October 06, 2012

A Fall Trip through New England: Part 2

One fact we quickly learned while driving around New England is that most highways here don’t have their exit numbers tied to mile markers. What is that about? Every other part of the US we've visited so far has followed this golden rule, why not here? In case you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about: most highways in the US tie their exit numbers to miles traveled on that highway, so for example, if you entered the highway just past exit 20, and went 40 miles, you’re going to be looking to get off on exit 60. This makes so much sense! Here we get on the highway around exit 10, and our directions say to get off on exit 14, and we go 50 miles in between. What happens when they need to add a new exit in between 10 and 11? Is that how we get 10a, 10b and 10c? Yuck!

Aside from that though, the driving was marvelous. Route 2 that we took from Burlington, Vermont to Bangor, Maine was a lovely, winding back-country two lane highway that meandered between farmland, national forests and every once in a while took us right down Main St. in bucolic little towns. It’s amazing how many cute little towns one can visit in one day if they just drive down one of the rural routes in New England.  It seemed each New England town came with the following specifications: a white church with a tall steeple, a timeworn cemetery with leaning tombstones with dates from the 1700’s, and a cluster of antique mansions surrounded by stone walls. Yet each town had its own flavor. We saw very few chain stores and restaurants in these towns; instead we saw mom and pop diners and local General stores.

The waterfall in Rumford, Maine during fall
The falls in Rumford, Maine
When we drove out of the White Mountains and crossed the state line into Maine we noticed a decline in the vibrancy of the fall colors. It was still pretty, but nowhere near as bright and colorful as we had seen in New Hampshire and Vermont. I would venture to say that the prettiest collections of colors we saw on this whole trip were in upstate Vermont. We arrived to Bangor well after dark and checked in at the Motel 6 that we’d booked for two nights. In the morning, one of the very first things that I wanted to do was drive by Stephen King’s house. I hated being THAT annoying person that stands outside someone’s private residence taking pictures…but I couldn't help it. He is one of my most favorite authors and I just had to see the place where all the magic happens. He had his house decorated for Halloween, and I’d read that he used to hand out candy, but has since stopped. I wonder how much his house value will increase when he goes to sell and it’s marketed as STEPHEN KING’S HOUSE?

Stephen King's house in Bangor, Maine
Stephen King's house in Bangor, Maine
We grabbed a quick breakfast and then headed out to Acadia National Park. The park is on Mount Desert Island, just off the coast in Maine in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first established national park east of the Mississippi River. There is a 27 mile loop road that takes visitors around the park to visit the varied landscape of mountains, ocean shoreline, placid lakes and thick forests. The tallest point in the park is on Cadillac Mountain, which can be accessed by driving a tangent off of the main park loop. Because of its location, this summit is famous for being one of the very first places in the United States to see the sunrise. We didn't make it to the top to see sunrise, but we did see the town of Bar Harbor off in the distance, with large cruise ships parked in its harbor. We also got great views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding smaller islands.

Views while driving around Acadia National Park in Maine
Views while driving around Acadia National Park
Atlantic Ocean and island views from Cadillac Mountain summit in Acadia National Park
Atlantic Ocean and island views from Cadillac Mountain summit 
Views of Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
Views of Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain
After driving the loop and stopping at several of the key viewing areas we decided to take the pups for a walk. When we had first entered Acadia we’d asked a park ranger on where was a good place to take them. Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are on a leash, and are even permitted on the park trails. The park ranger suggested that if we wanted to let them swim and let them off leash we would need to take them outside the park boundary and she pointed out a beach location and a fresh water pond we could go to. So after driving the loop we decided to visit the Long Pond. We parked with several other cars by a gate and entered the pond grounds. The land was well manicured and at first we thought we might be trespassing on private property; it was that nice. We found a walking path through the forest and set off to explore. Soon we came up on a boathouse on the pond and there we ran into a woman walking her dog. We asked her who owned this land. Was it a park? She said the land belongs to the Rockefellers and they allow the public to visit with their dogs and horses. The family had had the opportunity to share their wealth and this was one of the ways they chose to do so. Wow, what a nice surprise! We wandered their land until just before sunset. It was a gorgeous piece of property and Chloe and Sammy made full use of it by running around off-leash and exploring.

