How it all began
I was raised back east in Pennsylvania, just west of Harrisburg in the small town of Mechanicsburg. I had seen the fall colors of the rolling hillsides and the Appalachian Mountains. I had been stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts for about seven months while attending my advanced individual training at this small Army Intelligence school. So I had seen something of Boston and New England, but never in the fall with all the fall colors.
While we were living in West Yellowstone, we became friends with an older couple, Bob and Lois McCray. They owned and operated a small motel. One day he packed a suitcase for himself and one for his wife. After work, just before winter, he came home and asked his wife if she would like to go and have some lobster. She said, "You bet!" He said, "Ok, let's go!" They headed to the car and got in and he started driving. As it became apparent that they were not going to any local restaurant, she asked him where they were going, he said, "To Maine to get some lobster." She said, "But I am not packed." He said, "I did that for you." She smiled and said, "Oh Boy!" And they were on their way. They told me all about their trip and the fun they had and the lobster they ate.
I went home that evening and told Carlene about Bob and Lois and their trip. She just laughed and said how cool that was. So I told her not to be surprised if someday I asked her if she wanted to go for lobster.
Over the past few years, we moved from West Yellowstone, Montana to Gardiner, Montana and now live in Rexburg, Idaho. We had just moved to Rexburg when Carlene mentioned that she would like to go for lobster - Fall Colors, New England, the McCray's, Lobster! Well, I can take a subtle hint just like the next guy, so I said, "Let's do it."
The local school was having a fall break for about eleven days for the potato harvest. This is something that local schools have done for years, so that freed up Rachel, our fifteen year old daughter.
Carlene's mother (Renee) had mentioned to her that she really enjoyed Maine when she visited there for a grandson's wedding. She said she would love to go back and visit, but never thought that she would have the chance. So, we invited her to go along. The planning and reservations began.
Let the fun begin ~ We're off
We packed all we could on Thursday and finished on Friday morning. Rachel came home from school and we headed out for lunch and then down to Utah to visit our children. We stayed with them Friday night and then headed to Sandy, Utah to put together Renee's walker, and pack her suitcases in the car.
We had supper and then headed to the airport for the first leg of our flight to Boston. We flew on US Airways from Salt Lake City, Utah to Phoenix, Arizona and then from there to Boston, Massachusetts. The flight pulled away from the gate on time and we were in line and off as soon as they gave the pilot clearance.
We had a short layover in Phoenix. It was a nice, warm night, so not a lot to see from the air. Rachel had never flown, so we let her sit by the window on all flights. We loaded up at about 9:00 PM and backed out of the gate on time. We then sat and waited for clearance which took a little while.
Once in the air we did okay. We were sitting in the back of the plane, so it was a little noisy and we were by the restrooms so we had a lot of traffic. Rachel and I watched Oceans13 while Carlene and Renee tried to sleep. We all got a few cat naps but nothing like we had planned. We thought we would sleep and get in refreshed and ready to go at 5:00 AM in Boston. We arrived, but were not rested but the excitement gave us the adrenalin to keep moving.
All our luggage made it to Boston with us. So we grabbed the luggage and headed to Alamo Car Rental for our vehicle. We had the place to ourselves so it was a great time to get into Logan and pick up luggage and a car. They did not have the type of vehicle we had reserved, so they offered us a Chevrolet mini van. I was worried about mom having to step up in the van but the rental person told us that it wasn't too high. I believed her, but it was a climb for mom and we had to do a little helping along the way. For those who haven't rented a vehicle, please be aware that you have to do a good look see for any damage and report it all before you leave the rental lot. We did not know this and no one told us or asked us about it. The van had some scrape marks from luggage being dragged over it, a small ding on the left side of the rear bumper and a broken key. We wrote them down on our agreement and told the clerk when we turned the vehicle in. That is when we were told that we should of done that before we left. Live and learn, won't do that again. No problems so far, but we will see what comes down the pike.
I remembered how hard it was to get around in Boston, so I did some checking and pricing on vehicle Global Positioning Systems (GPS). We decided to buy a Megellan Maestro 4040. It was a lifesaver to say the least. The Megellan helped us throughout the trip and I would never leave home without it, on a road trip that is. It saved our bacon, a lot of time, stress and really made our trip that much easier.
