#224––Mainely a great trip, Part 1 . . .


Mainers love a good pun. Every town had a Mainely Pizza or Mainely Lobster or some other variation and often a Maine Street in the middle of town.

I felt right at home with Oregon type drizzle and showers throughout the first day and temps in the 50s most  of the trip. The displays of tree color throughout the 2 ½ weeks of our trip were fabulous—even in the rain! The best displays were along the turnpike with no places to pull over and take photos. So, unfortunately, we didn’t get many photos.

The trees were beautiful throughout the trip. This photo was taken in the rain.

The Oregon coast is noted for moderate temps all year, but not so the Maine coast. The summers can be hot and the winters cold and snowy. Because of the cold winters, in the coastal towns that depend on tourists, businesses,  such as lodgings, many restaurants, and tourist hot spots, close around mid-October to November 1, and don’t reopen until spring.

The coast of Oregon is bordered mostly by Hwy 101 with nearly all the coast public. The coast of Maine is mostly private with some public parks like Acadia National Park. But the fact that really blew me away was that while our coast is 363-miles in length, the coast of Maine is 3,500 miles in length. Using a ruler on a map, they are identical. South of Portland, it is basically straight with sandy beaches more like Oregon, but north of Portland, there are long inlets and big peninsulas and numerous offshore islands. These islands tend to break up the waves. We saw no big wave action and only rocky shorelines on this mid-section of Maine’s coast. And the rock was all granite—no basalt or sandstone, as on the Oregon coast.

To me this was the classic Maine coast with the sail boat.

My sister, Edna, and I planned our trip last May and booked flights and all lodgings at that time. The good was that we had reservations wherever we went. The bad, we discovered over and over, was that problems sometimes occur when there are third or even fourth parties involved.

The flights were fine. But we learned an important lesson—never, never fly Basic Economy. Economy now has two levels—Basic and Standard. The cheapest level, Basic, allows only one carry-on (purses count) and on full flights, you get the middle seat and don’t get to sit with your travel companion, plus the usual scrunched seat situation. We survived it, but never again.

We were asked over and over why the coast of Maine. Well, Edna has wanted to go there since she first read “The Country of Pointed Firs” by Sarah Orne Jewett many years ago and she always wanted to stay on an island. I wanted to eat lobster and see lighthouses as well as compare the coast of Maine to the coast of Oregon. We each got what we wanted.

Day 1, Monday, Oct 1

“Where are you?” asked Edna as I was turning into the Portland, OR, airport about 7:30 p.m. and thought I saw an off ramp for long-term parking. I was running late and she had been at United check-in for at least an hour, but couldn’t get any farther without me, since my name was on the tickets. I told her I was just arriving, and it wouldn’t be long.

But I was wrong! I pulled into short term parking accidentally and then had to back out with a big bus behind me that also had to back up. Then I pulled a U-turn and went out of there going the wrong way. I made my way back to the freeway, I-205, and tried again. Got all the way around and didn’t see any signs for long-term parking. So somehow got on Killingworth and heading into not-so-good Portland neighborhood. Pulled a U-tern and got back to freeway and to airport and this time saw a sign with a P within a circle, must mean parking, only it was four lanes over on the fast-lane side, which I could not get to. So I made my way all around again without getting lost, and this time took the off ramp into a parking garage that had a section for long-term parking. Whew! Just a little stressed by this point.

I got parked, noted my spot, safely tucked the ticket in my purse, grabbed my two tow-along suitcases, and took an elevator down to “tunnel to terminal.” I didn’t realize Portland had only one terminal until I asked someone with a uniform which terminal the tunnel was headed to. He gave me that look, and said that there was only one. Now I know. The tunnel went forever, but had a people conveyor belt, which really helped.

I got to the United check-in and didn’t see Edna, but a very friendly employee helped me through the auto check-in. Then I headed through security to the gate. I didn’t see Edna in either place. As soon as I got seated, my phone rang. “Where are you?” She was still at check in and super stressed by this point. She said that she did wander off every little while to stretch her legs, which must be how she missed me. Since I couldn’t go back through security, she attempted checking in again. This time, she made it. The same friendly employee helped her. He told her, “Your sister was just here a few minutes ago.” and checked her through.

So we finally caught up with each other—both a bit stressed. Since there wasn’t time to eat dinner, I pulled out two lunches from my backpack that I thought we might need in the middle of the night. (Good thing I always carry food.) As soon as we finished eating, the 9:45 p.m. flight started boarding. Since it was an overnight flight and not full, we were seated in a three-seat section with an empty seat. We still couldn’t get comfy enough to really sleep, but we dozed a bit. The pilot didn’t help. From time to time, he’d say something like, “Seatbelt sign is on, please return to your seats.” accompanied by loud static. It was the middle of the night; nobody was wandering around. Everyone was trying to sleep!

Day 2, Tuesday, Oct 2

Arrived in Newark, NJ, about 5 a.m. Layover was a couple of hours. We had a pathetic breakfast, sort of like an Egg McMuffin turned to cardboard. The latte I had was good and helped wake me. The short flight to Portland, ME, was easy. I loved the idea of flying from Portland to Portland. The Portland, ME, airport is considerably smaller than the Portland, OR, airport. Within a short time, we were at the car rental area and settling into a quite new Nissan Sentra. This car had push button start. Didn’t need the key, but it had to be within the car. It always seemed like magic when the car started up.

