Thursday, October 12, 2017

Girls Weekend #20, Maine, Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 (written by Kathi)

Here we are again. For 20 years in a row, at some time on a fall morning, in some wonderful location in the U.S., Lori and I have awakened to discover that somehow, some way, Girls Weekend has come to an end much too fast. Today was no exception, but we are grateful for waking up at all, and for having been blessed with another wonderful travel experience together.
This morning we were up at about 7:30 to start dressing and packing.  Lori gave me an echo dot this past Christmas, and had asked me whether I was enjoying using it.  My answer was a bit lukewarm, as indeed I had not made much use of it at all, other than to check the weather or ask Alexa to play music. Since we don’t have a “smart” house, none of the cool features highlighted on all the commercials, like turning lights on and off etc., were applicable. Lori brought her echo dot with her for this trip though, and over this past week has been showing me how she uses it on a daily basis. In the mornings we ask Alexa about the time and the weather both here in Maine and in our respective home cities. Then we ask for the Flash Briefing, which is a 5-minute update on world news provided by NPR. Next we play Jeopardy, and Alexa reads us one question from each of six categories, and then we do the geo quiz from National Geographic. Finally, we end the morning routine with a scrambled word game. Throughout the day, if we are sitting around in our room journaling or talking, and we think of something we want to buy or do, Lori just hollers out, “Alexa! Add coffee creamer to the shopping list!” Alexa happily complies, and updates a list that is within the Alexa app on Lori’s phone. Why, this is brilliant, I realize! No more standing in the kitchen realizing I need to add something to one of my 15 lists (What? Don’t you have 15 lists going at any given time?? Don’t judge please) and then completely forgetting what needed to be added by the time I get upstairs to where I left my phone. My echo dot lives in my dining room, well within hearing of my commands both from the kitchen and the top of the stairs. Lori has two of them though, since they can be a bit sensitive to pronunciation at times. 
After our brains were suitably warmed up and we knew exactly what weather to expect both where we currently were and where we would end up tonight, we started the process of leaving and checking out of our teeny cottage: showering, dressing, packing, stripping beds, and taking stuff out to the car. I realize we have spent a lot of time griping about our lodgings but not clarifying that our main issue with them is that we felt they were misrepresented in the description on Airbnb. If we had understood about the remote shower and kitchen areas, and that there was no real oven, we would have been mentally prepared and not taken aback. Our little cottage is very nice for what it is, clean and dry with several windows, and there is a marvelous view out the back of the bay on which this property sits. The backyard is pristinely cared for, and slopes down to the water, where a gorgeous sunrise can be viewed on clear mornings.  We had noticed what appeared to be another cottage at the bottom of the property, at the edge of the water, but had not really thought to question it. Once we realized that it too was air-conditioned though, and seemed to have a little porch and not be for storage, we became quite curious. During one of our trips to the car this morning, Lori encountered Nancy and asked her about the other little cottage we could see out of our window, down by the water. Nancy calmly said it was the other rental, and asked if we would like to see it. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant. I kind of wanted to leave well enough alone, but Lori was eager to go and so of course I joined her. We navigated our way down the rock path with alternating steps, and Nancy unlocked the door and opened it as we arrived on the little porch. Ho-ly @#$#Q! We stepped in to one of the most gorgeous little living spaces we had ever seen. The cottage interior was ringed with windows and full of light. There was a queen bed, a sitting/dining area, a FULL KITCHEN and a FULL BATHROOM, a lovely wood-burning stove, and double glass doors leading to an absolutely delightful little deck complete with table and a couple of chairs, overlooking the water. We could happily have stayed there for weeks, and it had been empty the entire three nights we’d been up the hill. I decided it was time to let Nancy know of our disappointment with our little shed, and how we felt misled. I explained our issues to her clearly and at length (I know, I know – you’re surprised) and she listened and seemed to really care that a) we felt as we did, b) her second cabin wasn’t listed on Airbnb or we would have taken it, and c) that we had not felt comfortable enough to cook or make ourselves at home while staying there. Our impression that she and her husband were sweet people seemed to be justified. To make amends, she offered to let us have the wonder-cottage (which rents for $1600/week in high season but much less at this time of year) at half price whenever we wanted it next year. Lori may well take her up on that offer and bring her husband Tom out, as he has always expressed a great desire to explore Maine. We walked back up the hill to finish loading our car, feeling at once better for having talked it out with Nancy and quite sad that we could have spent our three days here in the ravishingly lovely surroundings of that little harborside cottage. Difficult though it was, we had to let this go. Lori seemed to find this particularly difficult, and for the remainder of our time together would let out short, sharp bursts of loss out of the blue. While driving down a country road taking in more of the fall foliage she would suddenly splutter, “I can’t believe how great that other cottage was!” or pulling into the departures terminal of the airport she’d say, “If I had known I would have paid the extra, packed, and moved!” and the like. She may well need some guided therapy to overcome this. This is why one should never open Pandora’s box.
Back in our shed, we realized we hadn’t yet tossed our two remaining puzzle pieces representing the four states still in the running for next year’s destination.  Lori took the two pieces in her hands, and after a vigorous shaking dumped them out onto the floor. North Dakota landed face down, but the little piece that held all of the other three states was smiling at us, face up, from the floor.  Now what? We had no plan in place to decide between the teeny states that were so small they had to share a puzzle piece. We decided to think on it and talk it out on the drive. We finished loading the car, bid goodbye to Nancy, and left to seek out some breakfast and coffee at Mama D’s, the cute place we’d found yesterday. We wanted to spend more time there writing this morning, but found out that unfortunately they are closed on Wednesdays. The Blue Moon, another café, was also closed, and the Red Cup was packed, so we decided to get on the road toward the Portland airport and find somewhere on the way. Note: Although we had flown in to Bangor, we had opted to fly out of Portland because it was further south and closer to Boothbay Harbor. We ended up at a little café in a strip mall outside of Wiscasset, about 25 minutes south of Boothbay Harbor, called the Marketplace Cafe. It was a great place, and full of locals.  We were surely the only tourists this place had seen in a while. The food was good -  Lori had eggs over medium, English muffins, and oatmeal; I had blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, scrambled eggs, and bacon. The staff was a friendly group of women who kept calling me “honey” (which I love), and they had Wi-fi, so we were happy campers. 
We left the little café at about 12:30. We wanted to take just a bit of time to explore Portland before we went to the airport. Nancy had suggested stopping in the Old Port area, which we did, and it was a great suggestion. We enjoyed walking a few of the streets and looking in a few of the shops.  I was wearing my boot today to protect my ankle, which was feeling the effects of having had more exercise lately. We decided it was time to head back to the car, but not until we stopped at Beal’s ice cream to enjoy a scoop each (chocolate in a cup for Lori, pumpkin on a cone for me).  We arrived at the Portland airport with plenty of time to return the car, check our bags, get through security and head for the gates, making peace with the truth that GW was once again a thing of the past. All the way down the highway, and even as we drove up the tree lined road to the airport and passed a couple of ponds, we were hopeful that we would see our moose.
OH! I almost forgot. The main rule of GW, and the reason for its success, is “She who cares most, wins.” On the drive to Portland, while talking through different ways to choose between the three states on the same puzzle piece, Lori offered that she really wanted to go to Rhode Island, and that, in my opinion, was an excellent way to make the decision. And so, until next year when we write from Rhode Island, take care.
Trip Slogan: Heeeeere, Moosie Moosie Moosie! Here, Moose! Heeeeere, Moosie Moosie Moosie!

