Jackie Zev

Friday, July 9, 1999

My parents were going to watch the boys while we were gone. Our flight from LA to Maine was a red-eye, so we took the boys over to their house and put them to bed. Then my Dad drove us to the airport. Sure made the good-byes easy. We took off on time and although I had a tough time getting comfortable, didn’t have too much trouble falling asleep. Slept about 3½ hours of the 4-hour flight, which was more than Marc got.

Saturday, July 10, 1999

Arrived in DC and switched to the flight to Portland without incident. Tried not to think about what time it was in California, but it was a little like not thinking about white elephants. Caught a little sleep on this flight too (tried to read my book, and it put me right to sleep!) All we had to do to pick up the car was to walk across the street. Small airports do have their advantages.

Marc drove to Rockland – good thing, as I fell asleep over and over in the car, much as I tried to stay awake. The drive took much longer than expected, due to heavy traffic on the road, especially at the Bath Bridge. They are in the process of replacing this bridge with a taller, wider one, and they are building the new one from the middle out! It was interesting. Good thing Marc was driving – I kept falling asleep.

We stopped along the way for lunch and arrived at the B&B around 2:30. One reason we chose this B&B was that it had just opened, and it had a very fresh, just redone feel to it. It was very nice. Its trademark was clearly the tassel; there were tassels everywhere, from the room keys to the furniture to the drapes. The owner, Cheryl, went on and on about the B&B, what they provided, maps, etc. All we could think was "where’s the bed?" We were shown to our room, (upgraded at no cost! – Why? I haven’t the faintest idea.) The room was very nice – a 4 poster canopy bed, a huge bathroom with a whirlpool tub.

We crashed for a couple of hours and then got up and walked around downtown Rockland. There was a Blues festival going on, but we passed on paying the $25 entrance fee. We could hear the performance fine without going in, so why pay? We had lobster for dinner that night – Deeelicious! After dinner, Rockland was pretty much shut down for the evening, so we headed back to the B&B. On the way we passed a pool house, so we stopped shot a couple of games of pool. When we got back to the B&B, we found that they were serving homemade rhubarb and strawberry pie, which was excellent. Then we played Quiddler, a new card game Marc had brought and went to bed.

Sunday, July 11, 1999

After breakfast at the B&B, we went to a lighthouse museum in Rockland, and learned all about lighthouses and sardines. Did you know that lighthouses use the same system for projecting light out over great distances that has been used for hundreds of years? The source of light has changed from burning oil to electric bulbs, but the Fresnel optics are the same.

After the lighthouse museum, we drove to the Rockland breakwater and walked out on it ½ mile to the lighthouse on the tip. We were surprised at how calm the ocean was, even on the ocean side of the breakwater. Next we went to Camden, a little town up the road which has either a more artist-y or more tourist-y feel to it, depending on how jaded you are. We had lunch there and looked at some shops. It rained on us, but not too bad.

After Camden, we drove to the top of Mt. Battie, a nearby mountain (a hill by California standards) with a great view of Rockland, Camden and Rockport harbors. Soon after we arrived, it started to pour. We hopped back in the car, and waited for the storm to pass. Sure enough, within 10-15 minutes, we were able to get out and walk around. It was a really nice day – pretty as can be and temperature in the 70s. It was fun to look out and see where it was raining elsewhere.

We came back to the B&B and Marc took a nap. When he woke up, we went to dinner. We went to a place called Millers because we had seen their ads for shipping lobster and we wanted to know what it cost. Shipping two 1¼ pound lobsters to LA would be a mere $65! We decided not to do it. We ordered lobster for dinner, but there were too many flies at Millers (outdoor seating only) so we took our dinners to go and drove down the road. We found a place where we could sit on these huge granite blocks and let our feet dangle a foot or two above the rocky beach, and look at the ocean. So we had a "picnic by the bay." A little crab (about 3-4 inches across) came out of the rocks below us. It was a perfect way to eat soft-shell lobster, because soft-shell lobsters have a lot of water in them and we could just pour the water out onto the rocks. We sat and ate and watched the sun go down.

We then drove to the Owl’s Head Lighthouse. We walked down the path to the lighthouse and when we got there we kicked ourselves for not bringing our camera, because the sunset was magnificent.

We went back to the B&B, ate cookies (Jackie) and Mocha cake (Marc), played more Quiddler and went to bed.

