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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

LOBSTER STEW

Lobster stew is one of those simple recipes that takes a great ingredient (lobster) and makes it just a little better by adding a few more ingredients. After all, what does not taste better when cream, butter, and alcohol are added? Don’t worry about cooking the lobster at home since most purveyors will steam it for you for free.

I like my stew with lots of lobster that fills up every spoonful, but you can adjust to your liking. It pairs great with a fruity wine like Riesling or Gruner Veltliner. This dish works well as a small starter or as a main course with a salad and hot bread. Don’t feel guilty about all the cream, just promise yourself you will spend an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill.

RECIPE FOLLOWS.......

Ingredients

2     tablespoons unsalted butter
1     small shallot, minced
2     pounds cooked lobster meat (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2     tablespoons sherry
1     quart heavy cream
dash paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté for 5 minutes. Add lobster meat and sauté gently for 5 minutes to warm lobster and release color. Add sherry and stir to combine. When alcohol has evaporated after approximately 3 minutes, add heavy cream. Stir mixture and heat thoroughly for approximately 10-15 minutes. Add paprika (for color) and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WINDJAMMER DAYS

We purposely scheduled a trip to Boothbay Harbor, Maine to coincide with the 49th annual Windjammer Days. The town was a buzz in nautical excitement and celebrates the two-day event with pancake breakfasts, waterfront concerts, art & craft fair, hometown street parade, and an antique boat parade. The event pinnacles with fully rigged windjammers sailing into Boothbay Harbor followed by a fireworks display lighting up the harbor.

The schooner "Heritage" built in Rockland, Maine in 1983 entered the harbor
under full sail.
To kick off the event we toured the U.S. Coast Guard station and learned the ins and outs of what the “Coasties” in Boothbay Harbor do. After touring the station, we headed to the boats where we were able to sit in the driver’s seat of a 47-foot rescue boat and image what it is like piloting through 30-foot seas to help troubled mariners.
The Coast Guards 47-foot rescue
boat which is capable of rolling
over and righting itself in rough
seas.
A little Coast Guard humor.


After the Coast Guard tour, we headed back to the harbor to watch the antique boat parade. While the organizers tried to structure the event with a formal registration and information about each boat, it turned into a New Orleans-style parade where everybody jumped in. All of a sudden, more and more boats jumped in the parade line and motored right by the reviewing stands. Despite the new additions the parade was over in 20 minutes and we left laughing at the townspeople’s good nature and lack of seriousness.

We decided to find a picnic table at a lobster pound as our viewing stand for when the windjammers sailed into harbor. The schooners gracefully glided into harbor proudly displaying their sails and jibs. After the schooners paraded through the harbor and dropped anchor it was time to stake out our spot along the parade route. There is nothing like the humor and simplicity of a small town parade. The dump truck pulled the band, the fire engine whaled its siren, the Shriners drove their little cars, and the EMT’s passed out Popsicles. There was no pushing and shoving to get a spot and no trash left on the streets after the parade. The parade was over in about 40 minutes but provided great entertainment for all.

Kora cars were zipping around and provided great entertainment for the kids.
Included in the parade was a "lighthouse" - where else does that happen?
We decided to take an evening cruise on a tour boat to get the best view of the fireworks. The boat pushed away from the dock early enough to take us on a sightseeing cruise before the fireworks began. As we cruised along the coast we were treated to the natural beauty that typifies Maine. There were seals lounging on rocks, lighthouses standing guard of islands, and waves crashing on rocks. Our captain positioned the boat as close to the fireworks barge as allowed and we watched the night sky dazzle with brilliant colors and felt the booms shake the water below us. The fireworks were a great end to a wonderful two days as we drove our car back to the campground and motorhome fully exhausted and with smiles on our faces.

The finale to a great event.
They used to shoot the fireworks off from an island but it caught on fire one year.
Then they switched to shooting the fireworks off from a barge but that caught on fire too.  Thankfully,
nothing caught on fire this year.
More pictures from Windjammer Days.....

Ram Island Lighthouse built in 1883 to guide mariners through Fisherman's Passage
and into Boothbay Harbor.
Sailors standing attention on the U.S.S. Oak Hill as it glides into Boothbay Harbor.
1932 boat displaying proudly in the antique boat parade.
Antique boat parade participant.
Watching the schooners coming into Boothbay Harbor.
 

Windjammers in the harbor.
The band being pulled by the dump truck.
More parade participants - the local kayak company.
Entertaining Kora cars.
Even the thrift store had a float (and yes they were pulled by another dump truck)!




Friday, June 24, 2011

Red's Eats!