Girls Weekend #20, Tuesday, October 10. Maine

Tuesday, October 10 (written by Lori)

We woke up to a stunningly beautiful day with a predicted high of 74 degrees.  Who knew it could be so warm in Maine in October?

We got ready early this morning because we wanted to check out the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (located right here in Boothbay Harbor) before our 12:30 whale-watching adventure.  After a quick stop at Mama D's cafe for some coffee, we made our way to the Botanical Gardens.  There were still an amazing number of flowers and blooms left on the plants at the gardens considering the time of year.  There was also a nice scattering of pumpkins throughout reminding one of the season.  We spent about 2 hours roaming this beautiful spot when we both realized that we were a bit tuckered from wandering around with no breaks.
I decided that I would call the whale watching place before we made our way to the dock to see if we would be able to get some lunch on board the boat or if we should grab a bite to eat beforehand.  I made the call and, much to my chagrin, learned that the reservation I had made for the whale-watching tour was actually for Monday (yesterday) at 12:30pm and that the next whale-watching tour isn't until tomorrow (Wednesday), when we need to be on the road to the Portland airport to catch our planes home.  I AM SO DISAPPOINTED!!  AND I FEEL STUPID!!  Apparently when I called to get our tickets for the whale-watching tour, I was a bit confused about what day of the week it was.  We were offered a boat tour of the harbor, but I quickly said no (I think mainly due to my embarrassment over the whole situation), because that just didn't sound as exciting to me as a whale-watching tour.  I rethought this decision later, called them back and booked us on the 3:30 harbor tour after all and I am so very glad that I did!

We found a spot to have lunch (Kaler's) that also provided us with free wi-fi so that we could work a bit on our journaling as we enjoyed a bite to eat.  I had a delicious hamburger, while Kathi ordered up so fish and chips, with the fish being something fresh. (I am not a fish eater and do not know my fish).  She said it was scrumptious and not at all like anything she would have gotten in Indianapolis!

After lunch, Kathi drove back to our tiny house, while I decided that I wanted to take the footbridge across the small harbor after wandering around town a bit.  Under normal circumstances, Kathi would have been up for this walk, too, but she is still recovering from an ankle surgery and had pretty much reached her limit of walking for the day at the Botanical Gardens.

It was a VERY warm, but quite beautiful walk back and it was on this walk across the harbor that I decided we really should take that harbor boat ride after all.

