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, July 24, 2014

More of “Downeast” Maine in Eastport

Eastport is the easternmost “town” in the United States and they are proud of their claim-to-fame. You can find a host of tourist items with the superlative whether it be the common t-shirt, a shot glass, or the more appropriate Maine souvenir – a lobster buoy.

But we didn't come to Eastport to say we stood in the easternmost town in the U.S. Nope, we came to see the country's largest lobster pound. A friend of ours, Bruce, had previously visited the Lighthouse Seafood and Bait company and told us we must go see the operation. So off we went to meet Basil Pottle, the co-owner with his entrepreneur son, builder, operator, and lobsterman who got the idea to build an Olympic swimming pool size lobster pound after visiting a similar operation in Nova Scotia.

The facility is relatively simple with two tanks (twelve and six feet deep) that are capable of holding approximately 160,000 pounds of lobster. Seawater is pumped in, filtered, and chilled to a near freezing 37ยบ F which keeps the lobsters in a semi-dormant state. In this state, the lobsters can be held for up to six months without needing to eat (maybe that is a diet I should try). That way, the supply of lobster is always available when wholesale orders from around the world come in. Basil explained that the lobsters are placed in crates, or “condos” which keeps them protected from other lobsters or from being crushed. A dozen or so condos are racked together and then lowered into the pool with a forklift. Amazing!

Basil showing us the "condos"
and explaining how the slats are
adjusted based on the lobsters' size.
The crates (with lobsters) in the frigid water.

The intricate filtration, chilling, and pumping system.
Thanks to Basil, Lawrence and Justin who spent time educating us about lobsters.
We must have spent two hours getting a full tour of the facility and talking lobster with Basil and his employees. Who knew there was so much to learn about lobster? But being surrounded visually and audibly by lobster was making us hungry. Anyway, it was time to go downtown and see what Eastport was all about. One of the prominent downtown features is the status of a fisherman clad in foul weather gear sternly holding a fish. The statue has no real significance, instead it was erected as a prop for a Fox television mini-series. But hey, doesn't it look cool?



The downtown is larger than Lubec, but so cute and charming. Restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and home furnishing stores line the streets and bring tourists to this little coastal town. I could not help from bounding into the candy store to score some salt water taffy and candy cigarettes. For a little culture, we visited the Tide Institute and Museum of Art to peruse their exhibits and admire the magnificent historic building where it is housed. The fog and rain showed their ugly heads all day but we decided they just added a majestic charm as the distinctive sound of fog horns blew from deep within the fog.  And as we sat at lunch and ate lobster rolls by the ocean, can you ask for a better experience?



We left downtown with one more stop on our list – Raye's Mustard Mill. Raye's is the only stone-ground mustard mill in North America and has been in continuous operation for over a century. The general store has two dozen or so original creations for you to try. But if you specifically ask for a “tour of the mill” you will be led into the back where the mustard is actually made. It's here you learn the working of stone grinding mustard through an informative explanation and video of the process.

Sorry, pictures in the mill and museum were not allowed.
Needless to say, I was full of mustard when we left.
With a new jar of mustard in hand we were headed home to make a pork loin with mustard cream sauce. Great end to a great day in another great Maine town.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Way Downeast in Lubec, Maine

"Downeast" is shaded in red.
“Downeast” is the term you hear that refers to the uppermost coastal portion of Maine encompassing the towns between Penobscot Bay and Canada.  The term was attributed to the fact that when ships sailed from Boston to ports in Maine (which are east of Boston) their backs were to the wind, thus they were sailing downwind and so the term “downeast” arose.  There is some loose interpretation of the word.  In fact, the premier Maine magazine is called “Downeast” and they cover the entire state.

When we were able to string five days in a row off from work, we decided to head “downeast” to explore some of the little towns that are perched in the easternmost section of Maine.  We pulled up the jacks, tucked in the slides, and fired up the engine on the rig – the house was going on vacation with us (which was actually a strange feeling since we haven't moved in two months).  It looked like there were plenty of things to do for those days off so we knew this was not just going to be a day trip.  Boy were we right.

We scored a great waterfront site right along the Bay of Fundy at Sunset Point RV Park. The cold water provided cool breezes perfect for evening fires.
The little town of Lubec (population 1,300) with its artistic charm, miles of gorgeous water views, seafaring history, and natural beauty has become a unique and popular travel destination in Downeast Maine.  The town was founded in 1811 and the connection with the sea has always been strong.  A plentiful bounty of cod, pollack, and herring adequately supported twenty sardine canneries and smokehouses dating back to 1880.  The waterfront was alive and bustling.  Lubec was once the sardine canning capital of the world until the last cannery closed its doors in 2001.

