As we set out on this journey almost three months ago, many people expressed how much, they too, would like to have the opportunity to travel and relax. So we thought we should take a moment to clear up a few misconceptions. Our pictures and posts, of course, are all about the good food, beautiful scenery and wonderful experiences we are having. But what you see are just the highlights. In between those times there are hours of hard work. Amber spends her time, often simultaneously, identifying our next local adventure, researching international locations, analyzing travel details, cataloging renown eating establishments to visit, and finding new and tasty foods to create in the kitchen.
The weather of late has been a mixed bag of rain, gray, wind, gray, clouds, gray, sleet, gray, and then suddenly a day of sun! Amber has been compiling a list of things we want to see and do in the area so when we get a sunny day we can jump in the car and head out to take pictures in good lighting. Maine is home to about 70 lighthouses and we have visited at least five so far. The Owls Head Lighthouse was constructed in 1852 and manned until it was automated in 1989. It is still a working lighthouse today and the keepers house is home to the American Lighthouse Foundation, Interpretive Center & Gift Shop. This was the first Maine lighthouse we were able to actually spend much time walking around – our previous visits, it was just too dang cold! Whether you are looking out over the Pacific or Atlantic, a lighthouse is an enchanted place. Just stepping on to the grounds you feel a sense of history, purpose, substance and resolution. Lighthouses are built to withstand the absolute extreme of weather an ocean can conjure – and do it perched, purposely, atop the most exposed location their builders can secure. Because of this, a lighthouse generates much more than light waves in the visible spectrum. Their combination of hardy build, exposed location, gravity of mission, history, and pristine condition, cause a lighthouse to generate veneration as well. I always feel a sense of reverence when visiting a lighthouse.
Amber and I have seen so much of this amazing area lately it has been hard to keep up! But now that we have found our Moxie we have the energy to do some more sharing. There is so much beauty and variety and richness to life here it is difficult to explain. One of the mottos we see often is – “Maine, the way life should be” – I really get this. And it seems like the people that live here get it too. We have chatted with so many Mainers like the lovely couple who own the Airbnb right next to Fort Edgecomb that were so happy to take the time to fill us in on some history. Everyone seems to genuinely appreciate the life they have here and take a lot of pride in their community and history. Those of you from Maine that have been replying – we just can’t thank you enough! Amber is filling up our outing schedule with your “must see” recommendations and we really appreciate your explanations of mysteries – we now know how to use the “L” to access our bighouse-littlehouse-backhouse-barn and that the roads are crowned high to deal with the wicked rain!
We see a lot of boats here of course. This boat owner is going to be upset when he gets home to find he left the water running.
We visited the state capital, Augusta, just long enough to capture a picture of Amber doing her best Statue of Liberty impression.
With our time in Maine, we are trying to experience as much as possible. We’ve tried lobster rolls and whoopie pies and tonight we are trying Moxie. It’s been around since the late 1800’s and was named Maine’s official soft drink – Moxie.
We have been traveling around mid coast Maine long enough now to get a sense for some of the differences between the northeastern most state and the northwest. Some things make sense, like the fact there are lobster places everywhere and you watch the sun rise out of the ocean rather than watch it set. But some things are just mysteries. One of the first things you notice is the difference in houses. There are a lot of these stately looking ones that have been well maintained since they were built one or two hundred years ago.Then there are these straight wall, no eve, shingle sided places absolutely everywhere! When you consider how much rain and snow these structures are subjected to and the fact that humans have been contending with weather here for hundreds of years it is hard to understand why there appears to be zero thought put into roof lines, eves, or where the snow will dump.
And there are lots of these places that look like they had a house and they had a garage and decided one day they would just build a little piece of house in between to connect them because they got tired of the Maine weather on the way out to the car.
One Sunday each February, the Thompson Ice House Museum in South Bristol, Maine, gives visitors a chance to step back in time and actively participate in the art of ice harvesting. This year the annual event fell on Valentine’s Day and it was picture perfect. The sky was clear and blue and it reached a high of six degrees – perfect ice harvesting conditions. I was excited to see the operation because I have long been fascinated with the ingenuity humans have demonstrated over the years to solve the challenges of everyday life before the advent of electric technologies. The Thompson family began laying up ice back in 1826 for their farm’s needs but eventually began providing ice for neighboring farms and many of the local fisherman. Before modern refrigeration Maine ice was harvested by the ton and traveled in trains all over the country and in ships all over the world. Since the museum opened in 1990, the laborious task of cutting, breaking, floating, lifting, and stacking an ice house full has been relegated to a once a year, participatory event, complete with hot drinks, baked beans and whoopie pies (more on these in a later post!).
