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.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bar Harbor Mondays

Mondays have us performing a new role – not one of work camper or sight-see'er – but that of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAan Inn Keeper. We head down to the Maples Inn in Bar Harbor to give Betsy's brother Mark a well-needed break. In the late morning, we kick him out the door and tell him not to worry. The role of an Inn-keeper is complex so us novices stick to the easy tasks that don't mess up the financials or overbook a room. In essence, we do the laundry, unload the dishwasher, vacuum, bake cookies, water the garden, grocery shop, and check-in arriving guests. 

Betsy and I have always loved the town of Bar Harbor and since the Inn is downtown we get a chance to absorb the vibrant energy that makes this town so popular.  We usually venture downtown around lunch time, grab something to eat, people watch in the park overlooking the harbor, and take a walk on the shore path to marvel at how beautiful the harbor is.  But since we have work back at the Inn to do, our hour break goes pretty fast.

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Agamont Park in downtown Bar Harbor
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Originally called “Eden,” the town of Bar Harbor was settled in 1763 and has been home to lobstermen, shipbuilders, outdoor enthusiasts, farmers, artists, and wealthy summer visitors.  The early 1800’s saw the arrival of people named Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and Astor who built large summer “cottages” with servant’s quarters, stables, and guest houses so they could enjoy the cool summer weather and the outdoor wonders that abound.  No longer a small fishing village, Bar Harbor was transformed into a playground for the rich and forever became a tourist destination.

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In 1947, a devastating fire raged for ten days burning over 17,000 acres and destroying many of the grand historic structures.  The situation grew so dire at one point that evacuation had to come by boats and through smoldering forest roads cut with bulldozers.  The fire ended an era as many great homes and historic structures were destroyed.  Some buildings still remain and are part of a historic self-guided walking tour through town called "Museum in the Streets."

035Bar Harbor appeals heavily to outdoor enthusiasts who descend on the tiny town in the summer with SUV’s overly accessorized with gear that emptied out an REI store.  The crown jewel of outdoor adventure is Acadia National Park with it's hundreds of miles of hiking/biking trails, scenic overlooks, and stunning natural beauty it is no wonder this is consistently one of the top ten most visited National Parks.  (But more on Acadia in another post.)
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Downtown Bar Harbor appeals to the many tourists with it’s shops, restaurants, parks, galleries, and beautiful harbor.  We always seem to wander in to Bark Harbor the local pet store and House Wines which has  . . . you guessed it . . . wine.  The local ice cream shop Mt. Desert Is. Ice Cream has been ranked by Food and Wine Magazine as one of the ten top ice cream parlors in the country.  So we have many reasons to go downtown.  The towns popularity is obvious when cruise ships come to port and release 3,000 wandering tourists. Despite the crowds we still enjoy strolling the downtown streets and look forward to spending our Mondays there.

Did I forget to mention that Spirit is particularly fond of the fountain downtown?

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Friday, August 15, 2014

A Perfect Day in Maine

The other day was the most perfect quintessential day one could spend on Maine soil or sea.  It was the zenith, the pinnacle, the ultimate, the supreme most idyllic day.  It was simply wonderful!  It was so great that when it was over we just kept saying “wasn’t that great” over and over.  The day involved a boat ride in a Hinckley picnic boat, laughing with friends and family, a lighthouse, bobbing seals, beautiful blue skies, calm seas, and seafood.

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First, lets talk about the Hinckley. That name is synonymous with the highest levels of yachting as the craftsmanship, details, and spirit are rooted in the rich Maine maritime heritage which is combined with innovative technology that marries perfectly.  The Hinckley Company was founded in nearby Southwest Harbor, Maine in 1928 after purchasing a boatyard.  In 1933 their first boat was launched and was a 36’ fishing vessel.  In 1936 they broke into the sailing realm with a 28’ sloop.  In 1940 the company strayed from boat building and moved into the marine supply business building fittings for fuel tanks, stanchions, deck plates, and more that are still used today.  The start of WWII took Hinckley into the manufacturing of war-designed boats.  But after the war, Hinckley moved back to the production of pleasure boats.  Throughout the years, Hinckley has become an innovator in yachting technology and their handcrafted boats have been turning heads and luring distinguished seaman for years. 

