Monthly Archives: August 2011

Out of Shape in Acadia National Park

We took our bikes with us on The Epic Road Trip because we were going to bike in Acadia and on Prince Edward Island.  We strapped them to the back of my Scion and transported them 2,600 miles round trip.  And we did bike.  In Acadia.  On one embarrassingly painful morning.  For the remainder of the trip, this is how we used them:

People hang clothing on treadmills--I figured this would work, too.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I did almost drive away like that.

Bar Harbor and, specifically, Acadia National Park was supposed to be our warm-up stop.  It was going to get us in shape for all of the hiking and biking and kayaking we planned for every other stop along the way.  And while we did hike (a lot) and kayak (once) throughout the trip, it is Acadia that sticks out in my mind.  Why?  Because in Acadia I realized how very, very out of shape I am.

Our plans for our first full day in Acadia was to ‘bike the carriage roads’.  Or, rather, ‘bike one very easy carriage road.’  Well, despite the fact that I do ride my bike a bit in my neighborhood–and that I used to ride the three blocks or so to work and back–I was not prepared for this sort of thing in any way.  People were lapping us–and laughing at us.

Stopping to breathe, trying to look happy...

I watched women twice my age glide gracefully up what appeared to be small hills that I simply could not tackle.  A half-mile long ‘gentle incline’ completely did me in.  I just could not make myself go fast enough to not fall over.

...and stopping to breathe, not even trying to look happy!

For a while I blamed my bike.  I thought maybe I was in the wrong gear–surely something must be wrong.  And while part of me still wants to believe it was the bike (seriously, it’s never been that difficult to go up barely even a hill–and the chain did come off my bike before we even started–maybe Doug fixed it incorrectly?) I’m pretty sure I know what the problem was–it was me.

For the remainder of our time in Acadia, we drove up Cadillac Mountain, we drove the park loop road, stopping to stroll (not hike) along the scenic paths.  We did manage one ‘real’ hike–Bubble Rock–which was beautiful and rewarding and, actually, a pretty good warm up for the hikes to come.

On top of south--or north?--Bubble. I forget which. I blame lack of oxygen to my brain!

I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it:  I need to get in better shape so that I can enjoy all aspects of traveling–including the very active parts.  I’m not a sit on a beach kind of person, so I really should be in better shape.  And by the end of the trip I was in better shape–I could do more challenging hikes more easily…well…I could do more challenging hikes.  But upon return to my ‘regular life’, I resume my sedentary lifestyle, sitting for hours in front of my computer.  Something must be done.

I’m going for a walk.



5 Ways Travel Has Prepared Me For A Hurricane

Whilst preparing for the impending hurricane, I am struck by how similar emergency preparation is to trip preparation.  Thus, even though this is the first hurricane (in my lifetime) that’s ever posed a serious threat to my little part of Pennsylvania, this process feels oddly familiar.  And so, I bring you the top five ways that traveling has prepared me for a natural disaster:

5.  I am quite accustomed to charging every electronic device I own all at one time.  And, in fact, I know where all of my chargers are–they are in my backpack.

4.  I understand the importance of taking advantage of existing resources–after all, in travel and in impending emergency situations, you never know the next time you’ll get to shower (or shave your legs) or do laundry or even use the restroom.  Better safe than sorry, I always say.  Which is why my legs are shaved and my dishes are washed and my laundry is tumbling in the dryer right now.

3.  I am used to cooking with limited resources or limited supplies.  Here’s me cooking in our cabin in Nova Scotia, using a packet of cranberry sauce I swiped from a restaurant earlier in the week and a splash of my husband’s beer.  Note the lamp I’m holding over the stove to light the photo.  The light in the kitchen was broken, so I had to steal this lamp from the bedside table:

Pork chops in what I'm calling a 'cranberry maple ale sauce'.

Here’s hoping that after the storm I don’t have to post a photo of me cooking over the grill whilst holding a flashlight in my mouth–but if it happens, I’ll be ready!

2.  I know how to prepare for situations that I can’t control.  True, to me this typically means always having a stash of red wine and beef jerky, but still–that’s good advice for a road trip or a hurricane!

