PORTLAND, ME

We made it to the other Portland! Long we have talked about how fun it would be to visit the far away Portland, and we finally had our chance. We were not disappointed.

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After having a great time in Portsmouth, we loaded up and headed north along the coast to Portland. It was a beautiful Maine summer day to be on the ocean, and the views out the window were spectacular. We would our way through many small towns and villages, all of them boasting the best lobster and seafood. These small towns were quite the challenge in our large bus, I did have one minor incident that left some glass on the sidewalk. We were coming through a narrow intersection, and while concentrating closely to avoid the car in the left turn lane I got too close to the sidewalk and clipped a telephone pole with one of the giant mirrors. It shattered with a loud pop, startling both of us. Fortunately there were no pedestrians in the area and no physical damage done to the phone pole. I just left broken mirror pieces and my crumbled ego on the ground. At least it was the less important mirror out of the group, and it being missing doesn’t hinder driving at all.

We soon reached the outskirts of Portland and found the large Cabela’s store to park at. They also offer unofficial overnight parking for campers, and since we hadn’t found a better option we decided to settle down for the night. After putting together a quick meal we jumped on the little motorcycle and headed into downtown. Just a short 10 minute ride and we were at the Portland waterfront. It was a perfect evening to be out walking, and all the restaurants and bars were packed. We had a lot of fun exploring along all of the old  wharfs, watching the beautiful boats come in and out of the harbor.

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While we walked along the old streets looking at all the interesting buildings I got a text from my older sister Heidie, she had seen our pictures on Facebook and was surprised to learn that we were all the way up in Portland. Heidie told me that she had a good friend who lived there and would be happy to have us over for the evening. She put me in touch with Tom, and he invited us to bring the bus over to his place just a few minutes from the Old Port area. We were so excited to have a great place to park in the city! Tom and his family live in a beautiful old home, with a nice big curbside to park along. We even got to plug in our power cord to the outlet in the garage. So much better than staying out at the Cabela’s! Tom and Amy were great hosts, opening their home to us and giving us advice on what to see in town. It was so nice to meet them, thanks again guys! After we got settled Lindsey and I decided to walk a couple blocks down the road and check out an interesting bar we had seen called the Great Lost Bear. GLB was a great little divey bar, with a huge selection of local draft beer. The decor was fun and the bartender was very friendly. We had a nice time enjoying some Allagash White and chatting with a few locals. Everyone can tell we aren’t from this area and are always fascinated to hear about our trip so far. It is fun to share stories with others who are interested.

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Tom an Amy’s beautiful 100 year old home

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Great Lost Bear

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The next morning we unloaded our bicycles and aired up the tires to head back down to the Old Port. Lindsey and I aren’t very experienced cyclists, but we enjoy getting out and riding when we can. We try to make ourselves use them frequently to get some much needed exercise, but when we have a motorcycle at our disposal the bicycles stay dormant far too long. We did have a great time riding along the Back Cove Trail and through the city. We found our way back to the waterfront and spent some more time walking through the streets looking in the window’s of all the stores. When we found The Holy Donut we couldn’t resist going in to get some breakfast sweets. They make their doughnuts using mashed potatoes in the dough, it makes for dense and moist doughnuts, which are very delicious.

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Once we had seen as much as we could in one morning we pedaled back to the bus, said goodbye to Tom, and drove up the road a couple miles to the Allagash Brewery. Allagash is a belgian style brewery. They are unusual because they use wild yeasts and old barrel aging techniques to add character to their delicious beers. My favorite is the Belgian White, a zesty wheat ale with a perfect amount of coriander and orange peel added. We took the tour of their great new facility, it is so nice to see a company start small and grow in popularity. The tour ended in the barrel room where our guide shared several samples with us. It was a great time, it took a lot of willpower for me to leave without buying a case of the Witbier. Easily one of the best I have had on this trip so far.

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Lindsey and I agreed that this city is quite similar to Portland, Oregon. The craft beer scene is huge, the restaurant and food selection is vast, and the neighborhoods full of old homes are so great to walk through. We couldn’t decide if our favorite thing about it is the number of breweries or the number of handmade ice cream shops! This could easily be home for us, although I am not sure how many winters we would want to endure. It would definitely be worth a trip back to spend more time enjoying the local food and surrounding area.

Saying goodbye to Allagash and Portland we continued up the road, heading to our next overnight stop at a winery in Unity, Maine. We were just turning onto the interstate when we noticed a young guy hitchhiking on the ramp, he looked like a nice guy and we decided it was time to return some of the kindness we have been experiencing so we stopped and he jumped aboard. Connor was impressed with the bus and thought it was fun to ride in. He was a really nice younger guy, he spends the summers working on various farms around Maine and was on his way back to the one he currently works at. Unfortunately it is too loud up front by the engine to talk much while we are underway, but Lindsey and Connor had a nice time chatting while sitting at the dinette. It was fun to have another passenger for a little while, and it was nice to help out another traveler.