We headed back into town and made our way to Cap'n Fish's dock to board the boat for our harbor cruise.  This included a tour around the harbor as well as a ride out into the bay with the guide pointing out landmarks and places of interest.  There are actually a couple of privately owned islands right there in the Bay, where the owners spend some or part of the summer living.  In addition there are also a couple of lighthouses in the bay, both of which are still operational, but, of course are no longer manned by lighthouse keepers.
We saw mainly ducks, loons and cormorants out on the water, but also spotted some harbor seals and even one porpoise.  We also got to watch personnel on the boat pull in one of their lobster traps.  It had 3 live lobsters in it and one of the women brought it around the boat so that everyone would get a chance to see it up close.  Being a touring boat, they are required to toss all the lobster they catch back into the water.  Speaking of lobsters and lobster traps, they were literally HUNDREDS of lobster traps placed out in the harbor and bay. Every lobster fisherman has uniquely colored buoys onto which their traps are tied and the fisherman are allowed to only pull up their own traps.  There are also several restrictions in place regarding which lobsters may or may not be kept in order to keep a growing and healthy population of lobsters in the area.  While the trip wasn't nearly as exciting as a whale watching excursion would have been,  it was still a very pleasant way to spend part of the afternoon on this beautiful day.

Upon exiting the boat we were a bit undecided about what to do.  Kathi checked out lobster prices at a couple of restaurants and then some kind staring tuning a guitar near where we were so we sat and listened to him and his partner do a few songs to warm up before going into one of the nearby lounges to perform for the evening.  It was quite lovely.

We finally ended up going back to one of the restaurants where we had already eaten (The Boathouse Bistro Tapas Bar & Restaurant), where Kathi got some lobster tail in a land and sea combo and I had some delicious Vegetable Fettucine.

We then went back to the tiny house and watched an episode of Chicago PD as well as an episode of The Brave on the tiny TV before going to sleep.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Girls Weekend #20: Maine, Monday, October 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017 (written by Kathi)
I stayed up WAY too late last night writing, and therefore was slow to open my eyes and face the day. Lori was already up and at ‘em by the time I came to, sitting in the rocker and checking stuff on her phone. Our tiny little shed does not really have the space for us to lounge and relax and follow our morning writing/researching routine. Added to this, although we do have freshly ground Starbucks and yummy creamer that we brought with us, we have no intention of going down the hill and into the basement to make coffee in the miniscule little pot we found there. Especially because Lori found a sign in our shed that said we have to “replace any supplies that we use”. Really? You’re going to advertise and offer a space for lodging, and then ask us to replace the toilet paper and one or two teeny weeny filters from your diminutive coffee maker? There is also a sign in the “kitchen” stating that it is self-cleaning. So, in addition to being down a hill, partially outside, smelling of basement, and not really a kitchen at all, the “kitchen” is self-cleaning”?!? …which unless they plan to send a big tidal wave through or something, can only mean that the owners do not intend to wash any dishes we may leave behind after we “boil our potatoes”. Nor, apparently, do they intend to go to the store to replace whatever has been used. Nancy and her husband Mac seem like very nice people, approachable and friendly, but every time we find one of these ridiculous signs we are newly incredulous and pissed off. They seem not to understand that offering housing to people means that a) you need to give them an appropriately dressed place to sleep, b) you need to happily provide whatever normal supplies they need, like toilet paper, paper towels, coffee filters for that dwarf of a coffee maker, or whatever, and c) you or someone you hire is going to have to do some WORK if you’re going to charge a cleaning fee!!!
Ooooooo saaaaaaaah. Breathe in Girls Weekend, breathe out calm. Breathe in who cares, breathe out all is as it’s supposed to be. Ok, that was close. So, Nancy had mentioned the night before that there was a pumpkinfest held every year on Columbus Day in Damariscotta, another quaint Maine town on the Damariscotta River, about 30 minutes away. She said that a main feature of the festival was that they turned big pumpkins into boats, climbed in, and raced them in the river. Wait…what? This sounds sooooo much like a Girls Weekend activity, and we wouldn’t dream of missing it. After Lori grumpily gathered her needed things and harrumphed off to the basement shower, I finally rose and made my bed. When Lori returned I in turn grabbed my stuff – which took me a while because I was discombobulated at having to leave to shower separately from the toilet and sink – and went to shower.  Just as I was finishing I swore I heard voices, and cautiously peeked out of the shower door. I recognized Lori’s voice and was about to step out of the shower when I realized she was shooting video of the space to send to her husband so that he could enjoy a full tour of our lodgings.
Once I was dressed and ready, we left for the adorable downtown spaces of Boothbay Harbor to find some breakfast. We drove around for a while just checking out the scenery before spotting the Red Cup coffee shop. We parked and went in and enjoyed breakfast sandwiches and pretty good coffee, Starbucks snobs that we are. Across the street from the Red Cup was a company that offered whale watching tours, among other boat and water activities.  Lori suggested that whale watching would be a great thing to do the following day when the weather was supposed to be nice.  I agreed that indeed it sounded like a grand idea and a perfect Kathi/Lori type activity, so she got online right away and bought tickets for the Tuesday 12:30 pm whale watching tour. 
We only had time for a little bit of journaling before it was time to drive to Damariscotta for the Regatta, which began at noon. Rather than the highway we opted to take the scenic route – and I literally mean the scenic route – along River Road, which turned out to be a great choice. We traveled for at least 20 minutes down this gorgeous route surrounded by lavish fall foliage and rolling hills.  We cruised by several oyster farms, and we loved looking at the tall wooden houses that we passed. When we reached Damariscotta we followed the signs to free parking that was offered on the grounds of a school, and took the shuttle waiting there. As the school bus shuttle slowly cruised toward the drop-off point for the regatta, we were entertained along the way by the giant decorated pumpkin structures that dotted the sidewalks along the main street, and made plans to walk back along the street to take a closer look at them.
This is a side note – Lori and I at the time of this writing are sitting in a restaurant that was completely empty when we got here and settled down to write for a while. Now, however, over three hours later, it is packed with people. There is a party of twelve seated just next to our booth. I was transferring pictures from Lori’s camera card into our master photo files when she asked for it back so she could find a particular picture for her blog. I pressed on the memory card to eject it from my laptop, and eject it did – through the air and straight between two members of the neighboring party, landing somewhere on the floor under their table, invisible, hidden by their feet. I had no choice but to bother them and ask them to locate and retrieve the memory card, which they happily did. Afterwards they asked for honorable mention for their part in ensuring that the words and pictures that are telling this story were saved. So here it is. Now back to the journal.
It had been sprinkling all morning, but by the time we reached the riverfront and scooched our way to the front of the collected crowd it was raining steadily.  We were able to make it to the front and have a clear view of the festivities by accepting an offer from a family in chairs to sit on the rocks in front of them. Excited by the prospect of being able to get good pictures, we eagerly sat down without taking into account that we were old and creaky with bad knees and at least one lame foot, and we would have great difficulty rising later. We watched, amazed, as people in giant, hollowed out, painted and decorated themed pumpkins (yes, real pumpkins!) paddled in heats out to and around a big pumpkin buoy, and back to the finish line.  Despite the rain there was a huge crowd lining the shore and also floating around the area in boats.  A local news cameraman sat in a crane bucket high above everyone, and two men with great vocal skills (we later met one and learned that the other was a journalist of some regional repute) called each race, encouraging the crowd to root loudly for their favorite contestant. We watched the single finals and the first round of the relays before deciding that totally unique and fascinating as this was, we were quite wet and somewhat uncomfortable. Risking some pain and personal peril, and with the assistance of surrounding Mainers, we finally made it to our feet, off the rocks, and back to the main street. 