1.  I know that sometimes things just suck.  Take Paris for example–this sure sucked:

The epic taxi line at Gare du Nord

And even on our most recent (and most awesome) trip, sometimes things sucked, too.  Take this weather, for example…

In Nova Scotia, it even rains on sunny days!

But through travel I have (almost) learned to be ok with the sucky times because I know that it will, eventually, get better.  And maybe there will even be a rainbow (though there weren’t any in Nova Scotia, despite the odd sunshine rain!)

Here’s hoping that this storm turns out to be less epic than predicted for everyone involved and that I won’t even need to employ any of my travel-learned skills.  Stay safe, everyone.

Learning Spontaneity in Boothbay Harbor

Very early on in the trip, I became thankful that I did not over-plan the entire thing.  By our second stop–in Boothbay Harbor–I was doing something I’d never done before:  going with the flow.

The famous crab cakes deserved the fame!

We were given a tip about a lobster pound from the couple we’d sailed with in Ogunquit.  Happily, we arrived in Boothbay to find that this very lobster pound was located two doors down from our motel.  And, as it happened, we were hungry.  So we ate there, and it was fabulous.  It seems that it is a rather famous lobster pound–Bobby Flay challenged the owner to a crab cake ‘Throwdown’…and I think the lobster dock won.  And anyway, if it didn’t, it should have.

After lunch we went for a walk over the little pedestrian bridge into the touristy part of the town.  We wanted to plan out our one day in town, so we went to the center of it to see what was going on.  Having read about a day trip to Monhegan Island, we wandered down to the dock area to figure out how the ferry worked, and we ended up buying tickets for the next day.

I stared at the little brochure about the island that came with our tickets, and wondered how it came to be that I was actually learning about something we were going to do by reading about it not only after it was paid for, but mere hours before it began.  It was so not like me.

And then it started to rain.  So we stumbled into what looked like a bar and sat down.  Fortunately, this bar happened to have amazing sangria–and even more amazing food.  We weren’t hungry yet–as we’d just eaten at the awesome lobster pound–but the food coming out made our mouths water. We returned the next day–after our trip to Monhegan–and had an amazing dinner.  I don’t even know what the name of the place was!

I do, however, recall the name of the place we ended up in on our first night–it

The view from our window at McSeagulls--love the name!

was a family restaurant slash bar called McSeagulls.  Would I ever willingly enter a place called McSeagulls?  Probably not.  But it was the only thing open–and still hopping–by the time we had dinner.  And do you know what?  We had a lovely meal served by a somewhat scattered waitress whilst listening to live music (and an absolutely hysterical family argument that was going on at the next table–more on that later!)

So–did we regret our last-minute decision to visit Monhegan Island?  Not even a little bit.  Not even considering the slight queasiness from the ferry ride (I didn’t eat all day, so that was my fault!)  It was amazing.

Monhegan Island

We did two of the hikes recommended for day visitors and had plenty of time to wander about the little shops and studios that dotted the main ‘road’–road in quotes because nothing is paved and there are no vehicles on the entire island.  Monhegan island was one of the highlights of our trip–unplanned as it may have been.

Imagine that.  Me, becoming laid back while traveling.  And on day three of the trip!  I’m still shocked–but so very, very glad I finally got that big stick out of my…ahem…ear?

Note:  I just looked up Boothbay Harbor on Google earth, and the name of the restaurant is The Boathouse Bistro Tapas Bar and Restaurant.  No wonder I didn’t remember–that’s a really long name!



In the Beginning: Ogunquit, Maine

I posted my last post asking for suggestions on how to go about documenting this trip, and I got many great replies.  And then I went back to look at my notes from the first day of our trip, and I realized that I actually attempted to write daily blog posts each day for a good four or five days–that is, before throwing my exhausted hands up in the air and resigning myself to just bulleted lists full of things we did and epiphanies I experienced.  But just now, as I glanced over the opening portion of my very first ‘post’, I smiled.  It seems to explain exactly why I’m having a hard time figuring out how to begin.  Here’s what I wrote:

Sometime in the past year I started thinking differently in terms of travel experiences.  Perhaps because of my blog—or my desire to write for actual publication—I’ve started thinking in terms of ‘articles’.  As in ‘this specific experience would make a really great article’.  Examples of this kind of writing-thinking include my recent post on ‘how to enjoy Disney Dining with a picky eater’ and ‘how a Disney vacation is like a Europe trip’.  Thus, I expected my down time on this trip to be filled with article writing—even though I’m not writing said articles for anyone but myself.   

