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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bar Harbor, Maine

Pronounced “Ba Habah” by Mainers, Bar Harbor is a little Maine coastal town of 5,200 people that sits on Mt. Desert Island and has long been a popular tourist destination. The town borders the cold blue waters of Frenchmen Bay and hides in the shadows of the stark granite mountains of Acadia National Park which makes for an idyllic setting. The town swells in the summer as it caters to outdoor enthusiasts who want to immerse themselves in the splendid natural beauty that is classic coastal Maine.

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Originally named “Eden,” the town 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 with famous names like Vanderbuilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and Astor who built large summer “cottages” with lavish amenities and great views so they could enjoy the cool summer weather and natural wonders. No longer a small sleepy fishing village, Bar Harbor quickly transformed into a playground for the rich and forever into a tourist destination.

Downtown Bar Harbor is the hub of galleries, boutiques, restaurants, activities, and excursions.  You will soon realize that fitting in all the hiking, biking, kayaking, whale watching, island hoping, and shopping is not going to happen if you are only staying for a couple of days. Camping in and around Bar Harbor runs the gamut from primitive campgrounds set in the deep woods of Acadia National Park to full-hookup RV Resorts and everything in between accommodating all types and sizes of RV's. Our choice was Narrows Too Campground located conveniently in the town of Trenton just eleven miles from downtown Bar Harbor and offered superb water front sites.

If shopping is your thing, Bar Harbor is just what you are looking for. Boutiques along West and Main Streets offer nautical and coastal gifts while art galleries are just a few blocks away on Mt. Desert Street. The Island Artisans shop is filled with a variety of goods made by locals. The downtown is very pedestrian and dog-friendly with ample sidewalks and parks. One of our favorite places to enjoy the scenery and people watch is in Agamont Park which overlooks the busy harbor and downtown streets.  Another popular activity is to walk across “the bar” – a stretch of rocks that link downtown Bar Harbor with Bar Island.  At low tide the bar is exposed and one can easily walk over to the island, but be careful the tide comes in fast and if you wait too long you will have to wait hours for the tide to go back out.

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Bar Harbor offers a wide selection of museums. The Smithsonian-affiliated Abbe Museum shares the history and culture of Maine’s native people. If it is natural history you are interested in, check out the George B. Dorr Museum that interprets and displays Maine's diverse and rich natural world. Curious about the ocean? The Mount Desert Oceanarium and Lobster Hatchery provides an up-close experience with marine life and highlights Maine’s most famous sea creature – the lobster. Here you can see a working lobster hatchery and witness the interesting process of fertilization, hatching, and rearing of lobsters.

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Downtown restaurants are sure to please discerning gourmets, hungry hikers, and famished families. More than 70 restaurants will dazzle the taste buds and satiate hungry appetites whether you are looking for five-star dinning or an outdoor picnic table with a lobster dinner. One of our favorites is Paddy's – an Irish pub that serves wonderfully creative food with some Maine culinary influence. The Mount Desert Island Ice Cream shop was named as one of Food and Wine Magazine's top ice cream parlors but if it is an adult beverage you are interested in, pop into the Atlantic Brewing Company for a taste of Bar Harbor's beers that include blueberry and coal porter.  And, of course there is lobsta!

Bar Harbor is the gateway to Acadia National Park, one of the country's Top Ten Most Visited National Parks and designated as “America's Favorite Place” by Good Morning America Viewers in 2014. The park encompasses over 47,000 acres and provides an outdoor mecca for those looking to immerse themselves in Maine's natural beauty. The park can be quite crowded during the summer months but a free shuttle offers visitors a ride to many of the trail heads, museums, attractions, and historic buildings in the park. The shuttle also runs to many of the campgrounds surrounding the park making this the perfect option for avoiding crowded parking areas.

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Downtown Bar Harbor is the hub for sight-seeing activities. Here you can book a whale watching trip, take a nature cruise, rent a kayak or paddle board to explore the harbor, rent a bike to venture onto the park's Carriage Roads, or explore the island and its history in a narrated trolley ride. Save time to walk along the famous Shore Path which begins at the Town Pier next to Agamont Park and winds among historic homes and the rocky shoreline. The historic path was created around 1880 and has dazzled visitors with its sweeping coastal views of the harbor, the Porcupine Islands, and Egg Rock Light.

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If you're considering a vacation in Maine or planning to travel in New England, Bar Harbor is a good choice. There is something for everyone here. The charming downtown, dramatic harbor, and close proximity to Acadia National Park make this a wonderful place to visit and is sure to keep visitors of all ages engaged. Here the small town charm of a fishing village comes to life with activities, abundant wildlife, and some of the most picturesque scenery on the east coast.












Thursday, June 18, 2015

RV-A-NewNew

Awhile back we mentioned some BIG news coming our way and here it is . . . a new motorhome . . .

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There was no question that after four years of full-time RV’ing we wanted to continue living a nomadic lifestyle in an RV.  Yes, every now and then we get wild ideas about buying a little cottage in Maine or a condo in Florida, but the one thing we know for sure is that we don’t want to stop RV’ing.  And with that decision came the discussion about whether to keep our 2010 40’ Tiffin Phaeton or switch to something newer with a little more room and some upgrades.  While we loved the Phaeton (and I really did shed a couple of tears when we were moving into the new coach), we were just ready for a change. 

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Our Phaeton perched nicely in the woods just before the trade.