Today, the downtown is a mix of hotels, restaurants, galleries, shops, hotels and whatever business can survive during the short tourist season.  Many of the historic buildings have been restored and make for attractive and inviting storefronts.  We checked out the chocolate shop, bought a wonderful smelling lavender candle, and snapped a few pictures on the glorious sunny day.

As with any coastal Maine town, there is plenty of things to do downtown.  Whale watching
is very popular with numerous species passing through the area.
Historic McCurdy's Herring Smokehouse is one of Lubecs' landmarks.  The museum promotes the
understanding and appreciation of the areas' maritime and coastal heritage. 
Since we are on the coast of Maine, we always know there has to be a lighthouse around.  The West Quoddy Head Light is the easternmost lighthouse in the United States and its colorful red and white candy stripes make it Lubec's most popular tourist destinations.  The light was first erected in 1808 and its light and primitive fog cannons have been safely guiding mariners through this dangerous passage for centuries.  Although the tower is closed, there is a small visitor center and plenty of hiking trails to explore near the grounds.  The claim-to-fame of the light house is that it is the "Easternmost Point in the U.S.A."

Lubec is surrounded by 96 miles of coastline and all that water meant that lobster boats and buoys were ever present. Unfortunately, those visual images are subliminal messages that manifest in Betsy's taste buds which work their way to the brain. The brain thinks “dinner,” at which time mindful thoughts are transformed to the mouth which results in the ever present phrase “I want lobster for dinner.”  Big sigh from me.  I don't fight it anymore, I give in.  So off we went to the coastal town of Cutler in search of a lobster pound.  Turns out the 17-mile drive to Cutler yielded a pretty harbor but also a “closed” lobster pound.


No fear, we headed back up the 17 miles to Lubec, drove the one lonely mile it took us to reach downtown Lubec and picked up two beauties at a local seafood restaurant. Yep, it was lobster for dinner again.  I'll spare you the picture of the gorgeous lobster and melted butter - I think you have seen enough!  How about a sunset picture from our campsite instead?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Schoodic National Scenic Byway

Bar Harbor is now crowded. The summer rush of vacationers has flooded in like a fast moving river. The downtown is a sea of cruise ship wanderers and families cramming in everything they can do (and buy) in their short precious vacation time. I understand, I get it, I was there before. But now, I choose to spend this extended vacation of mine in the less crowded places that have lots to offer if you look deep.

One glorious day we made the short drive east of us to check out the Schoodic National Scenic Byway. The byway leads you through some of Maine’s most scenic coastline, quaint towns, quintessential views of lobster boats and lighthouses, and to some of the most talented artisans along the coast. In all of our travels through Maine and the countless weeks we have spent here, we never made it to Schoodic. We've talked about it, read about it, were refered to come, but never have.



The 27-mile scenic byway was designated in 2000 and holds the title of being Maine’s first National Scenic Byway which set the bar pretty high. We stopped in downtown Winter Harbor for a quick bite at a hot dog stand so we would have plenty of time to explore the many things on our list. Winter Harbor is a great place for a quick stroll around town with a soda fountain, old style 5 & 10 store, galleries and art studios, an antique store and a few more odds and ends. Take in the scenery, feel the cool ocean breeze and get ready for lots more to see.

As you make your way east along the byway you will enter Acadia National Park (NP). Most of this national park is located on Mt. Desert Island (near Bar Harbor) but this less-visited section of the park is a true gem. There are many pull-off, picnic areas, and scenic views to be marveled at. Frazier Point was referred to us by some women in Winter Harbor who stopped to pet Spirit. They thought it would be a great place to let her swim and we could sit in the warm sunshine while taking in the view of Winter Harbor from across the bay. They were right! Spirit was one happy wet salty dog.