Monday, July 12, 1999

After breakfast at the B&B, we loaded the car and found the post office (to mail postcards) and the library (to get on the Internet.) After sending email to Jonathan and Benjamin, we set out for Bar Harbor. Searsport had an interesting sounding museum called the Penobscott Marine Museum. Expecting a museum about marine wildlife, we stopped there. Wrong! The Penobscott Historical Museum would be a better name. Still, it was very interesting to learn about the history of the area. They had a movie that sounded interesting, but wasn’t being shown until 1:30, so we caught a quick lunch and returned just in time for turned out to be a fascinating film. It was made in the 1920s and showed life on a square-rigged ship carrying cargo around Cape Horn – backwards, i.e. not in the usual direction (from Germany to Chile). It was an amazing film, with commentary by the author – added many years after the film was made, of course. In addition to artifacts from the 19th century (and photos) the museum included several buildings that showed how people lived – the rich people, anyway. It was clear that the area developed on the related trades of shipbuilding, commerce, fishing and lobstering. Now I don’t think shipbuilding exists anymore, commerce has been replaced by tourism, but lobstering is still a major source of income. Why people do it, I don’t know, because it’s a hard life. You have to check 300-400 traps a day, every day. This means you have to pull up a trap every 2-3 minutes, non-stop, all day long. I’ll take programming, any day! Of course, I did my share to help out the trade, by eating lobster every chance I got!

Anyway, after leaving the museum, we drove to Bar Harbor and checked into our B&B. This B&B was nice enough, but after the first one, it was a comedown. First of all, the innkeeper was very stone-faced. She clearly had disdain for tourists who wanted to do the classic touristy activities, which seemed like an odd attitude for an innkeeper. The room was tiny, as was the bathroom – clearly a converted attic. Rather than homemade pie and cookies after dinner, this B&B served sugar cookies and lemonade at 4 p.m. Not only did the first B&B make up the bed in the morning, they turned it down at night, exchanging the decorative pillows for functional ones, and left a silver tray with chocolate kisses. The second B&B didn’t turn down the bed, but it did have a pre-breakfast coffee service brought to your room. We didn’t appreciate this service, however, since we don’t drink coffee. This B&B did post the daily weather forecast for Bar Harbor (printed off the Internet), which was useful, if not always correct! Both innkeepers shared a tendency to go on and on and on when we just wanted to go to our rooms.

We hauled our bags up to our 3rd floor room, being careful to avoid the eye-level beam over the stairs. Marc wanted to go whale watching, so we set off in search of a good excursion. We explored some of the local shops and signed up for an 8:30 a.m. whale and puffin trip the next day. Then we went to dinner. Marc was lobstered out, so we decided to have Thai food instead. I ordered a seafood dish (which included lobster) and Marc ordered duck. Both were excellent. Unlike Rockland, Bar Harbor’s shops are open after dusk, so we went to see what they had to offer. There was a band playing tunes in a nearby square and the temperature was in the low 70’s, so the evening had a festive summer atmosphere.

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Tuesday morning, we had to be out of the B&B by 8:10, so they packed us a breakfast of yogurt, granola bars, bananas and crumbcake to go. We had been warned to dress warmly, but we hadn’t brought heavy jackets. I was wearing a T-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt and a windbreaker. Marc wore the same, except for the long-sleeved shirt. The day looked dreary, but we figured it would burn off soon. We got on the whale watching boat (a twin-hulled boat) and staked out seats inside. Shortly after we left, the dock, the captain reported that the puffin nesting site was fogged in, so we were going to look for whales first (usually they do it the other way around). We zoomed along, and man, was it cold! Even inside it was cold. However, once they spotted the first whale, and the boat slowed down, it was comfortable. Showed us how powerful wind-chill is!

We had and excellent day. We saw ~10 humpback whales including 2 mother and calf pairs and several that the guide knew by name. The whales did tail slaps, flipper slaps, headstands, and a breech or two (which we missed). We also saw a number of seals, both harbor and gray according to the guide, although they all looked the same to me. As long as they can tell themselves apart, right? The puffin site was still kind of foggy when we got there, which meant that the puffins often flew very close to the boat. (In foggy weather, they often mistake the boat for a rock until they get close.) We also saw terns, cormorants, and ducks (and probably other things too.)

When the trip was over, we couldn’t make a left onto the highway to go back to the B&B. The first convenient place to turn around turned out to be the Acadia Park Visitor Center, so we went up there and saw a movie about Acadia Park. Most of Mt. Desert Island (the island Bar Harbor is on) is part of Acadia National Park, along with part or all of most of the surrounding islands. Rockefeller liked a quiet carriage ride with no automobiles, so he built an extensive network of gravel "carriage roads" on the island. Cars are still not allowed on these roads and you can still take a carriage ride (we didn’t). After leaving the Visitor Center, we went back to the B&B and caught lunch at a local eatery. While we ate, it rained, so we decided to go for the (presumed) indoor activity of the Acadia Oceanarium.

