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, October 29, 2016

Portland, Maine

Portland continually receives accolades for being such a hip and vibrant town.  They have capitalized on their natural port city beauty and move to the beat of a progressive spirit that still celebrates the past.  Cobblestone streets are lined with Victorian buildings housing galleries, boutiques, and restaurants while the harbor is a myriad of wandering tourists shadowed by a bustling working waterfront.  The food scene is one that the city has become known for. Grey flannel shirts and L.L. Bean boots are perfect attire for eating at one of Portland's chicest restaurants permeating the city.  

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You guessed it, we came to Portland to eat.  Portland has a “small town” feel while actually being a “big city” in Maine.  We parked the RV at Bayley’s Camping Resort in Scarborough – a bedroom community of Portland. The campground is in a good location – just 20 minutes from downtown Portland with hiking/biking trails and only a mile from the beach (which is dog-friendly during certain times of the year).  The campground is HUGE with hundreds of sites and a list of amenities that is four pages long.  There are four pools (including one that is adult only), numerous hot tubs, bar and grille, complimentary shuttle to the beach, arcade, mini golf, golf cart rentals, three fishing ponds, kayak launch, and more.  Plus, all the scheduled activities, playgrounds, ball courts, store, and other common campground amenities.  And then there is Bayley’s Lobster Pound just down the road so now you know the real reason why we camp there.  Needless to say, it's one of Betsy's favorite campgrounds!
The culinary scene in Maine has emerged in recent years.  For years, Mainers have dined quietly under the quiet cloak of delicious creative eateries while the rest of the country focused on New Orleans, Charleston, San Francisco, and other well-established food towns.  But now, Maine (especially Portland) has been heralded as a food-lovers destination peppered with James Beard Award winners.  We went down the extensive list of restaurants and carefully selected a few as our time there was short and wanted every meal to count.  Eventide Oyster Company is known for their briny fresh oysters and seafood selection that produced a memorable lunch. 

On my list for a long time was Duckfat (because any thing with “fat” in the name must be good.)  We tried to go there a year ago but they were closed due to remodeling.  They are known for their life-changing poutine that starts with Handcut Belgian-style fries dropped in hot duckfat and topped with cheese curds, duck gravy, fresh chives and an optional fried egg for those wanting to seriously indulge.  The fries alone are delicious as we tasted them with some of their homemade sauces like truffle ketchup and garlic mayo.  Beyond the fries are succulent pannis filled with creative combinations like duck confit, kimchi, and cilantro-lime mayo.  Should I mention they also have crazy good milkshakes and donut holes?  Trust us, it’s good!
Up next was a spot a coworker told me about this summer that is known for their hamburgers – Nosh Kitchen Bar.  Lunch at a hyped-up burger joint was a no-brainer for us.  Nosh produces a list of burgers that makes decisions hard, like one topped with pork belly or another using fried mac and cheese as the buns.  We settled on the traditional “Big Mack” and tempura battered pickles.  We split the lunch and were glad we did.  Nosh encourages bad behavior and offers additional patties making it a double, triple or quadruple! 

As great as the Portland food scene is we can’t forget to mention its bustling beer scene.  There are sixteen breweries in Portland and another half dozen nearby.  They range from the large Shipyard and Sebago to the small new budding breweries like Liquid Riot Bottling Co. and Bunker Brewing Co.  Over 40 breweries and tasting rooms are scattered across the state and make up the Maine Beer Trail with many being right there in the Portland area.

On our way downtown, we stopped at the Saturday farmer’s market which was a wonderful surprise.  Booths lined with fall produce begged me to start cooking.  The market was much larger than the small ones we were used to in Bar Harbor and took us quite some time to get through.  With leeks, butternut squash and a tasty rosemary bread in our bag we headed for our next destination, the Portland Art Museum.   The museum displays significant holdings of American, European, and contemporary art, as well as iconic works from Maine and highlights the rich artistic tradition of the state and its artists.


One interesting place to visit in Portland is the “Locks of Love” fence along the waterfront.  The fence was erected as a safety barrier to keep people away from a storm water run-off valve.  But soon it became a place for people to attach locks as a show of everlasting love for someone (you know its legit when it has its own Facebook page).  The weight of all the locks – and there are a lot of locks! – has jeopardized the structural integrity of the fence which means it will be replaced with one that locks can not be attached to.  Most of the fence will be moved down the road to a parking lot and still on display. 


