The craggier the coast, the more I enjoy driving beside the rocky ridges delighting in the gorgeous views of the sea. After working our first stretch of days, we day-tripped along the coast exploring.
Our leg-stretch stop was Fort Stark Historical State Park. At the mouth of Newcastle Harbor, it is a work in progress and includes a beautiful beach area with benches and picnic tables. Most everything else, with the exception of the Ordinance Machine Shop, looks like the storm battered and still abandoned areas of New Orleans from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
The Fort is named for John Stark, Commander of New Hampshire forces at the battle of Bennington in 1777. It was headquarters of the 22nd Coastal Artillery and one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor as fortifications between 1890 and 1920. The Harbor Entrance Control Post was surrounded by chain link fence.
The Ordinance Machine Shop contains artifacts from WWII and is open on Saturday, not the day we chose to visit, but the rest of the Park grounds are open to wander and climb around and explore during daylight hours.
The 1904 Battery Bay’s and Battery Hunter were stripped of their contents and bared.
I managed to find a picture on the website showing what the gigantic guns looked like that were resting in the circular cement wells.
Across the water stands the Whaleback Ledge Lighthouse which was loosely erected in 1830 at the mouth of the Piscataqua River near the Maine-New Hampshire boundary.
I say “loosely” because it was so poorly built that keepers were worried the building would be swallowed up by the sea. Nothing proves the government’s inability to function for “the good of the people” as blatantly as botched government contracting jobs.
The lowest bidder, a contractor who cut corners deceitfully and shamelessly, won the bid and Congress was forced to accept it without regard to the company’s qualification or competence. Right off, the contractor began without leveling the ground, instead filling gaps with small stones. When the first storm hit, the stones were washed away leaving the foundation sadly lacking. The first light keeper became soaked each time a wave hit the lighthouse.
The tower was given several facelifts, even incased in wood “to prevent the keeper from being drowned out by the sea washing through all the crevices.” In 1838 funds were appropriated by Congress for a breakwater. The architect’s advice was to tear down the structure and start over as no breakwater could secure the present structure. The money went unspent and the structure stayed as built.
In 1839, a local newspaper wrote: “such was the effect of the sea, that the assistants of the keeper could not hear each (other) speak when in the lantern, on account of the noise produced by the shaking of the apparatus in the lantern, when the sea struck the foundation of the light house….the reader may form some idea of the unenviable situation of the keeper…during the late storm from the fact that the building is situated on a ledge of sunken rocks, only visible during low water and about a mile from the nearest human habitation.”
A civil engineer was commissioned in 1842 to survey several New England lighthouses. His description of the pier read, “rudely and fraudulently constructed”, large swells shook the lighthouse “in the most alarming manner. The keeper asserted that the vibration was so great as to move the chairs and tables about the floor.” The lighthouse was plagued with dangerous structural problems until it was automated in 1963. We haven’t visited and it’s not high on our list of “to-do’s”.
After our coastal exploration, we drove back to Portsmouth and enjoyed a late seafood lunch. I loved the interesting metal sculpture art that dressed the plain brick walls of the café where we dined. A short drive home to ready ourselves for another five day work cycle.
There are times it is imperative that I escape the dust that billows over everything multiple times a day, setting off my lungs and a tirade of explicits about the downsides of our rolling life. Escapes, coupled with an overnight hotel stay, usually quells any obnoxious retorts I might make to John’s “can’t you just enjoy this adventure?”.
Of late, our workamp positions do not begin to approach an adventure. Adventures are fun, do not smell like poopy toilets, you don’t have to put up with rude people or do chores in suffocating heat nor pouring rain. You can stop whenever the fun stops and at days end you are able to enter a large pleasant room and run gallons of water over your hair and body without ever giving thought to overflowing the grey tank, refilling the fresh water tank or having to remove moisture from the room to prevent mold and mildew growth.
Another work day. Muggy, hot and dusty outside. I cleaned the bathrooms, checked them several times but spent most of the day inside with both Austin Air Filters on full blast to cleanse my lungs of the dreadfully damaging dust. Eric Fadden’s article titled, “Here’s What That Post About Taking a Train Across the USA for $213 Doesn’t Tell You” caught my eye. I read quietly while cars drove back and forth inches from our front steps sending relentless clouds of dirt particles flying through the air and raining down on Ribbit and LilyPad.
