We had last been in the State of Maine in 2015 as we approached the end of RTW1. We only just crossed the state border to try the delicious lobster at Fox’s Lobster House in York County. We were now going to visit our godsons who we had not seen since December 2019 in Singapore. Quite a change of location. Our route from London to Portland Maine took us via Philadelphia Airport for the first time. With only two international flights arriving at the time, immigration and customs was a breeze. Worth considering the less busy entry points into the USA.
Alicia whisked us away from the airport to their home and giving us a chance re connect with Alicia, Michael and especially our godsons. My, had they grown! The teen years see so much change that the almost three years have made such a difference. It was great to see them both again. A whirlwind three days saw us visit their lake house, take in a school soccer match to see Connor play: they won against stiff opposition and the standard was much higher than either of us was expecting plus a visit Portland city and some of the surrounding beaches. Not for swimming I hasten to add.
Without the historic monument, there would be no visible record of the shipbuilding that took place in Portland during WW2. A significant number of “Liberty Ships” built here and I did not know that they were based on a modified British Ocean class design! While I do read up on the internet after visiting such sites for the blog, one can always gain snippets of interesting concise information from the signboards at such sites.
Towering over Historic downtown Portland is “Voyager of the Seas”, a massive Royal Caribbean cruise ship, similar to the one my niece worked on and would have visited here. While the ships disgorge their passengers into the surrounding streets, there seem to be enough attractions to absorb them.
We gravitate towards Blyth and Burrows, an inn of good repute where we are educated by a skilled mixologist into the art of making clear ice shapes, not as easy as you would think and introduced us to the pleasures of freshly smoked bourbon cocktails. The latter needs to be explored further.
I am not a cocktail drinker normally but this mixture of unusual ingredients had a great taste and if I was to return here I might try other cocktails on the list.
In America we find ice is the norm in drinks, but not like this. Clear shaped ice cubes! A mold that makes giant glass filling diamond shaped clear ice cubes. We learn that there is a process involved in preparing the water and then the results go into a special mold. I had visions of impressing my friends back in Australia with this until a quick check of the cost of the very heavy mold was over US$350. Oh well back to ice cubes from the fridge for us.
When we looked at the options to visit our friends in Indiana and Texas we had decided to drive all the way from Maine to Houston rather than fly to each location dragging our baggage with us. We would get a car that could hold all our luggage in the boot/trunk and look to visit new points of interest on the way. When we turned up at Hertz at Portland Airport we were told to look at three options they had for us. The first an economical compact with no space to store all the luggage out of sight. The second a sensible mid size Japanese car with all the latest driver assist features and then there was…
Dodge Challenger. No choice really, ROAD TRIP……
Before you petrol heads start salivating too much, it was not the 5.7L Hemi V8, but the slightly more sedate 3.6L V6. All I can say, it was an inspired choice, lots of fun to drive, comfortable and all our baggage fitted out sight. Brand new with a couple of hundred miles on the clock. In two and a half weeks we added 3,680 miles / 5,800 kilometres. I am sure we have trashed any environmental credentials we may have laid claim to from riding frugal motorcycles and yes electric cars accelerate quicker etc etc, but how long will you be able to drive a petrol “muscle car” before they are all consigned to history?
To make the most of the changing fall scenery we decided to start by driving on the back roads to Vermont. The colours had Anne wanting to stop and take photographs every few minutes it seemed, possibly a little exaggeration, but I could see her point. One could spend a week watching the foliage changing.
While back roads give a much richer view of the countryside, they are slower and we only progressed as far as Albany New York in a day – Interstate highways will have to form a bigger part of our travel plans going forward. In the USA, unlike much of Europe, the Interstate highways/Motorways gas/petrol stations are situated either at off ramps or in local towns. It does give one the opportunity to explore small towns rather than just wiz past the exit signs. Little Falls was our choice and as we wandered around the town after filling up we learned that this had once been the cheese capital of NY state. Sadly from an employment perspective those days are long gone and only repurposed factories and historic signs give a clue to its once interesting past. The Erie Canal bypassed the falls here and probably helped in the export of cheese.
It is said that oil and water do not mix, how about waterfalls and flames? This quirk of nature is found the Eternal Fame Falls near Hamburg New York. Another of Anne’s finds due to her diligent research while I just drive on cruise control. Anne spends a great deal of time looking for interesting places to stop at on the way to add to the enjoyment of the journey. A walk through the fall foliage with leave falling and squirrels scurrying around was the gateway to this unique feature. I am clueless as to what we are looking for, following the flame signs on the trees we descend to the riverbed and head upstream. After splashing through ponds, we can confirm that Goretex is great for boots, climb over tree trunks, we arrive. It is surreal and enchanting, something you would expect in “Lord of the Rings”. I expect an elf or wizard to appear, but alas none do. It is a magical spot with the small strongly burning flame flickering behind the waterfall. Well worth taking the time to visit.
In this modern world of concrete and steel who would expect to find a wooden covered bridge, built in 1983 in Ohio a few miles off Interstate 90. Another thumbs up to Anne’s research and choices. When one walks over the bridge, the intricacies of the wooden construction become apparent. I guess the advantage over steel and concrete is that you can replace each part one at a time. Would they replace it with another wooden bridge or have the skills been lost?
With the Mid Term Senate and House of Representatives coming up in the USA we see so many “Vote” signs across the country. Elections were not only at national level but local judges, sheriffs and probably dog catchers are advertising. The largest we saw was the side of a 40’ container, possibly explains the global shortage if this is being repeated across the county. It has been interesting talking to people about their views on the politics in the USA which has made me realise that what I read and see is only part of the story that my news sources want me to see. I guess it is the same everywhere, it’s hard to get an unbiased view of what is happening on the ground. I do find it sad that it seems to me that dialog and debate between the political views has evaporated yet those we meet would like that discourse to return.
Rather than spend another night along side an Interstate highway we head to Marblehead known for its famous lighthouse on the shore of Lake Erie. As we stand at the base of the lighthouse looking East I find it hard to imagine that there is no land for over 280kms. / 170 mls. It feels more like an ocean than a lake. I wonder how long our day’s drive along the lake would take to sail?
As you may be aware, we think that every place has a story to tell. Antwerp Ohio. We wanted somewhere quiet to eat lunch away from the roar of Interstate traffic. In the local park we discovered that local donations had built the children playground, something that a small community could not afford but we in Australia would expect the local government to provide. I imagine this approach works where individuals can afford to make the donations.
The town also has a memorial to all those Veterans in the community who have served in the US military from the American Civil War to Afghanistan. A nice gesture to those who have seen active service.
After four days of exploring and driving we arrive in Indiana to see our Amish friends, but that is another blog.