On our last day in Portland, we decided to take a ferry ride to Peaks Island to experience the wet side of Portland.  The short 20-minute ferry ride was beautiful as the sun was shinning and there were calm seas.  The island is home to just under 1,000 people and the most populous island in Casco Bay.  Peaks Island was once known as the Coney Island of Maine and later an important WWII outpost.  Today, it is a neighborhood within the city of Portland and home to artists, retirees, commuters of all sorts and a substantial summer population.  The ocean views and access to Portland are amazing and we loved walking around the island.  The ferry is pet-friendly which meant that Spirit was in tow. 


Just south of Portland in the beautiful town of Cape Elizabeth is one of the most visited lighthouses in Maine – the Portland Head Light.   Set majestically towering over the rocky coast of Portland Harbor the landmark structure has guided mariners since it was first lit in 1791.  The Museum at Portland Head Light is contained within the former Keepers' Quarters and contains a number of lighthouse lenses and interpretive displays. The adjacent ninety acre Fort Williams Park offers picnic facilities, hiking opportunities, sports and recreation areas, historic fort structures, and unlimited ocean views.


Portland has a diversity of things to offer for all interested.  Whether you like to shop, eat, take in cultural activities, go for a hike, or spend time on the water, Portland has a lot to offer.  Seems we always go back.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Blog On...

We are thrilled to have RV-A-GOGO named one of the "Best 100 RV Blogs on the Planet" by Feedspot

RV Blogs
When I started writing the blog six years ago it was done so as a means for friends and family to keep up with us as we left the normalcy of jobs and a sticks and bricks house to embrace living full-time on the road.  Not surprisingly, the blog has morphed into much more becoming a means for us to share information with those interested in travel destinations, life on the road, campgrounds, food, museums, and various RV lifestyle topics.  Thanks to all who have read the blog over the years and the many that we met in person.

The list of bloggers in the RV realm is huge and there are so many great blogs not included on this list.  Thanks to the countless bloggers for their sharing their valuable information on-line. Before even buying an RV we learned a lot by reading blogs and doing our on-line research.  We learned how to set up and break down at a campsite, what annual costs could be, how-to on RV maintenance, which state to chose for a domicile, how to get our mail and so many other things. Without that, we would still be newbies after six years.  And, the reason we share our experiences with others.  Blogging comes in cycles for me – sometimes there is lots to say and other times (as in the case of the last year) not so much.  Some of that is due to us staying in places longer and ones that we have been to and shared in the past.  As we travel south heading for Florida, I am feeling inspired so stay tuned. 

Thanks for reading and being part of our adventure…we’re glad to have you along.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Camden, Maine

If you have never been to Camden, Maine … what are you waiting for?  This town is gorgeous and rightfully self-described as the “Jewel of the Maine coast.”  Located in mid-coast Maine and framed by the expansive island-dotted Penobscot Bay and steep granite rock faces lies beautiful Camden.  The harbor sits quietly and safely tucked into the town while the flanking mountains tower above.

We parked the RV at Camden Hills State Park (SP), a place we have camped before and absolutely love.  The park is conveniently located just a few miles from downtown Camden on Route 1 but has a total state park feel.  Here you are surrounded by towering trees, have numerous hiking trails at your doorstep, and well-spaced campsites set amongst trees.  Camden Hills SP encompasses 5,700 acres with several mountain tops including Mount Battie and Mount Megunticook (the highest mainland mountain on the Atlantic Coast) and features attractive parklands south of Route 1 that slide gently into the coast and offer stunning views of Penobscot Bay.  


The campground offers water/electric (30/50 amp) sites and dry camping sites  which are well-spaced and the majority sit in a wooden setting.  A handful of sites are in an open field with full sunlight.  These sites easily fit our 45’ rig and we liked the idea of full sun this time of year to warm the coach on these chilly fall days and nights.  (Click here for a link to the park review we did two years ago.)