The article made me think of all the folks who have said to John and I, “we want to do what you’re doing when we retire”. I might be compelled to write a book entitled, “Here’s What Those People Who Live Full-Time in a Recreational Vehicle Don’t Tell You”.
We have been here several weeks and although my imagination has a tendency to run wild and I am prone to exaggerations, the dust here is undeniably horrid and abusive to lungs. At 4pm John sprayed down the road with water and washed the thick coat of dust from the car. By 8am the next morning, the dust was so thick you could not see inside the car. I wrote on the window to make my point. There is no way to stop the dust. It’s a loosing battle.
Our volunteer routine is now established. Another work cycle finished, we made plans for our first multi-day escape to the town of Stonington on Deer Isle in Maine. When we return, John’s options are to move me to a less dusty site or we leave. Enough is enough.
It’s not easy to find an acceptable hotel for the three of us. Bangor is the largest town, within easy driving distance of the coast, with a respectable hotel having comfortable beds for a few overnights. Stonington was the location of another workamp position we had considered. A visit there was at the top of our To-Do list. From Google Maps, Stonington appeared to be a small lobster trapping village on Deer Isle with just enough town to provide a reason for window shopping along the main thoroughfare.
Round Pond Fisherman’s Lobster Co-op came highly recommended so after a few hours driving, we stopped for a rest and enjoyed a late lunch perched alongside Maine’s coast.
The menu was simple…fresh steamed lobster, steamers (long neck a.k.a. Ipswich clams), sweet corn on the cob and potato chips. Located on the docks in a cove filled with lobster boats, when the owner runs out of lobster, he walks 20 yards to the ocean, pulls some out of his lobster traps, walks back and pops them in the pot. Fresh lobster done right! I can’t describe the taste without my mouth watering. Fresh sweet tender lobster, crisp luscious buttery corn, succulent steamers dunked in butter and crunchy salty chips, I have found Nirvana.
Seated at a picnic table on the dock, a peaceful view with gentle slightly briny breezes, made this our best meal of the year. Our tummy’s full, we drove inland to the hotel. A pleasantly green treed and blue skied drive along the way.
We arrived, checked-in, unpacked and relaxed. Dinner out, back to the room, early to bed.
Sleeping late was the plan. Excitement cancelled our first plan. We rose early to see the potential workcamp position for next season. Breakfast first, KatieBug snug in her “black hole” and we were on our way.
Linda, the other camp host, has named KatieBug’s crate the “black hole”. Annie, her sweet tempered dog, is allowed to run loose inside the her camper and never destroys anything. If we let KatieBug run loose while we were gone, she would shred every piece of paper in the motorhome and pee everywhere to pay us back for leaving her alone. She’s never minded staying in her crate and goes willingly when there are fireworks, while we work or when it is bedtime. She is less stressed when we travel because her den is always nearby. She has her cozy safe haven crate in Ribbits and in LilyPad. To some, a black hole. To KatieBug, a secure comfy den complete with TV or radio and snacks. As the saying goes, to each his own.
Stonington was one and a half hours away. Crossing over Deer Isle Bridge, we paused to stretch our legs and check out the view.
One quick side step along the main road was to pick up fresh goat cheese with cranberries. We chatted about the area with a local and inquired about the best place for a repeat to-die-for lobster meal.
Stonington is a small, quaint, quiet town with many of the endearing qualities of Angela Lansbury’s Cabot Cove. We rolled down the windows and sucked in the refreshing salty sea air. After a few minutes, inside my mouth took on the essence of fresh seaweed salad.
It took 45 seconds to drive from one side of the town to the other and nothing looked interesting enough to warrant an exploration on foot. Most of the shops had not opened for the season and the sidewalks were desolate. Our lunch was a meal of overcooked steamed lobster, it’s tail heavy with grainy tasting lobster eggs. Considering Stonington’s claim to fame is the largest lobster port in Maine, the meal was disappointing.
