We left cold, sunny Salem and headed north to Maine.
We took I-95 through the rest of Massachusetts and briefly through New Hampshire, which gave us a good opportunity to oggle the leaves the mountains. We crossed the state border about an hour later, and amidst the gigantic hi-ways (seriously, the shoulder lanes could be their own smaller hi-ways) and the moose crossing was just nothing but gorgeous scenery. And you start to understand why people from Maine spend most of their time outside doing shit. I’d want to do shit if I lived in a mostly unspoiled forest.
Our first stop in Maine was Portland. Joel had been reading up on Portland by way of it’s food scene. We stayed in the old harbour district for two nights, and ate, people watched, and froze our way through it. Seriously, it barely got above 12* there, and with a wicked wind chill (yeah, I can use wicked as an adjective now). I had clam chowder and lobster rolls, which confirmed that there’s no point in eating either of these things unless you’re in Maine. We also had a fantastic tapas dinner at Central Provisions, had our minds changed on potato donuts from The Holy Donut, and snuck burgers from Five Guys back into our room (just because you’re surrounded by amazing food doesn’t mean you can’t have the ol’ dependable.
There’s a lot to Portland outside of the old harbor that we didn’t get to see because 1) it was freezing; and 2) we were on a time crunch. We did see Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house, and the Portland Head Lighthouse, and quite a few junkies (junkies and guns are prevalent themes to our USA trip) including one person actively OD’ing in the streets, surrounded by first responders. Fun.
Before we left Portland for Bar Harbor, we wanted to have lunch at Rose Foods, which we found through Bon Apetit, and which didn’t disappoint at all (apart from not having their awesome tote bags in stock, which was 90% why we wanted to go). And then drop by the L.L. Bean flagship store (Joel has a thing for the Bean, and after freezing in Salem, we both needed warmer clothes).
Now, about L.L. Bean. I always knew the people who dressed in L.L. Bean were members of a creeped out, plaid shirted, khaki panted, fleeced out, flanneled, golden lab and canoe owning yuppie cult that swallowed you whole once you reached a certain age and income tax bracket. And the flagship store in Freehold is where the blessed members of said cult come to congregate. This isn’t just a store, as we were lead to believe. We thought we could just browse the outlet store, grab a few essential warm things, and be on our way. But there’s the Flagship store, which is broken into 4 different stores. Then there’s the seconds store. And the outlet. And the cafe. And the park. And the existing town of shopping that has grown up around it. You see that gigantic boot, and it’s just the beacon of outdoor wear mecca. Every item of clothing is so soft and warm, in a variety of colours and linings and cottons, and made for relaxing even when it’s made to sustain negative temperatures and disaster weather. I’ve never climbed a mountain, or wanted to live in a log cabin sustaining on nothing by wild game and self-grown vegetables, but L.L. Bean made me think I could.
We managed to get through just the flagship store, and then picked up a few things from Patagonia for me, and headed out before we were absorbed into the pod. As it was, all we could think about was scotch plaid and shearling lined vests and duck boots and and and. It was a lot.
As we left the Bean, Navigator Joel did some sleuthing and noted that we had enough time to drive to Bangor, and stop by Stephen King’s house before making it to our Air BnB, if we really wanted to. WELL YES WE WANT TO was the resounding response, and so, we set out to Bangor (pronounced BANG-gor, which I thought was the wrong way) to fan girl the master of horror.
I thought we’d pull up to have throngs of fans waiting outside his house, clamoring for an autograph or a picture. But it was quiet. Eerily quiet. In fact, the entire time we were in Maine, the most we heard of Stephen King was on the radio, because the station we were tuned to had “Stephen King’s favorite radio station” in their call jingle. He’s just a part of the landscape, something that you see every day and finally stop paying attention to. L.L. Bean, lobster, heroin, Stephen King. Wicked.
I parked down the street opposite his house, and we tried to act nonchalant as we were obviously creeping on his house, taking pictures. We saw someone in fluorescent track suit going into the house through the side door, and naturally, we assumed it was him coming back from a jog. Then we read about how that time he was hit by a car while walking almost left him unable to walk, and decided Stephen King probably wouldn’t be out for a jog these days. Oh well.
So that was cool, even if it was uneventful. But as we drove through Bangor, we saw aloooot of similarities to Derry – the buildings, train tracks, and old houses all looked similar to what he’s written, and then before we got back on the hi-ghway, a HUGE statue of Paul Bunyan, which was what terrorised Ritchie Tozier in IT. I think I was more excited seeing that statute than I was seeing his house. And we drove past Mount Hope Cemetary, which was used in Pet Semetery.
