Acadian Nature Cruise

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With water all around Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, it would be a shame not to actually get on it.  This we did with Acadian Nature Cruises, one of a number of tours that send boats out several times each day.  We took the 4:00 p.m. cruise, which is 1.5 hours rather than the two hour cruises at other times of the day.  First, of course, you get a view of Bar Harbor from… the harbor.  It’s not so exciting to see, but that’s what digital processing is for.  See?  Much more dramatic.

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The cruise is on a double decker boat with bench seating.  The host stands at the top of the stairs and narrates almost constantly throughout the tour, starting with the history of the town and the influx of the wealthy.  A tour group occupied the majority of the boat, and we were fortunate to find a spot on the top right side, which was recommended by others on TripAdvisor.  This wasn’t critical, but did offer a better view of the “cottages” which dot the coastline which were on the right, oops, starboard side.  As a positive note, it gets cold on the water, and they do provide some loaner blankets. 

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Those “cottages” were said to have, by definition, at least 35 rooms, but in any case, they’re large enough, with one staffed by 14 servants in its gloried past.  The names associated with the cottages include the Campbell’s soup heir,  Mrs. John Ascot (who married at age 18 and whose wealthy husband didn’t survive the honeymoon – on the Titanic, someone else who didn’t survive a Titanic journey, the Macy’s family, Bill Ruger of Ruger Firearms,JP Morgan’s descendants, and Nelson Rockefeller.  Rockefeller is credited with ceding much of his property and twisting the arms of his wealthy neighbors to likewise donate to form what is now Acadian National Park.

I forget which house belonged to whom, but one of the stories told was that one these had been used for the exterior shots of show, “Dark Shadows.”  The internet, the authority that it is, repeatedly points to Seaview Terrace/Carey Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for that honor.  A boat ride shouldn’t require Mythbusters, but in any case, the houses appear very grand.

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There were many more cottages, but a fire in 1947 destroyed most as well as virgin forests.  Elsewhere, if you have read my prior post, there’s fog about, making or breaking views and photos.

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Below is Egg Rock Lighthouse, located on Egg Rock island at the entrance to Frenchman’s Bay.

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Fifteen minutes later, this is Egg Rock Lighthouse:

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No fog.  In any case, during that 15 minutes, we camped at a small rock island and snapped photos of seals.

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Then it was off around the Porcupine Islands, seeing what there is to see.  Like this rock face:

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Click on the photo above then look in the narrow gap.  Rock.  Face.  My opinion.  Here, let me help.

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In any case, bald eagles are on the scheduled rounds.  A couple, at least, are trained.  See a boat approaching?  Head for it.

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… and wait for someone to toss a fish to the side of the boat. 

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Three solid meals in a day.  And, if eagle faces and rock faces aren’t enough, there’s dog faces.

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And, if he doesn’t look like a happy dog, consider the unhappy faces of the lobsters.  It’s hard to see without clicking on the picture below, but many, many lobsters are harvested here.  Each buoy has a color code for its owner, and anyone messing with them risk expulsion from the island and having to eat shrimp.  Seriously, these lobsters have no choice but to wander from trap to trap.

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All in all, it was an informational and enjoyable trip.

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Acadia National Park

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Traveling to Maine, I wasn’t really looking for a National Park, or even a State one.  I had been thinking a little wandering around, taking some photos, kayaking if weather permits.  Of course, all that is doable in a park as well.   The park was first established as Lafayette National Park, and it is said that an adjacent landowner with significant acreage would be willing to donate her land only if the property was renamed.  So, instead, it’s name is derived from the French colony of Acadia which included Maine.  You take the French heritage, you move some of the residents to Louisiana, and you get Cajuns.  So it is said.

The first thing you should do when you enter a National Park is buy a pass.  $25.  Then you have choices.  Drive, hike, or ride bicycles.  If you’re there for a day with a pending boat ride at 4 in the afternoon, you opt for the car.  There’s a lot to be seen and a lot of driving to get that done.  Perhaps the first thing you’ll want to do is drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast and the subject of the first rays of sunshine to strike the U.S. each day (weather permitting).  The view, towards Bar Harbor.