We slowly worked our way up the state, twisting through countless narrow farm roads, attracting stares and waves in every little town we passed through. In the late afternoon we arrived at our stop for the night in Unity, at the Younity Winery, where we met our host Clem. Clem is an eccentric guy who loves making wine, and it was a pleasure to spend a couple hours talking with him about the process and walking through his grapes and small winery. He was happy to share tastes of all his unique wines with us, including some very interesting fruit wines. He describes his wine not as a product, but as an experience. It really is, and every bottle has a story behind it. Some of his batches include cranberries, rhubarb, and one especially intriguing one: pumpkin. We enjoyed listening to Clem’s colorful stories and also learning a little about the history of the area. Also interesting is that he is a fellow North Westerner who fell in love with Maine some years ago. Clem provided us with a beautiful parking space for the night, on a hill overlooking the surrounding farms and old houses.

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Maine is a beautiful state, and it has been a pleasure to drive through. We are on our way into Canada now, but will be coming back through Maine in a few days to spend more time.

ALSTEAD, NH

New Hampshire has been in the back of my mind for quite a while now, it is such an intriguing state and we are both so excited to finally be here.  I had even thought seriously about moving here for a while, that’s how much I enjoy their attitude. Their state motto “Live Free Or Die” says it all; compared to the rest of New England, New Hampshire is a haven for live and let live type folks. So far in our visit we have learned about how vigorously the locals try to keep it that way.

After leaving our last spot just outside Hartford we traveled up into the NE corner of Connecticut and spent a night camped at Fort Hills Farm. Fort Hills was an awesome place to stay, it is a 1200 acre, 500 head organic dairy farm, with their own milk label (The Farmers Cow) and fresh made ice cream. Needless to say we definitely enjoyed consuming more ice cream than we should have. Kristin, the owner, was an excellent host, letting us park in the field for the night and chatting with us about the farm history and operation.

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We left Fort Hills Thursday morning, pointing the bus north and heading for Alstead. We really wanted to visit Boston, but after spending time in DC and New York we were done with the big cities for a while.  Since New England states are all fairly small we have really had to adjust our trip planning. What looks like a 4-5 hour drive on the map might only take 2 hours in the bus, which is sure nice compared to driving through Florida where you have to drive 6 hours to get anywhere. Rolling through all the small towns we really enjoyed seeing all the old historic buildings and beautiful scenery.  New Hampshire is a very pretty state.

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Winding through some narrow back roads up into the hills we managed to find our next destination, Jon and Christy’s beautiful property hiding back at the end of a long gravel drive. We also found them through the Boondockers Welcome website, which we have been using with great success so far. They are very friendly hosts and enjoyed seeing our bus, as well as showing us around their place and sharing stories about their own RV travels.  It was so fun to watch their chickens wandering the yard constantly pecking and making happy chicken noises. We actually ended up with a few cartons of fresh eggs since they have more than they can use, we were happy to bring them aboard. Lindsey and I really enjoyed sitting around the campfire with them into the wee hours of the morning, telling stories and enjoying a couple bottles of their home grown and home made hard apple cider. Part of their income comes from their metal sign business, using a CNC plasma cutter they design and cut out all sorts of decorative signs and machine parts. They surprised us with a custom made sign of our New Oregon Trail logo! Such an amazing gift, it is a better souvenir than we could have found anywhere else. If you are ever in the market for custom signs or shooting targets look them up!  You can find their work at www.metalmazing.com.

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Since we were camped here for a couple days, we rolled the motorcycle off the carrier and went for a little ride through the beautiful, winding back roads eventually leading us to Keene, NH. Keene is a great little town, we had a lot of fun walking around and enjoying the beautiful old buildings and great weather. We enjoyed taking a break at Brewbakers, the local bread bakery and coffee shop. Next we headed to the market down the road to load up on some groceries for the night. While we were relaxing at Brewbakers using their wifi, Lindsey noticed a location tag for a place close by called Belgian Mare Brewery. We were immediately interested, especially since we hadn’t seen it come up in any other searches of the area. After looking at their Facebook page we discovered that they were right along the little road we were taking to get back to Jon and Christy’s place, so of course we had to stop in on our way back to the bus.

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We found the awesome wood fired brewery hiding back from the road on Tim and Tracey’s farm, and immediately loved it. The brewing operation and store is housed in a small hand built barn, with trellised hops growing out front and chickens pecking around outside. We found Tim (the owner, operator, and head brewer) hanging out in the tasting room and spent the next two hours sharing stories with him and his wife, and learning about how the wood fired brewing process works. We really enjoyed tasting a few of his fine beers, as well as meeting Aggie, the big Belgian draft horse that the brewery is named after. Finding this small, off grid brewery and its awesome owner was a great end to our day exploring in New Hampshire. After we said our goodbyes we saddled up on the little Yamaha and headed back home, to enjoy a nice chilly night sleeping in our awesome bus.