It was an early start for our journey back to USA/Canada after 7 months away.
We were up at 4.00 a.m. and the taxi came at 4.50 to drive us to Savacentre.
We had allowed plenty of time for travelling to Gatwick on the Monday morning after half term, but in fact had no hold ups at all.
It was a nice morning, and we could see the sun rising as a red rubber ball as we approached Calcot. A muntjac deer had run across the road – we haven’t seen any in the woods for a long time, but had seen one in India on our recent trip.
The 5.30 bus was very full as far as Heathrow, and then mostly emptied as we continued to Gatwick, and we both dozed a bit. We were impressed by a couple with 6 young daughters – one a baby and another a toddler – who were excitedly off on holiday, but were all quiet and well behaved.
Gatwick was unpleasantly busy. We knew that we had plenty of time, and were mooching around after booking in, when it dawned on us that we ought to go through security to Departures. We made our way to the departure lounge. While sitting there, Adrian remembered that we hadn’t got the Bam keys, so we hoped that the storage man would be there at Raleigh when we arrived! There was a mild delay when it was found that Adrian’s passport didn’t have the required security sticker on it – we think that the lady had been diverted when Adrian answered that he had had his video camera repaired recently, and the lady was a bit flummoxed as to what to do!
There was a long wait until we took off. We had the 2 rear seats, which was pleasant, except that we were served our food last. We soon went into cloud, but it cleared as we flew over Plymouth (so presumably we had just flown over Otterton), and then Land’s End. The Scilly Isles looked idyllic from the air.
We both watched the film ‘Eight below’, about huskies being left behind in Antarctica after an accident – watchable but rather superficial. I really enjoyed the film ‘Rumour has it’, about a girl who thinks that her family is the inspiration for the film ‘The Graduate’.
After a pleasant lunch (no free alcohol), we were served a snack just prior to landing at Newark. We had enjoyed looking down to Cape Cod, seeing it in better weather than when we had visited last autumn. After that, the visibility was erratic, but we did enjoy a different view of the New York skyline as we descended, and could glimpse the Statue of Liberty.
The crew had been very patient and helpful with an elderly Indian lady, travelling alone, and not able to understand any English, so unable to fill in her immigration form.
We had a tiresome time at Newark Airport, passing through immigration, baggage claim, baggage recheck and customs. At least, we thought, it saved us going through all that at Raleigh, which had been such a nuisance on our last visit. We had taken the monorail to Terminal C, followed by a long walk to our departure lounge.
Again our flight to Raleigh/Durham was a bit late in taking off, but the pilot caught up time. All we were offered on the almost 2 hour flight was one drink just before landing. It was partly cloudy, and stormy looking as we descended – reminding us of our last arrival at Raleigh in a heavy storm.
It was a long walk to baggage claim – we were remembering our last flight, when we returned from Kathmandu, and our luggage didn’t arrive when – second time running – the same thing happened again! Along with a group of other unfortunate people, we hung around until it was our turn to report our missing baggage. This wasn’t much fun, after a long day of travelling, and not knowing where our luggage was, was rather disconcerting.
All we could do, when our turn came, was to give the address of where the Bam had been stored (down a long track, miles off the beaten track), and hope that things would turn out.
With our hand luggage only, we took a taxi to Jeffreys RV storage. Our Lebanese taxi driver (married to a Brazilian), couldn’t believe the road when we directed him to Jeffreys. When we arrived ‘Jeffrey’ was there to greet us – with our spare van keys. We had only met his wife, and his mother, on previous visits, but Peter (?) was equally nice. He had started up the van for us a few days ago, and everything seemed fine. We were able to fill our water tank, and ‘Peter’ kindly let us stop the night here, while we awaited our luggage.
We were amused at a British red bus which was parked next to our vehicle – it is being stored here for a short while between publicity stunts.
What’s this doing here?
Peter had put our ‘post’ in the Bam – our mail from Escapees, and 2 other parcels – unknown to me, a new camera for me and a computer for Adrian!
We had a quick look at my camera, but left the computer for the morning.
After our last cheese sandwich and packet of crisps, we were into bed by 9 o’clock.
Tuesday 6th June 2006 (06-06-06) We leave Raleigh – with our luggage 118 Miles
A grey morning, with a shower of rain waking us at 5.00 a.m. We were surprised how much darker it was here than at home – it didn’t get light until about 6 o’clock.
We had a lovely breakfast of pancakes, with some mix left from last time. This was enjoyed with a tin of mandarin oranges, and tea and coffee. Excellent, as we were unable to have the bread, butter and marmalade which was still tucked away in our luggage!
By 8.30, we had heard that our luggage was at the airport. With the uncertainty of how long it would be until it was delivered, and the possibility that they would never find the place, we decided to drive back to the airport to collect it. We wondered about this decision, when we took a wrong turn, as always, on the fast, confusing freeways around Raleigh, as we made our way back to Raleigh/Durham airport.
