This is what I wrote on the 8th July
“Well Camel has been chugging across the Atlantic on the huge great container ship, the JPI Taurus. The ship is HUGE with an awful lot of big boxes balanced on the top of her. I just hope that, if the seas get rough Camel will not meet the fate of those plastic ducks that have been turning up all over the world. I guess she will have a much shorter journey, should she fall overboard, straight down. All the paperwork has been filled in, our very nervous agent has (I hope) been reassured (do they not have the internet in New England? I answered all his fearful questions with very short searches). YES we can bring our car to the USA. YES we can stay for up to a year. YES it is OK to bring in a right hand drive car. YES you can bring in herbs, spices and other condiments. NO you can not sue your shipping agent for causing you extra stress.”
Our last few days in Europe were great fun. We had a very rainy day in Brugge, but the ducks seemed to enjoy it
and Tim and i managed to stroll around the place, admiring the artworks
(Which of the four horseman was this? Which one was most well endowed and why the difference?)
Then home. The trip back on the motorbike was dry enough (just as well as we had foolishly left the waterproofs behind). Despite Operation Stack holding up hundreds of lorries on the motorway, we sailed through the Chunnel, actually being let on straight away, more than two hours early.
We met a group of Aussies who had hired some bikes from Chichester and had spent 2 weeks covering about 4000km around Europe, taking a very similar route to the one our ‘motor cycle gang’ (the Patcham Posse) had taken a couple of years back. (They were a bit more sensible than us, as they didn’t go over the border to Slovakia to get a cup of coffee, just to add another country to our list, nor did they manage to go to Italy by mistake because SOMEBODY was going too fast) (not mentioning any names, Justin!, oops).
A couple of days at home with the family, including lovely granddaughter and daughter in law to be,
a weekend away at Pat and Dave’s annual BBQ (great fun and a mega blow out with lovely nosh) and then we were off.
Since then the customs people have X-rayed our container and they now want to search through the contents. (OK, our agent was right when he warned us that it might happen) and that none of the paperwork can be filed until after that. He seems to think it will take at least another week for the car to be released. I have gone from ‘AAAAARGH’ to ‘meh!’
Our journey to Scarborough, Maine (just south of Portland), was fairly straight forward; A two-hour taxi ride to Heathrow, three hours to check in (ok, it did involve a very nice, if expensive, meal while we waited),
(and Tim found a friend, no roller skates, sadly), a four and a half hour flight from Heathrow to Reykjavik, where we had a 10 hour layover (about 5 hours sleep in the Airport Hotel), 2 hours to check in again, a five and a half hour flight to Boston, an hour hanging around and then another two and a half hours to Portland on a bus. It was raining and we were shattered (mainly due to jet lag), and the bus terminal was not at all central, so we decided to take a taxi the rest of the way. When we asked the nice Indian taxi driver how much it would cost, he looked up the hotel address on the sat nag and said (we thought) fifty to sixty dollars. It seemed a bit steep but we thought, blow it. Just get us there! It ended up being $16 (phew!) (he had a very thick accent).
When we got to the hotel, the receptionist had trouble finding our booking. It turned out that it had been cancelled! Nooooooo!!! I had changed the booking so many times as the advice about how long it would take to release the car changed (from 8 days to under five days to maybe more than 10 days) that booking.com, who are usually bomb-proof, had a meltdown. The good news was that the hotel still had a room so I didn’t have to burst into tears. (Very close, I can tell you!) It’s a very pleasant room, with plenty of space and a kitchenette so we can cook for ourselves in a basic fashion. It’s a perfect place to kick your heels and worry about when you can retrieve your car.
I had naively thought we could explore the area on foot, as the distances don’t seem too huge on Googlemaps to the throbbing heart of Scarborough. When we asked the receptionist where the centre of Scarborough was she looked perplexed and said there was the Maine Mall just a couple of miles up the road. We went for a walk, but there are very few pavements around here and the roads seem quite scary to walk along (although the local drivers have been lovely, even stopping on the local dual carriageway to let us across)(it turns out, this is the law in Maine, great place!). There is no centre to the town, it is spread over 70 square miles and everything is miles away from everything else.
On Thursday we gave in and picked up a hire car, well the nice young woman from Enterprise came and picked us up. The tiniest cars are barely $10 a week less than the medium sizes ones, so we ended up with a very cute, white modern VW. For a ‘mere’ $500 a week we are now equipped to explore the area. The actual Enterprise office is in the old local bank and they still have the vault. They even let me out of it!
Local legend has it that the biggest bank heist in Maine history occurred at that bank and the robbers got away with three and a half million dollars and were never found!
It is truly lovely around here. Maine has a population of about 1.3 million and a population density of just over 40 per square mile (compared to over a 1000 per square mile in England) so there is a huge amount of unspoilt countryside. We drove along the coastline near here and visited both the Fort William (why are forts nearly always called William) Park, which was delightful and obviously very popular with the locals. There we discovered a local delicacy; the lobster roll. It wasn’t much to look at but WOW it was delicious. Half a ton of lobster in the filling and frying the outside of the roll in butter probably helped. We also spent time to admire the Elizabeth light house
and had a stroll along the cliffs.
A bird that looked like a skinny thrush was singing its little heart out in a most delightful fashion
I asked a friendly lady what it might be and she had no idea, but she consulted her family. Her son had the answer. ‘It’s a bird’
We drove on round to Crescent Beach State Park, which was also lovely. It cost about £10 for us both to enter, which was a tad steep for the time we spent there, but the people who spent the whole day on the perfect sand probably felt otherwise.
The wild flowers were beautiful and their scent was heavenly.
The life guards were the only disappointment;
not one looked like Pamela Anderson nor David Hasselhof (young ones, of course) and there was no giggling going on at all! Meh!
On Friday, we took a drive north along route one to Bath. On the way, you could have believed we were in England, passing Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth. The route was lovely; you can see similarities with England as all is lush and green here, despite being in the middle of July. There are, however, an awful lot of trees.
Oh, and an awful lot of very pretty clapboard houses.
There were a few interesting things to see along the way
This is where they were doing road works and sprayed the rough soil green to look like grass.
Horror movie? Nah, the annual clam festival.
I was upset that (unlike the west coast) we had not seen the worlds biggest anything until we came across
but there was a serious lack of notices boasting about the worlds biggest indian. dang! I was not sure what this was meant to be
Bath is a very cute place (it’s a city, apparently, with a population of just over 8000, it sounds like a city in Iceland) with an old town that you can explore in an hour, easily. Like a lot of places in America, the people seem to really care about the town and they have milked every possible piece of history to the nth degree.
It had lovely (ex) churches
a great city hall
pictures of horses with two heads
and a chocolate church
I suspect there could be tears over that; it was just brown.
We drove onto the Maine state capital, Augusta, which had some lovely buildings in its old town
and an awful lot of interesting signs showing where buildings used to be. It even had a Hoover museum
We wandered down to the river,
where we met a really friendly couple of women, Sheila and Caitlin, who were watching the water.
They work for the state immunisation service (they have similar problems with well-educated parents refusing vaccinations due to daft newspaper reports and bad science) and were on they break on dress down Friday (I promised to put that in, just in case their boss read my blog) (yep, I am getting THAT famous). They were watching fish jump; they said it was sturgeon jumping, but Tim thinks they were salmon, either way, when we saw it, it was quite spectacular to see huge great fish jumping right into the air. They were lovely to talk to and provided the ‘icing on the cake’ after such a lovely day.