But I don’t have anything like that for this trip.  

We’ve officially been on this trip—as in ‘at our first destination’–for just over 24 hours, and I’m already not thinking in articles or blog posts or book ideas.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m sure my husband would agree that it is good.

Well gee.  Perhaps that’s why I’m struggling?  That being said, I’m going to post the description of day one that I wrote way back then.  Let me know what you think.  Oh–and I’ll be sure to post lots of photos!

Day One–Ogunquit, Maine

We actually did get up at the crack of dawn yesterday, which mean that we were showered and pulling out of our driveway at 6:30 in the morning.  After the usual flipping out I typically do as I drive away from our life for an extended period of time, the trip was quite uneventful.  With about a 45 minute break for lunch (at an unpleasantly crowded rest stop on the Mass Pike) we made it to Maine by 2:30 and stopped at the first tourist information center we encountered.  All the way up here I kept telling myself ‘there’s nothing magical about a state line’ and ‘it’s all going to look pretty much the same as PA’.  Ummm…no.  Even the Maine rest stop—on I 95—was picture worthy.  And of course it was chock-full of thousands of tourist brochures and flyers that I made myself refrain from collecting (though I’m not sure why!)

Side note—the rest stops in New Hampshire are also liquor stores.  We didn’t stop at one—but what’s up with that?

Our first lodging of the trip: Yardarm Village Inn

We got a bit turned around when driving into Ogunquit proper, but only in the ‘oh wait that’s the road we want’ sort of way.  The bonus to this is that because we drove maybe 20 yards too far in the wrong direction, I immediately realized how well located the inn I selected truly was.  In addition to the location, we also immediately noticed how beautiful it was—er, is (I’m typing this from a wicker chair on the front porch of said inn!)  I took a photo before I even fully got out of the car.  I swear to god we passed an actual chipmunk and a monarch butterfly as we made our way to the check in office.

On the deck at Barnacle Billy's

In no time at all we were oriented to the inn—and its wine and cheese shop—and made our way to the all-important first stop: a harbor-side bar.  At the suggestion of the innkeepers, we went straight to Barnacle Billy’s for a rum punch.  Boy was that strong!

Rum punch--first drink of the trip!

We then poked around the harbor area—called Perkins Cove—for a bit, checking out the outside of the cute little shops and locating (quite by accident) the also all-important public restroom.  We then retired to the inn to change for dinner.

Looking over the harbor in Perkins Cove

Small Maine beach town travel tip #1:  When staying at an inn or B&B, ask for restaurant advice from the innkeeper…and then take that advice.

We walked away from the (touristy) harbor area towards the three restaurants our hosts suggested.  We looked at the menus and thought that perhaps we’d do something ‘cheap’ instead and then head back to one of the clearly fancier places the next evening.  So we followed everyone else down to the harbor area where we found…everyone else.  Every single restaurant with a view—none of which were suggested by the innkeeper—had a line out the door.  Why?  The view, stupid.  Additionally, the prices were no better—in fact, they were far worse when you compare what you were getting for the money.  Why?  The view, stupid.

So we walked back UP the hill, away from the harbor, and walked into the first restaurant we were directed to in the first place—Prime.  It was, as it sounds, a steakhouse.  We were seated immediately in a half-empty dining room, complete with candle light and linen napkins.

But wait!  It gets better!  For the cost of a lobster roll and a bag of chips in tourist trap filled with screaming children, we each had an appetizer, filet mignon (the husband) and half of an actual honey glazed fried chicken (me) served with two sides (creamed spinach and twice baked potatoes) and two drinks!  And it was a-ma-zing.  I have half of the chicken left over in the fridge in our room.

Beet salad appetizer

Perusing the menu

Yes—for our first dinner in Maine we had steak and chicken.  But don’t worry—I’ll get to the lobster roll soon enough.

