major stop on the way up at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.



    This was a great place to spend a few hours walking around the various gardens, sculptures, a butterfly house, and along the coast. It also seems to be especially conscious of children with tree houses and other whimsical play areas. After a couple of hours of walking (and using their jitney-type shuttles on occasion) we continued our drive to Southwest Harbor, stopping for provisions in Ellsworth, and checked-in to our home for the next few days. After getting settled, I took a little stroll and realized we were just a couple of hundred yards from a medical center that I used to perform lab work for when I lived and worked in Portsmouth, NH those too many years ago.

    Day 5: Tuesday, June 12th. Today was our first day exploring Acadia National Park. Even though I had lived in Maine for a dozen years, this was my first real visit to the park. I discount a geologic field trip I took there when I was in college. We were a little concerned in that we had thought that we were early enough in the season that there wouldn't be too many visitors, but had become worried as we drove onto Mount Desert Island the day before when traffic was terrible. I know that there is a very short window in Maine between the end of winter and the beginning of tourist season to get all the roadwork done after the brutal effects of salting and frost heaves, and it seemed that there were many, many crews trying to do just that. But it turned out that once we were in the park proper things quieted down considerably. The main loop road through the park is one-way which helps a great deal, as most of the attractions in Acadia are short walks to incredibly scenic sites, so there's a lot of pulling off and back onto the road. Highlights for us included Sieur de Mont Gardens, the ocean-side path, lunch at the Jordon Pond House which was surprisingly good and affordable for a national park concessionaire, and Otter Point.



    We did not hit two of the recommended highlights, Sand Beach and Thunder Hole. I would caution one and all to use paper maps rather than GPS in this park and maintain positional awareness at all times. Also note that on occasion, roads do not cross at grade and so even though maps and databases may think there's a connection, there really isn't. Everybody we met was incredibly friendly and helpful. We are also getting noticeably more relaxed as we settle in to vacation mode more and more. But on the way back to our temporary home, my wife spotted an 'unadvertised special' a little restful garden that we had not seen mentioned in any of our research: the Asticou Azalea Garden (donations accepted) at the junction of ME-3 and ME-198 just northeast of Northeast Harbor.

    Day 6: Wednesday, June 13th. Nearly a week into our trip, we decided to take it a bit easier today. We stuck to 'our' side of Mount Desert Island and looped around the park visiting shoreline sites, the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, and the incredible Seal Cove Auto Museum.


    (I suppose it would be possible to take a RoadTrip without a car, but... Thank you, Herr Benz)

    \before returning home for lunch and a short nap. We set out in the early evening to see a few places nearer our temporary home, but none worked out terribly well. One was an archaeological site in the national park that had been described as a mussel midden. I had GPS co-ordinates but no address and could find nothing. I suspect that there wasn't much to see and that visitors would be actively discouraged anyway. Next up was a butterfly garden on private property in town that was lovely, and had a very nice view of Southwest Harbor, but the butterfly migration had brought them through earlier in the month so we only spent about ten minutes there. Finally, there was a local lobster pound that had lobsters at a quite reasonable price, but it was still too early in the evening for dinner and in any event we were having our first serious clouds of the trip and it started raining shortly after we decided to head back to the house.

    Day 7: Thursday, June 14th. Well, today the weather decided we'd take it even easier. We have had excellent luck so far with blue skies and sunshine right up until last evening. This morning we woke to a wet car (unheard of at our southern Arizona home!) and more light drizzle. So we got a relatively late start and just returned to Jordan Pond House in the national park for some more of their popovers and then headed into Bar Harbor for a walking tour of the town and its Shore Path. One of the reasons I love to travel as early in the season as I can is that the locals are actually glad to see tourists (and their money) after the long winter and their friendliness (Maine-iacs are incredibly friendly to begin with.) is still quite real and evident. Upon our return home, I decided I wanted to walk a bit more and started out towards an archaeological site I had read about. As I was getting close I ran into a couple of summer residents and asked them what if anything they knew about it. Turns out they knew quite a bit: where it was, how to get to it, etc. Unfortunately I would have had to cross a bit of private land to get to the shore (In Maine the inter-tidal zone is public.) but more importantly the site, once discovered, had been quickly covered back up to preserve it and there was really nothing to see there but rocks. Since I earned my undergraduate degree in Geology partly by studying and mapping the Maine shore, I was already quite familiar with its rocks, so I just headed home to start getting ready for tomorrow's drive into Canada.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-20-2018 at 03:48 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Down East RoadTrip: Heading Even Farther Down East