Amber and I passed through all the northernmost states of the continental U.S in January traveling coast to coast in just over three weeks. (OK so we missed Michigan. But we were within three miles of the border and just did not detour in just for the sake of saying we had been there!) We left Wenatchee Washington on January fourth in our little Jeep Compass. The snow was really piling up that day. We spent a lot of nights on the road and saw a lot of sun rises and sunsets.
Well, this is the post I’m sure you have been waiting for…we finally made it to Maine!
We crossed the border into Maine the end of January with some important things on the mind. Within the first 2 hours we were on the search for and had our first(!!) lobster roll at the Maine Diner in Wells. Once again, we stopped at a place that has had an appearance on the Food Network but I didn’t know until we got there! The place gets great reviews on Yelp and it is clear to see why. Like you’d expect from a small coastal town in Maine, the seafood is super fresh and prepared well even for a diner. It has the appearance of a diner and the typical breakfast dishes of a diner but they also have some unique and luscious seafood dishes. From the reading I was able to do, there are two ways to make a lobster roll. One mixes the lobster with a little bit of mayonnaise and one with butter but both use only lobster, and heaps of it, on a toasted roll or bun. At Maine Diner they serve it with mayo.
After a long day spent exploring both sides of Niagara Falls we headed into Buffalo to spend the night. The snow was coming down in big flakes and it was great to get off the road for a while. We arranged lodging in a suburb through Airbnb before setting out on the final leg of our journey. It was nice to have a real bed for the night and feel more refreshed for the final leg of the trip. For the most part, we have been traveling off of the interstate and taking the lesser routes. We get to see a lot more of the country that way, often wandering right through the downtown areas of the smaller communities. We wanted to see the Finger Lakes region in New York so we wandered into Geneva, a town at the north end of Seneca Lake, to get a feel for the area and make an exploration plan. We thought we would just be there for an afternoon, maybe, but oh what a town! You know how in every town there is that one neighborhood where all the really nice older homes are and everyone in that neighborhood keeps their house and yard looking front cover home magazine perfect? Well imagine a whole town like that! Shops, churches, houses, the college campus, pubs, restaurants, all looking like something from a Hallmark Holiday movie. There was so much to do in Geneva and the surrounding lake that we splurged and found a room through Airbnb for the night – this time at a house the owners dubbed the Flying Whale. We were their first guests ever and it was great to get to stay in such a perfectly maintained historical local home. We had been given recommendations from several people to try the food at the Red Dove Tavern. We walked downtown under a full moon just as the six o’clock church bells started. It was surrealistic and we both looked at each other and said “is this for real?!”
The Flying Whale is registered with the Geneva Historical Society. Who actually lives in a house with columns like that??
The Finger Lakes region is amazing – there is local beer, cheese, and wine galore! Many of the wineries/breweries/cheeseries in the area are creating really quality stuff by producing their own grapes/hops/milk. And no matter which restaurant, shop, or winery you visit they are all excited to talk about the area or history and tell you about other restaurants, shops or wineries in the area you should visit. The people at Belhurst Castle Winery told us about the medieval themed Seneca Shore Wine Cellars and they told us about the Climbing Bines Brewery and they told us about the food at the Red Dove… We could have gone on like this for days but we had traveling to do.
Wendy explaining the wine at Belhurst Winery and things to do in the area to Amber.
Seneca Shore’s resident cat (which is why there is a cat on their labels)
Climbing Bines has a mug club for locals. We had never seen this before but we came to find out that it is somewhat common in the Eastern US.
Our first stop in Vermont was at the Big Moose Deli to get our pictures taken with a few celebrities.
Just by luck we discovered the Two Brews Cafe in Bennigton, VT. They had a great selection of coffees for the morning crowd and local craft beers for the evening and a great food menu all day. You could choose a bowl or wrap and then pick a grain, a veggie, and a protein. Lee had to get the explanation a couple of times.
Worker explaining how the ‘bowls’ worked to Amber so she could explain it to Lee