After driving for eight hours, consuming a rather strong rum punch, walking up and down a hill several times and enjoying a wonderful dinner, we were done for the day.  We were both asleep by 9:30!

We’ve since decided that we’re looking forward to an early to bed, early to rise trip.  We still get to rest but we don’t miss out on the best part of the day—the part where everyone else is still sleeping.

The next day was (is—it’s still that day as I type this) our only full day in Ogunquit.  The plan was to walk the scenic Marginal Way walk all the way from Perkins Cove to the beach in Ogunquit ‘proper’.  We figured we might as well spend the day on the beach because, after all, the point of our first day was relaxation.

See? Relaxation!

This plan changed, however, when the innkeeper told us that he was, in fact, planning on sailing that (this) afternoon.  He said we could meet him at the dock at 1:00.  Doug asked me if I was ok with it, and I agreed, as I’ve gone into this trip with this rule: ‘if something sounds fun or adventurous and you are given the opportunity to do it, say yes.’  So…I said yes.

Because we got up so early, we still had time for a leisurely breakfast and everything else we’d planned for the day—minus the actual ‘laying on the beach’ part.  We walked the breathtakingly beautiful Marginal Way path all the way from Perkins Cove to the beach…stopping to climb out on the rocks and/or to take photos all along the way, of course.  I’m currently sporting one very unattractive sunburn, complete with camera strap lines!

Along the Marginal Way

Before arriving at the beach, the scenic pathway ended and we had to take a short detour through town.  We window shopped, found yet another public restroom, and then made our way to the beach.

The beach in Ogunquit is stunning.  It’s just really…big.  Really, really big.  And pretty darn empty, too.

See? Lots of room for me and my stupid photo stance!

Oh sure, there were people there—but there were VAST stretches of area where there were no people at all.  And the water was knee deep for hundreds of yards out.  Bracingly cold but crystal clear—perfect for walking along the shore, fully dressed, snapping photos.  Between the Marginal Way, the town, and the beach, I’m confident that we walked at least three miles before 11:00 that (this) morning.

More Ogunquit Beach!

And we forgot to put on sunscreen before we left.  Thus the ridiculous sunburn.
Because I had ‘take the trolley’ on my list—and because we’d already walked three miles and it was approaching time for our sail—we took the trolley back to Perkins cove.  It wasn’t as scenic as I’d hoped, though that didn’t prevent me from being excited about it.  And anyway—it was only $3 for the two of us.

On the trolley

After a brief visit to the inn to store my camera, we made our way toward the harbor.  My husband was briefly traumatized by having to ‘save’ a sail boat from smashing into the drawbridge by finding and correctly pushing the button to raise it.  I, of course, snapped a photo.

They were yelling 'raise the bridge!!!' so he did!

We then met Scott—our innkeeper and, for the afternoon, our captain—at the specified dock at the specified time.  After watching him pull an amazing maneuver akin to parallel parking (but with a boat) that should have been set to the tune of The Blue Danube, we boarded with one other couple and were off.
The sail was a good idea.

It was a 26 foot single-sail sail boat (I have no idea what one calls a single-sail sailboat—I’ve never even been ON a sail boat before!) and it was a beautiful, quiet day.  I don’t remember anything ever being as quiet or peaceful.  I actually tried to store up some of the peace and quiet for later use—if, perhaps, we are forced to eat lunch at that awful Mass Pike rest stop again!  Additionally, because the female part of the other couple on board liked to ask questions, we got to learn a lot about Maine, Ogunquit, and even the history of the inn in which we were staying.

But by far my favorite part was getting to steer the boat.  ‘Captain Scott’ asked if anyone would like to steer—and the male part of the other couple volunteered.  After a little while his wife asked if she could steer—just for a little bit—and even admitted to ‘just wanting a photo of her doing it’.  I love that kind of honesty!  She then urged me to try, and told me she’d take a picture of me.  So, sticking with my ‘say yes’ mentality, I got behind the wheel.

Kind of scary, eh?