    Day 8: Friday, June 15th. Today was mostly a driving day since we needed to get from the central coast of Maine to the middle of New Brunswick, Canada. As a former 'Maine-iac', I hope I don't sound too boastful in saying that the entire drive was scenic (well, except for the too numerous construction zones). I also got to introduce my wife to a relatively common practice amongst locals of seeking short-cuts rather than just sticking to the main through highway (in our case, US-1). There's actually a great short story about the practice and its 'consequences' called Mrs. Todd's Shortcut by a local writer you may have heard of, Stephen King. In any event we did stick to US-1 in one particular instance so that we could then make a detour to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. Despite its name it sits on the EASTERN-most point of land in the US.

    We had a picnic lunch here while looking out at the Quoddy Narrows, the Bay of Fundy, Campobello Island, and Grand Manan Island. Simply gorgeous! After a very short wait in line (less than a minute) and a rather detailed questioning by customs (still less than a couple of minutes) we crossed into Canada. This was at the same border crossing that I used to, thirty or forty years ago, walk across with my dog and just wave at the customs agents. In fact, when the agent asked me when I was last in Canada, I was thinking of just those crossings and hearkened back to those days. My wife had to remind me of the right answer: that we had been in Canada just a few years ago. After that, and losing another hour to the time zone change at the border, it was just more straightforward driving to our next overnight stop in Moncton, NB.

    Day 9: Saturday, June 16th. Another day devoted mostly to driving as we headed up to Nova Scotia and out onto Cape Breton Island where we'll be spending the next four nights/three days. Traffic got consistently lighter and lighter, and the roads developed more curves and more scenery as we progressed. I had a few possible places to stop scoped out, but because we got a slightly delayed start in the morning, the only place we actually got out of the car for any extended period was in Port Hawkesbury just after crossing onto Cape Breton Island. We had lunch, stocked up on food and supplies at what could be the last major supermarket we'd see for a while, and checked in at the visitors center to get some last minute advice and a real paper map of the province. At some point as we headed north along the eastern side of Cape Breton, the road signs switched from being in English and French to being in English and Gaelic, but I can't say precisely where, although I suspect it was around the Gaelic College in Saint Anns. Our home for the next few days will be a hand-built century-old cottage wedged in between the French River Wilderness Area and the Atlantic Ocean.

    Day 10: Sunday, June 17th. Took the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton.



    While the scenery is spectacular, what I think I'll remember most about today was getting to meet, if only briefly, some of the locals. We happen to be here very early in the season, actually one of my favorite times to visit tourist-reliant places. The people who live here are just coming out of a long winter and are much happier to see their visitors now rather than at the end of the season when they're just fed up with the traffic. Actually we probably couldn't have timed our arrival much better. It turns out that the Museum of Highlands Heritage, A fascinating small museum devoted to local lore, opened for the first time today and my wife and I were only their third visitors of the season. We had earlier stopped in Neil's Harbor to visit the lighthouse and its indoor 'secret' the ice cream parlor.