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The trails are (reportedly) marked by cairns, small stacks of rock to guide hikers along their way.   Otherwise, visitors seem to like stacking their own Ebenezers (standing stones), perhaps in search of something mystical or penance for that Coke can they threw out the car window when they were a kid.  We saw it in the Nevada desert and we found them again, cluttering the landscape.

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Regardless, it’s a great view, but lacking the majesty of major mountain ranges.  It is, though, a great spot to observe the fog.  Driving into Maine at night, it’s hard not to think of Steven King, their creepiest resident.  Very dark, the hint of trees along the highways, warning signs for moose… And, in the morning, you awake to find the sun, drive a short distance to find yourself in the fog, and then out again.  It’s gone, right?  Wrong.  There’s something about the area that protects the fog as it patrols the park and nearby islands throughout the day. Maybe you’re enjoying lunch (both the food and a fine Maine Brewing beer of the same name) with a “popover” (a muffin that is not content to stay in the tin), enjoying the scenic view from the restaurant overlooking Jordan Pond. 

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Make a little conversation, turn around, and…

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Fog.  Later, maybe you’re driving around the Northeast Harbor (located essentially due South on the island).  Perty, ain’t it?

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You drive around to the opposite side of the harbor within 5-10 minutes, where the green trees are in the picture above, look back and…

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It’s a living thing.  Stephen King made a fortune off of it.  Whatever, it’s off to Sand Beach, the only real swimming hole as other areas don’t allow sand to accumulate.

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Shorts, okay.  But I think this fellow actually got in the water (I risked a finger in the liquid ice), and he came prepared to thaw.  Maine folks are made of tough stock.  Still, it’s a day at the beach.

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Obligatory rocky Maine coast with fog:

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And then there’s Thunder Hole (click the link for pictures) which is sort of the marketing photo for the area.  Like the walk to Bar Island, you have to time this right as well.  We didn’t.

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But, keep looking, because it’s pretty clear that the next postcard worthy view is right around the corner, fog permitting.

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All in all, visiting this in a day is tiring.  That’s no surprise, really.  I’d rather arrive a month earlier, spend a few days, hike some trails and paddle in a kayak around the place.  Less seeing, more doing.

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Bar Harbor, Maine

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Given an opportunity for a weekend excursion while I was in New England, I gathered my wife at the Boston airport and my daughter in Cambridge for a short little trip.  When you look at a map, Bar Harbor doesn’t seem to be that far from Boston, especially when you had also looked at Portland and juxtapose the two mentally in your mind.  Portland, I now know, I a very nice town, but when I thought of going to a State that I had never visited, Bar Harbor was what came to mind.  Still does.  Only, it was a four hour drive once we were free of the BFG – Boston’s Friday Gridlock.

I don’t recall the last time I concerned myself with a late arrival at a hotel.  The places I stay at on business have reception desks that are staffed around the clock.  After the lengthy haul from Boston, we arrived around 11:30 p.m. to find our room keys in an envelope in a box nailed to the front door of the office.  Well, that’s convenient.  And also very welcome as there was no delay in getting to bed.  Maine apparently traded roadside billboards for toll booths, which were the only distraction on a highway adorned with nothing but the vague outline of trees under a black sky.  Yawn.

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For those looking for travel tips, we stayed at the Best Western, which was several miles from Bar Harbor.  It was rated highly on TripAdvisor.  There were numerous Bed & Breakfasts in Bar Harbor, and my skittishness about staying in what we would term a “motor lodge” in the south was swayed by the price differential.  It’s been 15 years or more since I stayed at a motel where you park in front of your door.  The thing is, in Maine, all those motels appear to be well maintained and occupied by tourists.  I’m more accustomed to seeing them abandoned, run down, and/or with monthly rentals available.  We scored a very nice complimentary breakfast and began our day.  First, of course, was Bar Harbor.

Before reaching the town proper, we parked as we observed that the “land bridge” to Bar Island was available.  For several hours between tides, you can walk from Bar Harbor to Bar Island.  We didn’t really do that.  We ventured far enough to realize that there was really nothing we wanted to see on the island, so appreciated the puddled terrain littered with stones and shells then headed back. 

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Some choose to drive to Bar Island, with tales being told of hiking on the island and finding their vehicle experiencing the tide.  Oops.