We spent some time walking the sidewalks and taking pictures of our favorite pumpkin sculptures – some were so extremely clever! -  before ducking in to an independent book store to browse and dry off a bit…and buy socks.  I don’t know why book stores have such great socks, but I love socks and they’re my souvenir of choice, and this place did not disappoint.  The shuttle stop back to the parking area was just outside the book store, and while we waited we chatted with a young woman whose parents were visiting her from DC for the week. We love telling people the history of GW and how we choose our next destination! The shuttle arrived, and we boarded and were quickly deposited back to our car.

If you look closely, you will see the that this pumpkin fits in nicely with our visit to Stephen King's house and viewing of the movie, "It"

Once back in Boothbay Harbor we stopped by our little shed house to change into dry clothes and grab laptops, then went searching for a restaurant with Wi-Fi that wouldn’t mind us sitting for a few hours and working, having a couple of cocktails and eating at our leisure. We found just such a place; the Boatyard Bistro Tapas Bar & Restaurant, where we settled into a booth for the next several hours, chatting, eating, drinking, and writing, until our bottoms were sore from hanging out so long on the wooden booth benches. 

Finally, about 4 ½ hours after we arrived, we packed up and came back to our room. We watched a couple episodes of Designated Survivor and started on Chicaco P.D, but all the fresh air, rain, and vodka caught up to me and I conked out before it was over. Lori and I both have been sleeping well on this trip and this night was no exception.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Maine Girls Weekend (#20), Sunday, October 8

Twin Maples Outdoor Adventures Lodge
(I stole this picture off the website...we did not have snow while we were here!)
Sunday, October 8 (written by Lori)

Once again, upon arising, the first thing I did was look out the window in hopes of seeing a moose just standing there for me to gaze upon, but alas, I was disappointed.  Darn it!!  Oh well.  Today is the day that we change location from this wonderful, beautiful lodge here at the headquarters of Twin Maples Outdoor Adventures to our reserved Air BNB in Boothbay Harbor.  Rich and Maryanne had told us, however, that they were not expecting anybody in after us today, so we did not have to be in any hurry to leave.  So Kathi and I did one of our favorite things to do on Girls Weekend and made a pot of coffee and planted ourselves in front of our computers to commit our wonderful experiences and memories of Girls Weekend to our hard drives and to this Blog.  We are so very happy that we do this, because we often will go back and read of our past Girls Weekends adventures and usually end up laughing uproariously over some crazy experience we have had on our travels.  Experiences that have slipped out of our minds in our day to day lives, but upon recall, remind us just how very blessed we are.

We did toss the states this morning and we are now down to:  North Dakota and one of the puzzle pieces that has 3 states on it, which are, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.   So, should it come down to North Dakota.........if anyone can offer up ideas of where we might want to go, we would greatly appreciate it!!  We were thinking that Mount Rushmore was there, but I just Googled it and now know that Mt. Rushmore is in South Dakota.

Anyway, we spent a few happy hours in front of our computers typing up our memories, then started packing up and getting ready to leave here and move on to our next destination.  I should mention here that while sitting around the campfire last night, Maryanne mentioned that one of her favorite places to go in Bangor is a shop called Mexicali Blues and she thought we might enjoy it so we decided that we would definitely make that a stop as we passed through Bangor on our way to Boothbay Harbor.

