Thursday, August 21, 2014

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL…

 No… not talking about the cheesy CBS soap opera… It’s the Bold Coast of Maine… the furthest point east in the contiguous United States… home to the second largest whirlpool in the world… the last stone ground mustard mill in the U.S… and the site of the Great Gold Swindle. (In 1897 the Reverend Prescott Jernegan with his accomplice Charles Fisher made the BOLD claim that they could extract gold from seawater scamming greedy and maybe not too bright investors from Boston and New York.)

Sunset Point, view from our site
The only RV Park in Lubec is Sunset Point.  This small park has WIFI, water and electric hook up only with a dump station and honey wagon service.  They also offer free use of pots burners and propane to cook lobsters at our site.  On the first night, our neighbor is cooking lobsters and offers to share the pot.  It’s a quick trip down the road to the new kids in town, H.D. & Sons Seafood (Their Website is coming but you can contact them at hdandsonsseafood at Yahoo dot com to order live lobster shipped.) We pick up a couple of pound and a half soft-shelled lobsters – total cost $13.50 add a green salad, some corn on the cob and melt some butter and life so does not suck!

Lubec waterfront
The town of Lubec is quaint and picturesque.  The waterfront is a combination of repurposed, maintained, restored and decaying/waiting to be restored smoke houses and fish shacks.  There are a couple of art galleries featuring local artists and found art sculptures. The hardware store has a bit of everything but not a lot of any one thing. The McCurdy Smokehouse was the last traditional smoked-herring facility in the United States when it closed its doors in 1991. Today the property is a museum about the fishing industry in the skinning/packing shed and is working to preserve the other buildings.  It is a fascinating look into Lubec’s past where the odor of smoke and fish still lingers.



Water St. Tavern
The Water Street Tavern and Inn (The easternmost tavern in the U.S.) is a great spot to grab a brew and small bites.   We grab a couple of local brews and an order of Fish Bites: chunks of haddock lightly battered and fried with a zesty tartar sauce and an order of Not So Good Fried Green Beans also lightly battered, fried and served with a chipotle aioli dipping sauce. They also have a decent selection of wines to pair with the daily changing menu. This place deserves a second visit so we return a few days later for brews and more of those horrible Green Beans (horribly delicious that is) and end up staying for dinner.  We share a cup of their Haddock Chowder, (thick, loaded and savory) Crispy Haddock Fish and Chips and Grilled Scallops (both done absolutely right.) We splurge on dessert, a ginormous slice of their signature tall chocolate cake with a suggested pairing glass of red wine.  This is sin on a plate and over half comes home with us to enjoy the next day.
Water Street Tavern & Inn on Urbanspoon

Piglet
The extreme tidal range where waters exchange between Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy, combined with the unusual topography of the sea floor create the Old Sow Whirlpool.  This is the largest tidal whirlpool in the western hemisphere where small craft — especially vessels with keels (sailboats) and human-powered vessels — are warned to avoid these waters when the tide is running.  




Old Sow
So of course we book a cruise with Downeast Charter Boat Tours timed to hit the Old Sow at swirl time.  On the way we watch minke whales, porpoises, seals and bald eagles doing their thing in the bay.  We get great views of Campobello Island and a salmon fishery.  As we enter the channel between Moose Island in the U.S. and Deer Island in Canada there is a distinct wall of water coming from the Bay of Fundy direction and numerous small whirlpools or “piglets” forming.  As we cruise around the area the whirlpool begins to form and we ride around the outer edge.  Since we are in the middle of the lunar cycle the whirlpool is pretty calm.  A ride at the full moon, particularly during a super moon would be outstanding! 