In addition to the photo I was promised, I also found that it was really quite fun steering.  I was told to steer towards a tour boat that was giving a presentation on lobster fishing, as we’d get to see the lobster fishing ‘thing’ without having actually paid to go on the (admittedly rather noisy and definitely more expensive) tour.  So I steered towards the boat, only pausing briefly to decide which way he wanted me to go when I was told to ‘steer around the stern’.  I was probably within 10 yards or so of said tour boat when two things happened at once—I thought  ‘gee—I really shouldn’t be steering this thing anymore’ and captain Scott said ‘I can take over from here’.  I laughed and, relieved, sat back down with my husband.

It was really fun, though.

After our two-hour or so sail we were starving.  We’d been going on one blueberry muffin—provided with tea and juice at the inn—and it was after 3:00.  Fortunately, right off the dock was The Lobster Shack, which was having a special on chowder and lobster rolls (free chowder with lobster roll purchase).  Doug and I shared the meal, and it was definitely enough.  Score one for thrift!

The first lobster of the trip

The funny thing is—my husband doesn’t like lobster OR mayonnaise.  But he remarked that the roll was really good.  Ok honey—next time, you eat the roll and I’ll eat the lobster!

We poked around in a few of the cute little shops—by which I mean I poked around and Doug sat outside—and then we made our way back to the inn to sit on the porch, drink wine, and write this!

In summation—so far on this trip, I’ve had a fantastic drink overlooking the water, enjoyed an amazing meal, slept for almost 10 hours, walked for three miles past rocky cliffs and on a sandy beach, spend two hours on a sail boat, had a lobster roll, shopped, drank, took around 200 photos, and have written…2,116 words.  Now 2,119.

And this was only our first full day!

Thus ends the post I wrote in Ogunquit. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting all five or six full journal entries that I wrote on the road. Why? Reason number one–they are way too long. And reason number two–fixing the formatting when transferring from my PC netbook to my desktop Mac is MADDENING. You know the Janis Joplin song ‘Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz’? Well, Lord, please buy me a macbook. I just can’t keep doing this! Grrr!

Ok. Sorry. Done complaining now.

Dear Readers: How Should I Blog? Please Vote!

As I prepare to start posting road trip stories, I’m at a loss as to how I should go about it.  If I post details of everything we did, the posts will add up to more than a Tolkien novel in length.  Additionally, I typically post reviews of the places we stayed and the places we ate–again, that would be really long.  I’m not opposed to writing fifty or so thousand word posts, but would you, dear reader, get bored with that?

So–how should I go about this?  Should I pick a random photo and write about it?  Like this one…

Or is that too gimmicky?  Do you want ‘just’ the highlights?  Do you have specific questions?  If so, post them in the comments, and I’ll work with that.  I’m open to suggestions!

Home Sweet Home

This hat is still in the back of my car.

We’re back!  And as such, I think it is now officially safe to say–that was the best trip we’ve ever taken.  I accidentally referred to it as a vacation at one point near the end, and my husband laughed.  Vacation?  he asked.  This isn’t so much a vacation as it is a rather odd lifestyle choice. 

But even month-long trips must end, and now I’m overwhelmed with the things that occur in life when you leave your home and garden for four weeks.  Holy weeds, batman!  And don’t even get me started on the food situation.  I cleaned out the fridge and ended up with, well, an empty fridge.  This morning we had a box of mac and cheese for breakfast–and the box was leftover from one of our Canadian shopping trips.

Additionally, we had our bathroom completely renovated while we were gone, so I’ve been shopping for shower curtains and bath mats.  And my next trip–three weeks in Orlando–is only 18 days away!

But don’t worry, it is my goal to have the entire road trip posted before I leave for Orlando on September 9th.  I took copious (ok, obsessive) notes each day of the trip, and I have 2,953 photos.  So settle in, grab a glass of wine, and stay tuned.  Many posts coming soon to a browser near you!


(Final) Road Trip Photo of the Day: Portland

We love Portland. It is an awesome city.  But tomorrow we are leaving–for home.  This was a great way to end our trip.  I’d talk about it more, but I’m so tired.  Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo that really tells the story of why we love it here.  I’ll tell the actual story later, when it is not almost midnight and I do not have to drive for eight hours the next day.  More–lots more–to come.