Victoria and I have gone on two trips alone, our honeymoon in 1991 and a trip to Northern New England twenty years later as an anniversary celebration. When we left D.C. in July 2011, temperatures there were forecast to reach 108 degrees. It was 97 in Portland soon after we flew there, and a couple of the locals told us that it hadn’t gotten that hot since they’d lived there. It slowly cooled off during our eight days driving around Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Here’s an email we wrote home to parents and children.
Dear Mom, Pop, Bethany, and Warren,
We spent the morning and early afternoon exploring the Schoodic Peninsula version of Acadia National Park. It’s more beautiful and accessible than the far-more-popular part of the park across the water against Bar Harbor. We probably saw no more than twenty other tourists at the park today. We were outnumbered by the biologists, over a hundred and ten of whom were on the peninsula for “Bio Blast,” a conference and research weekend of some kind focusing on the park’s animal and plant life.
Our waitress at the bed and breakfast this morning saw Victoria’s Kenyon shirt and exclaimed, “I almost applied there!” She had just graduated from the peninsula’s local high school, and she’ll be at Georgetown this fall. Based on that, I asked her if she was her class’s valedictorian, and she said yes. She intends to major in public policy; of course, Georgetown is great for that.
“I’m interested in school reform,” she told us. Her school had been a failing school under the Maine system, which, she said, rates schools solely on SAT scores. That’s bad for schools like hers, in which many students have no intention of going to college. She received a grant and was the student representative on some committee that led to the principal being fired. Talk about turning lemons (a bad high school) into lemonade for the ol’ college application.
Another waitress served our food, but her accent – she was from Mississippi, as it turned out – was so strong I couldn’t make out “eggs” until I had her repeat it twice for me. She returned to the kitchen, and then the couple at the table beside ours burst out laughing. They were from Germany and spoke fluent English with thick accents, too. “We are so glad to hear that you couldn’t understand her, either!”
We had a grand time talking. Evidently in their sixties, the two of them were stateside for three weeks and were spending it mostly the way we’re spending our one week, if you substitute Boston for our Portland. He had a new camera that he was researching and using a great deal, to his wife’s occasional consternation, so they were our mirror peregrine images. We ended up comparing cameras and taking pictures of one another on the inn’s lawn.
After visiting a locally famous glass shop, we left the peninsula and drove to New Hampshire. We’re staying at a renovated railroad hotel constructed in 1843 in the middle of a small town that hugs the White Mountains. Large rooms, tall ceilings, very wide halls, and grand staircases. We have room no. 1, a corner room on the second floor facing the street. There’s a second-floor porch next door to our room, and we sat out under the large, neon sign and watched the sporadic street life below. It was almost unfair, the perch we had for eavesdropping in this quiet town. The hotel feels slightly seedy and rundown, which I like.
We had eaten dinner on the way here at a barbeque pub in a small Maine town on the state border. The towns in southwest Maine that we drove through today often have beautiful views of nearby lakes and mountains. We saw a large fair crowded with a lot of water activities. Most towns seemed to have a sybaritic air that seemed entirely absent from Eastern Maine.
Driving through the White Mountains at dusk was beautiful. We’ll take the train to the top of Mount Washington tomorrow.
We miss you all.