Friday, October 21, 2022

My Nine Day Bus Trip To Coastal Maine

Well I did it. I stepped way out of my comfort zone and took a nine day bus trip to Maine.  

I thought it was a trip for older retired people and it kind of was. The only trouble is that retired people or nearly retired people are sixty years old or younger. I was at least fifteen years older than a lot of people on the trip. As it turned out, we had a very lively bus with a lot of laughing and teasing. Stepping this far out of my comfort zone did not come easily for me, but this group was fun. I saw tons of interesting things I would never have seen. I knew my son-in-law’s parents and met another single woman, so I wasn't totally alone. Linda, the other single is a newly retired fifty eight year old who had tons of energy. She was flitting around taking in the whole experience. It was wonderful to watch, and even though I am not like that I am happy she was. I sat alone because of assigned seats, and I walked to and entered an assigned hotel room by myself which was a little creepy. I didn't mind rooming alone but I immediately locked myself in and didn't leave. Most conversations were pretty superficial and a little awkward at first. You only begin to know people when it was time to go home. I am very grateful to Beth, Wayne and Linda for having someone to eat with and have in my sights. I know the group leaders make sure everyone is accounted for, but it was nice to have someone else to keep track. A lot of people already knew each other and spent that time together which was a lot of fun for them and made the time pass quickly, but more than twenty hours of sitting on a bus is way too long for me. We stopped every two hours but it was at crowded truck stops and waysides. It was like a herd of cattle going out of the bus and back in. 

If you have the opportunity to either drive to Maine in the fall or go on a bus trip with a few friends, do it. It's fun to discuss the things in real time, so traveling alone isn't the best. Needless to say, I probably will not be doing this type of travel again. There were funny things that happened, sad things and everything in between. I started coughing on the 7th day. It was just a small cough. I thought it was from dehydration because even though we stopped often, I didn't drink enough. I was so afraid I had gotten Covid even though I had the two original covid shots and three boosters plus a flu shot. I felt like every time I coughed, people were cringing. When we returned to our starting point, I bolted off the bus and got to my car quickly. I didn't properly say goodbye to anyone. When I got home I tested myself.....Negative thank goodness. 

Now for the good part. We saw a lot of new things. I can't even begin to write about all of them, but here are some highlights. This may be a longer blog so beware.

The first and last days were spent traveling. It is a long long trip to Coastal Maine. It is more than 1200 miles. We stayed in Ohio for the first and the last night. The second day we stopped at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in Erie PA. It had environmental exhibits and a view of Lake Erie. So far there is very little fall color. This was the only stop on day 2 except for food and facilities. We spent the night in Auburn, NY.

Day 3 we made it to South Portland, Maine where we stayed for four days.  We saw a 5000 acre farm called Pineland Farms. My first reaction was why would they take a bunch of Wisconsin people, many of them farmers, to a farm, but it was pretty interesting. They had beautiful gardens. I had never seen an artichoke plant in bloom.

 They had National award winning Morgan horses. We gathered in an arena for a demonstration of these beautiful animals. 

From here we went on to the Boothbay Railway Village. It was a typical old village where they had some authentic buildings and a short rail ride. It was the kind of village you see in a lot of areas of the country. I didn't have to travel to Maine for this, but I did get to pretend drive an old firetruck.

Later that afternoon we went to Boothbay Harbor. It was a pretty little harbor town. Many of the shops were closed for the season, but the view was nice. We finally saw a little color in the trees.

It was a busy day, but it wasn't over.  From Boothbay we loaded on the bus and went to dinner. It was a traditional lobster dinner. I chose not to get the whole lobster. Since I'm not that fond of lobster I chose Lazy Lobster where they took the meat out of the shell and served it in a dish of butter. We were on a tour so we only had a limited choices. We saw a person order a Lobster Roll off the menu. It was about two feet long and cost $159. It was unbelievable. Several people asked this poor fellow if they could take a photo of his dinner, but I found this photo on the Taste of Maine home page.