The Oceanarium turned out to be a series of presentations. The first was a lobster museum, ending in a talk given by a lobsterman who was very good. We learned the difference between hard-shell and soft-shell lobster, what criteria force a lobsterman to throw back a lobster, how a lobster trap works, what a blue lobster is, and lots of other interesting stuff. For example, do you know what color a live lobster is? Red? – No, dark brown. They turn red when you cook them. Next, we went to their lobster hatchery for a fascinating look at the early life of a lobster. In the ocean, the early life of a lobster can be summed up in two words – "fish food!" Just hatched lobsters are smaller than (and greatly resemble) adult brine shrimp. The hatchery raises them until they are a whole ½ inch long (and actually resemble lobsters) and then they release them into the wild. Doing this increase their survival rate by a factor of 500. The hatchery doesn’t raise them to adulthood, because two lobsters can’t be raised together – they will eat each other.

When we left the hatchery, we were taken on a marsh walk (fortunately, it had mostly stopped raining!) where we were treated to a lesson on edible plants in a salt marsh, how to pick blueberries, and how to get the mosquitoes out of your swamp. (Put in a fish called a mummichug.) The last thing was a seal talk. At one point in time the Oceanarium was rehabilitating seals, but they don’t have any now.

After the Oceanarium, we drove back to the B&B, left the car there and walked across the sandbar to Bar Island. The sandbar is only uncovered during low tide. You have about a 4 hour window in which to walk to the island. We walked to the top of the island and found we could hear the evening band (which was evidently a nightly event) playing. It took away from the "you are away from it all in the middle of nature" feel, but added its own ambience. After leaving the island, we went to dinner at a place called Galyn’s. I had lobster (what else?), and Marc had flounder in horseradish sauce. The flounder was not as good as Marc had hoped, and the fumes from the street were annoying (we ate on the balcony). It was a lesson on the difference between California’s emissions standards and Maine’s! After dinner, we walked around town again.

Wednesday, July 14, 1999

Breakfast was watermelon gazpacho, which was good and a breakfast egg-bean-burrito-like thing, only the "burrito" was shaped like a tostada – what do Mainers know of Mexican food? Afterward, we went to the Bar Harbor library in search of an Internet connection. Since the library was open 10-7 and it was only 9:30, we decided to go on a bike ride and come back later.

We had already decided to rent bikes, hop on the tram to Southwest Harbor, and bike around a (relatively) flat loop (~8 miles.) We had a close call, when we discovered that, unlike the other trams, the one to Southwest Harbor only leaves 4 times a day. If we missed the 10:15 tram, the next one was at 1p.m.! But we made it by a whisker, and with our rented bikes on the front of the tram, off we went. As the tram climbed up and up and up the road leading to Southwest Harbor, we made a mental note NOT to miss the return tram! As we neared the tram stop that was clearly the top of the hill ("mountain" in Bar Harbor—talk!) we got off. The long (~2 mile) downhill into Southwest Harbor was a blast. When we got to the loop, we decided to take it counterclockwise. This turned out to be a fortuitous choice, placing most of the hilly part of the loop at the beginning, and some nice long downhills at the end.

Midway through the loop, we stopped at the Bass Harbor lighthouse, which is supposed to be a good place to watch the sunset. The lighthouse itself is unremarkable, but nice. We switched bikes, as the one Marc was riding had a nice padded seat with springs, but Jackie found the bike uncomfortable in spite of the seat, so we switched back. Next was another nice long downhill, ending in rocky coastline, where we stopped and got off our bikes to look around. Here we saw the first waves we had seen in Maine. We had begun to wonder if the names Pacific (peaceful) and Atlantic (who knows?) were backwards!

We continued on to Southwest Harbor and had lunch there. Then we biked over to the Southwest Harbor Oceanarium. This one is part of the one near Bar Harbor, and we had paid to get into it when we paid for the other one. They had a presentation involving a touch tank where we learned about sea potatoes (sea squirts), horseshoe crabs, moon snails, and hermit crabs. They also have a scallop tank and showed us how a scallop escapes from a starfish by touching a scallop with a starfish. The scallop shot across the tank in an instant. Then had lots of stuff to touch and try to identify by feel. They had a display on salt water that talked about how much salt and other stuff there is in a cubic mile of water. We would have liked to stay longer, but that tram was picking up at 3:15 and we were not going to risk missing it! It was right on time.