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The town itself is a small grid of stores and restaurants, deceptively larger than it at first seems.  It’s not as a fetching picturesque, postcard perfect  waterfront as one might hope.  On the other hand, my limited introduction to Bar Harbor does not really point  towards a fishing or commercial heritage but rather one quickly associated with inspiration for artists and a retreat for the extremely wealthy.  While lobsters seem to be the focus of everyone with eating distance, it was known by its original Wabanaki Indians as the clam-gathering place.  To my observation, it’s a regular insulated place regarding seafood options, essentially lobster and haddock.  Our family, for one, wasn’t attracted by the idea of fresh lobster, which we were probably wise not to mention for offending… everyone.

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Bar Harbor is, technically, on an island.  You cross over a small bridge where some inches of seawater pass underneath, so it’s a separate land mass. *cough*.  The island is named Mount Desert Island, from its European discoverer who regarded it an “island of barren mountains.”  That’s not exactly what I imagined when headed to the rocky coast of the northeastern U.S.  But that’s what it is.

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Here’s a view of Bar Island from a boat, attractive in its way but without seaside wonderment, at least under clouded skies.

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If I visited again, I’d rent bikes in Bar Harbor and ride them through the flatter sections of Acadia National Park, not to mention plan a longer trip for further exploration and kayaking.  It’s a nice place and a worthwhile getaway.

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Huh. Stepwells.

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This link was posted by my favorite fantasy author, Patrick Rothfuss, who admitted to learning something new.  I have no doubt it will inspire some scene in one of his future works. 

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The picture should invite further exploration, I think. 

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Maine Brewing Company

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In driving down the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Portland, and beyond, I had this brewery on my list of possibilities, depending on other stops and the overall progress being made towards our destination.  Interestingly enough, while Maine has ample natural beauty, US 1, which in a general sense follows the Maine coastline, doesn’t explode with photographic opportunities.  Hence, time for a stop.

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There are so many breweries that make good beer that it hardly matters where one stops anymore.  There’s always something decent if not very good.  Still, Maine Brewing has established a reputation  that is on average significantly better than most, and I’d liked the ones I had tasted so far.

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The facility appears new, and it’s surprisingly accessible to Hwy 1 and I-295.  It’s ridiculously easy to get to.  They don’t offer tours, so the tasting room is really as much as you’ll see, except they kindly provide a window looking into their production space.

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I keep taking pictures or production spaces… why?  Maybe you haven’t seen one before.  In any case, it looked, as you can see, bright and clean.  Check.  In the absence of a tour, the owners still put their stamp on the place.

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For all of that, I have to wonder whether any beer drinkers choose their beers based on environmental commitments.  Most breweries are environmentally sensitive, but they may not directly advertise it.  Being a good steward doesn’t make a better product though, so I’ll have to take a raincheck on whether the self-promotion yields tangible results.  In any case, as their saying goes, they “do what’s right,” especially where it matters.  Nice seating area, simple menu, polite staff (the one on the right is from Woodstock, GA, filed in the “it’s a small world” category.)  Maybe it was the employee benefits that called him 1200 miles away.

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In any case, time was pressing, so… three samples, two for me and one for my daughter (less a sip).  Included were Peeper Ale and Another One IPA.  They were both good, with Peeper edging the IPA surprisingly.  The best, though was Mean Old Tom stout, which isn’t a favorite style for me.  It should also be stated that I had their Lunch IPA the day prior which surpassed this grouping significantly.

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I didn’t see a menu, but if I had an afternoon to spend on a fine fall day, I think the pretzels would be a must.  I could take a moment and wonder what it might be like to live near a brewery like this, absent the traffic snarls of the big city and within easy reach.  But I already have a fine nearby brewery and… it goes to show that these are much more enjoyable visits with someone you know.  (Thanks, kiddo.)

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Regrettably, their Dinner IPA, which scores 100 on Beer Advocate, is brewed quarterly and only served on-site.  A month later, and I might have scored.

