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Day 41 - September 29, 2008
The sun is finally out! The hurricane became a tropical storm and came ashore in Nova Scotia. We happily leave our damp, muddy, no wi-fi and no TV-signal campground. We spend most of the day driving to Maine. We are staying just outside of Acadia National Park at the Narrows Too campground. Our campsite is right on the water across the narrows from Mount Desert Island. Bob, Cathy and Amy are joining us for the next three days.
The quaint town of Bar Harbor is now a cruise ship stop and has a plethora of t-shirt and ice cream shops. The town still has charm, but two ships full of tourists a day don't add to the appeal. Bar Harbor is not in Acadia National Park, but it is right next to it; both are on Mount Desert Island. Our first stop in Acadia is Sand Beach. It's the only sand beach in the area, all the rest are rock. Martin and Colin do their obligatory beach digging. Today they are making an island with a moat. The waves roll way up the beach to add some excitement. We also stop at Otter Point, Thunder Hole and drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain (1530 feet - the highest point on the Atlantic coast). This area has had a lot of glaciation so all the landforms are smoothed and rounded with occasional boulders being dropped from the glaciers. This is best seen from the top of Cadillac Mountain.
The best find of the day was the restaurant at Jordon Pond. National Park concessioner restaurants are never all that great, but this one was very civilized with surprisingly good food. They served popovers, high tea, lobster and salads with fresh mixed greens! They also had outside seating overlooking Jordon Pond and the Bubbles (two hills). After lunch we went for a walk on one of the carriage roads. This area was owned by the Rockefeller family and they constructed the motor-free carriage roads in the early 1900's.
Everywhere we go in the park today there are a bunch of German tourists on holiday, smoking and enjoying our weak American dollar.
Outside the park there are a bunch of restaurants called "lobster pounds". You go there, pick out your lobsters, they boil them up then you sit at a community table and pound and crack them open. Unfortunately we went somewhere else tonight.
Cruise ships in Bar Harbor
Top of Cadillac Mountain
I'm glad we saw the bulk of the park yesterday because it is cloudy and rainy today. We decided to go to the Oceanarium. They had a unique and informative program on lobsters, lobster fishing and the undersea creatures of the area. We learned that the female lobster keeps her eggs underneath her tail for two years before they hatch. Maine lobsterman notch the tail of an egg laying female and throw her back. That way if she is ever caught again, the fisherman will know that she is a productive female and will throw her back again so we will all have more lobsters in the future.
That's one big lobster claw!
The area has a couple of unique boat trips that we didn't have time for this trip. Bar Harbor has a high speed catamaran to Nova Scotia. Trips to the islands around Acadia are available via local mail boats. Both would be fun to do.
After lunch and shopping in Bar Harbor, Martin talks the tour operators of the four-masted schooner, the Margaret Todd, to let us look around. Colin is very into old ships right now after playing the Pirates of the Caribbean game online.
Swabby on the Margaret Todd
After dinner at the RV, we made ice cream with the ice cream ball Cathy brought for Colin. We all had a great workout and a lot of fun tossing the ice cream ball around.
We leave Trenton today in the RV and head down the coast. We stopped at Belfast for lunch and then in Rockland for the Farnsworth Museum. Two well-known artists have lived in the Rockland area - Andrew Wyeth and Louise Nevelson. The museum houses many of their works. After the museum, we continue down the coast to Boothbay and stay at the Shore Hills Campground. We hung out at the campground for the evening and didn't go into town.
Rockland door in the sun
Today was a very bad day. We started out the day with an RV and a car and ended it with only an RV. Here's what happened.
We did our normal routine this morning as we left the campground. The Mini was still hooked up to the RV from the night before. I really wanted to check out the quintessential coastal village of Boothbay Harbor. So we cruised through the narrow roads of the town in our big rig. Martin stopped so I could take some photos. Then we got stuck on a narrow road with no outlet or area wide enough for us to turn around (we got stuck in part because the GPS didn't know where we were). So we detached the Mini, Martin did a three point turn in the RV and we hooked the Mini back up again. We were in the middle of the road and slightly blocking traffic so we were in a rush to get it attached. In my hurry, I inadvertently left it in first gear instead of neutral.
We continued down the road going 20 or 30 mph and the car was OK, once we got to the faster road, we sped up to 50. Soon Martin looked in the rear view monitor (there's a rear view camera on the RV so you can see what you are backing over) and saw smoke billowing out of the Mini. We pulled over right away and saw that the Mini was on fire. We popped the hood, grabbed the little fire extinguisher from the RV and tried to put out the fire. The impotent fire extinguisher spit out about 5 seconds worth of foam and the fire kept burning.
Now we need to get the car away from the RV because it is still on fire. We are trying to work the cotter pins out of the tow harness without getting our fingers burnt; the fire is right inside the front of the hood. It seems to take forever to get it unattached. Another motorist has stopped and asks if he could help. I said we needed a fire extinguisher. His extinguisher gets most of the fire out and another guy stops by with his extinguisher and finally gets it out. Soon the fire chief, fire engine, sheriff and an ambulance show up. I had tunnel vision and hadn't realized that we were blocking traffic on the road and people had stopped to watch our car fire. Soon the officials had cones out and were directing traffic around us.