Once we had our cute little Kia Soul rental car loaded up, we hopped in and were on our way.  We found Mexicali Blues and, boy oh boy, Maryanne read us very well in directing us here.  We LOVED it and spent an hour or so browsing all of their lovely offerings (everything in the store was 20-50% off) and trying things on.  Needless to say, we did not walk away empty-handed.  Thank you, Maryanne, for the tip!!

It was mostly an uneventful drive down the highway to Boothbay Harbor (no moose sightings).  We made one stop at a Starbucks for coffee and to grab our groceries out of the back so we could munch on bread, cheese and apples on the road.

We finally arrived in Boothbay Harbor around 7:15pm and, of course, it was too dark for us to see much, but what we could see of the little harbor town looked very charming.  We decided this looks like it will be a fun place to explore, but for now, we were ready to check into our Air BNB.  Upon arrival our host, Nancy, came out to greet us and invited us into her home to get signed in.  Their house and the tiny house that we would be staying in are on the same property and only yards away from one another.  Now, it needs to be said here that when Kathi made the reservation for this place months ago, a somewhat unusual caveat (at least as far as our current experiences with Air BNB have  demonstrated) was included with the description of this place. We were required to bring our own linens (sheets and towels) OR we could RENT them from her for $50 apiece (2 twin beds).  Ummmm, what??  We're traveling here from far away and we are supposed to pack sheets and towels??  So, Kathi being Kathi, she ordered sheets and towels from Amazon Prime (to the tune of about $40) and had them sent to the hostess to hold onto for us until our arrival.  (I LOVE Kathi and the way she thinks!!)  So, we checked in, signed her register as well as her agreements about how we are to treat the place, put pins in her map of where people have traveled from to come and stay here and collected our Amazon Prime box. Then she led us over to our tiny house to "show us around the place".  Upon entering, we saw the two twin beds, as pictured on the Air Bnb website and she showed us the half bath, toilet and sink only, and that is all that is in the tiny house.  WTF???  I'm pretty sure the description stated that we had a kitchenette and what about a shower?  So, I said, "I thought we had a kitchenette".  She responded with,  "I'm getting to that".  Then after showing us our 15 inch TV, that has "cable", she said "ok, follow me".  So we stepped back OUT OF THE TINY HOUSE, and followed her down a small hill and around to the back of HER house where she showed us our kitchenette.  Which consists of, an outdoor gas grill, with "a burner on the side on which (she was proud to point out),  we can boil our potatoes", and our kitchen sink, which is an outdoor utility sink.  (I am dead serious here)  Kathi and I were doing our best not to laugh out loud while this woman was giving us this tour.  I can only imagine the look on my face.  Next, we were led inside the basement door where we were shown the REST of our kitchen, which includes a refrigerator, a toaster, a microwave, a blender and micro coffeemaker as well as a metal utility shelf on which sat dishes and pots and pans. There is also a small shelf attached to the wall that she stated we could use as our "dining table", should we choose not to eat outside. I swear to God I am not lying nor exaggerating.  Oh, and the rest of our bathroom, as in the shower, is in the basement, too.  The basement.  Which smells like a basement.  You know, damp and moldy.  And we are supposed to prepare food and eat here?  REALLY????  Once we were done with our tour, Nancy headed back into her house and Kathi and I headed into the tiny house and upon closing the door, we both just burst out laughing!!!  Hardly anything about this place is what we were expecting, but, it's Girls Weekend and we will make the best of it.

We brought all of our stuff in.  Unloaded what we thought we are likely to need out of our suitcases and put clothes in the drawers of the dresser that is in the room and hung a few things up on the
hangers provided to hang on pegs in the room, then hauled our suitcases back out to the back of the car.  We made up our beds with our Amazon sheets, then went off to town for dinner.

I had done a little bit of research on places to eat here on the drive and we both agreed that a place called "The Ports Of Italy" sounded marvelous.  So this is where we went.  Us and about half the people in town.  The place was packed and we had about a 30 minute waiting time, but it was worth every minute.  Kathi ordered the "Ravioli Di Astice", fresh Maine lobster and local ricotta filled ravioli in light prosecco and aurora sauce.  I had the "Ravioli di Ricotta and Spinaci", housemade pasta filled with fresh ricotta, spinach and spices in a butter and sage sauce.  I also got some parmesan coated asparagus on the side.  All of it was quite delicious.

We made our way back to our tiny "house", called our husbands with updates and put on our pajamas.  I pretty much turned in for the night while Kathi stayed up and typed away on this journal until about 1:30 in the morning.

Tomorrow, we plan on heading to the nearby town of Damariscotta for the Pumpkin Fest and Regatta.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Maine: Girls Weekend 2017

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7 (written by Lori)

After a blissfully wonderful night's sleep, Kathi and I got out of bed around 8:30 this morning.  I was up first and hoping that upon glancing out the window of our absolutely wonderful lodge, that I would see a moose just standing in the yard.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  Because we did not think to buy coffee when we stopped at the grocery store on our way from the airport to this home away from home, we did not linger long this morning before showering and getting ready for our day.  We did have a delicious breakfast of yogurt and fruit and nuts before we left.  The drive to Bangor is only about 30 minutes down Interstate 95 and was quite beautiful.  I was still keeping my eyes peeled for moose but had no luck.  Once we got to Bangor we decided that we both really required coffee before we could really do much of anything else.  After circling a few times around the Bangor Mall we finally located a Starbucks with a drive through, which had a pretty long line.  So, Kathi pulled into a parking spot and taught me how to put my complicated Starbucks order (decaf, grande, almond milk, peppermint mocha) into the Starbucks app, so that I could use the pre-order feature of their app, which allowed us to just walk in and pick up our coffees!!  How amazing and wonderful is that?