    But as I said, the scenery is spectacular and on the drive around the island (done counterclockwise to have the ocean on our side) there were many, many pullouts for photo-ops, short (and much longer) trails, even a boardwalk-looped trail through a bog. One other note: I have often on these pages urged people to always check in at the ranger/visitors center. We did so when we got to the Parks Canada center for Cape Breton Highlands National Park, paid our entry fee and (because it's early in the season and there were no lines) talked to the ranger for several minutes. She showed us the locations of the best trails for us, told us about construction on one portion of the main road and showed us an alterative, and graciously answered some of our more naive questions about the park and the local culture. When we left and headed into the park, we could just drive around the modest line at the gate because we had bought our pass already.

    And Adventure! When my wife went to use the bath in the evening, she reported that there was water all over the floor. I went in to check it out, I could hear water running and tracked it down to a small enclosure from which the bath/shower fittings emerged. when I lifted its cover, there was indeed a steady spray coming from one of the fittings. I decided to try to tighten the connection, but as soon as I touched it, the entire contraption came apart and there was an immediate geyser of water at full pressure coming from the now unconstrained water line and I was soon completely drenched. I could just manage to hold the line closed and called for my wife to try to find the shut-off valve. When she couldn't she tried calling the owner of or rental property and failing to reach him, called 911. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to keep the water from completely drowning everything, but had to change hands every so often and during the changeover water would spew out everywhere. My wife, meanwhile had sent a text to the owner which he got and since he lived nearby he came over right away, followed shortly by two members of the local volunteer fire department. They managed to get the water turned off, but it would be impossible to attempt repairs until the following morning, so I just dried myself off as best I could and we both just went to sleep.

    Day 11: Monday, June 18th. The owner of our rental property arrived this morning to take a better look at the plumbing situation and then headed into town to the local hardware store for some parts. The basic problem was also the basic charm of the house and why we had chosen it to rent. It was hand-built house on the shoreline. Unfortunately at the time it was built, and because of the remoteness of the setting, indoor plumbing was not included in the original design or construction, but had all been jury-rigged later. Although the owner did his best to get things back in working order through most of the morning, by mid-day there was still no guarantee that we would have running water in the house by the end of the day, so we decided to find a new place to stay. Fortunately, as I've mentioned once or twice previously, we are here at the very start of the season, so there were plenty of vacancies and we 'moved' an hour or so down the road to Baddeck which was closer to our destination sites for the next couple of days. After getting checked in, we had a late lunch and visited the Alexander Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, a fascinating place dedicated to the exploits of a scientist and inventor who rivaled Edison and the Wright Brothers. Then, after the 'trauma' of the previous evening, we simply returned to our new abode and settled in for a well-earned evening of doing nothing but sitting on our veranda, surfing the net, writing up this blog, and looking out over Baddeck Bay at Beinn Bhreagh (Bell's home here in Canada) as the first solid rain of our journey fell.

    Day 12: Tuesday, June 19th. This would be our last full day on Cape Breton Island, so with intermittent showers in the forecast, we decided to head for Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.



    This had the advantages both of being a part of the Parks Canada system as well as having both indoor and outdoor venues. However, the unfortunate thing about being so early in the season is that not everything was open, up, and running. On the plus side, with few visitors we got to park closer to the fortress than we would have at the height of the season when you have to park a fair ways away and take a shuttle bus in. On the minus side, not all the docents/guides/interpreters were yet on board and so the highlight of this particular site, the period-costumed guides, were very few and far between and even though we arrived before mid-day all the English language guided tours were booked up. Fortress Louisbourg has also adopted something akin to the business model of low-cost airlines. Basic entry is very cheap, but you then pay extra for any tour or experience (such as firing a musket or canon). Still we enjoyed our walk around the fortifications and the buildings that housed the settlers of the time, as well as the views out over the bay. When it started raining in the afternoon, we just decided to head on back 'home', start getting packed for the drive back to Boston, and make an early evening of it.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-20-2018 at 03:50 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Down East RoadTrip: Up West?