We located the pick-up point, and were much relieved to be handed our bags by a genial chap who wished us well on our travels.
We now began heading out of the vast Raleigh/Durham complex, stopping soon to sort out some of our luggage. We had turned into a rather smart shopping area, hoping for a supermarket, but there was nothing of that sort here.
Soon afterwards we stopped to get some essential propane, and just after that to shop in Food Lion. By now we were ready for lunch, with our change of time. It was warm and humid.
We continued north – it seemed to take for ever to leave Raleigh/Durham. We stopped at a post office and posted some mail to Simon and Laure which had arrived just before we left England. I also asked for 5c stamps to add to my 70 cent stamps to England, as postal charges have gone up since our last visit. The pleasant man said he had no 5c stamps, only 1, 2 and 3 cents. We suggested that we could have 2 and 3 cents stamps, which seemed to mystify him!
We were travelling now on a nice, rural road, but a storm was brewing. It hit us hard as we reached the I85, and entered Virginia. We pulled off to the rest area by the Welcome Centre, which we visited after having a cup of tea while the storm subsided.
Armed with numerous leaflets on the interesting Civil War and other sites nearby, we headed off again, as the storm hit us once more. Fortunately we found a suitable place to pull off just after we had turned off the I85 near South Hill. It would seem to have been the site of a previous petrol station but was pleasant now in the trees.
After the storm, the sun came out again, but it was another early night for us.
Wednesday 7th June 2006 Petersburg and Richmond 141 miles
We were awake early again. We got up at 6 o’clock and left at 7.20, heading for Petersburg. The sky was blue, and it was beautifully misty as we drove along the quiet tree-lined road, finding our way to the battlefield site at about 8.30.
This was the site of the longest siege of the Civil War – 10 months - and resulted in the withdrawal of the Confederate troops.
By now it was warm and sunny. We walked a short trail to ‘The Dictator’ – a huge cannon – just before 2 large groups of schoolchildren arrived to be shown around with great gusto by the parks staff.
We called in at the Visitors Centre, which had now opened.
We realised that there was a lot we could spend our time on looking at here, but drove on through the battlefield area, stopping at several points where we made short trails to visit various sites. It was lovely to be out in the pleasant temperature, but the intricacies of the battles were beyond me.
We drove into Petersburg, where there were a lot of nice old buildings, but we felt that the town had a long way to go to make the most of them.
We had called in first at the Visitors Centre, where we were surprised that there was not a walking map of the town. We made our own walk around, including the Capitol and the ‘Trapezium House’ – shaped that way to supposedly disperse evil spirits.
We made our way to Blandford Church, set beside the vast war cemetery, but decided not to visit when we found that it was by guided tour only and we would have to wait 30 minutes. There were apparently many stained glass windows designed by Tiffany, commemorating the Confederate soldiers.
We drove on through the cemetery before heading for Richmond. It was hard finding somewhere for lunch. We ended up at Fort Stevens, a tiny grassed and forested area beside what had been an important site during the Civil War, but was now just an area with a couple of cottages nearby.
We continued afterwards to Drewrys Bluff, another Civil War site, on the James River, before heading for Richmond itself. We soon found that this was a vast modern city, but we did find some of its ancient past.
We found our way to the visitors centre in the former Tredegar Iron Foundry, beside the James River. It was heartwarming to see this ancient site, looking like something out of the Black Country, being restored and well used.
Tredegar Iron Foundry
There was more to see than we could fit into our short time here, but we really enjoyed a walk beside the canal and river onto Brown’s Island.
A walk by Brown’s Island, Richmond, Virginia
There was a jetty with words from the events of 2nd April 1865 set into the boards – the day that the Confederates had abandoned the town. Richmond had been the Confederate capital, which, when taken by the Unionists, precipitated the end of the Civil War.
We were amused to see a group of school children being taken on an expedition across the vast James River, paddling and swimming, and appearing to be having great fun.
It was now really hot. After our walk, we drove through Richmond so that we could drive down Monument Drive, where there were statues to many confederates, including Robert E Lee. The surrounding houses were very elegant and historic.
We now found our way to the freeway, and left Richmond, heading northwards, but it was 6 o’clock before we found somewhere to stop, near Millers Tavern. The hot day ended with a thunderstorm.
Thursday 8th June George Washington’s Birthplace and Fredericksburg 112 miles
We woke at 6 o’clock to a fine morning, turning into a hot day.
We set off, stopping soon for fuel and much needed water. We noticed pretty flowers in the central reservation – poppies and lupins. At Raleigh there had been lots of yellow lilies, and everywhere there were huge large flowered magnolia trees.