We returned the bikes and decided to drive to Thunderhole, a place where the waves hitting the rocks can produce very loud "booms" and sprays. We had been told that the best displays occur halfway between low and high tide, which would have been about 3p.m., but we figured that at 4:15, it would still be pretty good. The effect was OK, not spectacular, but enough to give you a good feel for what the really impressive displays would look like. We figured that you need an offshore storm for a really spectacular display. Next we drove to Jordan pond and Eagle Lake. Then we headed back because it was about 6 and we wanted to check our email and send a message to the boys – the library closed at 7.

When we got to the library, we found that it only had one terminal, and it was booked for the rest of the day and most of the next too! A 10:30 a.m. slot was open the next day, so we put our names down. This was annoying, because if we had had any inkling that getting on would be a problem, we could have made arrangements. Heck, even the Rockland library had two terminals! Oh well, nothing could be done, so we went to dinner at Poor Boy’s Gourmet Restaurant. I had (can you guess) lobster (I knew you could) and Marc had eggplant parmesan. When we were done, we walked around shops again and then went back to the B&B and called the boys. They were doing fine in our absence, although Jonathan, at least, seemed like he missed us. Benjamin didn’t, although it’s hard to determine from "Hi! <unintelligible> Bye!" which is his typical phone conversation these days. Little did we know!

Thursday, July 15, 1999

The next morning, we checked out and drove to Thunderhole again. The day before the tide had been going out, and we wanted to see if the display would be better with the tide coming in. NOPE! Substantially worse, in fact. The tide was higher this day than the previous. Perhaps that explained why the effect was less. Next we went to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest mountain around. (At 1500", it was a hill by California standards!) We didn’t stick around long, however, for 10:30 was rapidly approaching and I didn’t want to miss responding to Jonathan’s email (since we knew he had sent us some). Cadillac Mountain is really the place to start a visit to Bar Harbor, as it gives a wonderful view of all the surrounding Islands.

We got back to the library at 10:40, much to the disappointment of the 10 a.m. person who had hoped we wouldn’t show! Then I had trouble getting connected to the email server! But finally we read the email Jonathan had sent us and sent him email back. Next we went to this intriguing gallery that we had passed most every night, but had always been closed. It had this kinetic wooden sculpture that we knew was way beyond what we could afford. The gallery has lots of other neat art too – all with prices we weren’t willing to pay. Someday…

Next we headed out of town. When we got to a McDonald’s, we stopped for lunch. At McDonald’s! Well in Main, McDonald’s serves a lobster roll for $3.99. We were told that it was the cheapest lobster roll around, and pretty good too – we can verify that. Best item on McDonald’s menu. Then on to Bangor. We didn’t stop there, but pushed on to Augusta (the capitol.) Here, we stopped and went through the Historical Museum that is right next to the capitol building. If was interesting and introduced us to some of the trades we hadn’t learned about so far (shoemaking, wool cloth making, etc.)

Portland was next. We checked into the Doubletree Motel and got our cookies without incident. We gloried over our first King size bed in a week, and noted that they had a Jacuzzi. I was particularly eager to use the Jacuzzi, because I had been suffering from a painful shoulder ever since the first morning in Bar Harbor. It had gotten gradually better, with the help of frequent massages from Marc, but it still hurt. We decided first to go down to the waterfront, walk around the shops and have dinner. Dinner was at Café on the Wharf. We ordered lobster and Brie ravioli for an appetizer. Marc had trout stuffed with crabmeat and I had New Zealand lam baked in a mustard sauce. It was the best meal of the week (most expensive too!) After we got back to the hotel, Marc went to gas up the car, and I packed to come home. Marc came back with the sad news that the pool closed at 10 p.m. (it was just 10) and even if it were open, the Jacuzzi was drained. So I sadly packed away our bathing suits.

Friday, July 16, 1999

The next morning as we were leaving, I mentioned that we were disappointed that we couldn’t use the Jacuzzi the night before. Turned out the problem was a broken pipe that has to be repaired. I asked about their 100% satisfaction guarantee – or your money back. I was told that all she had to do was to say the word, and they would refund our money. We hesitated. It seemed like such a small disappointment – not worthy of refunding our money. On the other hand, if they want to refund our money for a small disappointment, who are we to say no? What would you have done? In the end we took the refund – but you can bet we will stay at Doubletree again! Little did we know that we were to have a much bigger disappointment.

