Monday, May 24, 2004

concord, massachusetts

We left Maine at 5 a.m. on Sunday, determined to miss any afternoon traffic jams from city dwellers heading back from the weekend. We know how it is to drive in Boston, and traveling at off hours is an excellent choice. We arrived at the Elk's Lodge in Concord by 7:30 a.m., glad for the lack of traffic.

Being Elk's members saves the day again. It is just about impossible to find anyplace to stay within a 50-mile radius of Boston. You can pretty much forget about boondocking when you're in this neck of the woods. Even if the occasional Walmart would allow you to stay, the parking lots are so small and tightly packed it's an exercise in futility.

This Elk's lodge is short on amenities--only one puny electrical connection. We are loaded with solar, but are mired down in stormy weather right now. The location is convenient, with the train (called the T here), just around the corner, and the charming little town center of W. Concord within walking distance. The area is rich with history, not only of the Revolution, but for some of the great writer's of our time. Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau all called Concord home. I'm looking forward to seeing the Alcott residence, which is now a museum, and walking around Walden Pond (if it ever stops raining long enough!). Thoreau's cabin is long gone, but I have to experience the place that was such an abundant source of inspiration for him. I'm hoping to absorb some of his creative essence; surely there must be a dimension that retains his life energy!

Saturday, May 22, 2004

maine musings

When we last spoke, I was on a quest for Moose. At this point, I have decided that the whole Maine Moose thing is a clever advertising ploy. As we traveled north, we would periodically see yellow road signs depicting flattering silhouettes of Moose... "Warning: Moose Next 27 Miles!" Ever hopeful, I kept watching. In the pouring rain today, I finally saw a hulking shape as we drove past a wetland. I laboriously circled around, risking life and limb in the onslaught of Hwy 1 weekend traffic. Craning my neck with bated breath I found I had clearly located... a large, brown, wet... STUMP.

In traveling around the country I've been fortunate to see quite a bit of wildlife. American Bald Eagles in Washington State, Big Horn Sheep in Colorado, Antelope in Wyoming, Javelina in Big Bend National Park in Texas…I even spied an endangered species on a boat trip into the Everglades. The park ranger got all excited saying it was a type of mink that they had never identified in the park before. Oh well. The elusive Moose waits for another time.

In our Fried Food Frenzy I can report that our Freeport dining experience was perfect as far as location and satisfyingly picturesque view of fishing boats dotting the harbor. Ron liked his "lobstuh" just fine. I thought the shrimp was disappointingly bland, as well as the coleslaw. I kept thinking of a place we had gone in Kennebunkport, and comparing the quality of the food. In the semi-crazed way we do things from time to time, we decided to go there one more time. So away we went. What's a 50 mile trip in a driving rain, when succulent little Atlantic shrimp await?

If you just happen to be heading to Maine, try the Arundel Seafood Center, right on Highway 1 in Arundel. It is an unassuming place, not on the water, very casual, and extremely clean, which always rates high on my list of priorities. Order at the counter, and find a table in the large pine paneled room. Everything was wonderful, with light, tender batter on the fried shrimp, creamy sweet coleslaw, and flaky haddock in their special "fish fry". Not extremely low priced, but reasonable, and a huge mound of shrimp on the small platter for $8.95.

On a somber note:

I've been debating sharing this for the past couple of days. But as I said at the start, this travel journal is going to be about more than sightseeing. And I think this is important. I don't know that this made national news, but it sure got our attention here.

When we were approaching Freeport last Monday, we stopped at the Maine Travel Information Center next to I-295. It is a nice facility with oversized parking, and lots of brochures and guides for things to see in the area. We were there for about _ an hour, and then headed on to our stop for the day. The next day when we were at DeLorme, which is just across the road from the Visitor's Center, we noticed a tremendous amount of police activity, as well as three television stations set up in the parking lot of the Center. When we got home and turned on the local evening news, we were shocked to learn what had occurred.

Not more than 2 hours after we had been at the Visitor's Center, a man had been shot and killed in the parking lot. At that point, local officials had no motive or explanation of what had happened. Later though, the parts of the puzzle were starting to fit together in a plausible scenario.

The victim was apparently a very genteel, extremely proper individual, who worked as a maiter'd at an exclusive resort in the area. He was the type that really did not like inappropriate behavior or rudeness. He had pulled into the rest area in his SUV. Witnesses saw another vehicle arrive, with a couple of young men described as "scruffy looking." The scruffy guys were both seen relieving themselves in the parking lot, rather than going inside to use the facilities. The next thing witnesses saw was one of the men approaching the SUV, whereupon he pulled out a gun and abruptly shot the driver in the head. The shooter and his companion sped out of the parking lot. The speculation is that the SUV driver might have indicated some annoyance or disapproval of their behavior, and they killed him for it.

