Thursday, July 31, 2014


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
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


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
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
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
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…

(Thanks for Asking!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


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…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Dennis Port, MA is a perfect location mid-cape to explore the peninsula.  Camper’s Haven RV Resort is the only park in this area. It’s geared to the seasonal camper who parks their rig full time here then visits on weekends and holidays during the summer months. They have a few spots for transients and we are lucky to get a space the week before 4th of July.  Water and electric and WIFI are provided and free bi-weekly pump outs take care of the sewer.

Lined up for the fishing derby
All Decked out for the
Portuguese Festival
The furthest point down cape is Providence Town or P-town. This is where the Pilgrims landed and signed the Mayflower Compact before finally settling across the harbor in Plymouth. Today P-town is the largest commercial fishing port on the cape and is also known for beaches, whale watching, artists, theatre and food… our kind of town.  We start off with a Dolphin Fleet WhaleWatching Tour.  A humpback named measles meanders about filling up on krill and small fish.  We don’t get any big breaching or slapping, but measles swims under the boat a few times obviously more interested in his meal than our presence.  Back on the docks we check out the Portuguese Festival fishing derby, and then join the revelers in town.  It’s a party atmosphere with street performers and music. 

Bubala’s By the Bay offers outdoor dining in the heart of Commercial Street (dinner and a show?)  Inside is quiet with views of the harbor.  We’re hungry and take available seating inside.  First up signature cocktails and clams on the half shell followed by a shared salad of sweet and spicy roasted beets and goat cheese croquettes (OMG these are to die for!) on a bed of baby arugula drizzled with a red wine vinaigrette.  Main course is the Chef’s specials: catch of the day striped sea bass perfectly grilled and seasoned and the expertly seared scallops on a bed of linguini with a light cream sauce. All this accompanied by a nice bottle of sommelier suggested wine made for a wonderful meal with great atmosphere.
Bubala's by the Bay on Urbanspoon

Chatham Beach
Continuing up the peninsula at the ‘elbow’ is the town of Chatham.  Lots of upscale shopping and beautiful beaches to explore.  There is a small farmer’s market on Tuesdays from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. While waiting for the vendor’s to finish setting up we dine at the Kreme and Kone across the street.  

There are three Kreme-N-Kone locations on the peninsula that are owned by different folks and  although their menus are almost identical they are not affiliated. We eat first at the West Dennis location with a deck overlooking the Swan River and are blown away by the great fried whole clams, scallops, oysters, French fries and onion rings. The clams are the star! Everything is fresh crisp but not over fried and not too greasy. We think we’ve had the best of this fried fare until we try the Chatham location with their deck overlooking the traffic on Main St.  We order a similar platter with the same assortment of fried yumminess and it’s just better! So for the best, fried clams it’s Chatham and for ambience and the second best clams it’s West Dennis, either way it’s some of the best, fried whole clams you can get and both have wonderful soft serve ice-cream!
Kream 'n Kone on Urbanspoon Kream 'n Kone Chatham on Urbanspoon

Salt Marsh
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History located in Brewster is small with a big punch. The Museum exhibits a collection of artifacts from around the area with an emphasis on education and the relationship between humans and nature.  Of special note are the Honey Bee Exhibit, the Osprey Cam and the Eldridge Arnold Decoy Carving exhibit.  The museum is also the steward of over 400 acres along the Cape Cod Bay.  We take a naturalist guided hike from the museum to the coast through forest and across salt marshes. The Docent's here are passionate and knowledgeable and there is something for everyone from preschool to really old folks!

Tons of Clams!

The Village of Hyannis is the commercial and transportation hub of Cape Cod.  It is home to the Kennedy Legacy Trail, Ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.  It is the second largest fishing port on the cape.  In the harbor we watch huge baskets of clams, and horseshoe crabs being unloaded and check out some of the artist’s shanties. 

Cape Cod is known as a playground for the rich and famous but the big news while we visit isn’t the Kardashians (they’re too busy in the Hamptons.) It’s the great white sharks sited off of Chatham.  After living many years in Santa Cruz, CA we can hardly get excited about these amazing creatures… but wait a minute… we get to the cape and the sharks show up…

We wish we could stay here longer but we are terrible at pre planning and all of the RV parks on the cape are full over the 4th of July so we have to head up across the canal for the holiday weekend.