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So it was in a gorgeous 2004 Hinckley Picnic Boat that Betsy’s cousin Maggie and her husband Bob offered to give us a ride to Bass Harbor for a scenic boat ride and lunch at a local seafood restaurant.  We motored in calm clear waters past lobster buoys soaking in the warm sunshine and marveled at the rocky coast.  The beautiful blue sky was a great contrast to the stark white Bass Harbor lighthouse perched along the entrance to the harbor.  Betsy and her brother Mark caught up with Maggie and Bob and talked about childhood memories.  The wonderful company only made the gorgeous day brighter. 

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Bob, Maggie, Mark and Betsy
As it was approaching the lunch hour, we motored in to Bass Harbor - which I think is one of the most picturesque harbors on Mt. Desert Island.  It is a busy working harbor with lots of lobster boats and docks.  It ranks as one of the most lucrative lobster ports in the state . . . hmm, maybe that is why we come here so much.  At one time the town was called “McKinley.”  During the early 1900's, a U.S. Post Office had just been constructed in the village and when federal officials asked the locals what they preferred for a name the reply was “Name it after the President for all we care!” So, from that time on until the name was finally changed in 1961 by a petition to Bass Harbor, the area was called “McKinley” after the then President McKinley.

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Perched at the entrance to Bass Harbor is one of the most photographed and recognized lighthouses in the country – the Bass Harbor Head Light.  The history of the lighthouse dates 129back to 1855 when it was determined that there was a sufficient reason for a lighthouse at the mouth of Bass Harbor.  Shortly after, the U.S. Congress appropriated $5,000 for construction of the lighthouse. In 1876, construction of a fog bell and tower were completed.  Later the bell was replaced with a larger one and today a fourth order Fresnel lens operates in this working lighthouse.  The lighthouse has been kept pretty much in its original state and the light keepers house is occupied by a U. S. Coast Guard family. 

We can’t thank Maggie and Bob enough for such a memorable day.  The view from the water was a wonderful way to see some of our favorite places and to do it with such nice people made for a perfect experience.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Crazy Blog Stalkers

Recently, a couple emailed us stating that they read our blog and were going to be in our neck of the woods.  They wanted to know if we could meet but hinted that they felt a little “weird” about asking and didn’t want to appear as crazy blog stalkers.  Ironically, this is totally not “weird” to RV’ers because we are always meeting new people.  Every time we move to a new campsite we have new neighbors and our workcamping experiences means we will have new colleagues.  For the most part, RV’ers are a friendly lot who enjoy (or at least tolerate) other peoples' close company.  Otherwise, why would we choose to park our house twenty feet away from complete strangers?  And if we don’t like our neighbors?  We drive away.

In fact, us RV’ers are so comfortable and eager to meet new people that we have our own networks to do so.  RVillage is a social media mechanism that allows people to introduce themselves (via the internet) to other RV’ers.  Similar to Facebook you create a profile, find friends, and join “groups” with people sharing common interests/hobbies.  It is a great conduit for meeting new people and inviting them to “get-togethers.”  AmeriGO RV Club also organizes lifestyle chapters so people with like interests can meet (click here for a free one year subscription).  So we were not put off in any way when these two strangers came knocking on our door.  In fact, our campground lets us offer a 25% discount to friends.  So come on . . .

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Me, Betsy, and Deb enjoying dinner at their place.
Indeed, Betsy and Deb did turn out to be quite nice, we enjoyed their company, and were glad to swap hiking and travel stories.  They planned on staying for a week but soon discovered that the area provides so much for outdoor enthusiasts that they extended another week.  This was good news for us as we would have more time to get to know them and enjoy dinners, cocktails, and campfires.