Over the past couple of years we started paying attention to the Entegra Coaches.  Last year at the FMCA rally and at the January 2015 Tampa RV Show we toured all larger Class A motorhomes.  The manufacturer that really stood out to us for quality, floor plan, and price was the 45 foot 2015 Entegra Anthem Coach.  Over much anxiety and indecision (mostly on my part – Betsy is a way better decision maker) we finally pulled the trigger and placed the order.  We are thrilled that we did.  The quality construction, upgrades, more space, larger bathroom, and two-year warranty were definitely convincing factors.  So how about a look inside.

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In contrast to our Phaeton’s light tan interior, we opted for the dark brown leather color scheme – a choice that we are glad we made.  And yes, that is a mirror on our ceiling!  That is just one of the “bling” factors – did you notice the under counter LED lights in the kitchen – more bling, but we kind of like it! 

The kitchen space is similar to what our last coach offered.  Instead of a three-burner propane cooktop, the Anthem has a two burner induction cooktop.  No worries for me, I have a tabletop induction burner if another one is needed as I have been known to use four pots on the stove at one time.  And how about those cute dish towels my sister made for us that hang above the dishwasher? 

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A fireplace was a must for Betsy no matter what brand or model we bought.  The really nice thing about the fireplace is the amount of heat it puts out.  We turn it on when the coach is chilly and it warms the room right up. 

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The king bed is a Sleep Number which takes some getting used to after sleeping on a Memory foam for the last five years.  Ceiling fan is a must for me and the stacked washer/dryer make life easy.  The Entegra bed spread and pillows were not really our taste and did not last more than two days  Instead we opted for our wool Pendleton blanket and less satin.
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Most 40-45’ motorhomes have a bath and a half floor plan.  And we were adamant that we did not want two toilets taking up precious RV space.  We totally dig this bathroom!  The bathroom lies mid-ship between the bedroom and living room and has two double sinks which provide lots of space.  The shower is quite large and there is lots of space between the sinks and shower for toweling off and dressing. 

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So there she is – our new “home.”   

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So far we are very happy and love the coach.  There are a lot of upgrades and nice features like the double Girard awnings that stretch the entire length of the coach, the lights and window shades are a simple push button control (and one switch will turn all the lights on/off and all the shades up/down), the larger interior and exterior storage, electric fireplace (which we love), See Level tank sensors, the cargo doors all lock at the push of a button, tile floor throughout the coach (and it’s heated!), better drive handling . . . am I boring you yet?

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Have we had issues?  Yes but minor.  But what RV doesn’t, whether new or used?  So we just roll with it and will let Entegra honor their two-year warranty.  The decision to live life on the road is one we made a long time ago and still find satisfying and enjoyable.  So now we will keep rolling with a little more room and on new tires.  And Spirit has more room to run up and down the inside aisle!

Stay tuned for a blog on buying a new RV with tips and negotiation suggestions.





Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Newburyport, Massachusetts

On our way up to Maine, we love to hug the east coast so we get to smell the salt air and hear the waves crashing.  After spending a couple of months in the mid-west, we were looking for the sea, lobster, and New England's charm.  We bypassed bustling Boston due to traffic and not having a desire to land in big cities and skirted 35 miles to the north where we found the charming little coastal town of Newburyport.  Friends had told us how much they loved the sea town permeated with salt air and historic charm so we were eager to see what was so special. 

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Newburyport’s history dates back to the 1600’s when shipping and shipbuilding kept the town bustling.  Fast forward to today where a rich maritime history is celebrated with museums and relics scattered amongst a restored and vibrant downtown.  It’s easy to see why this town is so charming with appealing store fronts, eclectic shops, art galleries, and wonderful eateries, flanked by beautiful parks and a calming riverfront.  The city’s past melts perfectly into the present and we had a wonderful time exploring this city which we quickly dubbed “the Mayberry of New England.”

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We were only in town for a few days as we needed to get to our camp hosting jobs in Maine so we set out to make the best of it.  The RV park we chose was Beach Rose RV Park located a short distance across the river from downtown and just a short walk to Salisbury Beach.  This has to be one of the most friendly RV parks we have ever stayed at.  Most of the guests are seasonal and have been coming back for years generating a camaraderie and friendly spirit that they extend quite readily to transients like us. 

After talking to fellow campers and the camp ground owners, we quickly realized that here is plenty to do in Newburyport from shopping downtown, taking a guided city tour, gazing at historical homes, and enjoying outdoor activities and the water. 

We elected to spend our time exploring the downtown and historic neighborhoods where sea captains homes dot the hillsides.  Strolling downtown’s cobblestone streets and popping in and out of nautical themed gift shops, art galleries, clothing stores, and home d├ęcor (none of which we needed in the RV, of course but it is fun to look) was a perfect afternoon for us. 

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With some shopping done, we felt the lure of the riverfront pulling us to its banks.  After all, this town is about water.   On a nice spring day, which happened to be when we found ourselves there, the riverfront was alive with blooming spring flowers, bright sunshine, and a litmus of people walking along its shore.  Newburyport lies safely inland upriver from the confluence of the Merrimack River and Atlantic Ocean making this the reason why it is rich in maritime history.  Newburyport is recognized as the official birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard and the first major commercial seaport on the eastern seaboard.  Today, the Merrimack River is painted with a myriad of boats seeking pleasure and performing commerce. 

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Our time in Newburyport was too short.  We fell in love with this little coastal town and vowed to come back so we could really get to know its soul.