You Can’t Get There From Here: A Maine Misadventure

In the summer of 1982, my father announced a family vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine. It was the worst experience of our lives.

We lived in Connecticut – to me, the center of New England and therefore the very heart of the known universe. I’m sure if I had grown up in Ulysses, Kansas, or Coldfoot, Alaska, or Tewkesbury, Tasmania, I’d have thought the same about them. When we are young, our whole world is the town we grow up in, and only through travel and exploration do we expand our borders into the wider world around us. At that time, a trip to Maine was as exotic as a trip to Mozambique. Oh, I’d been to Florida and Puerto Rico, but those were far-flung southern places that could only be reached by airplane. Maine was in an entirely different direction.

north!

That way be dragons and trolls and castles made of rock and snow.

To reach the fabled shores of Maine, we’d travel by automobile, and the drive would be longer than any plane ride I’d ever taken. At that age, the speed of travel was less important than the time spent traveling. So an eight hour drive to Maine meant Maine was far more inaccessible than Florida, which was a comparatively easy two-and-a-half-hour flight.

As a family, we’d made yearly pilgrimages by car to the white sand dunes of Cape Cod. At about three hours, those trips stretched my ability to sit still to the breaking point. Three hours in the back seat with a big sister is a lot to ask of a boy with ants in his pants. There are three memories that flood my mind whenever I think of our summer outings to Cape Cod. I present them here in reverse order.

  1. The dunes. They are disappearing and off-limits now, as humans and nature have taken their toll, but when I was small, they were huge, and I loved to run up their sandy flanks to the crest. From that windswept vantage point, the entire Atlantic Ocean would greet me, stretching as far as the eye could see. I would stand atop those majestic dunes and stare straight out across the ocean and…there! Just there! I was sure I could see England!
  2. Sunrise breakfast at the rest stop that was really a boat launch just over the Rhode Island border. We always stopped here to stretch our legs and eat breakfast. As a kid, vacations were the only time Margo and I were allowed to eat sugary cereal. For our Cape Cod vacations, my mom would get those sweet cereal variety packs – the ones with individual portions of Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Apple Jacks, Sugar Corn Pops , and Sugar Smacks. The neat thing about those little packages of cereal was that the box doubled as a bowl – if you had the guts to make it. These days, individual-serving cereals come in a literal plastic bowl. One needs merely to peel back the top, add milk and enjoy. Back in the 70s and 80s though, they were packaged like their bigger brethren – cardboard outer box protecting a flimsy bag of cereal within. Sissies opened the little bags and dumped the contents into a bowl. Intrepid adventurers, like we Navages on Safari, peeled off the front face of the cardboard box and tore open the liner to expose the sweet morsels inside, whereupon milk would be poured directly into the box and the cereal consumed with a dinky plastic spoon. As one measly box of travel-size Froot Loops was never enough to satisfy my plump 10-year-old framework, I would follow it up with a donut or two from the triple-play box of Entenmann’s: powdered for Margo and me, cinnamon for my mom and plain for my dad.
  3. The first sentence of that last paragraph should have sent shivers down your spine. Because if our first pit stop for breakfast happened at sunrise (or shortly thereafter), that means the journey must have started at night! Indeed madam, vacations by car at the Navage household began at The Crack of Dawn!. Now, lest you think that The Crack of Dawn! has anything to do with the actual crack of dawn, lemme set the record straight. In my father’s understanding, The Crack of Dawn! is any time after 2am but no later than one hour before sunrise. And make no mistake, madam! It wasn’t about waking up at The Crack of Dawn!. Oh, no! That wouldn’t do. That wouldn’t do at all! We needed to leave at The Crack of Dawn!. As you may imagine, The Crack of Dawn! was one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood, followed very closely by The Itinerary!, which I’m sure will be the subject of a future Navage Yap Lookback.

Anyway, the roughly 8-hour drive to the other side of the universe Bar Harbor, Maine was threatening to make those 3-hour jaunts to the Cape look like nap time in nursery school. There was only one other time in my short life that I’d endured such stretches of boredom in the back seat of a car. I’ll spare you the horrifying details, but let me just say this: other kids got Atari – we got Intellivision, other kids got Apple computers – we got an Adam computer (what do you mean you’ve never heard of it!), other kids went to Disney World – we went to Colonial Williamsburg and Washington DC.

Yep, folks, while my friends were laughing it up with Mickey and Donald and and all those other goofy bastards, my sister and I were forced on a Draconian death march through the greatest hits of the Revolutionary War. It was spring break of 1981, which means it was still full-blown winter anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line. While my stupid jerk friends rode Space Mountain in sunny Orlando, Margo and I froze our asses off just like George Washington and the boys did back in the late 18th century. Nothing like numb toes and chattering teeth to drive home a history lesson, eh? The high point of that wretched vacation was a little replica of a canon I bought made from pewter that fired caps by way of a spring-loaded ramrod. It’s the only fond memory I have of that harrowing time. And don’t even get me started on the Washington DC portion of that “vacation.” The highlight of that trip was listening to Juice Newton sing “Angel of the Morning” on the radio as we sat in traffic at a toll booth somewhere on the outskirts of our nation’s capital.