I wasn’t willing to spend $20 for breakfast at the hotel, so we decided to go straight to the airport and just catch a muffin and some OJ there. We dropped off the car and got to the airline desk about an hour and 15 minutes before our flight, only to find out that it had just (and I mean JUST) taken off. They had moved the flight time up 1 hour and 20 minutes. It was 8:55 am and the next flight out of Portland was at 11:36 am to Chicago with a stop in Manchester (New Hampshire). From Chicago we could catch a flight to LA that arrived at 5:30 – almost 3 hours after our original flight!

Certainly, this wasn’t the end of the world, but it was particularly hard on Marc. Marc was going to travel to Dayton the very next morning on business, and was going to have very little time with his boys as it was – now he was going to have almost none. When the plane stopped in Manchester, I got off the plane to call my parents and let them know of the new flight info. The original plan had been for them to bring the boys to the airport and pick us up. But with the new arrival time falling during the height of rush hour, Dad suggested that a better plan would be for him to leave the boys at home. While this made sense logistically, it meant that Marc would not get to see them until at least 7 p.m. – a scant hour before bedtime. Now this was a disappointment worth getting a refund over! But our bad luck was not over yet!

We couldn’t even sit together on the flight, although we were one behind the other. We were in almost the next to last row on the flight to Chicago, which became significant when we got off, looked at the departure monitors, and next to our (3:30) flight from Chicago to LA, it said "6:10" We went to customer service, where there was already a long line of people from the flight we just got off of – people who had been seated ahead of us on the plane. We were told that the flight from LA that was to provide the plane had been cancelled and the replacement plane wouldn’t be available until 5:30 p.m. They would put us on standby on the 5:00 flight, but we shouldn’t hold our breath. Sure enough, we did not make standby for that flight. The standby list for the 5:00 flight was rolled over to the 6:00 flight, but since the 6:00 flight was overbooked (due to a plane change to a smaller plane), we had no realistic hope of making that flight. Our original flight was now scheduled to take off at 6:35, and there was also a 6:30 flight. So we figured that we would make it to LA between 8 and 8:30 on one of these flights.

We arranged for Marc’s mother to take the boys to our house and put them to bed, because otherwise it was going to be a VERY late night for them. Lo and behold, we made it onto the 6:00 flight. Turned out that the plane might have been smaller than the original, but it actually had more seats. Don’t ask. However the first thing I heard a flight attendant say when we got on board was "the mechanic’s already on board." This did not bode well for taking off on time. Sure enough, there was announcement after announcement about how it would only be a few minutes more. Finally, around 7:00, we took off. As far as we can tell, all three flights took off within 10 minutes of each other. We didn’t even let my parents know which flight we were on – it didn’t even matter. They picked us up without incident and we finally made it to our house, exhausted, around 10:30. The boys were asleep, and we were happy that we hadn’t tried to keep them up.

Saturday, Sunday, July 17-18, 1999

The next morning was nice – seeing them all excited to see us. But the time to take Marc to the airport came all too quickly. We all drove him to the airport, to spend a little more time together. After he got on the plane, I said, "Come on, let’s go find airplanes!" To which Benjamin replied, "No! Go find Daddy!" How to break your heart! We watched his plane take off, and then ate lunch at the airport (McDonald’s, of course). We didn’t do much that weekend – swam, played, and just hung out together.


Maine was wonderful, and I had a great time on vacation. But there has been one unpleasant side effect. Prior to our going on vacation, when I left for work in the morning, I would tell Benjamin that I was leaving, and he would say "Bye!" or "See you later, alligator" and happily go on playing. Now, he cries. Nothing like a little guilt to start your morning.

So that’s what we did, but what did we think? We were captivated by Maine’s beauty. I don’t know what it’s like in winter, but summers are wonderful. I would like to have a vacation home there. The weather was a perfect mid-70s the entire time we were there, although rumor has it that it turned hot after we left. We loved learning about lighthouses, lobsters, and ships. The whole place has a very romantic feel to it, from the lighthouses to the carriage roads, from the island that you can only walk to during 4 hours of the day to the mountain top where you can see for miles. Everywhere there are reminders of Maine’s history, in a way you don’t find in LA – partly because I don’t think LA has the kind of intense history that Maine has. We were moved, we were delighted, we were awed. You should go and see for yourself. We will go again. But, next time, we will take the kids.

Hope all your vacations are just as good!