We drove from Boston along the coast, such as it was, to our first stopping point of Ogunquit, Maine. We pulled into town, drove around a little and headed to the beach. They have a beautiful sandy beach there. Rachel saw the Atlantic Ocean in person for the first time. We all walked down and put our hands in the cold water and then started looking at the clam shells along the beach. The weather was perfect in the mid to high 70's and clear skies. There were a few folks out surfing, in wet suits of course.
As we were heading back to the parking lot, our friends Carolyn and Victor called and said they were at our hotel. We headed there to meet them and another friend, Skeets. They were holding the large loon flag as we pulled in the parking lot. It was fun to see them again and to spend a few days together on our first New England trip. Skeets was from Massachusetts and Carolyn and Victor were from Connecticut. We chatted for a little while and then headed for a short hike on the Marginal Way. This was a very nice level ocean shoreline hike.
The Marginal Way is a great hike for sandy and rocky beach viewing, bird and boat watching and just enjoying the area. Great fun and great hike. The leaves were just beginning to change on the vegetation along the way.
We hiked from Ogunquit to the Perkins Cove Area (end of the trail) and had a little lunch at Barnacle Billy's. After watching some boats come into the harbor and the drawbridge, Carlene, Carolyn, Victor, Skeets and I hiked back to the trail head and picked up the cars and drove back to pick up mom and Rachel.
We drove to the Cape Neddick Lighthouse known as "The Nubble". It is a beautiful lighthouse on a tiny island. The folks who live there get back and forth to the mainland via boat or a gondola. The lighthouse was established in 1879 and automated in 1987. The tower height is 41 feet and the original optic was fourth-order fresnel. This was our first lighthouse and it was beautiful in a fantastic setting.
We were pretty tired by now and it was time to check in to our hotel, so we split up. Skeets headed back home as he had to work on Monday and Victor and Carolyn headed to their hotel in Wells, Maine. We checked in and went to our room which would be our home for the next two days. We put our bags in the room and hit the beds.
When we woke, about 6:00 PM, we tried to call Carolyn and Victor but the phone coverage was pretty poor. We left a voice mail as we were trying to have supper together. We both ended up leaving voice mails to each other. Carolyn told us of a nice restaurant called the Lobster Pound at the edge of town so we headed there. They had just pulled out as we pulled in and we missed each other. Carlene and I had a great lobster dinner. We had to learn how to eat steamers (boiled clams) and lobster. Restaurant was great, waitress was great and food was great. Very nice way to end our first day of our trip.
We went back to the hotel. I checked email and posted a little first day report on the chat page on the hotel laptop.
Carlene and I were up early and went for a swim. We then woke up Rachel and mom for breakfast at 8:00 AM. We were to meet Carolyn and Victor at 9:00 AM at their hotel in Wells.
We left the hotel and headed north to Kennebunk, Maine. On the way we saw a flock of wild turkeys just as we turned east and just before the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. That was a nice sighting and another first for us.
We then headed into Kennebunkport, Maine to see the beautiful New England homes and the Bush estate. All of it was beautiful and getting very colorful with the fall leaves. We headed back for a hike at Rachel Carson's Refuge. Another beautiful day for a hike with warm tee shirt weather and lots of colors on the ferns and other under growth. Mom made it fine. The hike was a little over a mile and fairly level. Mom was able to take it easy and rest on the benches or her walker. This is a great little area that gave us an appreciation for the relationship of the ocean and the wet lands and all the delicate interactions.
Next we headed to Freeport to see the LL Bean main Maine store and do a little window shopping. There were still plenty of folks visiting the area. We had lunch here and then we headed north to Bowdoin College located in Brunswick, Maine. Carolyn and Victor's son went to Bowdoin and loved it. Now this was a quaint New England town with a beautiful small campus. We walked the campus and enjoyed just being there with friends in such beautiful weather and circumstances.
York was our destination for a seafood supper at the Weathervane Seafood Restaurant. We had great food and fun visiting with Victor and Carolyn. Very nice evening. We drove over to The Nubble to see it working as we were told it was a working lighthouse but we did not see it in action. Bummer! We headed back to our hotel room in Ogunquit to rest up for the coming day. Victor and Carolyn had to leave us as they had other commitments. They were great guides and friends to visit and travel with.
We were up and running the next day by 8:00 AM. We had breakfast and checked out of the hotel and headed north to Acadia National Park via Highway 1. It looks like a nice coastal route, but was a slow go with all the small towns. With all the trees and vegetation, we were not seeing the ocean or seashore, so we decided to head for the freeway and the fastest route. We toured the waterfront area of Portland, Maine and then headed to Acadia via I-95.