We soon came to Tappahannock, beside the Rappahannock River, which we crossed on a long bridge but first we drove around the delightful Historic District of the town.
We were now on a long peninsula which flanked Chesapeake Bay, and were heading for George Washington’s birthplace. We drove through attractive Warsaw then followed a rural route through pleasant country. We found our way to Stratford Hall, formerly the birthplace of Robert E Lee. We didn’t stop here, but drove on to Pope’s Creek, Washington’s birthplace.
This proved to be a lovely visit. We made our way to the site of the Washington house – only the outline of it could be seen, as it had burned down in 1779. Nearby was a ‘memorial’ house, built in the thirties, but with furniture appropriate to Washington’s time. We were shown around by guide Bob Bowling, a genial gent, who was retiring from his guiding job tomorrow. Outside there was a kitchen and several outbuildings, making the whole place very atmospheric, but only the kitchen fireplace was in its original position.
The kitchen fireplace at Washington’s birthplace
There were lovely views down the creek to the Potomac River as we wandered around the vast grounds.
We now drove on to view the burial ground, where several of the Washington family had been buried. Further on from here we came to a pleasant little beach area (no swimming), where we enjoyed a walk along the hot, sandy shore and I had a paddle.
The picnic area was similarly beside the creek. A large party of school children arrived to have their lunch – we had seen them earlier. They were quiet, and no problem, but the driver of the coach they had come in left the noisy air conditioning running the whole time, which completely spoilt things.
We continued now towards Fredericksburg on a pretty ‘scenic’ route. At Potomac Beach we saw osprey nesting on the mooring posts. As we neared Fredericksburg we had the usual difficulty in finding our way to the town centre, but were glad that we persevered, as the Historic district was really lovely.
We were able to park outside the Visitors Centre – in an ‘RV only’ section! and take a walking tour map, which we more or less followed. Again this town was on the Rappahannock River, and had been of great importance during the Civil War. There had been a battle here in 1862. Now there were just attractive houses and buildings to wander amongst, and pleasant little shops.
Adrian outside Mary Washington’s home, Fredericksburg
We left this lovely place, heading north on route 1, and finding a place to pull off soon after 5 o’clock near Stafford.
Later, we were just about to have a beer, when a car pulled up and a man got out and started talking to Adrian. It turned out that he was the senior pastor of the church which had acquired this land, but when we asked if we could stay the night, he said that it would be OK. His name was Bishop Jerlette Mickie, and the church went under the long name of ‘New Light Church Moving with a Vision’. They intended building a ‘cathedral’ on this land, which would require all the trees behind to be chopped down. There was going to be a room built too, and his ‘vision’ was to get the kids off the streets. We wondered where all the kids would come from, as this was a small habitation. We wished him luck, but couldn’t see where all the money had come from for this vast project. He was black, and had a pleasant manner, but soon afterwards another black man, with not such a pleasant manner stopped by too. He was ‘chairman of the church council’, and said that we could stay there as the pastor had said so, but didn’t really want us to!
We said that we would be gone early in the morning.
Friday 9th June Mount Vernon 81 miles
True to our word, we were up by 6 o’clock, and had left by 6.30. It had been a warm night, and the day became quite hot.
We drove north towards Washington on the I95, which was already busy, even at this hour. It felt like driving on the M4 up to London. We pulled into a rest area to have breakfast, and then continued to Mount Vernon, arriving at 8.30. We had just discovered that this opened at 8 o’clock, and several coaches had already arrived and the queue to visit the Mansion was already long – in fact we had to wait nearly an hour to go in.
The mansion at Mt Vernon
Mount Vernon was George Washington’s home for many years, and is set on a large estate above the Potomac River. When he lived here, the estate was much larger. It was a surprise to us to find out that Washington thought of himself primarily as a farmer, preferring life here to his presidential role. He was a man of great visionary ideas, and we enjoyed walking around an area which showed some of his experimental farming theories, such as manuring the land, and the rotation of crops. There was a large barn reconstructed following his idea of driving horses over cut corn to separate the wheat from the straw, the seeds falling through slats to the floor below, to be gathered up. He would appear to have been a meticulous worker and taskmaster.
It certainly was a lovely spot, and after our tour of the house, which Washington had extended from the original simple dwelling, we looked down over the views of the Potomac River. The house was built of wood, but had been painted, and made to look like white stone blocks.
We wandered around the grounds, the gardens and the outbuildings, down to the wharf.
The jetty on the Potomac River, Mt. Vernon
We saw the grave where he and his wife were buried. All around was lovely parkland, and we heard a ranger say that the land across the river had been purchased so that it wouldn’t be built on, and spoil the view.
Two ladies had chatted to us as we left the house – a mother and daughter who had both visited England – the daughter had honeymooned in Cornwall, and the mother had visited Buckingham Palace. Both had loved England, and wished us well on our travels.