The next morning had us up early as we wanted to catch the sunrise from the top of Mount Battie.  There are two ways to reach Mt. Battie – one being a moderate/difficult 3- mile hiking trail and the other being a short drive up an auto road.  While we have hiked up the mountain before, it seemed more appropriate to drive at 6:30 in the morning which gave us a couple more minutes of shut-eye.  The view from the top is always spectacular but the fall spectrum of colors that began to glow with the rising sun were amazing.  The vantage spot lets you see Rockport and Rockland and the many islands rising up from the the horizon. 


In the afternoon, we decided to head downtown Camden stroll the streets and visit the many shops and galleries that line the quaint downtown.  Camden differs vastly from other popular Maine coastal towns like Bar Harbor and Kennebunkport that see masses of cruise ship passengers and have become overrun with tacky t-shirt shops catering to people who just want a quick souvenir.  In contrast, Camden has art galleries, appealing boutiques, food specialty stores, and one of the best wine and cheese shops around (that my Dad has threatened to buy). 


Like other coastal towns, Camden is rich in maritime history.  Ship building dates back to the late 1700’s and numerous businesses like foundry's flourished making anchors, winches, blocks and more for ships.  Today, the harbor is home to ten historic schooners that offer sailing excursions and gracefully glide across Penobscot Bay and reemphasize the ties this town has to ship building and a rich maritime history.  The harbor is the hub for tourist excursions whether it be on a schooner, kayaking trip, or venturing out on a lobster boat for a few hours. 


After exploring the downtown, we headed to Cellardoor Winery for a wine tasting and to enjoy the views from their property.  Their wines encompass a variety of different grapes that come from Maine, Oregon, and California. 


One of our reasons for stopping in Camden was to eat at some of the amazing restaurants that have cropped up in the area.  Don’t let Maine fool you, it has become an astounding foodie destination, especially the Portland area.  But just down the road from us was a restaurant – Primo – that we have heard of through many avenues and really wanted to try.  At the helm is a James Beard Award winning chef (Melissa Kelly) who creatively produces dishes that wow critics and literally draws lines of eager diners that spill out the door and wrap around the building.  The restaurant is a true farm-to-table experience with two greenhouses and acres of farmland sprouting a myriad of produce and livestock.  Guests are encouraged to grab a cocktail and meander around the farm while waiting for a table.  Our dinner exceeded our expectations and was certainly memorable.  The pork rillette (a favorite of mine) was flawlessly executed and a wonderful introduction to the tender halibut I had for an entree.  Betsy opted for their fried chicken leg (which they are known for and you order by the piece) and the cocoa nib and espresso grilled duck breast.  Our nightly dinning experience continued and we also found ourselves seated at 40 Paper and Pig and Poet restaurants – both of which did not disappoint with the food and we loved the vibe and cool spaces that adorned each.  It is odd for us to eat dinner out three nights in a row so you know the restaurants must have been a serious draw. 


Our last day started with a nice walk to a “ski shelter” we saw on the Camden Hills SP trail map.  Not up for strenuous hiking to mountain tops we decided on the 4 1/2-mile easy-moderate walk along a fire road to see what the ski shelter was like.  The walk was beautiful and just how we wanted to start our day.  The ski shelter is a replica of a rustic Civilian Conservation Corps structure originally constructed in the 1930’s.  Unfortunately, vandalism fell on the shelter and it had to be rebuilt.  The shelter is available for overnight accommodations and is pretty luxurious in the scheme of things and totally affordable at under $40/night.  Inside the fully enclosed and very spacious structure are bunks for six, a stone fireplace and floor, picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, a woodstove and beautiful pine walls.  Lots of windows make the interior light and cheery. Outside there are more picnic tables, a pit toilet, and a woodshed chock full to keep warm on cold nights. 


In the afternoon, we drove down to Owls Head to check out the lighthouse and visit another winery.  The station was established in 1825 and the present lighthouse. constructed in 1852.  The fourth-order Fresnel lens stands tall upon the bluff warning mariners and captivating lighthouse enthusiasts. 


On our way back home, we popped into the Breakwater Winery for a sample of their wines and were greeted by a very happy black lab.  Our tasting was enjoyable and we loved talking to the women who was hosting the pouring.  She was from the area and shared stories about her lobstering family and mentioned that the Owls Head General Store was known for their “7 napkin” hamburgers.  Unfortunately, we were not hungry and couldn’t be persuaded but will definitely put it on the list for next time and always feel it is our duty to share locations of fattening, delicious hamburgers with you all.