This was only the second murder in the area in 47 years, so it was even more shocking to everyone.

I seriously debated whether I should include this or not. But I realized that pretending bad things don't happen out here is really not the best path. We are traveling because we love it, pure and simple. We enjoy the change of scenery, the adventure of it, and the unique lifestyle we have constructed. It has been sobering to know that we were in the same parking lot, just a couple of hours earlier. I thought about what we would have done, had we witnessed the crass behavior of the two men. Being honest with myself, I knew in my heart of hearts that we probably would have done something, to indicate our disapproval too.

Maybe it would have been a comment between us, said just a little bit louder than necessary. Maybe it would have been a "look" thrown in their direction. Maybe it would have been a shake of the head... you know? And maybe it would have been us that had life change forever in the blink of an eye. Do I think we should all hang up the keys and stay home? No way. But I do think we all need to remember that we simply do not know who else is out there on the road with us. Take the proper precautions, use good judgment, and be aware of what is going on around you. And above all, do not engage strangers on the road in any kind of debate, argument, or other negative interaction. Trust the gift of your intuition and instincts. They've been programmed into us for thousands of years for good reason. If something is going on that clearly should not be happening, report it to the proper authorities. Don't take it upon yourself to try and "fix it".

So, with that... follow your dream to travel. Hit the road with gusto. Find the best: shrimp, campsites, breathtaking views, and time of your life. Let the sobering moments of the world be a catalyst to keep you thankful for what you have, and determined not to squander it. Be careful, but keep the joy of the journey. And don't ever use fear as an excuse to keep you from experiencing your freedoms. Peace.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

the key to happiness

It is a beautiful morning, complete with a multitude of birdsong and crisp blue skies. This has been a restful stop, and we are refreshed for today's meander further up the coast. My favorite thing here has been the chorus of frogs at night that begin tuning up as soon as dusk descends. Their blend of tiny voices makes me think they truly are small, and I have dubbed them "froglettes." It's a good thing that I awake soothed and alert, because yesterday's events threatened to capsize the I.B. Serene before it left the dock.

Multitasking as usual, we were up early to do some writing, check email, and do laundry. I grabbed up the trash bag and laundry soap as I trailed after Ron, who had been dispatched under the considerable weight of our dirty clothes. A few hours later it became woefully clear that my truck and fifth wheel keys were missing in action. No purse, no pockets, I had been clutching them in my hand when I dropped off the trash bag. As I scoured the trail from RV to laundry and back again, I had the increasing sense of dread about where they might be...and the trash cans had already been emptied into the dumpster.

In mute testament to his love, devotion, and strong sense of self-preservation, Ron prepared for battle. In old jeans and sweatshirt, and appropriately gloved as for surgery, he took on the dumpster. Ever the devoted helpmate, I "assisted" from the sidelines. We (and I use this term loosely) poked, prodded, and gingerly sifted through coffee grounds and lobster carcasses. This was our first attempt at dumpster diving, and we were admittedly awkward and unappreciative of its treasures. I believe I did notice a discarded little table that had potential though. Ron's find was a bag filled with discarded sewer hose connectors...eeewwwwwwwww.

Anyway...we quickly reached the saturation point with this dubious venture without finding the keys. I just *know* they were in there someplace, happily nestled between cucumber skins and bags of Fido's morning deposits. It was time to admit defeat, and head to town. The nearest Dodge dealer meant a trip back to Portland. Ron already knew what this meant, I was the one about to get the education. Let me just add here, that I do NOT lose things. To me, it is both an irritant and psychological wound to have one of my possessions set forth into the universe. And I even lost my really cool little LED flashlight! Definitely irritating. Anyway, off to the Dodge dealer.

These nice fancy key fobs that lock and unlock your vehicle, and arm your security system are the deluxe version of a key. As a matter of fact, they actually contain a microchip inside the key itself. This is so much more than buying a fob and making a new key. First of all, they deprogram the key that is wandering in the great beyond to deactiviate it. We don't want someone tracking you down and stealing your vehicle when they find your key. In our case, the chances of this are probably slim to none, but I understand the concept. Then they have to reprogram a new fob and key for you, using a computer that reads a message from your particular vehicle. Being fond of round numbers it works like this...$40 for the fob, $40 for the KEY, and and $40 for the new programming. Oh, and did I mention the $6 "environmental" fee? I think that's rent for the space in the landfill where my old key is currently residing. So, for $126 and change, I got a new key! Isn't that fun? We thought so. I also enjoyed the part where we got to hang out in the waiting room of the Dodge dealer for over an hour. And, if I find I actually lost the key in plain sight in our fifth wheel, we will find that it no longer works, and we can pay yet another $40 to have it reprogrammed.

