New England

Monday, 28 October 2013 15:30
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Some CT fall colorLobster and soccer in the northeast. 


I got over the US border into Maine a little before sunset. The border guard was the friendliest so far, although she did make me open my trunk. The questioning went pretty quickly from “where have you been and why are you traveling” to actual questions about the trip because she thought it was pretty cool. We were chatting long enough that the people behind me probably thought I was a terrorist or a smuggler, but eventually we wrapped it up and I headed into Maine.

I had set up a room a little bit down the coast at a little motor lodge in Machias, but first I hit a rest stop that had a boat ramp. Since I had dipped the tires in the Pacific back in Washington state, I figured I’d hit the Atlantic here so I’d get the whole “sea to shining sea” thing. However, first I met a couple of bikers who were also using the boat ramp as a photo op, the father/son team of Roger and Roger, doing a father/son burnout on the ramp. After those festivities, we sat down and talked bikes and road trips and other stuff for a little while, then they hung around while I did the tire-dipping thing, partly to tell me when the tires were in, and partly to give me a push in case the car wouldn’t get back up the ramp. After the photos were done, I said goodbye to my Maine welcoming committee, and headed down the coast to Machias.

First look at the Atlantic from the US Sea to shining sea: Putting the tires in the Atlantic
Some Roadster scenery The Roger & Roger show

The motor lodge was small but cozy, and it was indeed right on the waterfront, which was kind of cool. It was also right next door to a little homestyle restaurant, so after I got settled, I walked over and took a seat at the counter. Since I was still in Maine, I went for the lobster stew and some scallops, which were both excellent. I also had a really nice chat with the Reverend Bill, an older local minister who’d stopped by for a little dinner himself. We traded a few stories over dinner of people we’d met in our travels, and also of how we both ended up sitting at that counter. After dinner, I walked back to the hotel, did some boot sole repairs (so they’d be cured by morning), and hit the hay.

I woke up in the morning to a parking lot about half full of camo-painted 4WD quads, which all had gun racks and other backcountry accessories. Interestingly, they also all had license plates on them, so apparently they’re street legal to a certain extent up here, which is kind of neat. My options at that point were to continue down the coast, or to head inland and check out some of the Maine woods. Rather than flip a coin again, I decided to do a little of both.  My sister in law had suggested the Moosehead Lake area, so I figured that’d be a good ‘interior of Maine’ destination, and I was already pretty close to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, so I made that my coastal stop.

A bit of the Maine waterfront Lobster float collection More waterfront


Due to the government shutdown, Acadia was closed to most activities. The rangers there were looking the other way for anybody who wanted to park outside the park and hike in, but there was no driving past the gate or overnight camping or any of that, so I continued past the park entrance down to swanky Bar Harbor.

The downtown area of Bar Harbor is really nice—lots of little shops, restaurants, inns and hotels, and the usual ‘seaside resort’ amenities. I walked around the area for a bit, stopped in at an REI-like outdoors shop that was having a clearance sale, and picked up some pants and long sleeved shirts, as it was starting to get a little nippy for the summer clothing I had with me. After getting outfitted, I continued down the street a bit to have some more local food for lunch—a cup of chowder and a lobster roll. They were both excellent, and the chowder was some of the best I can remember ever eating.  Once I’d finished up my lunch, I jumped back in the car and headed west toward the interior of Maine.

Best version of each of these I've ever had I was going to ask what they could do with a '67 Roadster


Things got remarkably rural remarkably quickly. Once I was about 10 miles off the coast, all of the ‘seaside resort’ flavor was gone, replaced by much more of a ‘hillbilly’ atmosphere. However, the roads were great, and the fall colors were awesome, so I continued over toward the lake. I stopped along the way at “The Hawg Trawf” for dinner (“Hunters Welcome!”), which was really good. I sat at the bar and had a sandwich and talked with the locals a bit, who naturally had a lot of questions about the little car in the parking lot. I think I looked sufficiently ‘woodsy’ to pass for a hunter or outdoors guy when I walked in, so there was a a little bit of confusion as to why I wasn’t driving a truck or something, but we all had a good time (the off-color joke competition between one of the crustier locals and the bartender was a pretty entertaining highlight), and afterward I headed up the road toward the lake.

