Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Swift River, Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Swift River, Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Locals call this highway “The Kanc.”  It is a beloved scenic route through the White Mountains, and the fall colors are stunning.  I mainly want to share the photos.  The Forest Service wanted to charge people for everything — even hiking or just parking next to the river for a minute.  Where I come from we don’t pay to use our own public forest land, and I refused to pay here.  For my trip to the river I parked across the highway outside the gate of a closed forest road, then hiked down and across the highway to the river.  Although this was free it was still technically against the rules because there was a prohibition on blocking the closed gate.  If the road’s closed anyway what difference does it make?  I thought it would be fine since it was after the end of the federal employees’ working day.  This was pre-gov’t shutdown, of course.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Click to enlarge.

New Hampshire.  A message we can all unite around. Click to enlarge.
New Hampshire. A message we can all unite around. Click to enlarge.

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The Lobster Roll and Presidential Adventure, Maine

Red's lobster shack, Wiscasset, Maine. Click to enlarge.

Red’s lobster shack, Wiscasset, Maine. Click to enlarge.

I saved an article from the Wall Street Journal detailing the best places in Maine to eat the state’s trademark lobster rolls.  The concept is similar to a hamburger, but with lobster.  I set out to eat as many as I could over two days.  I first went to Red’s in Wiscasset.  I waited for an hour in a long line to place my order and another 10 minutes for the food.  This was the largest and best lobster roll I received anywhere.

The last place I visited was an upscale restaurant called Pier 77.  It’s in an out-of-the-way location between Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise.  Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush (the elder one) lives just outside of town on his own little peninsula.  I parked on the beach ¼ mile away and walked to the compound.  Parking and sidewalk areas directly across the road allow tourists a full frontal view of the home, grounds, and staff buildings.  The whole complex is perhaps 150 yards long and most of it juts into the ocean.  A stout-looking gate controls access.

I crossed to Bush’s side of the street and walked up his driveway to the guard house.  A muscular Secret Service agent greeted me.  “May I help you?” he asked.  “Could I say ‘hi’ to the president?” I replied.  He patiently explained that Bush saw people by appointment only, and his staff fielded all meeting requests.  He suggested that I request an appointment, but I explained that I was just passing through town and would be gone by the end of the day.  “I didn’t expect to get in, but if I’m here I have to try,” I said.  I laughed when the agent said, “They don’t take walk-ins.”

I was a high school freshman when Bush Sr. was elected president.  I remember the competent presence he brought to the office.  No scandals, he just did the job.

Acadia National Park, Maine: I Ain’t Gonna Charge You Nothin’

Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

During my travels I seem to attract the best people just when I need them.  I was on my way to exploring the park’s forested dirt roads when I made a wrong turn.  While turning around I managed to back up onto a small boulder.  The rear axle and a corner of the frame were suspended on the rock, and one rear tire turned in midair.  It was an embarrassing thing to do.  Four wheel drive and a locked differential weren’t enough to free the truck.

Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

Just then a man pulled up in a pickup and offered to pull me out.  His truck displayed information for a contracting business, so I thought he was offering a professional service.  That would be great, I said, but how much would you charge?  I meant this as an innocuous question, but the man became excited.  “I ain’t gonna charge you nothin!” he exclaimed.  “I’m not that kind of a guy.  I may be rocked up in Colorado sometime and I’ll need you to pull me out.”

We made a great team.  My truck was free in less than two minutes.  The only damage was a shiny scratch on the frame.  I hadn’t noticed the fancy landscaping at the road’s entrance, and thus backed onto the boulder.  I incidentally left a prominent tire track in the otherwise pristine wood chips, which I considered fair payback.  The man was on his way home from shooting two moose on a weeklong hunting trip.  Next he was going out for deer.  I wished him good hunting.

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

The Acadia coastline features rugged rock formations and dense stands of trees.  Sand Beach, the only sandy beach in the park, is a popular attraction.  Throughout Maine I was struck by the glassy water along the coastline.  It was so calm it didn’t even look like the ocean.  The rare sand beaches were the only places I saw waves come in as one would typically think of them.

The U.S. Coast Guard operates the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on Acadia’s southwestern coast.  I arrived there shortly after dark to find a “Day Use Only” sign and a ranger on station to enforce it.  I told him I saw the sign and realized it was dark, but this was my last day in the park and I was pushing to see everything possible.  He let me in, told me to avoid the residential area, and pointed me to the lighthouse trail.  It was great to stand on the shore in the dark and watch the lighthouse in action.

Long Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

Long Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine. Click to enlarge.

After a hard-charging day in Acadia I headed to Bar Harbor for dinner and ice cream.  I ended up in a place that also sold hand-made chocolate truffles.  As I talked with the young woman behind the counter, another young woman in line behind me joined the conversation.  She was headed to Acadia the next day and needed an entrance pass.  My pass was valid for another 6 days, so I gave it to her.  I had been hoping for a way to pay forward the free tow I received earlier in the day.  Marci, the recipient, was very appreciative.  Like me, she preferred manual transmission cars.  Finding this rare common ground we chatted for several minutes before parting ways.

It was 10:15 pm and I still needed a place to sleep.  Driving through two towns and over 20 miles, I could not find a single hotel that was open to take a guest.  I ended up at the far end of a Wal-Mart parking lot among the RV’s that typically overnight there.  Reclining the passenger seat made a passable bed.  This is a scenario I’d prefer to avoid going forward.

Vermont: Trespassing and Maple Syrup

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

There are no national forests or parks in Vermont, yet the vast majority of this tiny state is rural and forested.  Farming, maple sugaring, and logging seem to co-exist in peace.  Quiet dirt roads lined with dense stands of trees are plentiful in the Northeast Kingdom, the region known for its wild and unspoiled character.  During my visit the fall colors were in full force.

