Visiting Maine: A Dream Come True

Mom’s seeing the most northern state on the East Coast began as a teenager when she saw scenes of Maine’s Coast in a television show. My sister had planned a trip for my parents a few years ago for their anniversary, but they weren’t able to go.

Another near miss happened when I decided to move to New Jersey last summer. We talked of driving up to Maine after we made our way to New Jersey and unloaded my boxes. But since our 24 hour roadtrip from Texas included an excursion to Ohio to visit family, we were too wiped out to drive any further.  So her dream would have to wait until another visit.

That visit happened to be just a month ago when they brought the rest of my belongings from Texas after they finished packing up my house. My sister had made reservations for accommodations in Maine while I was visiting back in June. There was no backing out this time. We were going to make our mom’s dream come true!

I have to admit that I wasn’t too eager to go to Maine at first from a personal standpoint. I’m typically more into urban adventures these days, so I started researching the area to find some points of interests and top attractions. My search started with lighthouses, which I have an affinity for and that’s what I associate with Maine. My interest started growing once I pulled up the scenic images that were picturesque and dream inspiring.

A week before our trip I finalized our tentative itinerary that included a few iconic and historical stops along the way with our final destination being Bar Harbor. Every night of our long weekend would be spent in a different location. We wanted to explore as much as possible in a short time.

Our road trip from New Jersey began midmorning on a Friday. Perhaps not the best time to make our ascent up into New England given that many others were doing the same as indicative by the traffic we encountered along the way. But my work schedule dictated our travel plans.

The upside of being confined to a vehicle in the congestion of traffic is that we had time together. Traffic within itself can be frustrating, but it also forces us to slow down and be in the moment. This past year I’ve missed out on a lot of time with my parents and it was time together that was much needed. Even if some of that time was spent in traffic.

Our first stop was a quick detour after passing over the Tappan Zee Bridge into Sleepy Hollow, NY. I set our destination for the Headless Horseman Monument, which seemed like an interesting place to stop and headed in that direction (no pun intended). While tours were available which seemed interesting we opted to take a few pictures and have an impromptu picnic lunch with a view of Philipsburg Manor House. Just as I was driving out of the parking lot I spotted the monument. It was smaller than I expected.

Our next destination was Salem, MA took much longer to get to than we had planned because of the never-relenting sea of traffic on I-95. We arrived after dark, which seemed perfect for a place with such a haunted past. I had hoped to do a little exploring, but that would have to wait until we were all rested up the next morning.

We were there bright and early, but most of the area didn’t open until 10am. After we had breakfast at the dog-friendly Gulu-Gulu Café, we strolled around the surprisingly charming town and checked out the sights and window shopped. My favorite statue was of the character from “Bewitched.” I loved watching that show as a child.

We stopped at the visitor center to find out where to find the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and met the friendliest volunteer who was quite the storyteller. It was interesting and tragic to hear some of the witch trial stories. To see the actual words spoken before the suspected witches were hanged was especially chilling.

After looking around and seeing more of the points of interests, we made our way to Maine. I was so excited that we were so close to making Mom’s dream come true! Felt like it was Christmas morning, except I wasn’t getting the gift, my mom was.

As customary on roadtrips, we had tried to get photos of the state line signs, but hadn’t until Maine. Even though it was raining, I pulled off onto the shoulder and insisted we get a photo of Mom and Dad. It was an experience of a lifetime and we needed something special to commemorate crossing into Maine.

Although it was rainy and foggy, Bar Harbor was scenic and beautiful. After checking into our hotel, we had dinner and drinks at The Looking Glass Restaurant. It was given great reviews and had a great view. I had the salmon sliders even though they weren’t what was recommended and they were delicious.

The next morning Mom and I woke up at 4:30am to see the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, but all we saw was fog. Lots and lots of heavy and dense fog. It was like the old Scooby-Doo cartoons when the fog was so thick he’d cut through it with a knife.

It was disappointing since we weren’t spending another night in Bar Harbor, but it was still nice just having the time alone with Mom, even if it was cold and insanely early in the morning. We decided to come back once we picked up the rest of our group and had breakfast.

The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain was breathtaking. I didn’t want to leave, but after a few hours we ventured down into the town of Bar Harbor for lunch, ice cream and to catch a ride on one of the Island Explorer buses, which are free and a great way to see the park.

We specifically chose bus #2 so that we could stop at Sand Beach. The water was translucent and pale blue. And freezing cold, which I discovered when a wave rushed over my tennis shoes while I was taking pictures.

Before leaving Acadia National Park, we visited Bass Harbor Head Light. The quaint lighthouse was perched on a cliff and could also be view from below by descending two flights of wooden stairs.

As we headed to Portland for the night, we stopped at the LL Bean flagship store in Freeport. I would’ve loved to spent more time there picking up cold weather essentials. I picked up a pair of the original duck boots.

