Sunday, July 1, 2007

Heading home

"What time is it honey?

It’s 7:15, but don’t worry, honey, I’ve got the perfect plan for us today.

Really? What is it?

It’s a surprise.

OK sweetheart….."

after a couple of minutes

"You could guess if you want to."

me, laughing out loud with happiness

That's how my morning started -- it was a wonderful day. We left Rutland under a stormy sky, and started driving. I had no idea where we were going, which turned out to be Innisfree, a place we love to go every year. Photos here:

It was a wonderful little getaway, our New England ramble.

To Vermont

After one last waffle breakfast for the road, we left Maine. Getting out was pretty bad (curse you, Mapquest), but once we got to the highway around Portland, it was ok. Driving together is fun for us, so spending 5 hours in the car together is a really nice time. Cross New Hampshire (very beautiful), cross into Vermont (also very beautiful). Scenic splendor to the left, to the right, and straight ahead. White Mountains in NH, Green Mountains in VT. But the vibes are somehow different from each other – and very different from Maine. All three states are full of people extremely different from me: they all seem to love the outdoors, and doing outdoor things like running and biking and boating (under motor power, or self power).

It kind of seems like there are two ways to live in these parts comfortably: one way is to be a fully outdoor person, summer sports and winter sports. Boating and skiing, snow boarding and hiking. The other way is to be a fully indoor person, quilting and making jam and baking and spinning and weaving. If you know me at all, you know I’d never be the first, but I could easily be the second. One version of me could live here and love it. Of course I’m primarily a city girl and don’t ever want to live anywhere but Manhattan, but if I could split off one version of me it could be happy in Vermont.

Our destination was Rutland – no big destination, but it’s a place Marc always stays when he and Anna go skiing at Killington. Killington was our actual destination, and we were spending the night in Rutland. The drive was incredibly gorgeous in Vermont, kind of breathtaking. There’s a Woodstock here that reminds me of the Woodstock in NY. Here, these little places really capture the essence of VT:

So Killington is a huge mountain, fancy ski resort, completely packed in the winter. We wanted to go there to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain. Those who know me know this has historically been a horrific experience – Taos Ski Valley in the summer, that high mountain in the Adirondacks around my birthday a few years ago – horrible, terrifying, being pushed to do something I clearly and explicitly did not want to do, but here I was very excited about doing it. What makes the difference? Two things: beta blockers to stop the adrenaline, and Marc, whom I trust to think about me and watch out for me and not to push me to do what I don’t want to do.

So up the mountain on the gondola, not scary to me:Gondolas looking like bumper cars:

And then climbing around on top of the mountain, not only not scary, but actually fun and thrilling. The views were amazing, Green Mountains all around:

My beautiful husband:
Two happy people:Pristine and beautiful trees:We came upon this little wedding, sweet:Mountain bikers. Crazy people. They'd go speeding
past us, jumping off a ridge and disappearing over the side.
They reminded me of the Wheelers, remember kids?It really didn't look real, at times.
I thought it looked like a movie set.
Maybe the set of Bonanza or something.Ski runs down the face of Killington. Marc likes to
ski the double diamonds.This gear was on top of Killington.

After we got our fill of scenic splendor for the afternoon, we checked in to our hotel in Rutland. It had gone downhill since Marc stayed there last, but it was inexpensive and we don’t really care about the hotel room, as long as we can sleep. We ate dinner at the place Marc and Anna usually eat, the Three Tomatoes, and walked around downtown Rutland. Did some comparison shopping in every store we could find, looking for the best deal on pints of Haagen-Dazs, then headed back to our room.

Neither of us slept well at all, Marc caught my cold, the room was hot, my cell phone started making noise around 3am, I had nightmares, but who cares. As long as I get to be with Marc, everything is ok with me.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Maine is for boat people

Reason #79,276 that Marc and I are so perfect for each other: It’s often the case that we just don’t see what other people see, but since we’re both that way, we don’t have to pretend for each other. We’ve both heard that Maine is so beautiful, such a place to see. We were expecting rugged coastlines, rocky beaches, a somewhat unusual landscape compared to home. We were expecting Acadia National Park to be really beautiful, lots of photographic opportunities, scenic splendor. Bar Harbor, always heard of that town, gotta see it.

Instead, we had this growing feeling that led us to look at each other and say, “is that all there is?” Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s go to Vermont.

That’s right. Yesterday we went to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, and were underwhelmed. Maybe it’s just that we had unreasonable expectations – I’m willing to concede that. Maybe it’s just that we’ve seen such amazing places together that the bar has been sent high for us – willing to concede that, too. But whatever the reason, we were underwhelmed. It was pretty enough, but we could’ve been anywhere. We could’ve been in the Catskills, much closer to home. We could’ve been near the Delaware Water Gap – much much closer to home. Anyway, we did see a few things:

The amazing bridge over the Penobscot River:
A scenic view in Acadia National Park
No babies in tow -- dogs in tow. We saw a couple of bikers
who were both towing dogs around. Funny.
We'd both heard of Bar Harbor (though neither one of us knew what we'd heard, we had vague associations) so we decided to go, since it's on the same island as Acadia National Park -- Mt. Desert Island. I guess I was thinking "fishing village" and Marc was closer to reality, thinking "vacation spot for rich folks." So here you go, Bar Harbor, Maine:

Main Street lined with quaint little shoppes. (Yes, shoppes).
I think that was Pop's Ice Cream Parlor.
No rest for me -- a long phone call to a psychologist I'm trying
to convince to edit an important book for me.
Last night we went back to the same restaurant for dinner that we went to the night before, because it was so good:

HUGE fantail shrimp, fried in a beer batter. And the very best
onion rings, anywhere. I ate this two nights in a row.
I'm going to die from all the fried food but I'll be smiling.