It was late morning by the time we had finished our visit. Adrian rang Carlos, who we had met in Shenandoah NP last year, and we arranged to visit him and the family at Germantown, north of Washington.
Our route there followed the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which followed the Potomac River, mostly through green and unbuilt up country – quite a joy! The road did go through the attractive town of Alexandria, which we had visited 5 years ago, and then we drove high above the river, until the parkway ended, and we joined the vast and busy 10 lane highway and crossed the river into Maryland.
We found our way to their house in Germantown with no trouble, and enjoyed meeting up again with Susan and Carlos and their children Josiah (10), Natasha (8), Elizabeth (7) and new baby Alison (2 months).
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with them, coming out to sleep in the Bam.
Saturday 10th June Goodbye to the Bongioannis, and on through Harrisburg 134 miles
The night was cool, and so was the wind today, but the sky was blue.
We went inside and Carlos got us breakfast. We chatted some more to the family before saying our goodbyes and leaving at 9.30. It had been good to spend time with Susan and Carlos and the children, and to share in a bit of their lifestyle.
Rosie with the Bongioannis (baby Alison was asleep)
Now we came to the necessities of life – shopping. We stopped first at Walmart to buy small gas cylinders and some toiletries, and then at ‘Giant’ supermarket (when we finally located it, as there were so many shops in the ‘malls’ that it was hard to find the one you were looking for) to replenish our food supplies.
We had an interesting conversation with the lady cashier, who was from Ahmedabad in India, as Adrian was wearing his ‘ohm’ Indian T-shirt, and the pleasant young black cashier on the next till had noticed it. After this, we walked outside, and the old chappie (Indian) collecting the trolleys said to me ‘You’re wearing an Indian skirt’ – so we had another conversation!
We headed off northwards through pleasant country, driving through the historic towns of Mount Airy and Westminster, and stopping for lunch at a picnic table near a small river at Union Mills. The sun was nice, but it was blowy.
We now left Maryland, and entered Pennsylvania.
We made our way past Gettysburg, which we had visited last year, to the capital, Harrisburg, (which is much smaller than Philadelphia and Pittsburg, but still the capital). Being Saturday, we were able to park right by the capitol and have a walk around in the pleasant sunshine. The dome of the building is apparently modelled on St. Peters in Rome.
The Capitol building, Harrisburg
There were numerous churches in the vicinity – we went into one – the vast cathedral church of St Patrick. We walked down to the wide Susquehanna River, enjoying the delicious scent of the lime trees beside it, as we had at Mount Vernon.
We now drove northwards beside the river, which cut into the green hill slopes in a deep ravine - it was very attractive. We were heading for a riverside campsite, but when we located it, the only space left was an expensive one with full hook-up, which we didn’t need.
We continued on a pretty road through tamed but pleasant farmland, stopping at about 5.30 just south of Lykens.
Sunday 11th June Delaware Water Gap – through New Jersey and New York State to Connecticut 265 miles
As it was cool and shady, we decided to move on for breakfast. Imagine our surprise to drive literally ‘around the bend’ and find a huge parking area on each side of the road – less than 100 yards from where we had squeezed onto a small pulloff! After breakfast, we passed endless more suitable parking spots – but none when it came to coffee time, and certainly none when it came to the evening!
We set off again at 8.30, having found a whole lot of maps and info on this area from last year, which had been hidden ‘up the top’. One brochure was on the Delaware Water Gap, so we decided to head that way.
We drove through pretty country with streams and forested ridges, and with one attractive small town after another. This was a coal mining area, reminiscent of the hills of South Wales, and the towns had names like Port Carbon, Coaldale and Minersville, and interestingly named Jim Thorpe. There were a couple of larger towns too – Pottsville and Tamaqua.
We had coffee at Kresgeville, by which time the pull-offs had run out, and then headed for the Delaware Water Gap, a National Recreation Area which follows an attractive section of the steep forested valley of the Delaware River.
Rosie at the Delaware Water Gap
We were rather disappointed that there weren’t many good views of the forested ravine, and few parking areas which suited us, and no camping.
We crossed the river into New Jersey, and drove for almost 30 miles through the park, stopping for lunch by a little side stream, where it was unfortunately cool at the shady picnic table we sat at. We had hoped to picnic by the Delaware River, but that picnic area appeared to be closed, probably following the floods of April 2005, which had greatly damaged the park.
It was certainly surprising to find this natural area so close to the busy east coast cities, and we enjoyed the deep forested feel. Just before leaving the park, we came across a mother deer and her very young foal, who were feeding by the road.
We now crossed into New York State, near Port Jervis, and joined the I84 eastwards to Newburgh. We were again surprised at the stretches of forest in all directions, so relatively close to New York City. We were glad to be seeing something of the Hudson Valley, but were very disappointed by what we saw. We travelled north from Newburgh beside the river, but saw nothing of it, and everywhere was busy with housing. We crossed the river to Poughkeepsie on a toll bridge ($2.50), and then followed a supposedly pretty route, but again it was all very neat, and lined with housing plots.