While we were circling the mall (which had backyard sheds set up for sale in the parking lot??) in search of the drive-through Starbucks I spotted the LL Bean outlet store across the street.  Now Kathi and I both agreed that LL Bean is not normally the kind of store that we would frequent, but, hey, we're in Maine and LL Bean is a Maine staple and when in Maine, one does as Mainers do.

Right up in the front of the store they had an area that was full of small gadgets and gizmos that were anywhere from 40% to 70% off.  WOW!!  Amongst these gems they had  Joby Gorillapods, which are these small tripods with bendable legs that can wrap around tree trunks or whatever is available, that one can mount their camera on to get shots that require a tripod, on sale for $6!!!  These are normally $20, so I was VERY excited to see these because my daughter, Megan, had "borrowed" mine a while back, took it to Eugene with her and I haven't seen it since.  (It's ok, honey, you can keep that one, because now I have one for myself again!)

I also found a pair of black ankle-high boots that I had been in search of along with a new rolling backpack to be used when traveling.  (My current one was slowing falling apart).  Kathi also came away with a couple of items (socks.....she is a sock freak) So, we were both VERY happy that we stopped there, even though it is not really our kind of store.  Ok, Lori forgot something of great importance here. On our way out of LL Bean, a family was just coming in – a couple and three small children. One of the small boys was adopted. Why do I know this? Because he was obviously a member of the family and displayed a true sense of belonging…and because he was black. The first black person I had seen after about 50 hours in this state.  Lori – who knows me better than just about anyone in the world – caught my eye as soon as the doors had closed behind us. We both silently mouthed the word “One” to each other, and each of us held up an index finger.

Our next stop was Stephen King's house.  His house is actually a stop on tours offered by touring companies in Bangor.  Not only because Stephen King lives there, but because it is a beautiful and historic home.  The only reason it even occurred to us to go by there was because I had seen a post on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about how a red balloon had appeared in one of the upstairs windows of his home the week that the movie "It" opened, and knowing that we were going to be in Maine while the movie was still out, we planned to go by his house, then go see the movie.  Stephen King, of course, wrote the book "It".  Kathi and I both are Stephen King fans and years ago we both read just about everything that he wrote.  He is such a prolific writer, however, that it became nearly impossible to read his books as fast as he wrote them and, over the years, I think we both moved away from the horror genre.  So, while it has been a while since either one of us has read a Stephen King book, it was still exciting to go by his home and take photos.  And we were definitely NOT the only ones.  There were at least 6 other cars that parked and the occupants got out to take photos.

After grabbing a quick sandwich at a nearby Subway, we went to the movie theater (Hollywood Cinema), to take in "It".  While it may not win any awards, it was a very enjoyable movie with just the right mix of creepy and funny.  It gave me some ideas of how to decorate my front porch this year for Halloween, which would include, of course, a red balloon.

We made a quick stop at a grocery store on our way back to the lodge for some items that we forgot on our first trip (coffee, coffee creamer being the most important ones).  OK, it’s me again. I don’t know why Lori keeps leaving out the cultural influences of this trip. Lori saw a full grown black man in the store! He was in the checkout line, she said, but by the time she took me by there he was either gone or myth, like the Yeti or Bigfoot.  Back at the lodge, we put on an extra layer of clothing then walked over to Rich and Maryanne's house for the bonfire that we had been invited to.  It was a wonderful evening of pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans, s'mores and good company.

We walked back to the lodge and tucked in for the remainder of the evening.  We intended to start our journaling, but somehow, just didn't get around to it.  We did, after MUCH fussing with the smart TV and getting signed into Amazon TV, rent the movie "Blade Runner" to watch in preparation for the new "Blade Runner 2049" movie.  We watched for about an hour or so, then both realized that we were sleepy and not really following the movie very well so turned it off and went to bed.

Tomorrow we check out of the lodge and drive 2 1/2 hours south to Booth Bay Harbor, where we will spend the remainder of Girls Weekend 2017.