After dinner, we walked around Belfast:

Quacking up -- which made us think of that
kindergarten joke about ducks flying upside down.
Patriotic windowboxes, red white & blue.
I got the feeling it's always like this, it has nothing
to do with the 4th of July.
The lovely harbor. I thought these three boats were
so beautiful, red yellow and blue. Primary colors.
And then on the beach at the foot of our hotel back yard:

rocky beachesseaweed with bladders
barnacles everywhere

Oh, and a couple more about our hotel. It really did win a Platinum Award, see? We still don't know what it means, but they're really proud of it:

And there were beautiful flowers everywhere:

In Belfast, we kept seeing signs that gave directions to a Redemption Center. There were Redemption Centers everywhere, and I kept thinking religious redemption, since there are SO MANY churches here. Marc suspected it was a place to redeem S&H Green Stamps or something, which never occurred to me. To me, redemption = J.C. Who Redeems Us All. Turns out Marc was much closer to the truth—these are places to redeem glass bottles and jars. So funny, though.

We decided we’ve now seen Maine, and we’d drive to Killington, VT. Marc often skis there, and we decided to ride the gondola up and down the mountain. Maine’s a fine place, kind of hard to buttonhole. Quite country and hick (and I can say that, because I’m a hick), but also very gay-friendly. Those often don’t go together. Red, white and blue bunting everywhere, and rainbow flags and bumper stickers. Double-wide trailers and lesbian couples. It’s very unusual in that way.

Impressions: There are Curves everywhere. Curves on top of restaurants, Curves in empty strip malls, Curves in the country. Maine women must love 30-minute circuit training. Flea markets everywhere. Lots of cars parked in lots of front yards. Yard art is ubiquitous. Cars pulling boats (with a boat inside the boat sometimes), cars on top of boats. Lots of things named ‘Schooner’ and lots of “Oriental” restaurants (very un-P.C., Maine!). Gasoline: $3.02 for clean regular, leading me to wonder if you can buy dirty regular for a cheaper price.

As we were leaving this morning, Mapquest took us on the most insane route – off the main highway (Rte 1) to meander in the wilderness for 20+ miles, only to return to Rte 1, 3 or 4 miles from where we left it. We just kept going in disbelief, and I want to complain to someone. Along the rural roads, I saw a house with a sign in front: “We don’t rent pigs.” I can’t imagine why anyone would need to advertise that, but OK. A house with a sign that said, “Wink’s Bottle Shop,” and around the corner, “Wink’s Automotive.” Wink gets around, or else Wink is a common nickname in these parts.

And then, as we were wandering through this rural landscape on these small windings roads, stuck behind one after another truck pulling or hauling something, Marc said:
That’s all people do in the country, they haul stuff. They haul it over here, then they haul it over there.
I guess we’re city mice, all the way. Nothing against Maine, it’s just fine and the people were friendly, the landscape was pretty, it just wasn’t what we thought it’d be.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Day 2

As we said after checking in last night, our hotel is OK. Nothing more, but it's OK. (Although a huge sign draped over the front door says "Winner of the Platinum Award"....for what? From whom? Who cares?) We had a room on the ground floor -- a handicapped room, which meant the bathroom was not great for us -- that was like a basement room. The main floor of the hotel, including the lobby, is on the 2nd level, so you walk downstairs to the 1st floor. Marc decided to keep trying to get us a different room, even though we were told on checking in that they were fully booked.

This morning while we were "eating" the free "breakfast" Marc made another effort. The first time he was told that she'd work on it and get back to him. She'd work on it. The second time he went, one woman said maybe, the manager said no, and he stood there being as charming as he can be. He just stood there. Finally the first woman said Wait -- someone just canceled 10 minutes ago! Oh, it's a suite. He stood there, smiling and being charming, waiting. She looked at him and said, ok, you can have it no extra charge.

The very best part, and I wish I'd had my camera trained on him as he walked back to the table, was the beaming smile on his face as he came to tell me about it. It was absolutely adorable, he was so proud of himself and excited and happy to tell me. It's really very nice, bigger, with a microwave and refrigerator, much better bathroom, the whole 9 yards. And this is the view out of our room overlooking Penobscot Bay:

Not bad, right? He's so adorable I can hardly stand it.

Next, we're out to Mt. Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park. Lots of pictures to come!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Day 1

We left Manhattan at noon for our little Maine adventure. Seven hours of driving, almost exactly. Out of NY, out of CT, somewhere on the road in MA:

Me, on the road.
Pretty rocks along the way. Pretty amazing rocks.
It's not the cowboy way. It's the New Hampshire way.
Finally -- crossing that border. Maine: Vacationland?
Maine: The way life should be?
Maine: Worth a visit?
Lobsters on water tanks and clothes and trash on the highway.
Maine: a mess?
At some point I started thinking, "Maine, methinks thou dost protest too much." Tooting that horn just a little too loudly with all the road signs proclaiming (or questioning) your wonder. Shh.

Clouds in the rearview
Quilt batting clouds
Gorgeous architectural clouds
Mr. Blue Sky (ELO, remember?)
Cottage cheese clouds
All in all, the trip was great. No awful traffic, no rain, no car trouble, no problems, no tickets. The hotel is ok, nothing more. We thought we were going to have an awful dinner, the restaurants all seemed like dives with no customers. A dive with lots of customers can be great, but no customers? Creepy. At the last minute we found the charming part of Belfast (where we're staying), on the waterfront. We picked a seafood restaurant and took our chances. OH MY, lots and lots of fried food. Fried shrimp, scallops, fish, clams, and lots of it. Great batter, fried crispily wonderfully crunchily good. Not greasy, just perfect. We might go back tomorrow.

For now, tired. Stretching out. Sleeping.