We had been looking for somewhere to stop for the night for some time, but nothing was forthcoming. We were driving along, when, too late, we saw a dead tree branch leaning right out into the road. The result was a smashed wing mirror on my side, but I suppose it could have been worse! At least we had a spare, and Adrian was able to fix it when we stopped.
That time was still a long way off though, as we continued through this neat, habited country. We decide to try our luck in Connecticut, by taking a slightly different route through the attractive town of Sharon. Still no luck – the only pull-off we did find was too steeply sloping for the Bam.
We came to Salisbury, which we had visited last autumn, and tried to remember if we had found any good parking places then.
It was 6.30 when we finally found somewhere to stop, near Norfolk. It had been a long day of driving!
We were delighted to see a deer browsing in the trees behind us while we ate our steak and mushrooms for supper.
We spent time looking at our onward route, having decided not to go to Boston, as originally planned, so that we could spend more time in Maine.
Monday 12th June Our first campfire, at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts 188 miles
The night had been milder, and it was a much warmer day.
We left at 9 o’clock, stopping at Winsted, where we got a bit more shopping, including a new supply of booze. We continued through pretty, forested country, and pulled in by Barkhampstead Reservoir, where we chatted to a couple who had arrived on a motorbike. They were an older couple who immediately recognised our English accents. This, it turned out, was because they had visited Britain many times – usually exchanging houses. They had stayed at Kidderminster, Wales and the Orkneys. They came from Uxbridge, Massachusetts, so we had much discussion about that! They told us that there had been exceptionally heavy rain recently, so they were enjoying the fine weather today.
We soon came into Massachusetts, stopping at the post office in Monson for Adrian to send off his reply to yet another jury summons. Again the man here didn’t have the right stamps and seemed quite incapable of making up the right amount from other stamps!
We had lunch at Old Furnace, sitting at a picnic table above the Ware River. We had been following ‘scenic’ routes, but found them not so scenic as those not marked as scenic. Often they were lined by ‘pleasant ‘ housing.
We took motorways for the last stretch to Salisbury Beach, at the northeasterly corner of Massachusetts. The motorways were very busy, so made unpleasant driving. We arrived at Salisbury Beach State Park at about 4.30, and after the very lengthy process of booking in (problems with the computer again) we found our way to our site.
We set off immediately to walk around the edge of the campsite, which is bordered by the mouth of the Merrimack River, the Atlantic Ocean, and salt flats.
Once back at our pitch, we lit the fire, and had our first campfire of the trip, drinking our illicit alcohol from teacups!
Our first campfire
We were disconcerted to see 2 mounted police parading around the campsite. They stopped for a long time by a dysfunctional family nearby, where the father kept shouting, and making strange noises, but eventually the police moved on.
We came in after the first stars had shone in the sky, and the mozzies had decided that it was time to bite!
Tuesday 13th June Newbury, Massachusetts to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and then on to Maine. 91 miles
It was a warmer night, and a hot and sunny day. We had a short walk onto the beach before cooking and eating bacon and mushrooms outside for breakfast. It was already hot at 8 o’clock, and the only annoyance was the sandflies. The dysfunctional family wasn’t up, but we heard the man’s shouts and the children’s cries before we left.
I had a long walk up to the showers, as the first block was busy. We enjoyed the scent of the red and white rugosa rose bushes, and wished that they had planted more around the site to split it up.
We decided to drive the few miles back to Newbury, and found it to be a smart town with really elegant houses. It had been founded in 1635.
The town merged with Newburyport, on the Merrimack River, on the opposite bank from where we had stayed last night. This was an attractive town, making me think of Emsworth. We walked around before having coffee sitting by the riverfront. By the number of young mothers and small children walking about, it would seem to be a young person’s town. A small group of people were busy painting landscapes, but the self important male tutor proved too much for us in the end, and we left!
We soon came into New Hampshire, which has only 18 miles of coastline, none of which impressed us. We first drove through the resort of Hampton Beach, which was very busy, with expensive parking (and camping – the state park charged $35 two years ago!)
Admittedly there was a nice sandy beach, but generally the coast road ran between rows of houses, and when it was by the sea, it was boarded by a concrete wall.
There were a few places where you could park by the sea, where the beach was rocky, so not in such demand. We took our lunch to eat sitting on some large rocks just south of Rye.
We continued now to Portsmouth, at the northern tip of New Hampshire. We walked around pleasant Prescott Gardens, by the Piscataqua River, which separates New Hampshire from Maine. Portsmouth dates from 1623, and there were some nice houses and buildings.