After lunch we drove to the campsite. Surrounded by marsh, primarily old mobile homes and one or two older trailers, John quickly nixed the position. As usual, the web page painted a far superior picture than the truth.
Onward to the only TripAdvisor suggestion that caught our attention, Nervous Nellie’s Jam and Jelly’s with its lure of Peter Beerits’ original handcrafted art.
Located just shy of Nellie’s, we paused to admire a French Citroen H Van from the 1940’s along with a red and white 2CV Citroen and a few other French auto’s. Nice collection. They were displayed in front of a massive 1800’s mansard style home that sat next to the town church.
Neither of us expected to spend the greater part of two hours at Nervous Nellie’s but upon arrival, we were immediately drawn in by Peter Beerits’ artistic visions.
Inhabited by fascinatingly configured wood and metal beings, the town was populated with human characters,
sea creatures and critters,
beasts and mystics.
His colony of beings took up residence in a compact hamlet with his Robin Hood community fanning outward into the Sherwood Forested woods behind the town.
When we arrived, Peter had some of his elder citizens seated in the back of his truck. He graciously posed to allow me a Kodak moment while we chatted.
The towns Old Wild West residents were so surprisingly personable that we wandered around poking into each building, thoroughly enjoying the exhibits.
Hardy’s General Store
One of the flyers on the wall of Red’s Lounge was advertising the coming of Howlin “Mad” Perry, of historic Sun Records fame in Memphis Tennessee. It brought back memories of our tour of the studio back in late April 2016.
The joint was seriously jumpin’!
We stopped in at the store where jam and jelly jar samples sat waiting on the counter, enticing guests to slather the sweet spread on crackers and savor each flavor. The walls were decorated with dozens of interesting handmade items for sale. A Texas size screened in rear covered porch overlooked the grounds. It was transformed into a tea room for those wishing to sit-a-spell and relax in the moment.
Exiting the side of Nellies store brought us face to face with Sherwood Forest. The forest harbored a troop of merry men dining and other fanciful residents like the Grim Reaper.
Sir Gawain, sitting horseback, was guarding the forest.
Just beyond Sir Gawain, a giant serpent reared up his ferocious metallic head.
The resident shaman stood outside the dining hall.. According to Wikipedia, the shaman is “a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.” Somewhat akin to Witchdoctors, familiar to us from numerous trips down side streets in New Orleans Louisiana, this healer had a likeable face and pleasant grin.
This venture was Peter’s lifelong dream and entirely fitting for a talented imagination with a phenomenal knack for artistically assembling salvage. John and I strolled the forested area spying dozens of parts in wait for new beginnings. I could envision creatures emerging from aged engines, fragmented toys, abandoned appliances, fractured furniture pieces and items others might consider plain junk.
At the forest exit stood a jolly Jack in the Box.
I walked around the grounds twice, noticing more each go-round. It is truly an amazing art exhibit in an idyllic setting for Peter’s creative mind and artistic abilities. As we drove off the grounds we noticed one last character, the local blacksmith, glancing up from his work as we drove away. Nervous Nellies was the highlight of our Stonington Maine mini escape.
The sun would set in a few hours and we had a long drive back to the hotel. KatieBug settled in for a snore fest, she being as tired as the both of us. A long shower, a little TV and a good nights sleep finished up our three day adventure. Time to return to our “real world” and finalize our decision to move or leave.
We have requested another site and Pat has agreed that she would rather we move “upstairs” to a less dusty location, keeping us as workampers. Our move will take place in the next few days but our focus is on the next five day tour of duty.
Daily chores consist of John weed whacking in the morning and then we both sweep, scrub floors, sanitize toilets, clean showers, wipe down mirrors, water the hanging flowers and blooming in-ground plants that are spread out around the campground. Several bathroom checks and cleanings throughout the day, walks around the campground and beach picking up trash and cleaning fireplaces, some odd jobs, a sprucing up of the Rec Center and the day ends. Next day, ditto everything.
Portsmouth New Hampshire is only a twenty minute drive from Lee. It is a thriving touristy town, bona fide historic and filled with curio shops, fine dining establishments, pubs and gift shops. The town church takes center stage and is surrounded by benches where visitors and townspeople alike sit, rest, relax and people watch. John and I enjoy walking around the town and we have visited twice since our arrival.