Betsy and I are “foodies.” We love all things food. Not just eating it, but reading about it, looking at it, smelling it, shopping for it, and researching restaurants. Sometimes I am in agony trying to decide what restaurant to go to. One of our first activities in a new area is to find out what the local foods are and where to go to get the most authentic version.

We especially love local “dives.” Those little hole in the wall joints where the locals go. The ones where you sit on picnic benches, enter through the kitchen, and pull a beer out of a horse trough full of ice cold longnecks so you can hydrate while deciding what to order. We found a gem of a dive in Wiscasset, Maine. A small town that describes itself as “The Prettiest Town in Maine” just so happens to have one of the best lobster rolls. Red’s Eats is perched above the Sheepscot River on a street corner in the downtown district. This place is the size of a minivan but don’t worry you can’t miss it because the line is the length of 3 city blocks. There are no inside tables and your choice of what to eat should be simple - lobster roll and fried clams.
Red's Eats came into being in 1938 in the tourist town of Boothbay Harbor about 15 miles away.  The restaurant moved to Wiscasset directly on U.S. Route 1 in 1954 where it gained it's popularity.  What makes Red's Eats lobster roll so great is the simple preparation and deliciously fresh lobster meat.  Over one pound of sweet lobster meat is stuffed into a toasted bun and served with warm drawn butter.  There is no mayonaise and no celery to take away from the lobster flavor.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update – The Lighthouse You Could Have Bought

If you read the blog post about Cape Elizabeth, then you may remember reading about the lighthouse for sale. Remember the Ram Island Ledge Light that started with an opening bid of $10,000 and how you could have bought that piece of Maine nautical history? Well, you missed your chance because a brain surgeon from Maine won the bid with a promise of $190,000.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The sale was not without controversy and bidding wars drove the price much higher than some thought it should have sold for. In the last two weeks of the sale the price jumped from $30,000 to $190,000. The doctor who bought the lighthouse wished to keep a low profile and remain anonymous. But after his name was released by the General Services Administration (the agency responsible for the sale), he was bombarded with questions from lighthouse preservation groups regarding his intentions for the future of the light. The doctor simply said he bought the property in order to preserve the lighthouse and protect its historic role at the entrance to Portland Harbor. Initial structural surveys indicate that the light is in fairly good shape. But repairs to the pier and other parts may cost over a quarter of a million dollars.

Navigation markers have existed on this site since the 1850’s. The markers helped mariners avoid the dangerous outcroppings by staying between Ram Island Ledge and Portland Head at Cape Elizabeth. But this treacherous location also makes it difficult to access the lighthouse. Not only is it difficult to get a boat or kayak safely on the ledge but visitors must climb a 30-foot exterior ladder just to get into the structure.

Of the nearly 70 lighthouses that grace the coast of Maine, only eight are in private ownership. Groups or individuals who take over the properties are required to maintain them in accordance with the National Register of Historic Places. As for the working lighthouses, like Ram Island Ledge Light, the Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the light and horn. So with the doctor’s help, one of the lighthouses standing guard outside of Portland Harbor will continue to guide mariners to safety and preserve national history.
Ram Island Ledge Light (the little spec located off to the right in the distance) is overshadowed
by the beautiful Portland Head Light. 
The lights importance as a navigational markers is evident by the rocky ledge
that it sits on.  

THANKS!

Our sincere thanks for all the concern and comments regarding the death of our dog Otter.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

ONE LESS PASSENGER

Yesterday, we had to put our 8 ½-year old Labrador retriever, Otter, to sleep. She had been suffering from transitional cell carcinoma and her health went downhill rapidly since her diagnosis in mid-May. The hard decision was made easier when I looked into her eyes and saw that her lust for life was not there anymore.

Otter lived true to her name and it reflected her love for water. She could find a ditch or puddle in the driest of times. A mud wallow would work as well. Wherever and however she got wet didn’t matter to her and she was always proud to come home and show us how wet and muddy she was.

But Otter’s name easily could have been “Shadow.” Otter followed me through the house, around the yard, and into the woods around our house. The minute I got up to leave the room, the snoring stopped and she was on her feet. She was always at my side in the kitchen and I called her my “sous chef.” She was my taste-tester when cooking and my janitor when I dropped things on the floor.

She was a holy terror as a puppy. Eating base boards, furniture, rugs, and “chew-proof” beds (we went through three of those). No amount of walking, running, and playing could tire her. Finally, she mellowed and stopped chasing the cat up a tree. I never took her hunting but she definitely would retrieve. Mostly it was balls in the yard but once it was a bunny she discovered in a nest. As she was galloping to me with her discovery in her mouth, she decided it was probably better to eat the tasty morsel than lay it at her master’s feet. In mid-stride she stopped and gobbled it down. She did other dumb dog things like swallow rocks and play with venomous snakes. She survived puppyhood which finally ended about age seven (which is more than I can say for the snake who met its maker by way of a shovel).