Much of the Schoodic Peninsula was owned privately by John G. Moore, a native Mainer and Wall Street financier. Upon his death, his family donated land to the National Park Service in 1929 and it became incorporated into Acadia NP. Some of the land was transferred to the U.S. Navy in the 1930's and 40's as a radio communications station and used until 2002. The former Naval base has lots of history and historic buildings that are now part of the Schoodic Education and Research Center – a joint public/private venture conducting environmental research. We were struck by the magnificent architecture of the Rockefeller Hall, an architecturally rich intricate blend of French Eclectic and Renaissance style with half timber and masonry exterior walls and steep pitched terra cotta roofs that resemble the gate houses of Acadia NP. In the 1930's John D. Rockefeller wanted to acquire land owned by the Navy in Otter Cliffs (on Mt. Dessert Island) so he could construct more roads along the water for visitors to enjoy. An exchange of land occurred and both parties were happy – the Navy moved to Schoodic and Rockefeller built more roads. The Rockefeller Building is now used as visitor center, offices, and suites for overnight guests.

Visitor Center
The Rockefeller Building
After driving for a few hours, eating hot dogs for lunch, and with a dog who was eager for more activity, we decided to stop at “Blueberry Hill” and hike up to Schoodic Head. Just a short mile long hike puts you on top of the 440-foot high Schoodic Head, the highest point on the peninsula. The views were great, but then again we never saw a bad one from the car either.



We continued on the byway where each little town was as cute as the last. Lobster buoys bobbed in the water and colorful flowers adorned the front yards of historic homes. The byway ends in Prospect Harbor which was home to the last sardine cannery in the United States. The town is also home to “Big Jim” - the 50-foot tall fisherman in a yellow slicker that once represented the Stinson Sardine Company. Big Jim used to hold a can of sardines, but when the factory was converted to a lobster processing facility, the sardine can was appropriately replaced with a lobster trap. The statue has been around some 30 years and even survived a strong storm in the 80's when the lower part of the sign (i.e., his pants) blew off. The pants were replaced and Jim still stands proudly.


Our day was full and we were getting a little tired but we decided to make one more stop at a local farm.  Darthia Farm is a 150-acre organic farm which raises sheep, beef cattle, chickens, pigs and plenty of produce.  In 2012 a fire claimed their barn and most of their animals but they were able to rebuild with the help of the community.  We picked up a pint of the most delicious little strawberries that almost didn't make the trip home as I could not stop popping them in my mouth.














Now we were all done for the day.




Saturday, July 12, 2014

Need I say "Nay..."

I am sucker for local farms, no matter what they are growing whether it be grapes, cows, corn, strawberries, and so on.  So when I saw that there was a nearby farm laden with milk filled goats that produced a local brand of tangy creamy cheese, I started strategizing as to how to lure Betsy into the trip.  The reason I felt there would be resistance is because Betsy can't stand goat cheese.  If it accidentally goes in her mouth it spits back out the same orifice a split second later with a distinctive disgusted look on her face.  I, however, LOVE it.

Lucky for me, Betsy is an animal lover and since she worked with goats in her college days, she was game to make the trip. Seal Cove Farm welcomes visitors four days a week and luckily one of the those days was our day off.  We were greeted by a warm and welcoming woman by the name of Lynn.  Despite being there ten minutes before they opened, Lynn cordially invited us to walk back to the barn and meet the goats.

Betsy and Lynn discussing goats.

The farm operation is a labor of love and let me tell you there is a lot of labor and love.  The goat herd made up of three different breeds that optimally produce the highest quality and perfect balance of milk that blends beautifully into their delicious cheese.  Lynn explained that the goats are milked twice a day so it is a hands-on busy place.  Numerous varieties of cheese are produced and packaged right there on the farm.  The cheese selection includes fresh and aged chevres, feta, and mixed milk cheeses similar to parmesan and brie. In addition, the Seal Cove Farm produces goat pepperoni (called “goateroni”), gelato, and “nannyberries” (otherwise known as compost).


The farm started in 1976 in the small town of Seal Cove on Mt. Desert Island in Maine but moved to Lamoine in 1996 when the need for expansion was evident by the growing herd and cheesy business.  Now the goats have room to roam, rocks to climb on, sun to feel on their backs, and a large barn for shade and food.  The happy goats produce 700 pounds of cheese a week and 240 kids a year.














After touring the barn we followed Lynn up to the farm stand to sample some cheese and culinary creations from the wood fired oven built lovingly by a volunteer who used to work on a trail crew in Acadia National Park. (Acadia is known for its beautiful stone work on buildings and carriage roads.)  Manning the oven and whipping up incredible, creative pizza was Barb, the founder and owner of the farm.  The pizzas are made with home-made dough, ingredients from their garden (like kale and string beans) and goat cheese.