We had a nice inland drive through Maine. Beautiful country and a lot of wetlands. We kept our eye out for moose and other wildlife along the way. We saw plenty of waterfowl, but no moose.
We arrived at Acadia about 4:00 PM and turned left for the loop drive around the park and to Cadillac Mountain (the highest point on the eastern seacoast). We came up to one large pullout on the left side that had a great ocean view of islands, a cruise liner, boats and Bar Harbor. We stopped and took pictures and read the road side information about the park and bay. Very cool. We made our way to Cadillac Mountain and just as we got there the weather started to change with a little wind coming in off the ocean and some fog blowing in. We were able to see the coastal waters and bays and get another view of the liner coming into port. There was a pretty good crowd of visitors and tours buses in the park.
We then headed to Bar Harbor, Maine to find our hotel, check in and find a place for supper. Once we were settled in, we headed for supper. There was quite a crowd at Bar Harbor so it was hard finding parking. We finally parked down by the harbor. There was a very large tall ship docked there. We took pictures and talked to the captain. It was a brand new ship. He had gone to Holland to take possession of the ship for the owner. They sailed to Spain and then were involved in the Americas Cup and now they were put to port in Bar Harbor. The ship took two and a half years to build and was a custom build. The haul was of aluminum and carbon fiber. One guy stated that the front mast cost over a million just for that. It was a sweet boat. As we were walking up the dock to land someone asked about the boat. Mom told them it was a great boat, it was made of aluminum siding and carbon something. We all had a good laugh at the aluminum siding ship.
It was now time for supper, so we found a nice seafood restaurant and settled in for a grand seafood dinner. We just chatted about the things we had seen so far and where we wanted to visit tomorrow. We headed back to the hotel and bed.
We awoke to New England coastal fog. It was cool to see it come in in sheets or waves. It was just like we were in the clouds. We drove into Bar Harbor for breakfast and a day time look at the harbor. It was interesting to see it in the fog. We had breakfast at a nice little cafe and then decided that we would drive the perimeter of the islands and then head towards Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We headed to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and stopped there to enjoy it and take some pictures. It was still foggy and we could see the dim light and hear the warning bell ringing to warn ships and boats. Very cool!
We then drove along the coast around the island. There were a few areas with ocean views, but most of the road was in thick Maine tree growth and vegetation. Such was the rest of our drive as we took the back roads for a while to see the country side. We drove through beautiful rolling hills or trees turning colors and small New England towns.
We arrived at Portsmouth at dark and checked in to our hotel and headed out to find our supper. We had another seafood diner and great time visiting. The restaurant served home cooked meals and the food was great. Then back to the hotel and bed.
We decided to head to Plymouth, Massachusetts to see Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II and all the other sights we could take in. The town is a lot bigger than we had pictured in our minds, but that was okay. There where a lot of bus tours there at this time. We saw and took pictures of the Mayflower and walked along the oceanside to Plymouth Rock. We also went to the William Bradford (the first governor of Maine) memorial there in the same area. Carlene's mother's family is related to Bradford, so that was kind of neat to see it and take their pictures with him.
We then decided to drive to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We had heard so much about this area all our lives and decided it was time to see what all the talk was about. We drove along the coast and as it was getting late we pulled into Hyannis, Massachusetts. We had heard so much about Hyannisport, that we thought it would be great to stay there and explore. We pulled into the chamber of commerce and gathered info on the area and lodging. We found a nice hotel and headed there to check in. Mom and Rachel were tired, so Carlene and I decided we would take a little walk in downtown Hyannis. What a great little town, a nice sidewalk community with shops and restaurants and folks singing on the sidewalk. We went into the John F. Kennedy Museum and just enjoyed the area.
We had planned the day before to go on a whale watching tour in New Hampshire, but in October, they cut back their schedule and we were there on the wrong day, so we asked at the Hyannis chamber if there were any whale watching tours. They stated that there were and that they left from Barnstable Harbor right by Hyannis. When we were at the hotel we called and got information on the tour that was leaving the next day at noon. We were excited. We will have to go back in summer as Carlene really wants to see the puffins and seals. We will do that someday.
Anyhow, we returned from our walk and gathered up Rachel and mom and walked across the street for a nice supper. Then it was off to bed for some good rest for the coming day.
We slept in and had a continental breakfast at the hotel and just relaxed a little from our running. We then decided to drive around Hyannis and see the sights. Mom's legs were getting a little tired, so this was the best way to see the local area.
