Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Ah, Camden, Maine!

If you ask anyone about Camden who has visited there they will give you a delightful sigh followed by a heartfelt response declaring “Oh, I love Camden!” Coastal Route 1 cuts right thru downtown Camden so as you drive through you can’t help but be invited in for a closer look. As seasoned Maine travelers, we beg you not to skip Camden on your race up to Bar Harbor and quest to explore Acadia National Park. Instead, stop and enjoy this seafaring town and the neighboring and equally as charming town of Rockport.



Downtown Camden is jammed packed with shops, galleries, and restaurants. Venture just off Route 1 and head down to the water where the harbor view is delightful and the flourish of boat traffic makes things lively. One of our favorite watering holes in Camden is Seadog Brewing Company where you can enjoy their delicious blueberry beer outside on the patio overlooking the harbor. Another favorite place to stop in Camden is Lily, Lupine, and Fern a fabulous flower and wine shop that has a diverse wine selection offering wines from all over the globe. To boot, they have an awesome cheese selection which means this is your one stop for all your wine and cheese picnic needs. Camden has a super cute dog store, appropriately called “The Maine Dog” for those of you looking to spoil your favorite pup with a souvenir. Stop in the Swans Island Company store and check out their beautiful hand-woven blankets. French and Brawn Market Place is where you can pick up deli sandwiches, gourmet goods, meat cut to order, and other grocery and provisioning items. Sherman’s Bookstore is a treat with not only a great selection of books but other fun stuff you would find in an old 5&10. Long Grain is an eclectic Asian restaurant with great food and hard to find Asian culinary items. Stonewall Kitchen offers an extensive selection of products, including jams, chutneys, sauces, baking mixes, an assortment of kitchen accessories, fun gift ideas. And don’t forget about the Farmers Market which is so popular that it happens twice a week.

Camden Hills State Park offers a great place to camp; as well as, some amazing views. If you like to hike, this 5,710 acre park will satisfy you as there are over 30 miles of trails that wind through the park, many of which have stunning overlooks. But, for you non-hikers who still want that great view don’t worry you have the option to take the auto tour road up to the top of Mt. Battie. Mt. Battie overlooks Penobscot Bay, an archipelago of outlying islands, interior lakes, and Camden Harbor. If you love sunrises, the top of Mt. Battie is the place to be for marvelous views. The park dates back to the 1930’s and was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) under the direction of the National Park Service. Still standing today are many of those iconic CCC buildings that give the park added charm.


Camden Harbor is also referred to as the Windjammer Capital of the World and really comes alive during their annual Windjammer Days celebration. Nearly a dozen schooners (some dating back to 1918) grace the harbor and Penobscot Bay with their billowing sails and classic good looks. During the nineteenth century, Camden’s harbor was full of schooners, sloops, and scows year-round. These sailing vessels were major modes of transportation at that time and today take tourists on hourly, daily, and even weekly excursions.



Windjammer Days is a weekend-long celebration jam packed with events. Our friends Pat and Debbie were in town so we decided to partake in the fun. We started off with a chowder tasting which filled our bellies with rich tasty classic New England cuisine. After lunch we launched our paddle boards and kayak and paddled around the harbor so we could get an up-close view of the boats and events activities. Our timing was perfect and we made it over to watch kids participate in the lobster crate races. The object is simple – run across the string of crates as many times as you can within a certain time limit without falling in the water. Sounds easy, but a number of kids wound up in the drink soaking wet.

Just south of Camden is the less busy and equally cute and tranquil town of Rockport. On the harbor in the Rockport Marine Park is where you will find two noticeable historic landmarks in the park – the lime kilns and a statue of André the seal. This area is part of the region's nationally significant lime processing history including seven historic early 19th-century lime kilns. The area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. The elevated railroad line allows lime to be dumped into the top of the kiln. Three of these kilns still exist and may be visited. Fun fact: Rockport supplied most of the stone used in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC after it was damaged during the War of 1812.