Lobster Men
West Quoddy Head Light
The Easternmost point in the United States is the Quoddy Head State Park.   It is home to the West Quoddy Head Light.  We stop to check out the lighthouse and watch the lobster men hauling their catch. There are a couple of trails here and we hike the Coast Guard Trail to the scenic viewpoint of the Quoddy Narrows. 
FDR Cottage
Hubbard Cottage
Lubec is also known as the gateway to Campobello Island, New Brunswick.  One of our “neighbors” at Sunset Point is a professional photographer and she joins us for a trip across the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge over to the island. We start at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park and tour the FDR cottage and the Hubbard cottage and the surrounding grounds.  We head over to the Wells-Shober cottage for “Tea with Eleanor” where we enjoy bottomless cups of tea and an assortment of cookies while listening to the life story of the longest serving first lady of the United States. 

East Quoddy Head Light
Afterwards we stop at the Fireside Restaurant for a meh meal while waiting for the tide to go out then proceed to the East Quoddy Lighthouse.  (One of the most photographed lighthouses in the world… must be because we sure took a ton o photos of it!) The lighthouse is accessible at low tide via a series of metal stairs that take us up and over cliffs down to rocky beaches and back up again.  We get there just before sunset.

Two items we did not expect to find in these far eastern reaches are gourmet chocolate and artisan handcrafted mustard. 

Across the highway from Sunset Point is Monica’s Chocolates.  Monica Elliot combines the perfect combination of fine chocolates with a traditional filling that she learned to make in her native Peru. These are by far (in our opinion) some the finest confections anywhere.  She also carries a line of alpaca products and costume jewelry from Peru at super reasonable prices and some Maine-centric products.  All of her products can be ordered on-line so we will never be without :-) Yea!

On the road to Eastport is Raye’s Mustard Mill, a mecca for the true artisanal condiment connoisseur. The last remaining stone ground mustard mill in the U.S.  For over a hundred years the Raye family has been producing award winning, small batch, cold grind mustard using the original stones imported from France in 1900. We take a short tour, taste their mustards and leave with a half dozen jars of mustard.  (This should tide us over for a bit LOL.)




Eastport
In Eastport we stroll along the waterfront and check out some of the specialty shops.  The Seaside Salts catches our eye with their display of natural Himalayan salt lamps.  They also carry an assortment of local culinary salts and beauty products.

At Dancing Dog Pottery and arts, we meet painter and potter Al Erikson. We have a great visit while admiring his paintings, pottery and porcelains with their unique Chinese glazes.  The gallery also sells unique jewelry created by his wife Kelle.  But this gallery will not be in Eastport for long.  At the end of this current season they will be relocating to Oregon, just south of Newport.  We’ll be stopping by for a visit next time we’re in the Pacific Northwest. 

Jim's Shop and Woody
with two handcrafted scooters
All afternoon we see an antique woody bus parked at various locations around town.  We stop to admire it parked in front of a bright turquoise building that appears to be a woodworking shop.  It’s owner Jim Blankman steps out of the hut and we talk to him about the car (a 1947 Dodge originally used to carry sardine packers to work) and ask if it’s OK to take some photos of the car and some of his wood projects.  Turns out he's originally from CA,  lived in a tree house in Corralitos before he moved to Eastport in the early 70's.  After discussing the Corralitos Meat Market he invites us into his shop and shows us his current projects, a teardrop camper, a reproduction of a door to restore a local building to it’s original glory, push scooters and his bread and butter projects: beds for electric skate boards.  He is a true craftsman and a genuinely friendly and gracious individual.


YUM!

On our last night in Lubec, we arrange for a lobster kettle set up, pick up a couple of one and a half pound hard shells from our friends at H.D. and Sons,  grill a couple of steaks, add some corn on the cob and red potatoes… Surf and Turf at it's finest!