After a good nights sleep more or less, it was time to board the bus for Kennebunkport Maine. At this point we had a tour guide get on the bus for a tour of Kennebunkport. Although it was hard to see at times and I really wasn't interested in their town government or who tried to sell his land to the school,  it was fun to see the Bush family estate on Walker's Point and where Barbara Bush used to walk her dog. This is George Bush’s house but other family members also have homes on this point.

We stopped at a Franciscan monastery for a walking tour. They still have services in the outdoor chapel. It did have a beautiful view from one of the trails and an interesting Caster Bean plant.

The tour ended in downtown Kennebunkport where we had lunch at one of the local restaurants. No lobster for me, but I did have delicious haddock. It's a very different menu from what we have here in Wisconsin. It was a pretty little town.


On the way back for dinner we briefly stopped at the Seashore Trolley Museum. It was a short ride on a authentically restored streetcar. There was a conductor who portrayed what it would have been like riding this trolley in the early days.

From here we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner and back to the hotel.  

The next morning the bus departed for downtown Portland Maine. Portland Maine is the largest city in Maine. It's population is under 70,000 which is smaller that many Wisconsin towns. The surrounding area does increase that number quite a bit. The first stop was an old mansion called Victoria Mansion. It was the only stop on the trip that required masks. That was a bit surprising to me. Covid is still a reality and was always at the back of my mind. The mansion was built before the Civil War and was gorgeous. It had beautiful woodwork and ornate ceilings. Most of the furnishings were as it was when the house was built.  The house even had a bathroom inside the house which was very unusual.

After we saw the mansion, we picked up another tour guide. The bus tour around the city was good.  Portland, Maine is a very welcoming city.  The tour ended with a trip to Fort William Park to see the Head Lighthouse. I really enjoyed this part of the trip. We hiked to the Atlantic Ocean to test the temperature of the water and look at rocks. I even saw a Loon in the ocean which surprised me.

Since we had time and didn't want to arrive too early for dinner, we went to Freeport, Maine. This is where the L.L. Bean flagship store is located. This store never closes. They are open 24 hours a day all year long. Freeport had some other nice stores including a Lindt chocolate store and a Patagonia outlet store. 

This day ended with a "dinner party" with eight tour groups.  There were a lot of people and it was very loud but the restaurant handled the buffet very efficiently.  The food was very good. There was a little dancing. Our group were the lively ones. The DJ said he never had such participation in the years he has been doing this. Day 7 in the books. It was time to begin our long journey home but not before my favorite part of the trip. We went to Niagara Falls and rode the Maid of the Mist.  The Maid of the Mist is a sightseeing boat that travels into the mist of the huge waterfall into Canada for a bit and returns to the dock. 

I really didn't know what I was up against. I just listened to the guide who suggested going to the front of the boat for a complete experience. It was a very windy day. The falls was gorgeous. The boat began moving forward and the waves got higher. The wind was blowing so hard our pink ponchos started to look like balloons. I should have moved back but by the time I decided to do it, I couldn't move. The wind and water were so powerful that I just needed to hang on for dear life. I didn't take my glasses off and was fortunate they didn't blow off. I got completely soaked with ice cold water, but I loved every minute of it.  Even a rainbow appeared as we were coming out of the mist.

We were lucky because next year the only way to access the falls will be from the Canada side.  They are going to close down the American side of falls to do some erosion control and upkeep.  The park will have a new Welcome Center next year as well.  It looks like a big casino on the Canada side.

It was a lot for only nine days. It wasn't what I expected. I thought it would be more country churches and beautiful fall colors. Looking back I am glad I experienced the coastal Maine. It will be last time I will have this opportunity. I was not sure if I would be comfortable out of my comfort zone, but I am sure some good memories will resurface often. My tiny cough turned into a full blown cough, cold or flu. I have tested negative for covid a few times so I don't think it's that. I will never know where I got it. It was either from exposure to this virus, stress or getting soaked to the skin at Niagara. It was short lived so I am grateful. As I have learned later, some people on the trip did test positive for covid.  I hope no one got very sick. It's a chance you take when traveling with that many people.