André the Seal is a true story about a harbor seal pup who was raised by Harry Goodridge, a tree surgeon and the local harbormaster. Goodridge was looking for a seal pup as a companion to take with him when he dove. He had seen a newborn pup on the rocks who appeared to have been orphaned. A couple days later when Goodridge returned to the area, the pup swam over to his boat. André and Harry became companions who stuck together for 25 years, swimming together, sledding together, and even hanging out in the family bathtub and watching TV. André was more like a dog than a seal and learned all kinds of tricks. Word spread about André and people from all over the country came to Rockport Harbor to see him. André went blind in 1985 and when he swam away in 1986 he never returned. Searchers found his body washed up on a remote part of Rockport beach. At the time, he was thought to be the oldest living harbor seal. André was famous and his story was told in a movie, PBS documentary and a book. Many joked he was Maine’s longest running free attraction. A statue memorializing the seal sits proudly in the Rockland Marine Park.

Debbie and I decided to paddle board around the harbor and out to the Rockland Lighthouse. The paddle was beautiful and the water was extremely clear to which we were treated to magnificent views of starfish, clams, and other aquatic life and found some seaglass. Sometimes the best way to see a harbor is from the water and the paddle was definitely worth it.

Rockport is home to Aldermere Farm which is known for their Belted Galloway cows. “Belties” as locals call them are unmistakable because of their black hair interrupted with a white band. Yep, just like an Oreo cookie – their other nickname. The 136-acre scenic farm is owned and operated by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and stretches across some of the most beautiful lands of green pastures, undeveloped shoreline, woodlots, and wetlands. Aldermere works towards educating visitors on the importance of land conservation and sustainable agriculture and runs numerous programs for adults and children including a 4-H club, art shows, farm tours, summer programs and more!

There was one place in Rockport where we spent a lot of time - Erickson Fields.  Erickson Fields is a former dairy farm that is now a working farm where young people grow food for the community.  We spent so much time there because there are off-leash hiking trails through the wooded section of the property.  After our walks we would stop in at The Market Basket which is a European style gourmet market and that means it is a go-to for handmade pastries, baguettes, croissants, and more.

So if you think Camden sounds like a fun little Maine town with lots of charm then plan to stop here ... at least for a few days.  We just touched on a little bit of what Camden and the neighboring town of Rockport have to offer.  














Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Roadmap to Full-Time RVing Course Overview

Have you ever considered becoming a full-time RVer but are afraid to jump in?  Or, are you a “newbee” and find you still have tons of questions?  We’ve been in both those scenarios and after eight years on the road, believe it or not, we are still learning.  But here is a way to bridge the learning gap and hit the road with confidence. Our friends, Brandon and Kerensa, launched a Facebook group called RV to Freedom – Roadmap to Full-time RVing which helps guide you through the complex and unknown world of full-time RVing. The group quickly swelled in membership indicating that there is a lot of information people crave about full-time RVing.



Kerensa and Brandon realized there was a need for more knowledge and insights to successfully transition into a full-time RV life and decided to launch a formal on-line course to delve into this subject. Roadmap to Full-Time RVing is a comprehensive 8-module series that will cover everything you need to know from how to find a suitable RV that meets your needs, how will you get mail, what opportunities for work are available, understanding the financial side of full-time RVing, and so much more.  Plus you will get access to live video Q and A sessions which means all the questions you have will be addressed and answered by experts who have lots of knowledge to share.  Sometimes you don’t even know what questions to ask, but they have that part covered in this comprehensive course.  Betsy and I know Kerensa and Brandon personally and consider them friends and are confident that they will do an amazing job navigating you through this process.

Below is a short introductory video which provides more details and to see if this course is right for you. 



About ten years ago (when we were “wannabees”), we attended a week-long course called “Life on Wheels” and it was the best thing we did preparing for RV living.  We didn’t even have an RV yet but learned so much and felt the course was so valuable to our planning process!  We believe this course will be super beneficial for new full-timers or those considering full-time RVing.  So we loudly applaud our friends for enthusiastically wanting to help others and launching this course.