We left Bangor and Mr. King, and proceeded further north to Steuben, just outside of Bar Harbor, for the most anticipated part of our trip: 5 days in a cabin on the edge of the Atlantic.
The cabin was the best. It was just out of the way enough to feel like we were alone, but not so isolated that being involved in a grissly murder a la every slasher flick EVER was a possibility. We saw the stars at night, woke up to beautiful sun rises and always had the sound of the ocean as our back drop. On our last day there, we decided to buy fresh caught lobsters and steam them. And sheeeit, you have never had a lobster until you’ve had one that’s fresh caught. Also in the top 5 messiest meals I’ve ever had.
We also took a trip to Acadia National Park and spent the day engulfed in the wonders of nature. The park was so big, so grand, and really made me wish I was in better shape to do all the hikes.
The next day, we drove through Schoodic Point for some equally amazing scenes of nature.
On the morning we left Maine, it was absolutely freezing. And when we finally got to Bangor Airport, it was snowing! Just flurries, but after not having seen any kind of snow in 4 years, it was enough to get me ridiculously excited. One terrible flight later, we landed at Reagan International, where my parents were waiting to pick us up.
The next 5 days were a blur. First, my hetero life mate and oldest bestie, Cara, drove down from Ohio to visit for a couple days with her new boyfriend. It was 2 days of talking shit, shooting the shit, re-living every terrible bad joke and inside joke, and one school field trip style adventure to the Shenandoah’s and Luray Caverns. Cara and I were basically joined at the hip from late 7th grade until we both moved after high school graduation. We have that friendship that doesn’t change no matter how long we’ve been apart, or what’s happening in our lives. Once I’m around her, I’m 16 and in Jncos, and we’re still working at Blockbuster. Except this time she has an 8 year old and I live in Australia and who the fuck saw that happening? It was great to see her and to meet Paul, and it just cemented that 2 days is never enough time with my friends (another emerging theme from the trip). While she was here, a bunch of us met up at a brewery for hang times, and where I didn’t take enough pictures. Nich and Krista drove in from North Carolina, and Griz came down from Maryland, and Mel and Jill came in from NoVa.
After Cara and Paul left, Joel and I were meant to drive up to Ohio with my parents for my grandpa’s memorial service. But the plans changed, and Joel and I were both coming down with mega flu, so we stayed back in Virginia with my sister, Mary. Mary was home alone with Henry, and it was cold and raining, so we decided to have a pumpkin carving party. Joel hadn’t carved before because Halloween isn’t really a thing in Australia, and Jack o Lanterns would just melt in the heat.
Before I knew it, my parents were back from Ohio, and the next day, it was time for us to leave. My mom made a big ass biscuits and gravy breakfast, and then we were off. There were lots of tears at the airport. A part of me was looking forward to being back in our home, with Pancake, not living out of a suitcase. But the other part of me was really sad to leave my other home, my family, my Bill Purray.
As it turns out, we didn’t have to miss them for long. Once again, we only had 45 minutes to make our connecting flight to Sydney when we landed in Dallas. And before we even went through security, we saw our flight leaving Dulles was DELAYED BY 60 MINUTES. We called Qantas, who said there was no question, we’d miss our flight. They suggested staying overnight in Dallas. Which really just pissed us off. So we spent an hour at the counter of our American flight, trying to figure out what we could do. After a lot of searching, there was a flight that left the next morning from Dulles, and would give us a 7 hour layover in Dallas. We decided to take that flight and just spend the night at my parent’s house. So they were pretty surprised to pick us up shortly after they dropped us off, but hey! Bonus family time — I’ll take it!
The next morning though, we were off for real. We bid another sad goodbye to my family, and went off to Dallas. My Uncle Bo and Aunt Sarah were in town, so we used our layover to meet up with them and eat way too much BBQ.
After they dropped us off, we sulked around the airport for an hour or so before it was time to board. We did and saw so much on this trip in such a (relatively) small amount of time, that it was really hard to process it all. All I do know is, I’m so happy that I got to hug so many of my favourite people. And that we got to see so many beautiful places that I just took for granted. If I could do it over again, I’d spend a month visiting friends and family, and a month in Maine. And maybe another month hanging out with my parents. And then another month after that on a beach somewhere. 4 month vacations are a thing, right?
I’m so incredibly grateful for everyone who came to visit while we were Stateside, to everyone who put us up and spoiled us, and for Joel, who basically navigated the entire trip, kept me fed, kept me together, kept me awake on the road, and who was generally the best person in the universe.
Thanks, America. We’ll see you again soon!