Rosie at Portsmouth New Hampshire
We now crossed the bridge to Kittery, in Maine. We were disappointed to find how populated it was, and again that parking by the sea was difficult, or by meter only.
York had a very long sandy beach, and seemed like many English beach resorts.
We drove on via Kennebunkport – a touristy area, with some nice houses. It was all too busy for us, and we knew that it would be hard finding anywhere to stop for the night. After a look at the sandy beach at Biddeford Pool (2 d’s), we made our way to Walmart at Biddeford itself, arriving at 5.45.
Wednesday 14th June We find some nice bits of coast around Portland 73 miles
Adrian went into Walmart to buy some fresh bread, and we left at 8 o’clock. As we drove back through Biddeford (dating from 1630) we managed to log into the internet and send some emails.
We continued around the coast road, but still found it too busy, with too many ‘don’t do this and that’ signs. The coast was nice, but there were houses everywhere. We stopped briefly by a small wildlife area, which was full of the ‘don’t’ signs.
We now made our way to ‘Circuit City’ at South Portland, as Adrian needed to buy a new charger, as his was broken, and his new computer wasn’t charging properly. He was disconcerted to find how expensive it was, but eventually gave in and bought it. Meanwhile we had coffee.
We headed off around the next peninsula area with little enthusiasm, but were in for pleasant surprises. Our first stop was at delightful Kettle Cove, a treasure of a place with a sandy beach surrounded by greenery. We walked along a little footpath behind the beach, enjoying views in all directions, then walked back along the beach, where young children were enjoying the water and playing on the sand. While we were having our lunch, sitting on the grassy area by the beach, a school bus drew up and disgorged its cargo of excited young children and their helpers. They all went their separate ways onto the beach, with not even one shout being heard. The rock here looked like huge pieces of Edinburgh rock, broken off into to various sizes. There were just a few scattered houses, and I thought it seemed like parts of the Irish coast.
‘Edinburgh Rock’ at Kettle Cove, Maine
A bit further on we stopped at another little cove, called ‘Two Lights’, because of the 2 nearby lighthouses. Again there was the ‘Edinburgh rock’, but apart from a busy eating place, it was really quiet and peaceful, and seemed like a little English cove.
At Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland, we stopped at Fort William Park – a large grassy area which had been an army emplacement during World War 2 and before. The oldest of Maine’s 52 lighthouses was here, called ‘Portland Head Light’, and dating from 1791. I had a nice walk along the cliffs, with views to Portland and the offshore islands. It was a pleasant place.
Portland Head Light
We drove on through Portland, stopping soon afterwards at a Visitors Centre where we were able to pick up a few useful leaflets.
Soon afterwards we drove through Freeport – an old village which is now a collection of outlet shops, and can get really busy. It was started by a man called LL Bean a hundred years ago. He opened a store selling outdoor gear. The shop still sells outdoor equipment, and is open 24 hours every day of the year! We stopped by briefly, but decided that it wasn’t for us, although we had to admit that the village itself still looked attractive.
The day had become overcast and damp now, but at 4.15, just before Brunswick, we were able to pull into a suitable layby for the night.
Thursday 15th June Forested islands and peninsulas 118 miles
The day started grey and windy, but became sunny and warm later.
We left at 8.40 and drove through Brunswick, crossing a huge dammed river and back, before continuing to Bath, a shipbuilding town beside the Kennebec River. We stopped for a quick look, then continued to Wiscasset, on another wide river. There were lots of arty, crafty shops here.
We turned down one of the many peninsulas to Boothbay, where we were just in time to see a small steam train leave for a short trip with its bundle of excited passengers. We continued to Boothbay Harbour, a pretty but touristy town beside the water. It made me think of a South Devon town. The houses were very nicely decorated, and had window boxes full of colour coordinated pansies.
Using the computer, we were able to follow a different route back up the peninsula. We were often near the sea, but signs on tracks always said ‘private way’ or ‘keep out’.
At Newcastle, which had some nice houses, we turned down the next peninsula, called Pemaquid. We drove through Bristol, which was very unlike its English namesake, and consisted of just a scattering of large, attractive houses. At Pemaquid Point we had lunch above the rocks before looking at the lighthouse, which dates from 1827. The long peninsula made me think of The Lizard in Cornwall. We drove back up the eastern side, coming to old-established Thomaston, which some grand houses, and then Rockland. We stopped here and walked by the front in the now hot sunshine, as hundreds of large seagulls flew above and landed on the ground and rooftops.
We drove on to Camden Hills State Park, arriving at 4.15. We first drove up Mt Battie (800ft), from where there were magnificent views down over Camden, and Penobscot Bay, with all its tree covered islands and peninsulas. It made me think of Finland.