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Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

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Two years ago, Isbell’s Southeastern reflected maturity in his song craft and a fresh, sober perspective on things that matter.  After that largely acoustic toned album, he returns with Something More Than Free accompanied by his backing band, the 400 Unit.  The songs aJason Isbell Something More than free reviewre just as lyrically deep, but not as consistently heart wrenching.  There’s no “Elephant,” here, which is good – that one has been done.  There’s little bright and positive either, but the wider sonic palette elevates the experience.  It seems he’s become not only a more consistent lyricist, but a better band lander and even a better singer. 

His personal demons are less apparent here, but the character sketches of people in small towns, bad luck, and underpaying jobs are quite enough.  The album’s centerpiece is probably “Children of Children,” a look at the lost years of freedom and growth that teenage mothers face.  It’s not judgmental, but observational.  It’s also the finest contribution his band has made to elevate one of his songs, particularly the violin.  Here’s some lyrical snippets:

When I get home from work
I'll wrestle off my clothes
And leave em right inside the front door
Cause nobody's home to know

You see a hammer finds a nail
And a freight train needs the rails
And I’m doin’ what I’m on this earth to do

And I don’t think on why I’m here where it hurts
I’m just lucky to have the work
Sunday morning I’m too tried to go to church
But I thank God for the work

You and I were almost nothing
Pray to God that God was bluffing
17 ain’t old enough to reason with the pain
How could we expect the two to stay in love
When nether knew the meaning of
The difference between the sacred and profane

There’s a few to many years on this hotel
She used to be a beauty you can tell
The lights down in the lobby they don’t shine
They just flicker while the elevator winds

And the couple in the corner of the bar
Have traveled light and clearly traveled far
She’s got nothing left to learn about his heart
They’re sitting there a thousand miles apart

The doctor said Daddy wouldn’t make it a year
But the holidays are over and he’s still here
How long can they keep you in the ICU? 
Veins through the skin like a faded tattoo

Was a tough state trooper ‘til a decade back
When that girl who wasn’t Mama caused his heart attack
He didn’t care about us when he was walking around
Just pulling women over in a speed trap town

But it never did occur to me leave ‘til tonight
When I realized he’ll never be alright
Sign my name and say my last goodbye, then decide
That there’s nothing here that can’t be left behind

Overall, it’s not an album that builds one up or casts one down.  There are plenty who memorize his lyrics and recite them like an anthem, but it’s best suited to serious listening – and reflections of where one’s life fits, or doesn’t fit, within the frame.

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DragonCon 2015–Costumes

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Once again we skipped the Dragon*Con parade, opting for a theoretically less occupied Vendor’s mart.  Both were relocated from the previous year including a longer route and larger space, respectively.  Both are miserable.  I suppose we’ll move to Sundays for the Vendors area, as it was less crowded then.  Other than attending panels, what is left is to find the many costumed attendees, when available between the pushing and shoving of the most popular (read: oversold) day of the Con.  Anyway, here’s my favorite, Golden Age Flash.  Simple, classic lines, with a touch of enthusiasm.DCon2015-193

I attended the “Arrow” panel, and those words are chosen appropriately.  I can say that I saw Stephen Amell, the actor who plays Arrow, but is it really worth saying that from this distance?

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So, standing in line for an hour and a half for that placement is possibly a rant, but it’s also the reason I was able to stand in one place and take pictures, namely to the many who gathered in line after me and who were pointed “that way, down the steps, around the corner, to the end of the “Arrow” line.”  This volunteer was not particularly adept at it, and everyone around me agreed that the official line somehow got much, much longer than when we entered it.   Rant over.DCon2015-130

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Here’s some photos from the steps.  First, a massive Chewbacca, who had no problems handling the stairs.  And at least he has a storm trooper to fall on for cushioning

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Some might say Thor.  I say it’s Aragorn dressed like Thor as a disguise from Orcs.  So, Arathor.  Or, Thoragorn.

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Don’t know the character, but very well done.

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Not everyone can pull off wearing Capt. James T. Kirk’s alternate green tunic.  In fact, no one can.

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Sometimes, amid the gazillion people brushing by, you can’t get that perfect photo.  And other times, you just barely wing it, shooting from the hip.  On an escalator.

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The real McCoy. Err, Scotty.

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Yes indeed.

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These are the rest of 2015’s batch of costumes are at Flickr.

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