We originally intend to spend a week here, but there is so much to do... so we extend for a second week.  In the middle of the second week, Dave throws another DEF error message.  The closest dealer is in Calais, ME about 47 miles away.  So Dave goes into the shop where they try to fix the problem. A few days later the error is back, so we extend our stay and Dave goes back again.  They do more diagnostics and Dave has to return the next day for what we hope will be the final solution. We’ve now been in Lubec for three weeks.  We originally hoped to make it to Baxter St. Park and fly over Katahdin (the northern Terminus of the AT) but with Dave not at his peak, we think it would be safer to head back to Bar Harbor, closer to a larger GMC dealer and the shuttle bus service to get us around if Dave needs to stay in the hospital


We did get to see another super moon and wished we'd booked the Old Sow tour this day.
According to the boat captain, "It was Crazy Wicked!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

"YOU HAVE TO GO TO BAR HARBOR!"

or… “YE GATTA GO TA BAW HAWBAW.”  We’ve heard this a lot since we’ve been in New England.  So DUH… we head to Mount Desert Island and visit Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor.  There are quite a few campgrounds in this area and we choose Bar Harbor Campground.  It’s unique in that they take no reservations and no credit cards.  We get a full hookup site at the back with decent WIFI close to the office and bus stop.

View of Bar Harbor from
Cadillac Mountain
The year round population of Mount Desert Island is about 10,000 but it is estimated that two and a half million tourists visit the island each year. A FREE bus line, The Island Explorer is available to get onto and around the island. These busses are equipped with bike racks and there is also a Bicycle Express trailer that carries overflow bikes along the route. With crowded streets and limited parking on the Island, this is not a luxury it’s a necessity… plus… did I mention? It’s FREE!
The Solitude of Cadillac Mountain



In the Acadia National Park visitor center we catch a film about the park. It touts the reasons folks come to Acadia: the views, the trails and the solitude.  We’ll give them the views and the trails, but those 2.5 mil. visitors kinda mess with the solitude during the summer months. We hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain. At 1,528 feet it is the highest point along the eastern seaboard.  

Views from Schoodic

Although most of the park is on Mount Desert Island, there is a small section on the Schoodic peninsula.  On our way to this section of the park, we stop and check out the MainStay Cottages and RV Park in Winter Harbor. (Someplace we may stay in the future.) The owner encourages us to visit the Wharf Gallery & Grill in Corea for lunch and to be sure to drive to Grindstone Neck to see the cottages of the rich and famous.  We then drive into the park stopping to hike to Schoodic Head for views of Frenchman’s Bay and Cadillac Mountain.  And then proceed to Schoodic point and find granite outcroppings, pounding surf, spruce, jack pines and the solitude of Acadia.

An Unlikely Lunch Spot
Corea
Next on the agenda is lunch in Corea, a classic Down East fishing village.  We follow the hand made cardboard signs with “Warf Grill Open” written in black sharpie, to a dirt lane with a small group of ramshackle fish shacks perched over the harbor to The Wharf Gallery and Grill.  The Gallery displays some wonderful vintage photographs (1940-1960) by local photographer Louise Z. Young.  The outdoor kitchen serves up Whole Lobsters and a limited menu.  We try the Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwich:  chunks of Lobster and cheese between thick Texas Toast style bread smothered in butter and toasted to perfection.  The Haddock Chowder is flavorful with plenty of fish and potatoes, although it could be better if the stock was reduced and thickened a bit.  The best part is the ambiance, a sunny deck with picnic tables amongst the lobster pots, with harbor views.
Wharf Gallery & Grill on Urbanspoon

In the town of Winter Harbor we stop at the Five and Dime, this packed-to-the- rafters emporium is reminiscent F.W. Woolworth and other Dime Stores of the mid-twentieth century.  There’s everything from hardware to gardening to craft supplies, fabrics and patterns and tons of great tchotskies.  While sitting on a bench outside the store admiring our purchases, a local man stops to chat.  He recommends we drive to Grindstone Neck to see the cottages.  Since this is our second local recommendation we head off to check it out.  This summer colony was established in 1889. These vacation getaways sport upwards of 7-12 bedrooms and acres of manicured grounds.  Some of the roads dump into private circular driveways. (oops!)   The residents here share in an association that includes a yacht club, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and a footpath.  The beach at Grindstone Neck is rocky and great for beachcombing small shells, rocks and sea-glass.

