New Hampshire, Three Authors, and the Maine Coast

Trip Start Sep 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Robert Frost Farm
Stephen King's House
Owl's Head Light
Bucket of Coffee
Atlantic Ocean
Walden Pond

Flag of United States  , Maine
Monday, October 8, 2012

Leaving Western New York, our goal was to make our next camp in South Hampton, New Hampshire. To do that, we had to get through the remainder of New York state and across Massachusetts in a hurry (we would linger longer in these areas later on). To accomplish this, we discovered the horror/beauty of the turnpike.

If you don't know (as we didn't), a turnpike is basically a huge tolled interstate highway. When you get on, they give you a ticket, and based on which exit you take to leave the turnpike, that determines how much toll you pay. In the meantime, you are basically a prisoner. Literally the only option while you are on the turnpike are the service plazas. These are basically rest areas plus gas and McDonald's. (We were actually looking for a 'rest area' and couldn't find one - and that's when we learned about the service plazas.) So, unfortunately, we ate a lot of crappy, overpriced meals while held hostage by the turnpike. The worst turnpike of all was in Jersey, but more about that later...

Our first camp site was in Schenectady, NY, at a place called Frosty Acres. They were pretty much closed for the season, but we managed to get a spot. We only stayed one night here, but it was a cold one! I think the low reached 29? Cold. Other things that made this stop not so enjoyable were the uneven camp sites (we were tilted all night) and the fact that the bathroom was so far away that we actually had to drive to it. Mucho sucko.

Driving from Schenectady to Massachusetts, we came within 30 miles of Cooperstown. I wanted to stop and check out the Baseball Hall of Fame, but we were on a tight schedule, and the girls had zero interest. So I sighed and told myself that someday I would check it out.

The one attraction we stopped to see on this mammoth driving day was Walden Pond, which is just west of Boston. If you aren't familiar, Walden Pond was made famous in a book by Henry David Thoreau, a naturalist who built a cabin there and basically lived away from society in the 19th century. His writing and romanticizing of Walden Pond and 'the simple life' became an inspiration to many and helped lead to preservation of lands and wildlife refuges.

As we hiked around Walden Pond, we learned a few things. One: it's more like a lake than a pond - rather large. Two: the cabin is no longer there, but they've built a replica that you can tour, and they've marked out the former location of the cabin with a monument, so you can picture what Thoreau's life there was like. Next to the cabin site is a large pile of stones that people have left in tribute. We added rocks to the pile (see mine in pics below!). Being at Walden Pond, you can really get a glimpse of just how much and how quickly the world has changed. Sometimes, I think living in a simpler, less technological time would not be so bad (he said, typing on his new laptop using the local wifi).

Finally making it to New Hampshire, we stayed in another mostly vacant campground (very late in the season), but there are some perks to doing that. In this case, the campground had a game room with ping pong and a pool table, and we had it to ourselves for the three nights we were there.

We spent one full day in camp to do boring stuff like laundry and work, and then the second day, we headed off to poet Robert Frost's Farm in Derry, New Hampshire. On the way, we wanted to stop for some espresso, and one thing I learned about New England is that their idea of coffee is the kind of flavored crap coffee you buy in gas stations. Ugh. After some searching, we found a 'coffee shop', but still no espresso, though they did offer coffee by the BUCKET. After taking a photo of their menu for Facebook, I did order a bucket of coffee. It was crap, but in a much bigger size!

I've long been a big fan of Robert Frost's poetry, and some of my favorite poems, such as Mending Wall, were written at this farm in Derry. Mending Wall is about a rock wall that separated Frost from his neighbor and contains the quote 'good fences make good neighbors'. So true! The truth is that Frost hated mending the wall and only did it every year because his neighbor insisted. He enjoyed the idea of farming more than the reality, we were told. We got to walk along the famous rock wall and take a self-guided tour of the farm, although we arrived one day too late to see the inside of the farm. Wren happened across a letterboxing cache hidden in a tree near the pond on the property.

After spending the remainder of the day getting our car serviced (4,000 miles and counting) and hanging out at camp, we planned our trip the next day to the coast of Maine.

Driving up the Maine turnpike (really difficult to avoid these things), we saw plenty of signs for moose, but nary an actual moose. Our first stop was in Bangor (which I've always pronouced as "Banger", but the locals pronounce as "Bang-Gore"). The stop was at Stephen King's house. King has long been one of my favorite authors, and it was great to snap a quick picture outside his mansion. It really is a mansion, with turrets, statuary, and a wonderfully Gothic wrought-iron fence with bats, spiders, and his initials on the gate. How very cool. I know that he only spends part of his time in Bangor, and the rest in the Florida Keys (ironically where I am sitting as I write this blog entry). You might ask how I found his house...but the truth is that you can GPS it! Just put 'Stephen King's House' into your GPS. He must not mind the looky-loos.

We made camp seaside in Bar Harbor, Maine. This was our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean (for any of us), so it was a little special. We dug in at camp and sampled the local cuisine (lobster rolls and clam chowder, naturally). The lobster roll was cold and disappointing, but OMG, the clam chowder was so good that we got it a couple more times. It was a really thin, wine-based chowder, not the thick, clumpy stuff you normally get.

The next day we toured Arcadia National Park, which gives you a great representation of Maine coastline. It's a very rocky coastline, with pounding waves and bitter winds. It's a bit more masculine than the Washington coast, I thought. The park is gorgeous, and you can sit out on the rock cliffs and just stare at the ocean. We were very fortunate to be there on a sunny day. The days on either side of that day were stormy.

We had lunch in Bar Harbor, which is kind of an upscale, touristy spot. Our lunch was pretty nondescript, but it included frozen custard, which was another first for us. Mmmm. Then we had to take Wren to the School of the Atlantic to complete her Junior Ranger program for Acadia, by attending a ranger talk featuring a sea life touch tank. School of the Atlantic was a hippie, earthy school, much like Evergreen College in Olympia

After some more clam chowder that evening, we suffered through a stormy night and awoke to pack up our trailer in the bitter, cold, driving rain. This was a first time on the trip that we had to tear down during a storm. We did not get through it unscathed. Over the next few days, Kat developed a bad cough which you will hear plenty about in our next blog!

On the drive south through Maine, we stopped at the Owl's Head Light, a small lighthouse on a majestic promontory. We had to get in at least one lighthouse!

Stay tuned for our next blog, depicting our second time through New England, our stay with the Bullock's, Kat's worsening health, and sightseeing in Boston.

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