The fireman had to confirm the fire was really out and disconnected the battery in case it was electrical in nature. We knew right away what had happened. Since the car was left in first gear, it had started as soon as we took off in the RV. We never heard it since it was 30 feet away and we had our windows up. The car had done OK until we started to go faster. Then it got so hot that it caught fire and dropped a melted twisted piston rod on the road. The drive train, transmission, engine and most everything else under the hood was destroyed. The back of the car had black bubbly paint. The car must have been spewing flames from the exhaust and torching the paint. We must have been quite a sight driving down the road! Martin saw the smoke within a 1/4 of a mile from when it started. (We re-drove the route and could see our trails of oil - only 1/4 mile from where we stopped.)
The Boothbay police and fireman were all very helpful. We all agreed that the car was totaled - the piston rod that was no longer in the engine was a big give away! Miraculously, the inside of the car was untouched, the hood still opened and closed, and the only real damage on the exterior was the blistered paint on the back. The damage was all on the underside of the car.
I started taking my personal stuff out of the car and everything else that wasn't nailed down - including the floor mats. (I had a similar experience with a totaled car in college. I was living in the dorms and an RA fell/jumped out of the eighth story window and landed on the roof of my VW Rabbit. Miraculously the guy survived (all that ecstasy must have helped!) The car roof collapsed and cushioned his fall while the doors stayed upright. My car was totaled and towed away that night. I had a hard time getting access to it again to get my personal stuff out of the car. The Berkeley police were not very cooperative.) The tow truck came and took my car away. It was a little less than three years old. We left it in Maine. What a waste.
Bubbled paint on back
Notice the oil trails from my sieve of an engine
The white powder is from the fire extinguishers.
Looking back on this day, I'm reminded what a big consequence a little mistake can make. On the other hand, such a simple mistake shouldn't have to destroy a perfectly good car. There should be more safeguards in place so you can't start towing a car unless it is in neutral. There's electric cable going from the car to the RV, why not have a light on the RV dash indicating that the tow car is ready to go. I know I'm not the only person to do this. In fact the guy handling my insurance claim had done the same thing.
After our surreal experience of losing the Mini, we had a little retail therapy. We stopped in Freeport, ME (we were planning to anyway) and found some bargains at the Banana Republic Outlet and visited the massive 200,000-square-foot LL Bean store. This town has a massive outlet-style shopping area but it is not a mall. The stores are stretched up and down the main street. This whole shopping destination started with the original LL Bean store in 1917. LL Bean is so popular that it now stays opened 24/365; they even took the locks off the doors. It is a massive store, complete with a trout fishing area and aquarium. Colin needed waterproof boots and a rain jacket. His jacket size was 12/14 and we had to shop in the mens department for his shoes! When did he get so big?!? This is the first time we've had to shop in mens shoes. (I was having a mommy moment because he is so grown-up but Colin was psyched that he got to shop in the Mens department.) They recommended getting boots one size bigger, so we had to get size 7. Wow!
We decided to put some distance between us and the scene of the barbecued car, so we drove all the way to Foxboro, MA tonight.
Our campground, Normandy Farms, is a half hour south of Boston in Foxboro. It is one of the best campgrounds in the country and a welcome treat after our car disaster. The campground is packed on the weekend with lots of families from the region either having an extended family get-together or meeting up with friends. A pretty cheap vacation actually. The place has about 300 spaces and it is full. The park has three pools (one indoors), two hot tubs, an arcade, bocce ball, frisbee golf, workout room, cafe, weekend craft activities, a nice store/boutique, heated clean restrooms and laundry and a huge playground. The playground is new and must cost $100K (it would cost a public elementary school that much.) We are staying at this park for six nights. Today is spent doing laundry, grocery shopping and renting a car.
We drove into Boston today and had lunch at Quincy Market. From there we went on a Boston by Foot kids walk. We had a small group with only two kids and three adults. Our guide took us to Faneuil Hall, Old State House, site of the Boston Massacre, Old Corner Bookstore, Old City Hall which now houses an upscale restaurant and the oldest cemetery in Boston -- the King's Burial Ground. The guide gave a very accessible account of the city's history for the kids, including the infamous Boston Tea Party. There were tons of tourists around. The old part of town is very compact and walkable. Our tour followed the heart of the Freedom Trail. After the tour, we drove to a few other spots on the Freedom Trail. We headed into the tight streets of the North End and went past the Old North Church. Then we headed over the bridge to the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Memorial. The USS Constitution is still in commission. It was nicknamed Old Ironsides because the cannonballs seemed to bounce off the sides. It was not iron, but made of white oak sandwiched around super-dense live oak from Georgia. The charismatic "guide" on the Constitution was right out of boot camp and happy to have this post. After touring around town, we met Julie for dinner in Newton. We had great steaks at the Capital Grille.