View from Mt Battie
A motorhome identical to ours had pulled in beside us. From the top of the viewing tower, we got into conversation with the occupants – a Swiss couple who had been working in USA, and were now having a holiday. They came from St. Gallen, and had their 5 year old daughter Rachel Sarah with them.
What’s this? Another Bam?
We now made our way to our pitch, which, as we imagined, was in deep shade under the tall trees.
We had a really isolated position, and enjoyed sitting out by the campfire until after 10 o’clock. We saw fireflies as we read through the diary of our trip so far.
Friday 16th June The real Maine at last 90 miles
It was a nice morning. We had breakfast, sitting outside at the picnic table.
We soon came to Belfast, named by Irish settlers in the 1700s. We stopped at the information place for Acadia National Park on Thompson Island, and after much trouble, got hold of one of the campsites to book in for tomorrow night. That campsite was by reservation only, but the other one in the park was ‘first come, first served’. We established that we were not yet into the busy season, so opted for that campsite for tonight.
Acadia National Park comprises much of Mt Desert Island (named by Champlain in 1606, after the bare mountain tops). The island is divided into two halves, and we opted to visit the western, and less visited side first. Before that, we stopped to have lunch at the lovely picnic area on Thompson Island – the small island between the mainland and Mt Desert.
We now proceeded down the western side of the island to Seawall Campsite. We had stopped to buy firewood on the way, knowing that it is often expensive in State and National Parks. We had bought 3 bundles, and wondered where to put it. Imagine our surprise on arriving at the campsite, to find firewood left around to help yourself to!
We then drove back a short way to walk the ‘Ship Harbour Trail’ – apparently named after a ship which had been lost here during the Revolutionary War. It was a delightful walk, offering wonderful views out to the forested islands and peninsulas. This was the Maine we had come to see! It was beautifully warm, and very quiet.
Rosie on top of the pink granite
Afterwards we walked another trail, called ‘Wonderland’ for some reason. Although the actual walk wasn’t as varied as the first walk, we had more views from the circular path at the end of the trail.
On the Wonderland walk
We returned to the campsite, where we were pleased to find that the sun was still shining on our pitch, but weren’t pleased to see that the mosquitoes were still about in profusion. In fact they were a real pain. We read that they are particularly bad this year, and they certainly spoiled our campfire. They were huge and black, and came along in droves. We survived sitting out and eating our meal, but were glad to come in afterwards.
Saturday 17th June Enjoying Acadia National Park 55 miles
We unfortunately ate breakfast inside because of the mossies.
We left at 9 o’clock and drove through the small town of SW Harbor, turning off afterwards to walk the ‘Flying Mountain Trail’. This was a delightful walk up through forested slopes to the summit of Flying Mountain (284 ft). From here we walked down to Valley Cove, at the seashore, and followed a truck road back to the Bam. We had seen a bald eagle flying overhead.
On top of Flying Mountain
We drove on to Echo Lake Beach. This was a sandy area at the end of Echo Lake, and would be a popular swimming place in summer. Today it was just the small children who were enjoying the water, as it still felt rather cool!
We now took the road up to the summit of Beech Mountain, but decided not to walk the steep trail, so now left this western half of the park, and headed for the eastern side.
We followed up beside Stanley Brook, until we entered the 27 mile Loop Road. Our first stop was at Jordan Lake House, where we enjoyed seafood chowder at this eating place beside the lake, which has been in operation since the earliest visitors came here. The food and the ambience were excellent. With the soup we were served ‘popovers’ – a delicious misshapen Yorkshire pudding. The first we ate with the soup, the second we had with jam and butter, like a scone. Afterwards we walked a short trail by the lake side, leaving at 2 o’clock to continue around the Loop Road.
Rosie on an erratic at Jordan Lake
It was a beautiful day to drive up Cadillac Mountain – only 1530ft, but offering wonderful views down over the forested islands and peninsulas from the paved trail. It seemed that this is where everyone had come today, as it was very busy.
Another erratic – on top of Cadillac Mountain
Back by the loop road I stopped to photograph some of the wild lupins which have been delighting us these past few days. Most are blue, but sometimes there are splashes of pink and white too.
We called in by Sieur de Monts Spring, with its little covered ‘dome’ built by George B Dorr in 1909.
As we pulled in to Sand Beach – a very chilly ocean beach, where a few hardy ones were in swimming, we saw the B plus van belonging to the Swiss couple. They returned from the beach and greeted us, Rachel being full of chat. Amazing how much English a young child can learn in 10 months! With promises to meet later at the campsite, we set off to walk a so-called ‘easy’ trial along the cliffs above the beach. Lovely it was, but easy – no! We clambered up over rocks and boulders, enjoying the views and the beauty. We returned by the beach, where I paddled in a warm stream which reached the sea here.