The town of Bar Harbor is aptly named. Seems like there is a bar, pub or tavern on every block or so.  We stop at the Bar Harbor Brewing Co. and order up a tasting flight.  IMPRESIVE! Their Cadillac Mountain Stout kicks ass! Right up there with the Rogue brews from Oregon and the Polygamy Ale in Utah.  Too bad BH Brewing only produces 260 barrels of bottled conditioned brew a year… this is one major reason to visit Maine!!!

Great Drinks Here!
The Cottage Street Pub is a great place to stop for an afternoon or after dinner draft or one of their signature cocktails.  Four chalk boards line the wall behind the bar: One with an extensive selection of local beers on tap, one with bottled brews, another with a selection of vintage cocktails and a third with concoctions created on site.  It’s a perfect blend of a local dive bar and tourist friendly watering hole with a selection of adult beverages to please the most discriminating palate.  They pour a mean Remember the Main cocktail and after an afternoon or evening here,  the Island Explorer becomes the “Designated Driver.”

Ok so there is more to Bar Harbor than BARS,  but MUSEUM Harbor or TCHOTSKIE Harbor just lacks that certain cache…  Mixed with the standard tourists shops are upscale boutiques and galleries.  There is a significant absence of national chains, franchises and fast food outlets. (Refreshing!)

The Abbe Museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum, exhibits the native perspective of the region.  Twelve thousand years of history are compacted in a few thousand square feet and their gift shop sells some of the finest modern baskets, jewelry and other art by native artists from Maine and the Maritimes. Well worth the price of admission.

Lucky Day!
Fee Gee Mermaid
Although Tchotskies abound there is one shining spot: The Rockand Art Shop offers fun art, great mineral specimens, fossils and a bit of the weird. They also have a Fee Gee Mermaid on display. (A distant relative of Jake the Alligator Man.)


There are lots of choices when it comes to dining in Bar Harbor.  A couple of the locals recommend the Cottage Street Restaurant & Bakery as the best (and least expensive) for lobsters.  (Lobsters in a bakery???)  It’s a small place with alfresco dining. We order a couple of Boiled Lobster Dinners and are surprised when the waiter delivers our meals dons a pair of plastic gloves and proceeds to shell the lobsters for us.  They are perfectly cooked and come with a tasty corn muffin and an exceptionally good Cole slaw. Had to go inside to pay the bill. The cash register is cleverly located next to the baker case.  Walked out with a bag of scrumptious baked goods. (They didn’t last the night LOL)
Cottage Street Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

2 lobster dinners
served family style
Another great spot for lobster is the Bar Harbor LobsterPound. It is right across the highway from the campground.  No ocean views and it’s right on the highway, but the prices aren’t too bad and the screened dining room is mosquito free on a summer evening.  They offer a couple of options for lobster dinners so we order one with steamed mussels and another with corn and slaw. For desert: it’s blueberry pie a la mode.  Probably one of the best fruit pies ever, crust was flakey and the bottom crust was not soggy, fruit filling not overly sweet. They also serve wine and beer and since we’re walking we can have a couple of adult beverages to accompany this great meal.
Bar Harbor Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon


We originally planned to stay in Bar Harbor for only a week but at the end of the week Dave threw a DEF Sensor error message.  Fortunately there is a GMC dealer nearby, and Dave is still under warranty, so Dave went to the doctor and had his number one DEF sensor replaced.  While Dave was out of commission, we were still able to get around on the Island Express.  Not a bad place to be stuck for a few extra days…

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SUPER TIMES IN MIDCOAST MAINE…

Views of  Chewonki
Midcoast Maine seems like a pretty good spot to hang out so we book some time at The Chewonki Campground in Wiscasset, 47 campsites for tents and RVs on fifty acres of woods and meadows overlooking the saltwater.  They offer kayak rentals, a swimming pool, tennis courts and hiking trails. We like it so much here that we stay for two weeks.  During our stay we have to move four times because they are so popular and are booked pretty solid but it’s worth it, plus we get great view variety! It also gives us time to explore this area of rocky shores, quiet coves dotted with lobster traps, fishing villages, quaint cottages, forests and open fields.