Both my sister and I are GPS challenged. So a few weeks before the trip, I went on Mapquest and ran off maps and directions from all of our destinations to the next one. And numbered them and stapled them to our Itinerary that we had created last May.

I was concerned that being awake most of the night, being in a place I had never been, and driving a car I had never driven before might not be such a good idea. But I was okay; the latte had awakened me. It was raining, but even so the trees were lovely and the turnpike was well marked and went through no towns and was free of all debris. Maybe paying a toll isn’t such a bad idea. It was only $1, and not all sections were covered by toll.

The Sarah Orne Jewett home and museum–not open until later in the week.

We followed map #1 and turned off at the off ramp to take us to South Berwick, so we could see the Sarah Orne Jewett home and museum. When we got there, it was closed and wouldn’t open until 11 a.m. Friday. That was the day we planned to leave the southern beaches and head to the Portland area. So we had to reschedule our second and fifth days within the first hours of being in Maine. We followed our directions to Ogonquit and found the Milestone Motel. It has lovely grounds and nice rooms. They allowed us to check in early, and we crashed for three hours. Then got up and studied the regional map for the area to find a restaurant. I was hoping to have lobster.

We had lobster all right, and it was the best meal of the entire trip. It was a lobster place out on a spit that we found in the pouring rain. We each had a whole lobster, corn on the cob, steamed clams, and blueberry pie––the quintessential Maine dinner. We were full and happy. Then we went back to our motel, watched an hour or so of TV, and turned in early. We slept and didn’t wake until almost 8 a.m. the next morning.

Day 3, Wednesday, Oct 3

The rain had stopped, and it was overcast. We explored Ogonquit and loved the stately old Colonial homes lining the roads in the area. We saw the Atlantic Ocean and stopped for awhile.

First view of Atlantic Ocean south of Ogonquit. Largest waves we saw.

Then found a sign to Nubble Lighthouse. The road wandered through a rather new section of homes, just a neighborhood street with no traffic. We were surprised when it came out at Nubble Lighthouse. We were also surprised to see lots of people there. It was undergoing renovation, so was surrounded by scaffolding. We still took photos.In the distance, we saw Boon Island Lighthouse on a tiny rocky ledge.

Nubble Lighthouse, on an island, was undergoing renovation.

There were good ocean views on this stretch of coast. We checked out the village of York and then on the way back to Ogonquit, stopped at the Ogonquit Museum of Art. It had interesting exhibits and a lovely setting on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. It had lovely grounds, which was also a sculpture garden. We talked to the gardener, who was very proud of the grounds.

The Ogonquit Museum of Art had lovely grounds with numerous sculptures.

We headed back to Ogonquit and browsed the town, and stopped at a bakery for tea and treat. I had Boston Cream Pie, which I hadn’t had in many years. It was huge, actually more than I could eat. We went back to the motel and napped. Then we went out to eat. The town center was so crowded, that the first restaurant with parking was where we ended up. It was Italian and wonderful. It was a much smaller dinner this second night. We shared some appetizer plates and each of us had caprese salad and a glass of wine. Again got to bed early. We enjoyed our day in the southern beaches region.

Day 4, Thursday, Oct 4

It was a good comp breakfast each day at the motel. On this mostly sunny day, we headed north of Ogonquit on Hwy 1, parts of which we had driven from South Berwick to Ogonquit. In trying to find the town of Port Elizaabeth and the Portland Head Lighthouse, it turned out to be an all-day adventure, even though we had a regional map. We kept heading north on Hwy 1, Maine’s coast highway, expecting to see signs at any moment, but not seeing any. There were no stretches of ocean views, but there were places to turn to the occasional public beach. With speed limits mostly between 35 and 45, this was definitely not the turnpike. We drove nearly to South Portland.

Portland Head Lighthouse is probably the best known lighthouse in Maine.

We stopped at a deli for lunch. Two old-timers seated next to us were playing dominoes. When one headed to the restroom, I asked the other how to find Portland Head lighthouse. He said another half mile or so farther north and to turn at a certain road. We did. Again, no signs to Cape Elizabeth or lighthouse. But when we got there, there was a huge crowd, even tour buses. Somehow they knew how to get there. This is an impressive lighthouse and keepers’ house.

The long trip to find it was worth it, the lighthouse museum covered different types of Maine lighthouses and the different kinds of lights, such as the Fresnel lenses that are used in many Oregon lighthouses. It was very interesting. Dig this! This lighthouse was commissioned by none other than George Washington! A bit of history here. We walked around the base of the lighthouse and took several photos of it and the keeper’s house and also saw in the distance the nearby Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse. Then we went to the gift shop where I bought a book about Maine’s lighthouses.

Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse built in 1905 of granite. Visible from Portland Head Lighthouse.

We came back to Ogonquit and had dinner at Anthony’s. We had fish chowder, bread, wine. That just hit the spot. We stayed up later, so we were adjusting to the jet lag. The next day we would be heading to the Portland area to spend a couple of days.

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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