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Dinner with Mark at the Maples Inn

Over the four years of traveling in our motorhome we have met so many wonderful people in campgrounds and through blogging.  We meet people from all walks of life but we all have one thing in common . . . the good ole’ RV.

If you are ever in our neck of the woods, please let us know.  So far, we have had only great experiences with the people we have met on the road and to this date we have not encountered any true crazy blog stalkers!




Saturday, August 9, 2014

RV Park Review – Sunset Point RV Park (Lubec, Maine)

Sunset Point RV Park website

Overall, this is a nice park that we would return to if in the area.  The park is off the beaten path as it lies in the far eastern most portion of coastal Maine and probably not on many RV’ers top destination lists.  But if you want to visit a unique and beautiful part of Maine and/or are on your way to the Canadian Maritimes, this is a great stop for a few days.  One big draw to the area is Roosevelt Campobello International Park located just a few miles from Lubec across the border in New Brunswick, Canada.  While in Lubec for four days we found lots to do from hiking, lighthouse touring, shopping, restaurants, etc.  In addition to those things, we visited the oldest stone ground mustard mill in the country, the largest lobster pound in the country, the easternmost point in the country, and the most decadent hot chocolate in the country.  So how is that for a list?
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The park is small with some 30-odd RV sites and a half dozen tent spaces.  There is no sewer but a dump station is available and honey wagon service (for a fee).  The RV sites are close together but with the great views and plenty of green space to roam we didn’t seem to mind.  There is lots of space behind or in front of most sites which is a great place to park your chairs and not feel crowded.  The cost was $35/night with 50 amp, water, cable and wifi. 

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Amenities are few but there is a clean laundry and bath/shower house, a pond, and boat launch for canoes/kayaks.  The sites are grass but all appeared level and well-drained.  Roads are gravel and the lack of trees makes for easy driving in the park (although the road coming into the park is very narrow and would be tough for two big rigs to pass each other).  Each site has a picnic table and fire pit.  Utilities are well-placed.  Our waterfront site was ideal for pulling in forward to enjoy the view . . . but our electric cord was not long enough as we do not have an extension.  One thing to be aware of is if your neighbors pull-in and you back-in you have adjoining patios and the sites are very close.

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The park is located within a mile to downtown Lubec where you will find shopping, restaurants, fuel, attractions, etc.  Our Verizon phone and hotspot worked well and the parks wifi was very good.

There are many bonuses of this park.  First, they will loan you a lobster pot, burner, and propane to cook your fresh seafood.  So if you are hungry for lobster and forgot to pack the pot, just call the office.  Next, across the street is a Peruvian chocolatier who has been hand making chocolates for years.  Pray for a rainy day when you are craving something steaming hot so you can venture over to get a hot chocolate that will knock your socks off.

What we really liked about this park was many things, especially the close proximity to town (just a mile to downtown Lubec and a mile and a half to Campobello Island.  The woman who checked us in was extremely friendly and thoroughly went over maps with us and pointed out the attractions in Lubec and Campobello.  The setting is idyllic coastal Maine and we loved sitting outside by the fire pit and watching the boats and fog go by. 

The not so good things about this park are that the sites are very close together and there is no sewer.  The 50 amp sites are limited so you may need to book ahead or opt for 30 amp.

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Spirit’s two cents:  as always, if there is water for swimming Spirit is happy.  Between the pond and the boat launch, she found ways to get her paws wet.  The park is small so you really can’t get a great walk in but a state park with hiking trails is just four miles down the road and the International Park on Campobello Island has miles and miles of hiking trails.  There is lots of common area for you to walk dogs and plenty of grass for walking your pooch. 

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A somewhat tired dog enjoying the cool grass.



