On this segment of the trip were two major highlights—the Farnsworth Art Museum and Vinalhaven Island. One is the epitome of what a major art museum should be and the other is like stepping back in time when small-town friendliness extended to trusting strangers.
Day 9, Tuesday, Oct 9
It took only an hour and 15 minutes on Hwy 1 to drive from Boothbay to Rockland. It was about 10:30 a.m. when we arrived at the Trade Winds and they allowed us to check in early. We had great views of the water—huge Penobscot Bay with its numerous islands. We settled in and then walked around the corner to town and the Farnsworth Art Museum. We were in luck as the Ai Weiwei collection of golden sculptures of Chinese animal/Zodiac heads were on exhibit. You could walk right up to and around all 12 of them. Ai Weiwei is a renowned international artist, and we did not know of this exhibit beforehand. What an absolute treat!
The museum has 20,000 square feet of exhibit space with 15,000 pieces offering a nationally recognized collection of America’s greatest artists, including N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, Homer Winslow, and Edward Hopper among many recognizable names. Going through the Farnsworth was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. So we enjoyed every moment.
For lunch, we wandered up the street to Clan McLaren, which was wonderful. Back to Farnsworth, where we walked to a nearby church, which is part of the Farnsworth. This is where we saw many Wyeth paintings. My favorite Wyeth was Andrew. His best-known work is Christina’s World, which was not on exhibit here. For dinner, we walked down to the waterfront to The Pearl. Had mussels—very good!
Day 10, Wednesday, Oct 10
I opened the drapes to see the tip of a red ball starting to rise out of the ocean through the fog. Called to Edna, and we were transfixed. We’re used to the Pacific Coast where the sun sets in the ocean, not rises out of it. I finally roused myself and got my camera. There was a bit of reddish fog, but the sun getting higher started looking more normal.
This day was devoted to looking for lighthouses. We walked the trail to the breakwater that leads out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. When we realized it was almost a mile along a rocky breakwater to the lighthouse, we just took photos. Then we spent a lot of time heading north and looking for Curtis Island Lighthouse. We finally discovered it, but the lighthouse was on the other side. Makes sense, but disappointing. In the process of taking a photo of the island from a dock, I rested my cane on the rope railing and it fell in the water. Whoops! Dang! I really liked that cane. A young couple helped retrieve it. Her arm was just inches too short, and he was just a second too late, as it sank as he reached for it. In unison, we all said, “Ahh!”
Don’t think I mentioned previously that I started using a cane on this trip, to see if I could keep up with sister better. And it would be helpful because we were going to be doing a lot of walking. People treat you differently. They get out of your way, open doors for you. And in coffee shops where there might be just one table not in use and you have to get in line, just put the cane there and that saves it. A young couple looked at me when I did that and said, “Hey, I’m not messing with you!” Who knew!
In the search for Curtis Island Lighthouse, we discovered the town of Camden. A delightful town. We checked out some shops, bought a couple things, and then found a cool place for lunch. It got really warm—90 degrees we heard later. It cooled down to the 70s by afternoon.
Then we found Owl’s Head Lighthouse without any problem. Quite a walk, missed my cane, and then a bit of a hill, but we could get really close. Then we drove out to Marshall Point Lighthouse. This was easy. No walk at all and you could walk right up to it.
That evening, we walked to Ada’s Kitchen, a very trendy place that specialized in Italian food and was crowded and had tiny tables with uncomfortable stools. But the eggplant Parmesan was very good. We enjoyed our stay in Rockland.
Day 11, Thursday, Oct 11
We packed up and headed for the ferry to Vinalhaven Island. After much back and forth, we decided to be walk-on passengers and not take the car. It was a rainy day. Since the ferry terminal parking lot was being worked on, we parked in a boat storage area tucked under the prow of a fishing boat.
On the ride over, it was stormy and the water choppy, but the ferry was stable. We saw Owl’s Head and Rockland Breakwater Lighthouses from different vantage points. The trip took one hour and 15 minutes. There were only four passengers on our side of the ferry. I asked the older fellow if he took the ferry often, and he gave a very Maine type of answer, “Not any more than I have to!” The fourth passenger knew him and asked us if we needed a ride to the motel. (She could tell that we were visitors to the island and because of only one motel in the small town, she knew where we would be staying.) When we docked, it was still raining, so we really appreciated the ride.