At about 11:00 AM we picked up our tickets for the whale watching tour. We then went for a short shore drive before returning for our tour. This sure is a beautiful area and the folks there were very nice.
We boarded the ship at 11:45 AM and at 12:00 PM we were headed out to sea. It was still a little foggy, but it was burning off with the noon sun. We had a great view of the coastal areas, shores, beaches, grasses, homes, lighthouses, boats. It was just great and we just drank it all in as another first for us. Our ship was a large ship that could hold up to 150 people. It had six large diesel jet engines that could get us quickly to the whale watching area.
It took about an hour to get to the area where the whales are known to feed. This area is called, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. When we arrived there was a ship watching some whales. We sallied up and joined in. The other ship left us to enjoy as they headed to other areas. It might of had something to do with the pirate flag we were flying. Only kidding!
We had three humpback whales to watch at our first stop (our short whale watching video). Two adult whales and one whale calf. Our naturalist could identify some of the whales by name by the markings on the underside of their tails (the markings on the tails are just as unique as our finger prints). The mother whale's name was Reflection and the other two identifiable whales were Apex and Circus . We watched and filmed as our naturalist told us all about the area and whales in the Atlantic Ocean. Very cool. After awhile we left the whales and headed to another area. Just as we were leaving and just behind the boat the two adult whales breached (leapt from the water). That was so cool to see, but I was not prepared for it and it happened so fast that I did not get to film it.
We then slowly headed to other areas in this sanctuary looking for whales and other sea life. We saw two dolphins, and one very cool ocean sunfish that just swam along our ship. We saw four more humpback whales, two of which was identified by tail markings. We had a great time learning about the feeding bank, the ocean and whales and visiting with folks from Germany and other areas that were there visiting at this time. Way cool and I can't begin to describe how thrilled and excited we were to be doing this. It was a dream come true and a fantastic day in our lives. Mom, Rachel, Carlene and I were just ecstatic with this tour and our great luck at seeing and enjoying the whales and other ocean life and the ocean itself. Wow! What a great visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
We arrived back at Barnstable Harbor a little after 4:00 PM. We went to a Chinese buffet for supper and then we were ready to head out. We decided that we would head towards New Haven, Connecticut so Rachel could have the chance to see Yale. She had heard a lot of good things about it and wanted to see the campus. We drove to Old Saybrook, Connecticut and found a hotel for the evening. We crashed and burned.
We ate the continental breakfast and packed up and headed to Yale. We were kind of expecting a small New England town like when we visited Bowdoin College. New Haven is a large industrial city, not small at all and not what we expected. We drove around the town and found a place to park (not an easy thing to do). And then we walked to campus to see and take pictures. Yale is a beautiful school with fantastic old stone buildings and ivy. Campus was beautiful and we had a great time walking around just enjoying the atmosphere and setting of the school. Personally, I was more impressed with Bowdoin College.
We programmed our GPS and we were off.
The Visitor Center was still open when were arrived at Lexington at 4:00 PM. We again gathered info and headed out to see and take pictures of the area. Lexington was the first battle of the revolution and has tons of history and a beautiful preserved setting. It is well worth a visit to Minute Man National Historic Park. Carlene's family has ties to John Adams and John Hancock so this had some special meaning to all of us as we were learning not only about history, but family. It was like we were living our history in person and felt so cool to be here and doing this at this time. We walked around the town and took pictures and read the historical monuments and placards. Far out!
We then wanted to see the Old North Bridge at Concord so we were off as the sun was racing west. Mom was tired and a little worn, so she remained in the car as Rachel and I raced to beat the retreating light. We read the historical markers and observed the neat area. We walked the trail to the bridge and took a moment to ponder what had happened there and how it all began. We walked the bridge and could feel the history. No big crowds in these two cities and historical areas. Very nice and soothing and full up emotions. We returned to the visitor center and then Carlene and I walked out so she could see and appreciate the area and I could see and feel it again.
We were just about out of light, but I was able to find two nice pullouts so mom could see the meadow and bridge and the area.
We then headed to our Best Western hotel in Fitchburg (where there was a doberman pincher convention taking place) to rest up and get ready for the next day. Great day as far as weather, sights, history and family were concerned.
We were up and Carlene and Rachel made use of the hotel hot tub and I got on the net and checked email and the chat page. We then had breakfast and headed to Wakefield, Massachusetts to check into our hotel and find out the best way to get into Boston via the subway ("T" line / MTA). We found the closest park and ride and took the "T" into Boston. This was another first for Rachel as she had never been on a subway. We road in and exited on State Street and walked up to the streets of Boston. We came up at the Old South Church and walked down the street to the Old State House and site of the Boston Massacre. We were headed to the New England Aquarium. There was a crowd of folks there.