The next morning we started to make our way back home, but wanted to see a few lighthouses in Maine first since it was National Lighthouse Day.

Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse was nearby and not too far out of the way. The view was a bit obscured and it was inaccessible, but the rocky beach was fun to explore.

While Mom and Dad were in the gift shop they were given a map to another lighthouse, Portland Head Light.  This one was by far the most picturesque of the three we had seen and our last stop before leaving Maine. It was a perfect way to wrap up our memorable and scenic trip.


Celebrating in NYC

When my friend Maria let it slip that she was talking to her daughters about going to New York with me for my birthday, I was touched and beside myself with excitement. Since moving to Jersey I had been wanting to go to the city. After not making it there to celebrate Christmas, I resolved to spend my birthday there even if I had to do it alone.
My initial plans were to ride the train and sightsee, but those plans changed when my friend joined the celebratory adventure, which also included another one of my good friends, Paula. I met both of these women in the writing group that meets at the Hamilton Library and they’ve become near and dear to my heart.

Once again I was unsure of what to wear. I’m still adjusting to dressing for East Coast weather. I’ve learned that layering is the best option.  How many layers do I wear so that my insides don’t shake without feeling like I’m in a personal sauna once the day starts to warm up?

Once I settled on four light layers on top and two layers on bottom, I left the house before sunrise. Once I met up with my friends, which also included Maria’s daughter Diana, we headed to the train station in Hamilton.

While I’ve ridden trains in Europe, I had never travelled on one domestically, so I was excited that we were taking the train. I even started jumping up and down like I do when I get excited about seeing or doing something new. Can’t help myself. Much to my delight, Maria told me that her birthday gift to me was that I could jump up and down as much as I wanted and she wouldn’t get embarrassed.
Best gift ever!

Our first destination after arriving at Penn Station was the TKTS booth in Times Square to purchase discounted tickets for a Broadway show. I had hoped to see my all-time favorite musical “Phantom of the Opera,” but I was the only one that wanted to see it, so I decided to save that for another time. We narrowed it down to the top three that we could all decide on and from that list I chose “Kinky Boots.”

Being in Times Square, we (I) had to take some pictures before we ventured out into the city. After snapping a few photos, we stopped at Starbucks to get a quick caffeine boost.

Maria picked out a coffee cup with NYC skyline on it for my birthday while we waited in line. It was the longest line I’ve ever stood in at a Starbucks, but it was in Times Square.

Once we ordered I realized I no longer had my debit card, so Paula graciously bought both of our green tea lattes.

I searched through my bag and pockets to no avail. I jokingly told Diana that maybe we should have gotten tickets for “The Play That Goes Wrong” instead since it seemed things were already going wrong. After a quick laugh, I cancelled the card and we returned to Starbucks.

I realized it was going to be too noisy to Facetime with my sister and nephews, so we ducked into the M&M store. My nephews were far more impressed with the massive amount of M&M’s that they could choose from than they were of the view of the city that I showed them from the second floor.

With an hour and half before needing to be at the show, Maria, Paula and I jumped into a cab so we could go see the 9/11 Memorial site and the “Fearless Girl” statue. It was the perfect place to Facetime my parents and nieces.

I didn’t see the 9/11 Memorial Site, “Reflecting Absence” the last time I had been in NYC for my 39th birthday with my sister. It was absolutely surreal. Water continuously flowed into what seemed like an abyss. It was evocative of senseless and endless loss and grief. We paid our respects and headed to see “Fearless Girl.”

Along the way we stumbled upon a studio full of sculptures! It was the Carole Feuerman Sculpture Studio. Such a pleasant surprise since we weren’t going to have to go to a museum. Her work was centered around swimmers in various poses. Some of it was in the form of larger than life sculptures, while other pieces were pop artesque images. Needless to say, I loved it!

After our detour to appreciate art, we found the “Fearless Girl” statue and “Charging Bull”. There was quite a crowd there posing and taking photos. We jumped in and did the same.

Our ride back to Times Square via taxi was far more scenic. Even saw the Brooklyn Bridge as we rushed back to see “Kinky Boots.”

I was so excited to be seeing my first Broadway show AND on my birthday! While it wasn’t my first choice, I loved it! We laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a long time and teared up at some poignant moments. It was funny, but touched the heart in an unexpected way. And the boots were absolutely fabulous!

As the day was winding down, we still needed to eat. Of course I was craving Mexican food like I always am. We found one place in Hell’s Kitchen, but it wasn’t open yet. While we waited, we stopped at Mickey Spillane’s to get a margarita and snacked on chips and guacamole.

It was worth the wait to get into Ponche Taqueria. We all ordered something different. I had their chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce with the Coronas that Paula and I were sharing.