Inside Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall's grasshopper weathervane is original from the first building in 1742.
Old State House
Site of Boston Massacre - five died
Ben Franklin in front of Old City Hall
Notice Bunker Hill Monument in the background
Our destination today is Plymouth (or Plimouth in olde English). Plymouth, of course, is where the Mayflower pilgrims settled. Plymouth Plantation has been set up so visitors can step back into the past and experience life as the pilgrims did 375 years ago. The employees dress in period costumes and stay in character as is if is 1627. (I couldn't help but be reminded of a South Park episode, Super Fun Time, where the employees wouldn't come out of character even when they were held hostage by terrorists.) The buildings and accessories all seemed pretty authentic - hand forged hinges, ceramic vessels, wood carved furniture, dirt floors, kitchen gardens and period cooking food on the hearth. You are welcome to wander around, touch items and ask lots of questions. The actors/employees were making the high school kids, who were there on a field trip, gather wood and move goat manure around in an old wheelbarrel. There was also a craft shop where all the furniture and ceramics are made for the village using 400 year old tools and techniques.
We also saw the unimpressive Plymouth Rock. The rock is only five feet wide and housed in a cage on the shore. It's been whittled away by souvenir hunters and dropped, cracked and patched - so it's nowhere near as big as it used to be. We also went aboard the Mayflower II. It is a 1957 recreation of the Mayflower and it is supposedly seaworthy. The weather is clear today and we can see Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod on the horizon. P-town is where the pilgrims initially came ashore, then they sailed over to Plymouth and built their community.
The most exciting thing about Plymouth Plantation was the goat on the roof.
He's making period furniture in the Carpenter's Shop (no costumes here).
Great lighting on my favorite subject
A familiar sneer
The legendary rock
All three of us finally got haircuts today. We were all starting to look a little shaggy. Julie referred us to her salon - Enzo's Salon - and Enzo did a excellent job cutting and styling our hair. The modern salon was right on trendy Newbury Street. We enjoyed getting our hair done somewhere cool. Newbury Street is the main shooping street in Boston and it has more salon's than Los Gatos. After haircuts and lunch, we walked through Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill has lots of picturesque doorways and Georgian architecture to photograph.
The last time we were in Boston, the city was still working on the Big Dig; traffic was a mess. This trip, the road construction is completed and the traffic is flowing much smoother - especially by the waterfront.
Make way for ducklings
Entrance to Boston Commons
What Knockers! - This one is a lobster
We stopped in Martin's hometown of Ashland this morning. Ashland's claim to fame is that the electric clock was invented there. (The high school's mascot is the Ashland Clockers.) The Boston Marathon also goes through town. We stopped at the cemetery to see his mom and sister's gravestone, then we drove by his childhood home. Martin explained to Colin how he could climb up onto the roof and into an upstairs window in case he "locked himself out". Then we took some back road to Sudbury and had lunch at Longfellow's Wayside Inn. This was the tavern where Longfellow hung out and was inspired to write the Tales of the Wayside Inn and Paul Revere's Ride. Continuing the Paul Revere theme, our next stop was Concord. Martin and Colin were reinacting the "shot heard round the world" between the Minutemen and British Regulars on the Old North Bridge. They were taking turns playing each side - some excellent kinesthetic learning!
Did Longfellow have a pint here?
Old North Bridge
Back at the RV park, the boys enjoyed the indoor pool and video game arcade, especially Big Buck Hunter. I got to deal with incompetent insurance appraisers. The appraiser they sent out to look at the Mini could only see $2000 of damage to my car. He also wanted me to pay for towing the car to another location so they could strip off the body panels to see if there was more damage. I suggested to my insurance agent that they get someone who could do his job and stop bugging me to pay for it. (The next day the appraiser managed to look under the car and declared it a total loss.)
Today is our last day in the Boston area. Julie came down to have lunch with us and check out our lovely RV. We went over to Patriot Place, a new retail and entertainment complex right next to Patriot's home stadium in Foxboro. Not all the shops and restaurants are open yet, but it looks like it will be a cool place to hang out before or after a game. We had lunch at one of the few open restaurants and unfortunately Martin dropped his phone on the unforgiving tile floor. See the results in the photo.
We finally roll out in the afternoon and drive across Connecticut to Katonah, NY. Martin's friend Jeanne, who he used to work with at eBay, now lives there. We backed right up their driveway and plugged in our extension cord for the night. They live in a nice neighborhood with big lots and no fences. Colin loved being able to run around. Jeanne and Matt have two daughters - Brooke, 7, and May, almost 5 - and Coco a very friendly spaniel. Brooke and Colin made fast friends and had a great time together playing Wii and having a sleepover in the RV. Martin and Jeanne were reminiscing about the stresses of working at eBay and how unhealthy everyone was that worked there then. She even had pictures; seems like ancient history now. Jeanne also cooked us a yummy dinner and breakfast - love it!
Brooke and Colin
Jeanne and May