Friday, August 1, 2014

Roosevelt Campobello International Park

 
So what is the real reason we came to Lubec, Maine? Was it to visit the country's largest lobster pound? Nope. Drink incredibly decadent Peruvian hot chocolate at Monica's? Not that either. To load up on mustard? Wrong again. (drum roll please) The real reason we ventured to Downeast was to visit Roosevelt Campobello International Park which is located in neighboring New Brunswick, Canada. Just so happens we lucked into lots of great places to see and lots to do while in the area (hence the last two blog posts) but we could not let lobsters, food, lighthouses, and shopping distract us – we had to stay focused.
The visit to Campobello completes the trifecta of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's homes – we have been to his birthplace in Hyde Park, New York (also home to the Presidential Library and Museum), stopped in at his winter home in Warm Springs, Georgia (where we had an awesome time with camping buddies Nealy's on Wheels and Technomadia), and now his summer home on Campobello Island.

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The nine-mile long Campobello Island is home to the world's only International Park which is jointly funded and run by the Canadian and United States governments. This spirit of cooperation goes back to the days when Roosevelt spent time on the island developing personal relationships and close ties with the Canadians with whom he shared the island.

The park was located a short drive (and an easy border crossing) from our campground in Lubec, Maine. We were advised to arrive at the visitor center early so we could score some of the first-come, first-served tickets to a program called “Tea with Eleanor.” With tickets in hand, we started our visit with a quick run through the visitor center and then a short film about the Roosevelt’s life on the island. Next, a ranger led us outside and toured us around the historical homes, entertaining us with her informative talk.

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Pretty soon it was ten o'clock and time for “Tea with Eleanor.” I must admit, I thought this was going to be a little corny to sit around a table drinking tea, eating cookies and pretending to be hanging out with Eleanor Roosevelt. But, this is definitely a highlight of the visit. Passionate and experienced rangers talk about Eleanor’s exceptional accomplishments and bring to life her role as a mother, wife, and first lady. 

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So with some warm tea and delicious cookies in our bellies we were off to visit the stunning red building known as the “Roosevelt Cottage.” The 34 room cottage is the centerpiece of the park and is preserved as a memorial museum. You might be wondering why a U.S. President had his summer home in Canada. It is because Franklins' parents began visiting the island when Franklin was a toddler. They were among some of the early visitors who came to the remote island to indulge in the beautiful scenery, cool summer temperatures, and escape the bustling city life. Franklin grew up spending his summers here sailing, golfing, and being outdoors and fell in love with the island and the people.

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The Roosevelt Cottage was built in 1897 for Mrs. Hartman Kuhn of Boston. Mrs. Kuhn was a neighbor of Franklin's parents and grew fond of the young courting couple (Franklin and Eleanor). When Mrs. Kuhn died, it was revealed that a provision in her will stipulated that the Roosevelt's could purchase the furnished cottage and five acres for a mere $5,000. And so Franklin's mother purchased the cottage in 1909 and left it to her son and his wife when she died. From 1909 until 1921, the Roosevelt's spent every summer in the cottage. The incredible aspect about the house is that all but five items are original to when the Roosevelt's lived there which provides a realistic picture as to how they lived. The interior of the cottage was comfortable in an Arts and Crafts style but had no electricity or telephone. The house exhibits the principle consideration in the design of summer homes in that it was oriented to have a fabulous view and picturesque charm.

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The Roosevelt's bedroom where they first discovered FDR had polio. 

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The desks and chalk board where the five Roosevelt children were tutored.

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The neighboring "Hubbard Cottage" which is open to the public.
Roosevelt's growing political responsibilities and ailing health eventually limited the number of visits to his beloved Campobello.  After becoming president, he returned briefly three times in 1933,1936, and 1939.  In 1964, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park was formed to preserve the history and create a memorial to a U.S. President and his love for Canadian soil.  Since Franklin's parents first came to Campobello in 1883, a member of the family has returned every year except one demonstrating their love for the island.  The museum is free and well worth a visit.
        
There is much more to do within the park and on Campobello Island than just touring historic homes. Miles and miles of carriage roads provide great hiking and biking paths. There are restaurants, shopping, two lighthouses, and plenty of places to stop and admire the remarkable natural beauty we have grown accustomed to in this part of the world.  We had a great day on Campobello and could have spent a few more days thoroughly exploring the quiet island.