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

The first day I happened on a self-service farm stand along a state highway.  Take what you want, write the items in the log book, and deposit your money.  Alongside herbs and vegetables were 1960’s-era newspapers, artwork, and old, undesirable clothing.  Prices were high.  I moved on.

Finding a campsite was challenging due to the lack of officially marked public land.  I drove down two 4×4 roads to find farms at the end.  The next promising trail ended at a large bog.  I drove out of that one in reverse the whole way because there was no place to turn around.  Finally I found Mud Pond Pass, a forest road riddled with large puddles.  A dry and otherwise perfect camping spot sat at its end.  Shortly after going to bed I started hearing loud booms.  At first I wondered if I was being shot at.  Vague flashes of color against the cloud cover and the sound of rockets led me to conclude it was harmless fireworks.  I went back to bed.  They shot until midnight.

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

The next morning I explored additional dirt roads.  One particular road attracted me due to its exceptionally narrow and rough tread.  It led through some woods, past a farmhouse and agricultural field, and into the woods again.  There I ran into a landowner felling an approximately 100-foot-tall tree with his chainsaw.  The man’s name was Nolan, and he owned all of the land from the beginning of this road to its end.  He never told me I was trespassing or complained about my being there.  He never even brought up his status as the owner until I asked him specifically.  He appeared to be well over the age of 60 but still very capable of hard physical labor.

I never meant to trespass on anyone but was glad I did.  It allowed me to meet Nolan, and we had an interesting talk for at least 10 minutes.  Nolan worked in a factory for 18 months as a young man, but couldn’t stand it.  After a long stint as a dairy farmer he bought a tract of maple trees.  “There was no future in milking cows,” he said.  “This way I can sugar and have a retirement.”  I told Nolan he didn’t seem like a man who took a lot of breaks.  We shook hands, said goodbye, and I left.

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

My next stop in Vermont was the Goodrich Maple Farm.  I love real maple syrup, and the farms advertise free tours and tastings.  Upon arrival I was told that the next tour would commence after a few more people showed up.  In the meantime, a guide and his two tourists arrived in the tasting room at the conclusion of their tour.  I tasted with them, and still no other customers showed.  Finally the employee put me in a room to watch a video by myself.  The video went over how maple syrup was produced, harvested, and boiled into the end product.  The amateur narration was laced with a strong dose of propaganda around the superiority of Vermont syrup.  At the end of the movie I asked the employee about the rest of the tour.  She replied that the movie was my tour.  I left feeling that I had been lied to and short-changed.

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Click to enlarge.

I next stopped at Bragg Farm and requested the advertised tour.  The employees explained that since this was the off-season I could watch a video for the tour.  I told them I had already seen the video, and a video was not a tour.  I was then taken to the sugar house and given a proper showing.  Bragg produces only 900 gallons of maple syrup per year.  It uses old-fashioned equipment and processes to produce the best flavor.  The Bragg syrup was tastier than the competition.  I bought some at a 10% discount.  At only 900 gallons per season I’m surprised there was any left.

Niagara Falls, New York

Not bad for a free side trip.  What can I say that the photos don’t?  Thanks to Kel for the tip.

American falls at left, Canadian falls in the distance. Click to enlarge.

American falls at left, Canadian falls in the distance. Click to enlarge.

American falls at left, Canadian falls in the distance.  Click to enlarge.

American falls at left, Canadian falls in the distance. Click to enlarge.

Rapids above American falls.  Click to enlarge.

Rapids above American falls. Click to enlarge.

Rapids above American falls.  Click to enlarge.

Rapids above American falls. Click to enlarge.

Top of American falls.  Click to enlarge.

Top of American falls. Click to enlarge.

No navigation systems here.  I get around the old fashioned way, with maps and directions from strangers.

No navigation systems here. I get around the old fashioned way, with maps and directions from strangers.  Click to enlarge.

Boston’s Freedom Trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Freedom Trail in downtown Boston will take you back in time to before our country was born.  You will see where Benjamin Franklin was baptized, Paul Revere’s home, the tavern where the Boston Tea Party was planned, and the Old North Church.  Those are a few of the many historical sites along the trail.  It took me well over 3 hours to see everything.  The visitor center was closed upon my arrival, and I spent 30 minutes wandering Boston Common and the adjacent streets looking for the trail.  Then a compassionate street vendor showed me the narrow cobblestone ribbon which marks the Freedom Trail throughout the city.

Old North Church where Paul Revere signaled his famous warning.

Old North Church where Paul Revere signaled his famous warning.  Click to enlarge.

Along the way I bought some grapes at the outdoor produce market.  A woman in front of me bought them, and then backed out at the last minute. I was starved for fruit and vegetables after several days on the road.  “I’ll take those,” I said.  “Thank you,” the vendor replied, sounding relieved.  “You tell ‘em all day (the prices) and they walk off.  They must be afraid something’s going to happen between here and there.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is difficult to explain the amazement I felt at actually visiting the sites that played a key role in the American Revolution.  Some of them, such as the Green Dragon Tavern and Old North Church, are still operating.  One doesn’t often see places dating back to the 1600’s in our relatively young country.  I felt proud of our founding fathers for who they were and what they did, especially while still under British rule.

After three nonstop hours on my feet I plopped down on a public bench.  A man saw me opening a map and offered directions.  He and his wife spent the next few minutes telling me the shortest way back to my parking garage.  I had been warned about the rudeness of Bostonians, but everyone I interacted with was friendly.   Boston’s streets run at a fast pace similar to that of New York.  Most people walked past the historical sites as if they were nothing, as I probably would if I lived there.  I wonder how many residents took the time to walk on the Freedom Trail at some point.