Today we move. We plotted our path carefully and found that backing up into the site was the best and most logical plan. John asked our neighbor across the road to move his truck, just in case, and I backed LilyPad up the steep grade road and into our new site.
Exited the motor home and chatted with our new neighbors. A truck drove by…wow, no dust! Next day we emptied both our tanks…amazing, we have a leach field so both our tanks can be emptied anytime we choose. This is much better. Brought my bright red plant up from the downstairs site and found a surprise tag-along, another Ribbit (frog).
Tonight we plan another day trip. Searching for local activities, we came across the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge in Wells Maine. Also home to a Triple D’s (Diner, Drive-In’s and Dives) top pick for Lobster Rolls and Lobster Bake. A wonderful adventure of much appreciated exercise and a relaxing lunch. Our next mini escape chosen, we slept soundly and awakened to a perfect day for a walk along Maine’s coastal waterways.
Lunch at the Maine Diner was not what we expected. A Lobster Bake is lobster covered in dry cracker crumbs, drenched with butter until the crackers are soaked and baked. Greasy and chewy, not something we will order again.
The refuge was created in 1966 but renamed for Carson in 1969 after her 1962 book, Silent Spring, became renowned. After tireless investigations, she linked the unrestrained use of post-World War II chemical pesticides with fearsome biological consequences. Carson has been credited with launching the environmental movement and awakening concern in American’s for our environment.
The book gave explanations and examples on subjects close to my heart, pesticide harm and the alternative, Integrated Pest Management, using non-toxic or least toxic products first when exterminating. She was the reason I became an Environmental Health Consultant. Her insight on the cause of damage to ourselves and our environment started the movement in which I eagerly grabbed with both hands and embraced for nearly 40 years.
We visited the small Visitors Center and strolled along the path. You could see how the tidal flats striped away the soil from the roots of trees causing them to tilt. Each incoming and outgoing tide carrying out more soil.
The salt marsh creek snaked out to sea.
Salt Pannes have a complete eco system all their own but getting up close and personal was not possible from the walkway.
The coastal Maine salt marsh was visible all along the footpath.
Near the end of our walk we spotted the only blooming plants we saw in the refuge.
Back home to LilyPad and a quiet night with a Red Box movie and dinner.
Next morning I went shopping for the kids party I was hosting in the Rec Center Saturday afternoon. Prizes brought from the dollar store in Texas would be given out along with juice, ice cream and cookies. I had planned a few games and social time. The party was my idea and I was in charge but Pat liked the plan and showed up to help. Parents were enjoying the squeals of delight during races. Everyone cheered the kids on during the “hunt for gold” (rocks sprayed gold that John hid in the playground area). Dads helped make the rockets for the rocket races on the lawn and joined in to blow up balloons for the between-the-knees balloon race. Everyone made hanging bird feeders from peanut butter and bird seed. Prizes were not given out for winners. First prize for Musical Chairs went to the first one out, the largest and smallest gold piece got a prize and by the time we were done, everyone went home happily with at least one prize. I had a blast! Families even helped clean up. My next event will be an outdoor “movie and popcorn” evening for the kids at our motorhome co-hosted by Lindsey, one of the campers. Finally, some social time for me and our outside TV will get some use!
Another trip up the coast is in the making. Bangor hotel reservations have been made for us and KatieBug’s reservation at Yellow Dog’s Barn are confirmed. Wednesday we are off to Maine and Acadia National Park to explore the area.
The drive up was sunny and mild with cooler weather being pushed inland off the coast. We were searching for an alternative campground should we decide to pass this way again. My requirements were a campground closer to Canada, in an area with cooler weather, a friendly setting with social activities and where rules were enforced.
Our first stop, but not one availing all that we were looking for, was Forest Ridge Campground. If a delightfully named road was enough reason to stay the season, this would have won.
A few more stops at the campgrounds on our list and dinner time had arrived. Steamed lobsters at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, the same restaurant we visited while on our New England cruise several years ago and the food was just as yummy. Back to the hotel for some TV and relaxation.