The last destination I had planned for the day was to go to Serendipity to have cheesecake like my sister and I had done during our trip. Given the time and delays on the subway, we decided we should hop back on the train to Hamilton.

What a day y’all! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my birthday than to spend the day in NYC with my friends!



Exploring New York

As we drove north through Jersey en route to upstate New York, I started to see the urban industrial side of the state. Quite a contrast to the softer side of Jersey that I’ve been exposed to so far with the beaches and the country side that is almost an emerald green color and very plush.  
Crossing the NJ/NY state line was a first for me. We got on a stretch of highway called the New York State Thruway (which made me wonder why they didn’t just spell it out, perhaps it was a budget thing). Along the way we passed through the exit for Woodstock! Yes, that Woodstock! Peace, love & rock-n-roll! Made me want to throw up a peace sign. Thought that would be silly, so I checked in on FB and used the ✌️emoticon instead.  

Saw the Albany skyline as well! And passed over the Eerie Canal as we drove over the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, which please don’t ask me to pronounce because I would have no clue how to say the last name that starts with a “K”.   
After about 4 hours of driving we made it to a mountainous region called the Adirondacks, which is yet another word I struggle with to pronounce for some reason, the same way I struggle with pronouncing the word “rural”. And I grew up in a rural area! I referred to it as the country just so I wouldn’t have to say the “r”

I may have oohed and awed more than I’d like to admit driving through the mountains. And I’m pretty sure I used “wow” countless times the entire weekend! 
But what caught my eye immediately as we approached it was the brightest blue (almost a cobalt blue) body of water I’ve ever seen, with the exception of the Mediterranean Sea. It was breathtaking and serene at the same time. It was a portion of the 32-mile long Lake George and it was intoxicating!
Of course we had to pull off to take a few pictures!
Once we arrived and settled into our room in Ticonderoga, we drove around to explore the town. Drove out to see Fort Ticonderoga, which was closed.  
As we drove back to our room, saw a waterfall nestled downhill in the Municipal Park that fed into the short La Chute River. Had to stop and walk around, climb up the rocks and explore the park, which also had a small monument honoring French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, who joined with the natives to fight the Battle of Ticonderoga 
The next morning, got up to take a trail ride through the mountains on horseback. Halfway there, got a flat tire. In the mountains! I’ve learned that’s a terribly inconvenient place for that to happen. No shoulder to pull off on and the area we were in had nothing but Private Roads, which is where we pulled off.    
I had a little experience changing a tire. Started to get to work and Lo and behold, the property owners pulled up. And we were blocking the driveway. I had already pulled out all of the tools and in the process of getting the spare off of the back. Fortunately the dad, his 2 college age sons & their friend were willing to lend a hand or hands in this case. Grateful they offered to help and were incredibly friendly and chatty while they worked.
Only took an extra hour to get to the stables, which I was hoping wouldn’t make us have to wait too long to ride. Luckily it didn’t. I was a little nervous. Haven’t rode a horse in about 20 years. So the young female guide gave me a horse for beginners and told me to step in the stirrup & throw my leg over like I would a bicycle (and I thought a really, really wide and hairy bicycle).  
The hour long trail ride wasn’t quite as scenic as the website led us to believe, but it was peaceful and quiet, except for the lady behind me that kept verbally scolding her horse for stopping and trying to plants and trees constantly.  
There was a few times that my horse slipped on rocks and gave me a queasy feeling. I pictured he horse collapsing like a one of those vintage, wooden collapsible horse toys that I had played with as a kid doll me scrambling to fall in a way that I wouldn’t get hurt. Started to wonder why horse shoes didn’t have rubber traction on them like tennis shoes. But I don’t know much about horse shoes or horses, so maybe that was normal.   
Once we took a touristy pic on the horse, dismounted and headed to Hague for a late lunch. Had wanted to do a little shopping for a souvenir there too, but discovered they only had two shops. And they were out of my price range, but I did buy 2 postcards to send to my nephews.  
After a few hours of rest, went to dinner at a local BBQ place in Ticonderoga. Disappointed in how slow the service was, but enjoyed the deli-thin slices of brisket. Had a nice flavor.  
Sunday we decided to head to Vermont, which I wrote about in a previous post.
Upon returning to Ticonderoga, we didn’t have time to tour the fort. Instead we checked out the Ticonderoga Fire Hall

of Flame Museum. It has quite an impressive collection, including a firetruck in the midst of a large room full of records, (including a ledger from the 1800’s), photographs, equipment & #gear that the volunteer firefighters there have worn over the years! ❤️🚒
Our last stop was Mount Defiance. Oh my goodness! What a view! You can see Vermont, Lake Champlain and Fort Ticonderoga, which must have been having a reenactment, because you could hear cannons being fired and see smoke.  
After climbing around the top of mountain and soaking it all in, we started making our way back to Jersey! 
 3 states in 3 days!   Whew!   What a weekend y’all!