Friday, October 7, 2017  (written by Kathi)
One of the amazing things about GW is that the “crazy” things (crazy to others, but rarely to us) we find to do are ALWAYS amazing, we expected today to be no different. So even the though the alarm rang at the ungodly hour of 4:30, we arose full of excitement, knowing that there was no way a “moose safari” – whatever the heck that turned out to actually be – would not be a great experience. 
When we arrived at the main house we met Rich’s wife Maryanne, and their younger daughter Amanda. This is a family who completely commits to the early-to-bed, early-to-rise philosophy.  Rich had gone to bed immediately upon leaving us last night at about 8:30, and now here were he and his wife, and their 9-year-old who was up at 5:40 on a school holiday! We enjoyed coffee and some of Maryanne’s delicious homemade blueberry muffins before saying good by to mom and daughter (no sign of Anna Rose – maybe she was still sleeping like civilized people?) and piling into Rich’s very well used huge Denali SUV.  And then we were off! 
Throughout the course of the day we learned that Rich offers a few versions of his moose safaris. You can go by boat, through a truck/hike combo, or primarily by truck with minimal hiking.  In full health, Lori and I would definitely have opted for the truck/hike combo, but I was not yet medically released to run, jump or climb ladders, so walking through rock and root infested undergrowth for miles was unfortunately a definite no. I wasn’t even supposed to be out of my boot for more than three hours, so I was already bending my sainted doctor’s rules. So we were forced to opt for the truck option.  Rich tore out of his driveway and rocketed down and along a never-ending web of gravelly, pitted country roads, all the time telling us lot of history of the area and giving us information about the local geography, flora, and fauna. He often did this while looking over at me in the front seat next to him, making Lori quite nervous from her backseat perspective.  It seemed that driving on the right side of the road is often a suggestion here, rather than the rule. By the end of the day though, this wasn’t nearly as disconcerting, especially as we came to understand how good of a guide Rich was, and how successfully weaving and dodging the often-huge craters left by the logging trucks took a particular skill. He wasn’t an aggressive driver, just familiar with his surroundings, and after a while our concern eased (and by “our” I really mean Lori’s, as she is the timid driver and passenger half of this team.) I have to confess that I resemble that remark!!  (says Lori)
After about 45 minutes of driving, Rich said, “ So I want to take you first to one of the moosiest roads I know.” Throughout the day, Rich displayed an amazing vocabulary of “moose”-based adjectives. Several times we were told to look carefully through the trees lining the road, as we were in a very “moosey” area.  Other areas were “moosish” or “moose-like”, or showed “moosey signs”.  It was another glorious day with bright blue skies but with a definite nip in the air, especially under tree cover.
When we called Rich a year ago (we found this place during last year’s trip after the puzzle had declared our 2017 destination) he was very clear that while he was great at what he did, he had no control over Mother Nature or the Maine hunting laws, and that after September, the moose were quite a bit more scarce.  Hunting seasons began before we got here, and right now moose – along with turkey, migratory birds, and bear – are on the menu. When we were unsuccessful at seeing moose in the usually most likely spots, Rich asked if my ankle could handle some light walking. He said that moose, which are truly dumb animals, suddenly gain a bunch of IQ points when people are shooting at them, and tend to not stroll down the roads or sip from bodies of water near populated areas in October or November. I insisted I could be a very careful walker, and Rich started a deeper hunt, taking us down rutted, abandoned roads that were often almost completely overgrown.  He stopped by small trails he knew of that led to moosey spots like marshes or ponds. If he wasn’t sure that I and my ankle should venture out, he would go ahead and check a place out then come back to report to us.  
This is one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth, for sure, and especially in October.  Lori had visited Acadia National Park 30 years ago, but I had never before set foot in the state.  I had huge expectations of what Maine should look like in the fall, and I was so excited about coming here that I was somewhat concerned my expectations were too high, as they had been when we visited Vermont and New Hampshire for GW7 in 2004, when it was dreary and rainy with almost no leaf color to be found because all of them had fallen off already. This time though, I needn’t have worried. As always, God blessed us and this trip. Color was everywhere around us, from the deep evergreen of the pines, the yellow of the ash and birch trees, and the brown of some of the oaks, to the brilliant oranges, reds and scarlets of other oaks and the maples. Glorious color that we could not only see, but feel and smell. Colors that made you want to stop and not move for fear of forgetting that you saw it. And the air smelled wonderful, like a potpourri of lavender and pine and water and lack of pollution. 
As we were driving and walking through this unbelievably gorgeous and seemingly almost unpopulated place hunger finally got the best of us, and Rich said out next stop was an “enchanted lunch spot” that he knew of.  He drove into one of the parks and turned down a long road crisscrossed with anti-erosion barriers, until we arrived at the edge of the West Branch River, a tributary of the Penobscot River.  Rich pulled into a clearing, and in what seemed to take him only 5 minutes, unpacked the truck and set up two chairs and table for us, and a propane grill. He gave us each a big thick wool blanket to block the nippy air, and proceeded to make us a delicious lunch of cheeseburgers, cucumber slices, chips, and Maryanne’s stupefyingly good chocolate chip brownies. We ate while sitting under a canopy of multicolored trees and surrounded by woods, looking out at the quickly rushing water of the river. As always, simple food tastes awesome when eaten outside, and we enjoyed every bite.
We had stopped for lunch quite late, so by the time we were all packed up and back in the truck, it was approaching 4:00. At this point, I cannot hope to guess how many miles we had traveled in and around the countryside in Rich’s Denali, but except for lunch and a half hour stop to find good Wi-Fi at one point so that we could help Lori’s daughter edit a paper, we had been driving nonstop looking for the elusive moose.  It was time now for a concerted effort as dusk approached, which is a high moose-spotting time of day.  Rich first took us to a very moosey spot with water on either side of the road where we waited for a while, and then we headed back over to the first road on which we had started the day, and where Rich said was the absolutely best opportunity to see moose from a vehicle.  If this were a novel or a movie, it would be at this point that I told you, “and when the last light was fading from the sky, just as we rounded the last curve, we saw him.  He stood in all his majesty on the side of the road, his breathtaking rack of antlers silhouetted against the rising moon, looking for all the world as if he had stood there waiting for us the entire day…” Didn’t happen.  Our moose safari – with regards to actually seeing a moose – was a bust. And while we were disappointed, we were certainly not devastated. Now Rich – he was somewhat devastated, poor guy.  It turns out than in over 100 moose safaris, he has never failed to find a moose.  He was so apologetic, but good grief, the guy did his best and more.  And my bum foot was the real culprit here, as we really needed to have been able to hike in to ponds and lakes to be able to successfully spot one during hunting season.
The closest we came to a moose; a footprint in the mud.
By the time we stopped by a local pizza joint to grab dinner and then made the 45 minute drive back to Twin Maple Farm, it was 9:00 pm and all three of us were absolutely exhausted. Lori and I drove back to the lodge from the house, ate our dinner and were headed for bed when we remembered that we had not tossed the states at all on this trip, and it was the end of the second day! Lori put the remaining puzzle pieces in a bowl and tossed them high in the air. MANY states fell face down, and in fact, after the very first elimination round, we were already down to only six possible destinations for next year: North Dakota, Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Colorado. It was a truly awesome day, full of God’s natural beauty and splendor. We had a great guide and a truly wonderful experience. Our moose is out there somewhere, we’ll just have to meet him another day.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Girls Weekend (#20), 2017, Maine