Hunters welcome!

It was off-season, so the place was pretty deserted. At first I wasn’t sure whether I was actually in an open area of the park or not, but since nobody was bugging me I just figured I’d set up the tent and see if anybody came back and complained. Nobody did, and it was nice to spend a calm night in the tent after the windstorm up in Canada. The weather wasn’t the greatest; a bit overcast and chilly, but at least it wasn’t raining. I hiked around the area a little in the morning, then jumped back in the car and tried to figure out where to head to next. The backroad I was on also crossed the Appalachian Trail at one point, so I made a pitstop there and went on a hike for a couple of hours. The trail was pretty great--nice scenery, and some down-to-the-bone glacial scarring on much of the trail, caused by the Wisconsin Glaciation. To give you some sense of scale, this is the same glaciation that cause the wear and scarring I was looking at back on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota. 

Moosehead Lake More Moosehead Lake Beavers: Nature's pudgy little chainsaws.
Katahdin steamship, Greenville ME I got in a little AT hiking, although I didn't try for Abol Bridge Glacial scarring from the Wisconsin Glaciation, same one I saw at the Great Lakes
White blaze on the tree marks the Appalachian Trail More Maine fall More fall!

Randomly, I saw Dixville Notch, NH on the map, and since I recognized that name from the last election, I figured I’d head over there and check it out. Dixville Notch is traditionally the first place in the nation to cast a vote in the presidential primaries, and it’s pretty quaint, as that vote is usually like seven people in a room putting paper ballots in a box. As far as I could tell, there’s no real Dixville Notch town proper, it’s just a resort on a lake in the area. I also visited the actual Dixville Notch, which is a nice little cascading waterfall through a ‘notch’ in the mountains there. 

The actual Dixville Notch "First in the nation"

My next stop was Providence, RI, but I was still pretty far away and wasn’t about to do that in one shot.  I hadn’t really done a lot of research on the Maine/New Hampshire area so I didn’t have any other along-the-way destinations in mind. I turned on the “avoid highways” setting on the GPS again and then just headed in the general direction of Concord, NH. Like a lot of the trip, I passed through a lot of nice little towns and scenic areas along the way, but nothing really notable. I know the area is chock full of history, but I’m pretty sure I missed most of it. In any case, I got to the Concord area in the early evening, grabbed a hotel, and stopped for the night. 

"International". I think they go to Canada. One of many covered bridges in New Hampshire Nice light this time of day...

It was only about an hour or so to Providence from there, so it was an easy drive in the morning to the area. I was actually visiting East Greenwich, RI, a little town just south of Providence where Janice, an old friend from Las Vegas was living. She’d emailed me much earlier in the trip to let me know I could crash there when I got to the east coast, so I took her up on it. Janice and I used to work together at FTSI, and she later went on to work for Cirque du Soleil. She and her daughter Bailee were now living there in Rhode Island with two very entertaining cats.

Bailee was a little shy at first, but she warmed up pretty quickly. The order of business for the day was a hayride and some pumpkin picking, so we all piled in Janice’s car, swung by and picked up her niece Laurel to join us, and headed over to Pezza Farms to check out all the action.

We had a great time petting animals, hayriding, feeding the cows, and picking out the perfect pumpkin.  I handed Laurel the camera for a while as well, so most of the farm pictures aren’t mine, but are from a talented eleven year old. Bailee also had soccer practice planned for later that afternoon, so after finishing up the autumn activities at the farm, we went back to East Greenwich and took her over to the soccer field. At one point, the parents (and any other nearby grownups, including me) were drafted into a game against the four year olds, so I got to play a little soccer for the first time in a really long time. Granted, it was against four year olds, but I still got to run around a little.

Laurel, Janice, and Bailee, preparing for the hayride Making new friends Hayride!
Do not anger the chickens. You wouldn't like them when they're angry. Bailee, no longer shy Soon...
Pumpkin selection underway That's the one An unstoppable wave of four year old soccer fiends

After soccer, we went to a great little local place for dinner, and then called it a night. Janice had off the next day as well, so after getting Bailee off to pre-school, we headed over to Newport to do the cliff walk along the coast and to gawk at all the incredible mansions of the pre-Depression era rich and famous. We also grabbed a little lunch (lobster nachos? Is there nothing that cannot include lobster in the northeast?), then headed back to Janice’s place. My next stop was Boston (I know, I’m going backwards, but there were some scheduling issues) to see my friend Mary, so after saying my goodbyes, I got on the road and headed north.