Long Pond on Mount Desert Island in Maine
Long Pond on Mount Desert Island in Maine
Me and my dog Sammy hiking around Long Pond on Mount Desert Island in Maine
Sammy and I on a walking path at Long Pond 
When the dogs were good and tired we got back in our car and drove to Bar Harbor, or as the locals call it, Ba Haba. We’d read that lobster prices were at a 30 year low, going for 70% less than normal prices). So…When in Rome…we picked a restaurant advertising happy hour specials and a 1.25 pound lobster, and we grabbed ourselves a table on their outside patio. The restaurant was centrally located on Bar Harbor’s main street, so we had a great view of people strolling up and down the street. When our lobster arrived Skyler asked me if I knew the proper etiquette of eating a lobster. Ehh, nope, actually I didn't  In order to avoid public embarrassment (and possible flinging of lobster meat at the patrons seated next to us) I quickly looked up picture directions on how to properly go about taking apart the lobster, and whispered the directions to Skyler over the table. Crisis averted! We enjoyed our lobster and I think we ended up looking like experts! For those of you in the same boat (haha), you can find the directions we used here.

Bar Harbor downtown in Maine
The view of Bar Harbor downtown from our restaurant
A cooked lobster in Bar Harbor Maine
The famous Maine lobster
Thursday morning we woke up in Bangor and instead of getting breakfast again in the city we agreed to start our drive down the Maine coast on highway 1A in hopes of finding a cute breakfast diner off the beaten path. We found exactly what we were looking for when we stumbled across Rosie’s Diner, just minutes south of Bangor. It was very much a home-style cooking type of establishment, where Rosie was probably in the back making the meals from scratch. I would imagine that you couldn't call our meals low calorie by any means, although they were mighty good. We even got a piece of freshly baked Apple Fritter pie to go for later.

We spent the day slowly driving from one coastal town to another. We stopped in Camden and wandered around their downtown and harbor. Then we drove to Rockwell, where we walked the 4,300 feet of breakwater to the Breakwater Lighthouse and watched lobster boats come in with their catch for the day. We visited Main Street in Bath, the 2012 Great American Main Street Award recipient. Freeport, the home of the LL Bean flagship store, was our last stop that day. The store is open 24 hours, and there is not just one store, there is a whole village of LL Bean stores for all kinds of occasions. We wandered around the outlet store for a bit, but after not finding anything interesting we continued onto Portsmouth in New Hampshire. We had our last hotel night booked there.

Downtown Camden, Maine
Camden, Maine
Walking on the 4,300 foot long breakwater to Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockwell, Maine
Walking on the 4,300 foot long breakwater to
Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockwell, Maine
Downtown Bath, Maine
Downtown Bath, Maine
LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine
The LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine 
Portsmouth, settled in 1623, also had a very European flair to it. In the morning we strolled the downtown and then headed further down the coast. In New Hampshire the 1A highway took us right to the ocean. We drove along the Atlantic, just feet from the beach (and massive beach estates). The last town on our coastal route was Salem in Massachusetts. Salem, famous for the Salem witch trials, is now very much a big destination point during the month of October and especially Halloween. There was a Witch Museum there, stores advertising witchcraft items for sale and schools of wizardry, and there were several witch statues throughout town.

Downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Walking in Portsmouth, New Hampshire 
Witch museum in Salem, Massachusetts
Salem Witch Museum
After Salem we got on a major interstate with hopes of avoiding Boston traffic on a Friday afternoon before Columbus Day Weekend. We only had 70 miles to go, but we hit traffic almost immediately and it took us over 3 hours to get home. Oh well, it was the last 70 miles on our 1,000 mile journey and we had plenty to reminisce on.

To see more pictures of our trip around New England part 2, click here.

Happy New England driving,


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1 comment:

  1. I am from New England and you took great pictures! :)