    Day 13: Wednesday, June 20th. Now we start the 'long' drive back to Boston to catch our return flight to Arizona. After such a long, fulfilling, and 'adventurous' RoadTrip, I'm really glad that we planned to take three days for the drive back. Yes, we could have conceivably done it in two, but they would have been long days in the saddle and very tiring. We are tired enough already from our travels and don't want to just mindlessly press on regardless. So a simple drive back to Moncton NB where we'll stay in the same apartment we did on the way up, but from here back to Boston we'll be taking a different, more inland route - just for the variety.

    Day 14: Thursday, June 21st. Another basic driving day, but for a little variety we won't be taking the same route back, but will instead be taking a bit of an inland route to join up with I-95 at Houlton ME for our run into Boston. But even days that are 'all about driving' can have the odd stop or two, and today had just that, two stops. The first is for lunch at a Sam Snead designed golf course in Fredericton NB where, despite the fancy setting and a table overlooking the 18th green (and 19th hole) the bill for a very tasty lunch was almost exactly the same as we had been paying throughout the trip. The second was a slight detour to the obligatory "world's biggest...". In this case it was the World's Longest Covered Bridge in Hartland, NB.



    It's in a very picturesque setting, but is only one lane wide and although the locals seemed to have the 'After you' bit down pat, we decided to just park on 'our' side of the bridge and use the walkway that was also part of the covered structure and enjoy the views. As it happened there was an ice cream stand on the far side where we spent the last of our loonies and toonies before hopping back in the car for our short run back to the border and our last on-the-road overnight stop in Bangor. All that's left is to get back to Boston tomorrow and fly home the next day.

    Day 15: Friday, June 22nd. Things are definitely winding down now. Today's main activity was simply driving to Boston to be ready to catch our flight home in the morning. We did make one stop along the way in Portsmouth NH where I used to live and work. I got to show my wife, whom I met in Arizona, one of the places I used to live and we had a picnic lunch in a local riverside park then strolled around some gardens, the local historic restoration of Strawbery Banke, and past John Paul Jones' home. From there the drive into our B&B near Logan Airport was about as bad as it could have been. Even though we were getting into town before rush hour, it was a Friday afternoon and traffic was just the pits.

    Day 16: Saturday, June 23rd. As noted at the start, this was always going to be the worst day of the trip. Indeed, Our flight was fully booked (at least we got to check our luggage for free) and we were already tired and were about to make what amounted to a four hour time-zone shift, so that when we arrived in Phoenix at around 2:00 PM local time, our bodies felt as though it were 6:00. We retrieved our bags, caught the shuttle to our car, and made the two hour or so drive back to Tucson and collapsed. It took us a couple of days to recover from the trip, get back on Mountain Standard Time, take care of doing the laundry, etc. And another day to write this report from notes that I had kept daily throughout the trip. I highly recommend that last bit as there's nothing like writing in the immediacy of the moment to capture the events and to prevent memory fade/overload.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 08-24-2018 at 03:30 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Default

    Loved the report! One of the trips hubby and I have talked about is to Eastern Canada, but probably not until *after* I retire. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Welcome back!


    Donna

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    7,064

    Default Didn't see you!

    Interesting report. So you were hanging around the New England States at the same time I was. Actually I am still in NH for another day, then back to Boston. However my interests and ability to enjoy them are way different from yours.

    When (If) I do my report, I will document my highlights, albeit it without photos. However there is no motivation at the moment.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Phoenix, Arizona
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    Default

    Nice job, Buck--almost felt like I was riding along! My last trip to Acadia National Park was in '79; almost 40 years? Geez, where does it go? Lovely country down east--just a bit too cold in the winter for these old bones.

    Rick

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,162

    Default It's always those tiny details that make this an adventure

    What a joy to read this report. The details of the journey are always the most interesting parts. And like Buck, driving for the sheer joy of "consuming miles" is not part of my road trip interest these days.

    Loved the story of the plumbing adventure.

    Thanks for sharing all of this with us (**me**).

    Mark

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