Red's Eats
Wiscasset is known for early architecture, backed up traffic through town on Highway One and Red’s Eats – home of the most famous lobster rolls in Maine and the reason for the backed up traffic on the highway. There are no stop signs or Traffic Lights on the highway here and lots of pedestrians crossing the street to get to Red’s where they stand in line for sometimes hours to get one of Red’s Lobster rolls with over a pound of meat with mayo or butter on the side in a toasted roll. There are a number of other restaurants for those who don’t want to wait in line or prefer sit down service and a plethora of antique/junk stores and galleries.

Boothbay Harbor
Directly east of Wiscasset is Boothbay Harbor, a center of summer tourist activity. We walk along the waterfront, try some local brews and stop at The Lobster Dock for a couple of mediocre soft-shelled crustaceans that don’t seem to digest very well. This pretty much puts us off lobster… well only for about a week or so…

Reid State Park
Tidepools
On Georgetown Island we spend the better part of the day hiking along the shore at Reid State Park.  The tide pools have lots of sea vegetation and barnacles but only a few crabs, snails or mussels and no urchins, anemones or starfish. Groups of kids are combing through the tide pools and filling up their green plastic buckets.  Is this why there is an absence of marine life in these pools?

Daily Catch
(from lobster pot to stock pot
in a matter of hours) 
At the end of Five Island Road perched on a dock overlooking one of the prettiest harbors in Maine is the Five Island Lobster Company.  Three specialty buildings serving up artisan ice cream, fried specialties and burgers and the lobster building for live or cooked lobsters, steamers and daily specials.  The lobstermen (and women) off load their catch at the dock and it’s only a matter of time (a very short time) before they meet their fate in the red lobster shack. Pot to pot Lobsta!  Since the last lobsters are still fresh on our mind, we opt for their fried clams and haddock.  Both are done right and dining on the deck overlooking the harbor is spectacular.  Across the deck a family beats a half dozen two plus pound lobsters with ball-peen hammers.  Fun Fun Fun! We finish off with a couple of gourmet cones Yum Yum Yum!
Five Islands Lobster Co on Urbanspoon


Lighthouse on the Kennebeck
Bath Iron works in the
background
Percy & Small Shipyard with
Wyoming Scale Sculpture
The town of Bath on the Kennebec River is home to the Bath Iron Works where we see the USS Zumwalt being outfitted.  It is also home to the Maine Maritime Museum.  Admission to the museum is good for two days. On the first day we take a Percy & Small Shipyard tour and then explore the grounds and museums. On the second day we take The Shipyards and Lighthouses Cruise on the Kennebec. We get great views of Bath Iron Works, the town of Bath, Lighthouses and bald eagles.  After the cruise we do another shipyard tour with a different docent and then check out the remains of the Snow Squall, one of the last American Clipper Ships. Sections of the bow and hull recovered from the Falkland Islands in 1987 are housed in a gallery on the museum grounds. There is also an amazing life size modern sculpture outlining the Schooner Wyoming, the largest wooden ship ever built in the U.S. (And probably anywhere in the world.)

Steamy the Yarmouth
Clam
Ready for the parade
In Yarmouth it’s the 49th annual Clam Festival! Every year since 1965 on the third Friday of July the City of Yarmouth kicks off their three-day celebration of the bi-valve.  It’s a weekend of live music, arts and crafts, a carnival, clam shucking, road races, fireworks, a parade and more. The Parade is so popular that folks from the surrounding area set their lawn chairs out along the parade route up to a week in advance and no one messes with them… only in small town America!There is also a huge food court with lots of fried, steamed, chowdered and battered clams, and other foods.  Not the best we’ve had but decent and all the proceeds from the entire festival support the town.