Join RV to Freedom on February 13th 8 pm (Eastern) for a free informative webinar and get all your questions answered.  Registration closes February 20th at midnight so don't delay.  Here’s a great way to achieve your goal of full-timing with confidence from experienced people we know and trust.  Click here to get started.  








Monday, February 4, 2019

RV Park Review–Salisbury Beach State Reservation (Salisbury, Massachusetts)

The electrical post and water hookup were placed way behind our site and we could not reach even with our 40’ electrical cord. Park staff told us we could back onto the grass in order to reach the electric and since the ground was hard packed sand we were able to do that. All sites have a picnic table, fire pit, and BBQ grill. The camping pads and roads in the park are paved. We camped at a non-peak time so the park was not very crowded but we can image it being quite different in the summer. As there are a lot of campsites and with this being a popular beach area, the campground is probably full in the summer.  Most of the sites are wide open so getting satellite is possible.  We were able to get plenty of antenna channels and had a strong Verizon phone signal.


We loved paddle boarding in the river where seals were plentiful and fun to watch. There is also another winding river that goes through a marshy area that was great for bird watching. Beware of tides and strong currents in these areas as they can make paddling difficult and you may get stuck in the marsh.

The nearby town of Newburyport is super cute and a must-see (click here for a link to a previous blog post about the area). We loved strolling around the town popping in and out of shops and walking along the waterfront. About 30 minutes north on I-95 is the New Hampshire town of Portsmouth which is super hip and has great restaurants. Definitely recommend visiting both of these towns if you have time.

There are a couple of drawbacks about this park – the price, no sewer, short campsites, and it has the potential to feel very crowded since there are so many sites and fairly close together. At $47/night this is fairly expensive for a state park, but, you are right on the beach with good water access so that may be justification. Many of the sites are short but since you can park on the grass that turns out not to be a problem.



Overall, we liked this campground and the location. The nearby town of Salisbury is a kitchy beach town with a few restaurants and the drive north up Coastal Route 1A is really pretty. There is lots to do in the nearby area when you are not busy enjoying the beach.












Thursday, January 31, 2019

Showing off a Little of Maine's Natural Bounty

Nature, seafood, craft beer, cheese, wine … these are some of Maine’s bounty that we love to share.  When some friends came to Maine we had lots to show them and these items were all in the plan.  We told them about the touristy stuff and museums in town, pointed them in the right direction, and turned them loose.  But when it came time to venture down to areas off the tourist map and hit the lobster dock, brewery, nature preserves and more we were going to play tour guide.

The beauty of being in mid-coast Maine is that there are lots of day trips and interesting places within a short drive.  Just south of our campground are some beautiful peninsulas where lobster boats bob in the water, scenic views scream for you to pull over to snap a pic, and local characters are charming and interesting.  We like to spend days off exploring these areas where the pace is slow in these no stop light towns.


When our friends Steve, Dara, Pat, and Debbie were in town we figured hiking was going to be in the cards since we all have dogs and like to explore the natural side of an area.  Our daily excursions usually started with a walk so our mutts could expend some energy and it was a way for us to build up our appetites – because lunch was always in the plans. 

Mainers love their natural areas which is evident by all the nature preserves that dot the maps.  We are fortunate that these preserves are free, dog-friendly, and in some of the most beautiful places.  Many preserves were donated to land trusts so they range in size from tens to thousands of acres and cover a cross section of habitats including pine woods, meadows, wet bogs, and coastal shorelines.  Most preserves have hiking trails that make for pleasant walks.  One of our favorites is the La Verna Preserve which has sweeping shoreline vistas that make you pause and enjoy the view.



Driving south towards the town of Friendship we spotted a garage shimmering with glass bottles out of the corner of our eyes.  U-turn, please!  This was “Dave’s Bottles” – a place we read about in Downeast Magazine and totally forgot it was on our drive.  Dave Copp has been collecting bottles since 1968 and is very proud of his eclectic collection of some 18,000 bottles.  Dave has been digging and collecting bottles since before his 13th birthday when a man offered him money to help dig up bottles and he got hooked.  But don’t think Dave’s collection is just resurrected “junk,” he has come upon very rare bottles that fetch up to $800.  Dave welcomes you in to look around or buy that special bottle that catches your eye.  He is quite interesting and personable and you can tell his friendly sense of humor by the signs that say “Good attitude? Better prices!”  Thanks for the tour Dave, we’re glad we stopped even though we didn’t buy.


