The Maine Thing - Day One
So, back to Day One. I got up early the next Colombian morning and flew to Denver, and then to Burlington Airport, which is on the western border of Vermont (by the way [and I'm only telling you this because I didn't know], Vermont is the one on the left side... New Hampshire is on the right). I had secured reservations for the two following nights, but this was prom night or something, and my reservations for this night were: the Burlington Airport. After a harrowing little-sleep evening, I jumped in my newly rented PT Cruiser knock-off and blasted east.
The plan was sketchy at best... go east. As I said, this whole trip is my mom's fault. After I told her I had been thinking of going to see the leaves change in New England, she scoured the web and found info on something called the Cog Railway in New Hampshire. It's a coal train that creeps up Mount Washington, and the view from the top was supposed to be spectacular. When I have no idea what to do, I'm pretty bad off, but when I have very little idea what to do, I can usually manage, and so that scant info was all I needed to jaunt off on another quest. Since I wanted to hit all three states while I was out there, I planned to start on one side, drive to the other side, and then drive back; it was a coin toss that sent me to Vermont first instead of Maine.
So I went east. You may remember me talking about my Bad Physics Days, where actions usually governed by physics stack up against me so comically that it's easy to believe whoever's in charge hates me. Well, for every screw there is an equal and opposite re-screw, and where I get karmic remuneration is navigation. I never need directions when I go somewhere I've never been. Every time I jump in a car and just drive in an unfamiliar place, I unerringly beeline straight to my destination. That has to make whoever that is in charge of the B.P.D.s absolutely bonkers. So when I say I went east, that is exactly what I did. The night before, I just got on Google Earth, memorized some interstate numbers and reckoned some driving times, and when I got in the car, I just went.
Immediately I saw why they make such a big deal out of the place. There wasn't much color yet because of the early morning fog, but the fog itself was fantastic. The road cut through a lot of rock formations, which made for great scenery. Lots of crows. Lots of covered bridges and barns. It was like driving around in a Stephen King novel.
Somewhere in there I passed through Montpelier, which is the capital of Vermont. And then, a little over one hour later, I crossed into New Hampshire. That's right... I traversed an entire state in an hour. Coming from where states are five and six hours across, I was not prepared for states you can see across. How weird.
Once I got into N.H., the colors started to appear. It's amazing, worthy of all the talk. Brilliant yellows and oranges right next to vivid greens. I knew the colors would be beautiful, but I just didn't know how much of them there would be. In Louisiana, when they say, "Hey, come outside, look at this cool thing!", it's usually cool, but about five feet long. These trees went on forever. From far away, the mountains looked like big piles of Trix. Not the newfangled kind, the tri-color classic from the 80s. There's a cluster of national park areas along the middle stretch of 302 in N.H., and I stopped along the way to admire that rock face up there. And when I turned around, there was a waterfall. Where I'm from, you have to drive for hours and then hike for days to get to a waterfall.
Silver Cascade is about two hundred feet off the centerline of 302.
There it is, a waterfall, right on the side of the road. There are dead animals on the side of the road where I come from.
This is looking back from it, toward the road. It's right there. The cool thing was that, even though it was so close, all you had to do was get in far enough and it was like you were miles away from anything. I had met the allure of New England.
I met a cute girl from Boston there, and she took this picture of me:
If you're that cute girl, yeah, I'm talking about you.
This innocuous-looking picture is actually a steeply-angled view up the fall. I thought seriously about climbing up there, but decided that I would like to break my skull on the second day of a two day trip, and not the first.
Managed to get back into the car and continued. Found the Cog Railway at the base of Mount Washington. I wasn't able to get a ticket for it for this particular day, so I did a fly-by instead, in order to find it better the next day when I did have a ticket. You could see the trains themselves from some distance off, chugging and smoking up the mountain. Passed through a town called Bethlehem. No, another one. The speed limit there is 35 mph. All I'm saying here is that, if you ever drive through there, you should remember that. Moments after my warning, and about an hour after I got into New Hampshire (including a stop at Dairy Queen), I set wheel in Maine. Having driven through Texas, I decided I could really get into this small state business. Maine is where the lakes started to happen.This here appears to be a ski resort, but during hibernation.
Eventually I caromed by this tree. It was so breathtaking that I actually stopped on the side of the road and took this picture:
That is one orange tree. Made me look over my shoulder for Samara, and if you get that, you're as cool as me.
I had secured lodging in Portland, and when I got to the hotel, I was ready for a nap. A night in an airport and three states in three hours... wouldn't you be?
Woke up in time to hunt lighthouses at sunset. A goofy cartoon map of Portland I stole from the front desk led me a to a dock where was a lighthouse. Actually, it was more like a lightstub. This thing was maybe thirty feet tall, and had a name like 'the Pug' or something, I don't exactly remember. It stood guard at the end of a pier made of huge rocks. Amazingly, I made it all the way out (to touch a lighthouse with the same hand I touched a pyramid with) and all the way back in the dark, with not a single broken ankle. It was dark, like I said, and that's why I got no pictures of it. But it was real, I swear. One day I'll have to go back and hunt down one of those hundred-foot jobs that watch for Nor'easters and plesiosaurs, but for now, the Pug will have to suffice.
There was a restaurant right there are the foot of the Pug (or rather, the Pug was right there at the foot of the restaurant), and I decided that was the place I would finish off another long-standing quest of mine, which was to eat a lobster, in Maine, within sight of the Atlantic Ocean. And thirty minutes later, right there on the water, I tore into one.
It kind of sucked. No seriously, I don't know if they cooked it wrong, or if I've been spoiled by Louisiana crawfish, but this thing tasted like butter when I dipped it in butter, and that begs the question: what would it have tasted like not dipped in butter? Sadly, I was not brave enough to find out, and Nietzsche is not here to help us. So, quest ended, and knowledge gained: if a hot chick ever buys me lobster on the first date and expects me to put out, she will be disappointed.
After that, I toured downtown Portland. A really annoying thing about street signs in New England is that they tell you what street you're crossing, but not what street you're on. This way, you can drive for miles knowing exactly where you are, but having no damn idea where the hell you are. But with my karmic GPS in full swing, all I had to do was not think about where I was going, and I always ended up there.
This is an important guy (or girl... whoever it was was Roman and in the dark) holding down a pedestal next to the moon. Since the name of the city is emblazoned right there on the pedestal, I assume this is the very spot Portland was invented. And I guess it caught on, because they made another one in Oregon.
Here's a great and official-looking building. No idea what it is. But that tower at the top sure is ornamental.
On the advice of the front desk clerk whom I stole the cartoon map from, I grabbed dessert at Becky's Diner. Lobster is available there (as it is at every corner drugstore... it is Maine), and it was about a hundred and seventy bucks cheaper than where I ordered mine. So I drowned my sorrows in one of the best ice cream brownie sundaes I've had. I recommend this place.
Then it was back to the hotel to charge up for the next day's worth of driving, train-riding, and mischief.