Otter’s sweet disposition and enthusiasm was contagious. She cheered us up on gloomy days and always made us laugh with her antics. One of her traits was to come over to you, place her muzzle under your hand and gently lift up so you would pet her which was always soothing to both of us.
I will truly miss seeing my shadow. Now the motorhome seems so much bigger without her. A good friend reminded us that “puppies always begin with laughter and end with tears.” And such was our wonderful little Otter. Thanks to all the people (and dogs) that have been in her life and fed her cookies, let her swim in their swimming pools and lakes, and given her belly rubs.
Otter took to kayaking well and loved watching the birds and fish jump.
On a walk in Maine just a few days before she died.
Otter was so happy to rip apart her toys and get the squeaker.
One of Otter's favorite toys was a George W. Bush squeaker toy.  After she
bit his ear off, he finally shut up (at least in our house anyway).
She barely fit in the tub, but couldn't wait to get in it.  After all it was water.
Yes, Otter was spoiled and did get a cupcake for her second birthday.
Otter was happy to retrieve anything.  Even a tennis ball run over by the mower.
Betsy taught Otter to love lobster or maybe Betsy just wanted her to guard it for her.

Even dogs love blueberry pancakes in Maine.

We thought the dog parks at the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) were great but I think Otter
was appalled to be there.
Otter giving a kiss to Betsy who was her second favorite!
Otter always went on vacation with us to Florida. 
Since Otter loved to swim we always rented vacation homes with a private pool.  Yes, we
broke house rules and let her swim. 
Sometimes, the only house we could find to rent was a 4-bedroom house with a pool for the three of us. 
We all loved to swim and loved our vacations.


In fondest memory for all of the years that she gave to us.  We were so privileged and loved her so.
Black Rock Otter
2002-2011
 

PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING

We just finished a 4-night stint in Georgetown Island, Maine. The campground was located right on Sagadahoc Bay just south of the city of Bath. The roads leading to the campground were bumpy due to a really bad asphalt patching job and the trees lining the road had not been pruned for a while (a job that is usually done by a hurried FedEx truck). As the motorhome rolled and glasses clinked, we slowly made our way down this 10-mile stretch of treachery all the time thinking that we have to come back this way to get out. So what brought us to this campground? The advertisement on their website that said they would deliver lobsters to campers. Guess whose idea it was to stay there?
We arrived only to find more potholes and a note on the door saying the camp manager was running errands. Within a few minutes, the camp manager (Eric) showed up. He saw us laboring down the road and knew we were his guests so he turned around to greet us. We were informed that we could have chosen any site we wanted (except for one that was already taken) since the park was not crowded. As we pulled into the campground, it hit us that this was the most spectacular view we had seen in a campground before. The tree-lined bay was dotted with islands with the Sequin Lighthouse standing proudly off in the distance. The bay was tidally influenced so everyday water rolled in and out. Low tide exposed clam flats and seaweed covered granite rocks while high tide made the bay even more beautiful with shimmering water and a kayakers dream.

The campground would not appeal to many people. There was no pool, no recreation center, no camp store, no restaurant, no horse shoe pits, no playground, no bath house, and many other amenities that we have grown accustomed to. And, there was no television. For 5 days and 4 nights we lived without television and how wonderful that was. I was able to finish my book on Antarctic polar exploration and start a Carl Hiaasen used paperback that I bought for fifty cents at the lobster pound. And Betsy finished reading her book, Earth by David Brin. In between pages I would look up and watch hard-working men dig for clams or seagulls bouncing on the water. The lack of amenities made the campground very relaxing and peaceful and an excellent place to park the moho “ house” for a number of nights.  Now that we are now in a new campground with television and I am fully briefed on the Wiener scandal, I think I will unplug the cable. 

Some pictures from the campground and Georgetown Island.
A morning walk at Reid State Park.
Reid State Park
Otter enjoying the cold water with the tide in.
The harbor at Five Islands town on Georgetown Island.
Look what we found in Five Islands?
Buildings from the early 1800's that have been restored to preserve the areas history.
The library.
The general store.
A statue of Chief Mahotiwormet (English name: Robinhood).  He was the leader of
the Abanaki Indians who inhabited the region.  The chief sold Georgetown Island to a white man
but remained in the region and lived peacefully with the white settlers.
Betsy and the Chief.
Sitting at the campfire, we watched the full moon rise and reflect off the water.
Reading.....a great thing to do on a rainy afternoon.
Digging for clams.
Not a bad view from the front window!
 Wildflowers growing around the granite boulders.
Otter running along the clam flats at low tide.  She even tried her hand at digging a few but was unsuccessful.