Along the cliffs in Newport The heating bill must be outrageous

Boston kind of fell into the same category as Montreal did for me—I’d been there quite a bit in the past, so my few days there were more about visiting my friend and less about sightseeing. I also had the advantage again of having a washer and dryer at my disposal, as well as a spot to work on the car a little, and I took advantage of both.

We got to hang out for quite a bit and enjoy some nice dinners, plus I got in the kitchen and made some cookies to take to the nephews on my next stop in Mystic.  I did a little quick car maintenance while Mary was at work, including taking care of some of the stone chips in the front that had accumulated over the previous 20,000 miles or so. One of the advantages of the car having far from perfect paint is that you don’t have to worry about it that much. I went and picked up a can of Rustoleum “Close Enough Red” from their popular “Looks Good From Ten Feet” line of enamel finishes, pulled the bumper off the car and cleaned up the front a little, then touched it all up. It did indeed look fine from ten feet.

Bumper removed; 22,000 mile stone chips pre-touchup Thanks, Rustoleum!


Taking my duffel full of fresh clean clothes and my prettier looking car, I headed south to Mystic, CT to visit my brother and his family. First stop was to check my nephew Seth’s progress on the First Lego League robotics competition, where they were working on getting a Lego Mindstorms robot to negotiate a pre-designed course. There’d be a competition against other schools later, but for now they were just trying to get something going. They still had a pretty big learning curve to climb, but it was fun watching their thought processes develop as they made progress.

The Lego battlefield Seth (center), doing a little robot planning 

We all went out for some pizza later, with the boys taking turns in the passenger seat of the Datsun on the way there and back. We then back home for the evening, as there was another soccer game scheduled for my other nephew Morgan the next day. It’s hard to say who won, because I don’t think they were actually keeping score, but Morgan did a great job, even scoring a goal about halfway through. 

Bending it sort of like Beckham Morgan (yellow) after scoring a goal. The other team did not react well. Working his way through the defense

After the soccer game, the two boys, my brother, and I went to a local orchard to check out their steam powered cider press (which was really pretty cool), and then went out and picked a couple of bags of apples. Once we got home again, I got into yet another soccer game with seven year olds (two on one this time), then packed up to head out for New York. 

The steam-powered cider press The product: Fresh apple cider The press, made at the end of the 19th century
Morgan checking out a prospective pumpkin Seth, pumpkin wrestling Lots of apples still on the trees
The really cool counterweighted Mystic drawbridge   Obligatory Mystic Pizza shot. No Julia Roberts.

Next stop: New York City!


#1 laceytrynn 2013-10-28 20:38
Nice to see the fall, it's one of the things I miss being here on the other side...
#2 admin 2013-10-29 05:15
Nice to see the fall, it's one of the things I miss being here on the other side...
You make it sound like you're coming to us via Ouija board. :-)
#3 Mom 2013-10-29 10:00
Really nice post..the pics are great, as well as the commentary (as usual) You have a way of making one feel they are right there with you. I could even taste that wonderful looking clam chowder ! :-)
#4 Janice 2013-10-29 17:53
Bailee is so selective about who she's comfortable with. She's clearly a great judge of character!! It was so nice to see you. You handled the madness well. I live when old friends become new again ;-)
#5 Carter Family 2013-11-01 21:51
I've always wanted to visit New England in the fall, so enjoyed your photos of fall foliage! I have family in New Hampshire (Steve and I were in Concord in June). My mom was from Providence, RI. and I remember travelling to Mystic as a kid. Love the fact that your wheels touched the Atlantic ocean as well as the Pacific!
#6 FairladySPL 2013-11-04 11:56
Hey Scott, Been to The Balsams there at Dixville Notch, nice to see the old place again.

Looking forward to seeing you 'round Annapolis in the days ahead. A bit chilly to go out in the boat but there are some good photo ops dockside for your travelogue/scrapbook.


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