Out west we really don't celebrate Columbus Day, no school off, no work shut down, no nothing. Well, back east, it is a major holiday as we found out with the folks off on vacation and the crowds in downtown Boston.
I got in line and got tickets for the aquarium and we headed in to join the crowd. Wow, what a nice place, seals, penguins, sharks, tuna, and just about everything you can think of. We had a great time. They were feeding the penguins and then they were feeding the sharks and other big fish in the large 200,000 gallon aquarium with over 70 exhibits. We had a great time watching, taking pictures and just enjoying the ocean life on display. Carlene was just floating around to each and every display studying the fish, seahorses, eels, everything and anything. She was in 7th heaven. Here is a link to the New England Aquarium Giant Ocean Tank WebCam.
At this point in our trip mom legs and feet we giving out on her, so we tried to take our time and keep her moving and enjoying as much as she could. We caught the "T" back to the van and headed out for supper at Turner's Seafood Grill and Market in Melrose, Massachusetts. The we crashed and burned again for the night.
We woke to our first New England rainy day. We had expected more rain and cold but enjoyed the warm weather - mid 70s to low 80s each day.
We had a continental breakfast and then headed to the park and ride and the "T" back into Boston. We were planning a day of riding and boating to see Boston. We had tickets for the historical trolley ride. We decided to let them do the driving and we would just enjoy the sights. We got to see the harbor, Old North Church, Old South Church, Old State House, three cemeteries (Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel, Copp's Hill Burial Ground), the Boston Tea Party harbor which was held by the Sons of Liberty, the USS Constitution and much more. We could have gotten off at any stop, but we were tired of running and mom wasn't up for it. So Carlene and I decided someday we would go back and get off at each point of interest and see them all in person.
We finished the tour at the harbor and that is where we picked up our Boston Harbor tour. We had a nice boat to tour the harbor and see the sights. The rain had stopped and it was somewhat clearing out when we boarded and headed into the harbor. What a great view of the city and area! Wow it was impressive. Boston is not a really large city but it is beautiful harbor town and area. We saw the fishing harbors, the coast guard area, the naval area, the world trade center, Boston National Historic Park Charlestown Naval Yard, the USS Constitution. It was a great way to see the city and enjoy the harbor. Would do it again in a moment.
We had lunch on the boardwalk and enjoyed feeding the birds while we ate and just enjoyed our last little bit of time in Boston and the harbor.
We then headed back to the "T" and our van. We decided that we would go to Salem, Massachusetts and check out the town. We had a fun time seeing Nathaniel Hawthorne's house of seven gables and the ghouls and goblins and witches walking the streets or in the shops. Rachel enjoyed Salem and really wanted to go on a candle light ghost story walk, but they were all booked. We enjoyed what we could see and do and did a little shopping along the way.
We had our last seafood supper at the Capt's Waterfront Grill and Club. We had a great meal and were ready to head back to the hotel and bed.
Our plane was scheduled to leave at 5:00 AM, and we had to be there at 3:00 AM. Mom and I stayed up as we thought we would be more tired to sleep a little and get up. Carlene and Rachel took a nap. We were up at 2:00 AM and packed the last of our goods and turned the GPS on and headed to Logan Airport.
At 2:30 AM it was a nice time to be driving into Boston and the airport. Not a lot of traffic, us and a few trucks and that was about it. It sure made it a lot easier to make our twists, turns, tunnels and get there with the least amount of stress. We arrived at Alamo Car rental and unpacked the van and turned it in. The shuttle drove us to the US Airways terminal and dropped us off. The US Airways check in counter opened at 3:30 AM, so much for having to be there two hours early.
We got our boarding passes to Denver and checked in our luggage. The luggage was checked to Salt Lake City, Utah. We took US Airways to Charlotte, North Carolina and then United from Charlotte to Denver, Colorado and then we switched to Frontier in Denver for the last leg to Salt Lake City. We got into Salt Lake on time and retrieved our luggage and took the shuttle to long term parking to pick up our car.
Now we were tired, and ready to get home, and rest from our vacation.
What a fantastic trip for us. A lot of firsts and a wonderful time with family and friends. Never to be forgotten, always to be treasured.
The fun still continues!
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