Mmmm, fresh sweet peas and goat cheese.
Barb cutting my delicious pizza
We were struck by how welcoming and engaging Barb and Lynn were despite all of the work we knew there was to be done and they enjoyed the interaction with guests and proudly talked about the farm.  My buds were saturated with tastes of their different goat cheese varieties, goateroni (their goat version of pepperoni) and delicious pizza topped with kale, roasted garlic and goat cheese.  Now that I was happy and had a to-go sack with blueberry goat cheese and their creamy brie style cheese it was time to head to McDonald’s so Betsy could finally eat!

The goat cheese makes a perfect late afternoon snack when our work schedule holds us hostage until 7 p.m.  I topped the fresh cheese with blueberries soaked in brandy and honey which puts a smile on my face.

We are so glad we discovered this local gem which is sure to lure us back.





Monday, July 7, 2014

Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce

When I first saw a recipe for “white barbecue sauce” my nose wrinkled and the word “gross” came to mind. But this recipe kept popping up on websites and social media and my culinary curiosity would not let it die.

For sure the color of barbecue sauce varies . . . traditional sauces run the spectrum from red, caramel-colored, mahogany, etc . . . but never white! Unless, of course, you are from North Alabama which is where this regional staple hails from. I lived in the south (New Orleans to be exact) for over 15 years and never heard of or were served white barbecue sauce before. Even when I took my “Soups, Stocks, and Sauces” course in culinary school we were not taught about this colorless saucy concoction. How could I be left in the barbecue sauce darkness for so long?

The credit for this concoction goes to Bob Gibson who developed the sauce back in 1925 in Decatur, Alabama. The putty-colored sauce is a tangy, mayonnaise-based creamy goodness that seems to melt effortlessly into grilled chicken. I went from mistakenly labeling this sauce as “gross” to making it every time I grill chicken. (Be mindful that poor chicken does not get much grill time up here in the land of lobster). The basic ingredients for the sauce are mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper. But from there, recipes vary adding lemon juice, creole mustard, garlic, corn syrup, onion powder, and what ever else may be in the southern pantry.

The sauce is super easy and quick to make and keeps well in the refrigerator for a week. The recipe I kept seeing was from world barbecue champion Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q restaurant. I tweaked Lilly's recipe to give it a little more kick with horseradish and Sambal. The recipe makes enough for 6-8 pieces of chicken.

Yield: approximately ¾ cup

Ingredients
  • ½ cup mayonnaise 
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Sambal® or Tabasco® 
  • ½ teapoon prepared horseradish
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder 
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients. Serve at room temperature with barbecue chicken.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Wind and Rain Compliments of Arthur

Thanks to Hurricane Arthur our 4th of July weekend is a soggy one.  Luckily, the rain held off on the 4th and the festive small town parade in Bar Harbor was able to roll, Shriners cars and all. The pool at the campground was packed as you would expect on a warm summer day and barbecue pits were a blaze with meaty smells as the predicted afternoon rain didn't roll in until late evening.

We stayed glued to the weather forecast as the wind, surf, and flood advisories started piling up.  Not that two girls from New Orleans were terribly worried about a little ole' man named Arthur buzzing into Maine but we like to be safe.  After all, how much damage could a storm with a gentle name produce?  But campers were changing their plans, leaving early from the park or cancelling reservations and we were asked a lot of questions about our experiences with hurricanes.  We tried to make them feel secure.  We told them the best thing to do is throw a hurricane party!

That's us, just south of Bangor.  Looks like the grass cutting will have to wait for another day.
The predicted steady wind of 35-45 mph (with gusts up to 60 mph) were going to start blowing in after dark so we packed up the patio, rolled up the awnings, and put some slides in as a precaution.  Luckily, we are in an open location and don't have to worry about trees or branches that could come crashing down on our motorhome.  The promised cooler temperatures following the storm will be welcomed.  Until then, we will hang on to our hats and keep the raincoats handy.  

Trenton, ME
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High Wind Warning

Northern Maine
30 mins ago – National Weather Service
Strong wind is expected for Eastern Maine through this ... remains in effect until 4 pm EDT this afternoon ... Winds: sustained north wind of 35 to 45 mph with gusts of 60 mph ...


Our biggest concern boiled down to who was going to have to walk Spirit in the rain and wind. Not that she cared who took her out, but when we looked outside and saw the driving rain and blowing flags, we cared.