Looking down to Sand beach
We stopped once more briefly at ‘Thunder hole’ – a blow hole by the beach, but then made our way to Blackwoods campsite, which we had booked into for tonight. There was a queue to register, so it was 6 o’clock when we reached our pitch and got the fire going.
Michael and Inez, the Swiss couple, were camping quite close to us, so after our supper, we made our way, armed with some extra firewood, to their fire. Rachel had been playing with the little girl camping next to her – Emma, aged 4 –and her brother Alex, who was 6. They came from Baltimore, but the father was originally from Liverpool. They all went up to listen to the Ranger talk – the first of the season, but after Rachel was in bed, we sat and chatted and supped with Inez and Michael until 11.30.
Sunday 18th June An idyllic spot to have lobster for supper on Father’s Day 84 miles
It was nice to enjoy breakfast out in the sunshine – unlike Seawall campsite, there was very little trouble from mosquitoes here.
We said our goodbyes to Michael and Inez and to chatty, bubbly little Rachel. This all took time, as Adrian helped to fix their wing mirror and Rachel was intent on ‘reading’ the story of ‘The little Mermaid’ to me. Her command of English, having had no formal tuition, is amazing.
We drove to Bar Harbour, an attractive ‘resort’ town which sadly didn’t welcome motorhomes (understandably, as it must get very busy), so we didn’t stop, but just drove through.
We continued off Mt Desert Island, to Trenton. Here we stopped at a lobster ‘pound’ where we bought a lobster for supper, but had to wait while it was cooked. This was done, after we had chosen our lobster, in a huge pot of water on an outside fire, all looking quite atmospheric.
We had to drive back to Ellsworth, and stopped to do a large shop in Shaws, hoping that this will last us until we reach Canada.
We now continued travelling eastwards on Route 1, stopping to have lunch at Sullivan, at a picnic table overlooking a muddy inlet. By the time we left, the tide had come in and covered the mud.
We turned off now to the Schoodic Peninsula, the lower section of which is another part of Acadia NP. We followed the one-way road with lovely unspoilt coastal views, stopping at Schoodic Point, where lots of other people had stopped too! We walked on to the ‘beach’, which was made of granite rock, interspersed by streaks of black magma. Irises were growing in little clefts of the rocks, and there was a photographically placed erratic.
Schoodic Point – irises and an erratic!
We continued on our route around the peninsula, which we had found quiet and unspoilt, before heading on eastwards. I had seen that there was a camping park south of Millbridge, so we took a chance and made our way there. It was a pleasant surprise to find that it was run by the town of Millbridge, for camping and picnicking, and only cost $10 for the night.
We found a sunny spot which was separated from the granite beach by tall trees. We had a pleasant walk onto the beach, in relative isolation.
The wind seemed cool, but Adrian soon lit the fire for our Father’s Day lobster supper.
Adrian with the lobster
We were in the throes of tucking into our corn on the cob, squash, mushrooms and baked potato, and trying to sort out how to get into the lobster, when the man drove up to collect the money. He apologised for interrupting us, and told us that the park had been given to the town of Millbrook by McClellan – the son of the Civil War general, who had stipulated that it must be kept as a park. We said what a delightful spot it was, but the man said that it had been raining for the past 2 ½ weeks, and almost all the pitches were still closed, as they had been flooded. We have certainly seen plenty of water in the rivers and streams, but haven’t had any rain ourselves.
Our idyllic spot
The evening was really cool, so we came in at 8.30, having had a last look at the sea. It had been an unexpectedly lovely place to spend the evening of Father’s Day.
Monday 19th June To the end of Maine 101 miles
The night was cool, and I didn’t wake until 8 o’clock. Although it was rather grey, we ate breakfast outside. We left at 9.45 and headed back to Millbridge – an attractive little town which seemed proud and unpretentious. We drove on through smart Columbia Falls, dating from the 1750s, with its plethora of grand houses. We were enjoying the fact that this area was becoming much less populated, and not at all touristy. We often thought that we were in Canada already.
We passed banks of colourful lupins as we made our way down to Jonesport. We stopped here to have coffee, overlooking the bridge to Beals Island. These 2 places have the largest fleet of lobster boats in Maine, but seemed very genuine and workaday.
We continued west to Machias, where we stopped to have lunch by the ‘dock’. We were now at the eastern extremity of Maine, where it borders with Canada. We drove around Cobscook Bay on the northern side, turning south at Perry (1758) on a long peninsula, to Eastport. This town of much character lies at the entrance to the large inlet of Cobscook Bay, where the tide difference is very great, and collecting clams has been an industry for a long time. It is the most easterly town in USA. Facing Eastport are several islands, mostly Canadian, and just offshore is apparently the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere. Certainly there were swirling sea, but the mist was swirling too, on this day when the sun never quite made it through the thin cloud.
We drove a few miles back to stop beside Cobscook Bay, arriving at 3.45, and settling down to work on our first email and website.