We have only three TV stations at Wellington. We paid to have internet so we could stream movies but the choices at Red Box are newer and less expensive so we binge watch TV programs all night when we stay at a hotel. Another luxury we enjoy at a hotel, hour long steamy showers.
Morning brought the fog and a cool refreshing mist, my kind of weather. We walked around downtown Bar Harbor, stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate at Choco-latte, a local coffee shop and waited for the rain drops to stop. Not wanting to spend the entire day downtown, we made the decision to ignore the weather and drive through Acadia National Park. This year is the Parks 100th birthday.
The Park roadways and trees were heavy with moisture making the dense forest a little spooky. No one else was on the road so we had the park nearly to ourselves and the ability to stop anywhere without annoying tourists crowding us.
A pause along the way to watch for wildlife, the fog continued to cover the area and hid whatever was beyond the murk.
Not the first to arrive at the highlighted natural wonder, Thunder Hole, we parked and walked down the rocky steps joining others in wait for the incoming tide to force the ocean into the rocks below and shoot sea water into the air. After several big waves and still no eruption, we walked back to the car and continued our drive through the park.
Acadia National Park is a long one-way road that meanders across beach fronts, through forests and up into the mountain. John insisted that we continue on to the top of Cadillac Mountain, 1,530 feet and the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. It is the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7th through March 6. The view was as logic would predict, foggy.
On a clear day you can see forever. On a foggy day you can see little else but the sign advising visitors of the detriments of air pollution.
Back down the mountain and out onto the main road. I spotted an interesting antique house turned business and stopped to explore their wares.
The inside of Bar Harbor Weathervanes and Cupolas, Inc. was filled with delightful weathervanes of all sizes, shapes and styles, some sitting atop copula’s, some lining the shelves along the walls. Shiny copper pretties to mount on your rooftop.
We chatted with the clerk and took a calling card for future reference. My next tiny house will look fabulous topped with a weathervane.
As the day wore on, thoughts of another sweet tender lobster began creeping into my subconscious mind. Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound was a short drive up the road.
This time John opted for one big lobster, hard shell, pre-cracked. We had been told by several lobster eating regulars that the larger the lobster, the more chewy the meat. They lied. This guy was delish! We also learned the taste difference between soft shell and hard shell lobsters. Hard shell is harder to crack, has firmer meat and the meat fills the shell. Soft shell has molted its hard shell, is easy to crack but the meat is softer and water fills up the extra space inside the shell. I will forever be a fan of the hard shell.
Another great night of TV and uninterrupted sleep before packing up and returning to Wellington. KatieBug was happy to be home. I wasn’t happy to be back at work.
Three days into our five day work schedule, Linda emailed me from Maine to ask if she could stay gone another week in exchange for working our shift after she returned. Had I known it was going to be 99 degrees in Lee, storms would shut down our power twice in one week and our car’s air conditioning would break, I might not have agreed. The hardest part of working back to back was having the power off several times. No generator on the well pump forced John to use buckets of river water to flush all of the campground toilets. Nasty job. John lugged the first few bucketful’s up from the river by hand. The next time he used the campground truck. Not having a back up pump was another thing we wish we had known about before we accepted the job.
So instead of a break, we went back to work. The wheelbarrow and I spent two days moving all the rocks from the demolished site across from us. There would be sand and gravel brought in later to make a level base for the newly cleared site. Slowly, bending from the knees, I removed all but about 5 rocks, those being heaver than I was comfortable lifting. I piled the rocks in a line along our campsite for a future project. The site of an old grey haired pudgy lady moving wheelbarrows full of rock all day must have been too much for Ron, the gentleman living behind the site. When I took a dinner break the following day, he came out and tossed the balance of the big rocks aside and raked the area smooth. Nice neighbor.
Some of my time, in-between cleaning, was spent moving cement blocks from partial fireplaces into piles. Today I got to build one. It was such a structurally sound and artistically designed fireplace, if I do say so myself, that I had John take a picture of my masterpiece.
Storms pounded us for several days, our car being in the shop made our chores even more unpleasant but our trip to Canada was just around the corner. Linda will return and we will leave in the motorhome for a two week break on Tuesday.