This post just touches on a few of the things there are to do in the Camden, Rockland, and Rockport area but there is so much more that we have described in a previous blog post.  We always love stopping in the area and always marvel at the coastal beauty that Maine has to offer. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

“See Ya Later” Bar Harbor and Summer

Five months of living in the Bar Harbor region is now in the books for 2016.  It is hard to leave a place after being stationary for so long and still having friends lingering in the area.  So with mixed emotions we pulled up the jacks and turned the ignition key with the intent that our wheels would start rolling south.  Both Betsy and I met, and worked, with amazing people that we now, and always will, call friends.  We don’t say “goodbye” in our nomadic world, just “see ya later” as we know our paths will cross again … never knowing where or when … but sometime, someplace.  received_10210530900091008

Our planned three months of part-time summer work took an about-face when the campground was understaffed and my catering gig turned into more than just a part-time job.  Don’t get us wrong, we were up for the challenges, readily accepted the work and responsibility, and loved what we did all summer.  Betsy worked in a familiar environment that was the office in the Encore Narrows Too Camping Resort – a place she has worked for the last three summers.  Two out of the three coworkers returned from last year so there was a nice camaraderie and familiarity of the job.  Not to mention the fact that she loves the people she meets in the office and is always eager to share her love for the area and of lobsters!

For me, working as an Event Chef for Bar Harbor Catering Company brought me back into the culinary world.  The company has grown rapidly in the last few years and their reputation precedes them.  As a caterer in high-demand, there were weekends when numerous events saw a scattering of food and people in all directions … all of which was pulled off flawlessly.  We cooked for some famous people on Mt. Desert Island (which I will refrain from mentioning names) in their private homes, plated dinners for hundreds of wedding guests, and even transported food (via a lobster boat on a foggy day) to a private island for a wedding feast.  There was no shortage of interesting places and spaces we cooked in.  And let me just say not all were “kitchens” as rental equipment meant we could cook just about anywhere.  The job put me in the kitchen with some fabulously talented women (and a few men brave enough to put up with an almost all female staff) who cared as much about their staff as they did the client paying for their service.  Thank you Bar Harbor Catering Company for taking a chance on me and making the job a great experience. 


As is customary in our lives, we met up with RV-traveling friends.  It is always a good time to catch up, share experiences, and enjoy the companionship of other familiar RV’ers.  Our friends Phyllis and Jan dropped in for a visit, Peter and Larry came down from Canada, Tim and Amanda Watson (Watson’s Wander blog) stayed for an extended period, and Cherie and Chris (Technomadia blog) worked their way up the east coast to see us.  Janet and Mike (who we met five years ago at a campground in Florida) showed up in the park and nicely brought us a homemade loaf of bread.  We also met many new people like Tracy and Melinda (Gallavanting Gals) and Steve and Jane (Nest on Wheels blog).  This summer we met the Pouliot Family from New York that relocated to Bar Harbor for a job and, as luck had it, they were camped near us. Three great kids and two fun parents who were full of life were a great addition to the campground, our lives, and Spirit’s play days.  The kids spent many nights running with Spirit and left numerous biscuits on the rock at the end of our driveway. 


Our last day in Bar Harbor was filled with the things we love – hiking in Acadia National Park, eating a delicious lunch of crab cake sandwich and steamer clams at Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard, driving Mt. Desert Island and the Park Loop Road, and eating a lobster dinner at home on our picnic table with a crackling fire to warm us.


We are not going far when we leave Bar Harbor.  It seems we never do.  There is a transition period as leaving Maine is hard.  I really don’t think we could just drive out of the state in one fell swoop as we love it here so much.  So Camden, Maine it is!  Just an hour and a half down Route 1 lies the perfect quintessential trio of coastal harbor towns known as Camden, Rockport, and Rockland.  All of which have quaint shops, colorful art galleries, fabulous restaurants, tempting wine and cheese shops, scenic hiking, and just darn good vibes that fit our style. 

Maine, why are you so perfect?