So that's it. Don't lose your keys, and if you do...don't lose them in the trash, but if you do...hope your partner is as gracious as Ron is. I have to take a moment here. The man is a saint. He has not said one word about losing the keys. Has not chastised me. No lectures. No heavy sighs accompanied by eyes cast towards the heavens. He is either heavily medicated, or the world's greatest husband.

Today we are traveling further up the coast. We've found an Elk's Lodge in Rockland, which should be a good location for further exploration. I'm on a quest to see a moose. I'll let you know what happens.

Monday, May 17, 2004

freeport, maine: adventures with all day breakfast

So, you know that we've been in Kennebunkport. I do believe that I neglected to mention that I drove over 3,000 miles in six days to get us there. Let me just say that I do NOT recommend this demonic method of travel. For various irritating and unavoidable reasons, time had been squandered down to a fraction of what it was supposed to be, for the trip across country. If you've wandered through our website, you know that Ron is legally blind. This means that I slip on my Goal Setting Single-Minded Woman With a Purpose persona, and drive like hell. I only did it because the Dreams Can't Wait workshop was by no means going to WAIT, and we both wanted and needed to be there. Obviously we made it, and I gathered my fractured brain cells together in time to enjoy the weekend. SO.....

Today we wandered slowly an eensy weensy way up the coast to Freeport, Maine, about 60 miles. Fortunately for us, this is still off-season, and we were able to find a campground. Yep, we are RVunplugged. But that doesn't mean we don't need to do laundry and take care of business along the way, and this is very convenient to our appointment at DeLorme tomorrow (more about that later!).

Doesn't Freeport, Maine just conjure up a pleasant picture? Charming town, fresh lobster, L.L. Bean open 24-hours a day. Oh, and don't forget the ambiance! The whole Maine persona of lighthouses, lobster pots and all things salty. So as we approached our campground, I'm primed and ready for all of the aforementioned bits of kitsch. Imagine my surprise as we were greeted by a compelling line of little ceramic dwarves. Majestically posed in front of the office, fanciful colors of pointy little dwarf hats, some even raising a hand of greeting. Inside the rec room, one lone dwarf stood in his new suit of color, lovingly provided by Rita, the resident manager.

Rita herself is pretty much a sprightly elf of a lady, with a welcoming smile and a real "Mainah" accent. She just loves her little guys, and keeping their finery bright. She transports lilliputians up from her Florida winters, and immediately bedecks them in an imaginative array of colors. Her latest addition was proudly sporting a purple hat, flamingo pink trousers, and a positively shimmering bronze jacket, faintly reminiscent of a pint-sized Liberace. We'll be posting pics as soon as we get to Costco for a new floppy drive, and you'll get to see Rita and her band of merry men.

Hmmmm...must be time for the first installment of Great Grub and Fun Food. We love to find the local hangout, joint, hut, or otherwise anti-chain dining establishment. It is a point of honor to eat where the locals do, and to find a regional food experience. For Kennebunkport, we can report a great little place for breakfast called...All Day Breakfast. You can have anything you want there, as long as it's breakfast. A charming little place painted buttercup yellow inside, they dish up fluffy eggs, potatoes from scratch, homemade crepes and muffins, pancakes bedecked with Maine blueberries and Maine maple syrup, and a heaping helping of Maine hospitality. There are fun vintage type salt & pepper shakers on each table, everything from cowboy boot and hat, to cherubic angels bearing your seasonings. We were treated like "instant" locals, and went there three times.

Ironically, we've been traveling with a can of a dubious food item called All Day Breakfast that our son Derek brought from England as a joke. He brought two cans home while he was at Oxford, and gave them to Ron. The bright blue label had a realistic rendering of the contents, which included a little fried egg, beans, bits of bacon and sausage, and probably assorted snouts and bottoms of cloven hoofed creatures in a savory tomato sauce. We all thought it was a pretty frightening combination, but Ron, with his highly developed palette, heated up a can and tried it. He reported that it wasn't too bad, so you might want to take our restaurant reviews with a grain of sea salt. Anyway, being diehard sentimentalists ("we can't throw it away...Derek brought it from ENGLAND!") we had been carrying this can of....stuff...with us for the past couple of years. Ron knew he had found the perfect way to memorialize the gift. We had found a place where it could dwell in perpetuity, and even be revered and honored for years to come! Last week, we conducted a moving ceremony in the steaming kitchen of All Day Breakfast, where the can of All Day Breakfast was presented to the owner of All Day Breakfast. Rarely have I seen such an expression of rapt....confusion. Just kidding. She actually was completely entertained and delighted with our token of esteem, and has incorporated the "can o'snouts" into the decor of the cafe.

Today we'll be sitting by the sparkling waters of Casco Bay while we partake of lobster and shrimp at the Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company. We went there a couple of years ago, and can't wait to have lunch there today. Time to go out into the sunshine!