When we got there, she told us to get our stuff and she walked into the motel’s tiny lobby and called out for the manager who came from somewhere and checked us in. Then she was on her way. The motel was partially built over where water rushed underneath to a lake during high tide and rushed out of the lake during low tide. The water rushed through a narrow channel and our room was directly over it. It was an odd sensation to say the least. We looked out on a harbor with many boats moored a fair distance from the rushing water
We went across the street to a coffee shop and had yummy chili and cornbread and a latte. Perfect! Then relaxed in our funky, old-fashioned room and read. Good way to spend a rainy day.
That evening while we were looking at our bag of crushed potato chips and the one energy bar, a couple we had met at the ferry terminal looked in the window in our door and waved a bag. They said nothing was open but a dive down the street and they had just made it to the grocery store before it closed. So they asked if we wanted to join them for dinner. They also bought mustard and wine and a six-pack of beer. We picked up our bag of crushed chips and joined them. They had a kitchen unit; we did not. They shared the six-pack, and we had the wine. And we all enjoyed the baloney sandwiches. Reminded me of what I used to eat in grade school. We sat up past 10 talking. Found out he was a retired engineer and interested in my bridge books. So gave him my card. Who knew!
Day 12, Friday, Oct 12
The refrigerator, only inches from Edna’s bed, was noisy and kept her awake. Since we couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, we unplugged it. Edna slept well, but it created a problem! In the morning, the floor was all wet because the freezer defrosted during the night. So we had to use some towels for cleanup. Fortunately, the only room service we had during our stay was an older lady delivering us some new towels that morning. Some things just work out.
The motel’s small lobby had few choices for comp breakfast. That was okay, we were hungry. We took our food back to our room and ate. It was not raining, so we explored the town. We walked along the main street and up the hill past a library that was closed and along several streets in a residential section. We walked back through town to the coffee shop to warm up. It was quite cold. I had a latte and Edna hot chocolate, and we ordered chicken sandwiches to take to our room and eat later.
Holly, the proprietor, noticed that we had returned after being there the day before. She asked us where we were from and what brought us to Maine. When I said lighthouses, she asked if we had seen Brown’s Head, Vinalhaven’s lighthouse. We didn’t know there was a lighthouse on the island. When she found out we didn’t have a car, she called her friend Jeanne who could take us there. And some fishermen at another table started telling us about fishing for lobster. Of course, I had to talk about Oregon’s Dungeness crab. We had quite a conversation going when the sandwiches were ready.
By the time we got the sandwiches in the fridge that we had turned back on, Jeanne was there to take us to the lighthouse. Jeanne, as it turned out, was the island’s taxi service. You could spot her car. It was the one with the lobster buoy bungee corded to the top and a sign on each side saying “Taxi” stuck on with duct tape. It totally fit Vinalhaven Island.
Jeanne took us to Brown’s Head light, a state beach, past several quarries, and gave a running commentary on the history of the island. Then she dropped us off at the museum at our request. And when we went to pay her, she said that she had already been paid by Holly and the fishermen at the coffee shop. After calling Jeanne, Holly felt quilty that maybe we didn’t really want a taxi ride. So she and the fishermen took up a collection to pay the fare. It is one of our favorite memories of the trip.
The museum was not actually open when we were dropped off, but the door was unlocked, so we went in. We called out, and a lady came from the back. She said they were not open, but having a committee meeting. She turned on the lights and said we could look around –just turn off the lights when we leave.That was so typical of Vinalhaven.
The museum was very interesting and made a lot of sense, after our tour of the island. Vinalhaven’s quarries were a major source of granite for many large buildings and other structures in New York City and throughout the Northeast.
That evening we went to the dive, since it was the only place open in town. It wasn’t so bad—just a restaurant and bar filled with locals. Evidently, on Friday nights, there are team competitions of groups of questions. Some were local knowledge, but the ones that were more general, we joined in. We didn’t actually write them down and turn them in, but we tried to come up with the answers along with everyone else. One was, “Can you name the top 20 words that Trump uses?” We came up with quite a list, of which many were among the winners. The food wasn’t bad, and we had a good time. Then we walked back to our motel.
The next morning we would be leaving Vinalhaven. We had enjoyed the whole experience there. What a step back in time!