And finally, while in Wiscasset we are treated to the first of three Super Moons for 2014…


I'm SUPER!
(Thanks for Asking!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A SMALL SHIP, A LITTLE ROCK AND A 17TH CENTURY PLANTATION…

Since everything is booked solid in Cape Cod for the 4th of July weekend, we head north about thirty miles to Plymouth, MA.  We get one of the last available sites at the Sandy Pond Campground. (Full hook-up, decent sized spaces and WIFI) It’s camping in the woods in an area of kettle holes. After spending so much time along the shore it’s refreshing to inhale the scent of pines.
Plymouth Rock unexceptional?

We’re only a few miles from the town of Plymouth, so we head down to check out THE Plymouth Rock.  Now this may or not be the actual rock that the Pilgrims first stepped on when disembarking from their rowboat that took them ashore from the Mayflower but any way you look at it, it’s probably the most underwhelming monument in America. 

Mayflower II
Nearby throngs of tourists are lined up to tour the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original Mayflower. It’s not very big, but then again there were only 102 passengers, 37 religious separatists, 65 merchant adventurers and an estimated crew of about thirty sailors.

Up the hill is the Plimoth Plantation.  This is a living museum depicting the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony as it stood in 1627 and a replica an indigenous Wampanoag home site.  Although the structures in both locations are accurate reproductions the costumed docents are quite different. 

weaving a fish net



We visit the Wampanoag home site first.  The staff members are all Native Peoples from the Wampanoag and other Native Nations. They are dressed historically accurate but they speak from a modern perspective about their history and current culture.  One young man tells us about the eating habits of the Wampanoag.  Seems their favorite delicacy was skunk.  The hunter would distract the skunk much like trout tickling and grab its tail, lift the hind legs off the ground (skunks can’t spray unless their feet are on the ground) and then club the skunk and bring the treat home to dinner.  An unsuccessful skunk hunter would not be welcome in camp LOL. 



let's party...
… like it's 1627

In contrast the Pilgrims in the colony are all role players.  Each person portrays an actual resident of the colony.  They use diaries of the original occupants to flesh out their parts and are totally immersed in the characters they portray.  These actor/residents are eager to tell you about their daily lives, their struggles and their religious fervor to establish a new world theocracy.  It’s a fascinating look into this chapter in the history of European colonization.




Arapawa Goat

Wiltshire horn Ram
The Museum also operates a breeding program for rare and heritage breeds of domesticated animals. 

All this Pilgrim tourism is fun, but what’s the real story of the Pilgrims, the original inhabitants of the area and the first Thanksgiving? There are lots of opinions on line and some surprising facts. Take the challenge and Google it.



Down on the wharf, we have dinner at Cabby Shack.  Dining on the deck is picturesque with views of the harbor.  Service is S.L.O.W. and the food is pretty forgettable. Stuffed Lobster was blah and the pan seared scallops were overcooked in a boring wine vegetable medley sauce… should have had a burger LOL.
Cabby Shack on Urbanspoon

The Plymouth Bay Winery specializing in locally grown artisan wines is an interesting stop.  They produce one grape wine from a native Concord grape that would make a fine accompaniment to a peanut butter sandwich.  All of their other wines come from local fruits. Now we’re not huge fruit wine fans but their Blueberry Bay wine is surprisingly quite nice.  It’s a bit fruit forward as to be expected, but it has a full body flavor and smooth finish.  Their other product is their Dips.  These are jellies made from their wines and fruits. It was hard not to buy one of each flavor.  Thankfully they can all be ordered online and shipped.

After leaving Plymouth we skirt around Boston, spend the night in a pull through site where we don’t have to disconnect at the Minuteman Campground in Littleton, MA and then head up to the Coast of Maine…