Lunch time!  A beautiful sunny day in Maine means we are sitting outside eating seafood overlooking a harbor.  And yep, that is exactly what we did.  Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf was the dining destination complete with crab cakes, lobster rolls, fried haddock sandwiches, clam strips, French fries, and cold beer. Our friends approved of our choice … and the quaint coastal view.



Our next stop was a cheese manufacturer.  Lakin’s Gorges Cheese has been making delicious artisanal organic cow’s milk cheeses since 2011.  Lakin’s is part of the Midcoast Maine Cheese Trail which encourages tourists to visit local cheese producers where they can sample products, meet farm animals, and purchase goods.  Maine has a “beer trail” and “wine trail” so why not a “cheese trail!”  And we did buy here!

Speaking of beer and needing to get our Beer Trail passport stamped, we headed to Odd Alewives Brewery for a sampling.  The first thing you notice when you pull up in the parking lot is the beautiful renovated 1820’s barn which houses the brewery and tasting room.  We loved sitting outside (with the dogs, of course) where you are surrounded by twenty some acres of tranquil forests and gardens which are used to grow produce used in making their unique beers.  Pumpkins, raspberries, lavender, and more are grown on-site and incorporated into their beers.


 

We didn’t want our friends to leave without tasting some of Maine’s other liquid bounty – wine.  Besides, we needed to get our Wine Trail stamped too.  So off to Oyster River Winegrowers – conveniently located two miles away from the campground.  Since 2007, Oyster River has been making wines and ciders from their own fruit organically grown on the farm and elsewhere in the Northeast.  Their products are made in low-intervention methods and owner Brian Smith believes in letting nature take control.  All fruits used in production are organic and most fermentation starts spontaneously with yeasts that occur naturally on the fruit or are found in the cellar (instead of adding yeast) and refrigeration is not used but comes naturally from the chilly cellar.  We bellied up to the bar for a tasting of ten samples of various wines and ciders.  One thing you notice is that the wines are not filtered which follows Smith’s philosophy of keeping  things as natural as possible.  They might be cloudy but they were good.  
  
 

The mid-coast region of Maine is speckled with farm stands and farmer’s markets.  You don’t have to drive to far to be upon another one.  One of our favorites is the Old School House.  A tiny old red school house is home to the store which provides fresh seasonal items from their farm or those nearby.  Their summer corn is sweet and crisp and their strawberries are the best ever.  But, what really makes me want to pull in the driveway are their cider donuts fried fresh every morning and cost only forty cents!  Delicious and cheap!
       
The day would not have been complete without going to the local lobster dock and picking up dinner.  We love to take our friends to the lobster co-op where they get to meet the hardworking local lobster men, or women, and buy the lively crustaceans that were recently plucked from the cold salty sea.  Lobster boats are constantly coming in to unload their days catch and the wharfs are always lively (albeit, somewhat stinky from the leftover bait).  Lobster co-ops are owned and operated by the fishermen and very common in coastal towns.  These organizations didn’t come into formation until the late 1940’s and 1950’s when lobstermen were suspicious that dealers were offering unfair low prices for catch and charging higher prices for bait.  The lobstermen organized and co-ops (where members share in the costs and profits) were formed thus helping to make lobster pricing and the market structure more transparent.  Another benefit to co-op membership is access to docks which can otherwise be very expensive for individual lobstermen.



Our favorite way to eat lobster is to buy it right off the boat, cook it at home in a pot of seawater and seaweed that we plucked straight from the sea, and eat it at home on our picnic table with a bottle of chilled wine then finish the day around a campfire.  We love when our friends share in the Maine experience!  And something tells us they liked it too.