Thursday, October 5, 2017
I arrived at the Indy airport at 4:20 AM, EST. Lori arrived at the Portland, OR airport 4:45 AM PST. Girls Weekend 2017, 20th anniversary edition, had begun! We opted for Lori not to take the red-eye this year because it just isn’t worth it. Last year was also a coast-to-coast trip for her, and she was so exhausted she was wiped out. We try to arrive as close in time as we can, but this year I beat her to Bangor by over 6 hours.  Because everything is as it should be for Girls Weekend, this was actually perfect. I picked up our rental car and left the tiny airport to get some lunch at Nicky’s Diner, which had been recommended by the Hertz agent. After a very tasty “swimming Reuben” (haddock, coleslaw, cheddar and thousand island – yum!) I left to locate a grocery for us to go to later. The weather was glorious: 70° and mostly sunny, with big puffy white clouds. I put the car under a tree in the grocery parking lot and held a conference call for work, then went back to the airport (and the free wifi) and settled in right next to baggage claim to work for a couple of hours and wait for Lori, who arrived on time.  I LOVE that first big happy hug of GW! 
We grabbed Lori’s bag and took it out to the Kia Soul we had rented, then drove to the previously scouted Hannaford’s grocery to grab a few items we thought we’d like to have in our cabin. Then we headed for the highway and our first 2017 GW destination: Twin Maple Outdoors in Bradford, Maine, where we had reservations to go on a moose safari…whatever that was!
By this time the sun was sinking fast, and 40 minutes later as we approached our destination it was dark. Google maps did a pretty good job, considering we were way out in the sticks!  The only error really was that it showed our destination on the wrong side of the road. After pulling up a long gravel road to find only a lonely trailer and SUV at the end, we called Rich Yvon, our host, and found out we were just 10 or 20 yards past where we should be. Lori had done more research on this place than I, and said she could only see one cabin on the website, and it looked to be pretty wonderful. Rich was still on the phone with us as we approached the house, and told us he was in his car in his driveway, and we were to follow him.  He pulled out in front of us and drove further down the gravel road and around the bend, and there sat a gorgeous, brand new 3-bedroom lodge with a big front porch and large, plentiful windows.  
(This photo was obviously taken in the winter.  I grabbed it out of the Twin Maples Facebook page because it was such a nice shot of the lodge.  We do NOT have snow on ground currently!)
Rich and his 12-year-old daughter Anna Rose (sp?) got out of the car, greeted us, and helped carry our luggage up and into the lodge. I had ankle surgery 8 weeks ago, and am in the process of being weaned out of my boot into an ankle brace, so I left the heavy stuff to others and went inside to explore.  The place was stunning, made from cedar and pine, and completely built by Rich along with friends and family.  A majestic dining room table and accompanying benches dominated the kitchen area, and was made from one tree by a friend of the family. The lodge was fully equipped: full-size stocked kitchen, three bedrooms with new, very comfy mattresses (in handmade cedar bedframes), hangers and laundry hampers in the closets, a gorgeous, stacked front-loading washer and dryer in the bathroom, large new smart TV in the living area which also had lots of comfy reclining furniture, and most thrilling for Lori and me, high-speed dependable wifi! This place is heaven on earth for two women who really would find enjoyment just sitting by a tree and talking for a week.

After an extremely thorough tour of the lodge and lengthy explanation of how everything worked (Rich and his daughter were both justifiably proud of this monument to time and talent), we were left alone to settle in. We poured some wine, found spots on the couch, and chatted and watched a little TV.  Rich was expecting us to arrive back up at the house by 5:30 Friday morning.  Around 12:30 or 1:00 we put our collective foot down on ourselves, cut off all talking, and went to bed. Going to bed on that first night always makes me kind of wistful, because I know that from here on time will fly, and soon it will be the last night of GW rather than the first one.  Finally though, we stopped calling out to each other from our separate rooms, and went to sleep.