*******

So why Maine, anyway? What prompted my father to suggest this…this, what? Vacation was too strong a word. It was a weekend getaway, really, and that in-and-of itself should make you gasp. Who drives 8 hours for a weekend getaway?

The Navages, that’s who.

It was a hot summer, and my dad thought we’d find solace in the frigid, lobster-strewn waters of Down East Maine.

He’d been there before, you see. He and my mother. They drove to Bar Harbor on a whim sometime in the 60s, and by all accounts had a tremendously swell time.

Lobster lunch on a rocky shore.

Fresh New England salt air.

Motor lodges all up and down the coast.

Nearly 20 years later, my father was hoping to relive that wild and wonderful summer of sixty-something.

But he went off-script.

There would be no Itinerary!.

And best of all (for me), we wouldn’t be leaving at The Crack of Dawn!!

I think my dad worked a half day on that Friday so we could leave at a reasonable hour and get to Bar Harbor in time for dinner.

Hey, it was leagues better than The Crack of Dawn! on Saturday!

So on a sweltering Connecticut Friday in the summer of 1982, my parents, my sister and I piled into The Station Wagon and lit out for the Great Northeast.

Eight hours is a really long time to be in a car when you’re young and your mind has not learned the virtues of patience, self-reflection and contemplative thought.

I don’t know how I survived it. Truly, I don’t. Obviously those were the days before Game Boys, iPhones and other such electronic stimuli. But as a kid always teetering on the edge of car sickness, I couldn’t even read a book to pass the time! One look down at those small words on the page and my stomach would start flopping like a flounder on a fishing line. There was nothing to do but stare out the window at the other sad saps on the highway and pray for sleep.

Of course, the adults in the car kept finding “interesting” things for us kids to look at. Thirty some-odd years later, and I would find myself doing the exact same thing to Baris to about the same enthusiasm showed by my younger self.

Why do adults think kids care about the stupid crap they keep pointing at? Don’t they remember being kids?

Anyway, the drive from Connecticut to Maine is your typical interstate snooze-fest. I’ll admit it got mildly interesting once we hit Portland – at least there were bridges and some water to look at! And shortly thereafter the monotonous sameness of Interstate 95 (the same highway Handan takes to and from work each day in Jacksonville) was replaced in Brunswick by the individuality of US Route 1. Like the 101 out west which runs up the entire west coast and boasts some of the most beautiful vistas and adrenaline-pumping curves, US Route 1 is the longest north-south highway in America, stretching 2,369 miles from the tip of Key West all the way up to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border. Along those thousands of miles you’ll find unparalleled beauty and your fair share of meh. But it is on roads like US-1 that you can get a sense of what America is and who Americans are. Superhighways tell of a country’s corporations. The smaller roads tell of its people.

The Biker’s Journal

This is the story of my solo cross-country motor cycle trip through backroads and small towns.

Now, us hopping onto US-1 in Brunswick may cause you to think our journey was almost over.

Not so, madam. Maine is nothing if not enormous, and it’s got one hell of a long coastline. Brunswick marked a point something more than halfway but not quite two-thirds of the way.

Though the scenery had improved, our speed had fallen, and I slipped ever further into tedium. I despaired the trip may, in fact, never end.

A couple of hours later (and lord knows how many “squabbles” between Margo and me), we approached the final bridge that would land us on Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor. Oddly enough, the city of Bar Harbor does not sit on the shores of Bar Harbor, but rather Frenchman Bay. In fact, there is no body of water named Bar Harbor, but I have it on good authority that the waters of Frenchman Bay are known for how fast and far they retreat during low tides.

The sun had set and darkness fell on Bar Harbor as Clan Navage rolled into town on that hot humid Friday in the summer of 1982.

There was no relief from the heat up here. It was all a lie.

The ocean was probably cool though. I couldn’t wait to swim in it the next day!

But first…dinner!

Once dad found a motel, we would unload the bags and hit up a restaurant for some well-earned grub. The adults would go for lobster or some other oceanic bug, but what I wanted was a fat, juicy cheeseburger. Land whale – it was my favorite seafood.

“Dad, where are we going to stop?” I said. I’d had enough back seat to last me until high school.

I’d noticed a few NO VACANCY signs already.

“As soon as we can, Gregger,” he said. My mother gave him a look. She had protested embarking on this trip without The Itinerary! and one of its fundamental components: The Reservation!.

We drove to the motel that was in my dad’s mind from the beginning.

NO VACANCY

We drove down the road to another.

NO VACANCY

We drove further still.

NO VACANCY

We scoured Mt. Desert Island.

NO VACANCY!

The mood inside the station wagon turned grim. We were tired, we were hungry, and my. mom. was. PISSED!

She’s usually not one to show anger, but this was an exception! She had warned my dad about this back in Connecticut! You can’t just go to Maine without reservations, she had said. Our trip was twenty years ago, she exclaimed! Do you know how much can change in twenty years, she asked?

Undeterred, my father soldiered on. What choice did he have? We left Bar Harbor and drove off the island. At this point we’d stay on the mainland. We just wanted a meal and a place to sleep. Unfortunately, one was linked to the other. There would be no dinner until we found a motel.

My dad turned the car southwest, retracing the route we’d so recently traveled. Perhaps we’d find something a little further down the coast.

But further down the coast and away from Bar Harbor for us was the final destination for so many others. Everywhere we went we saw the glowing red letters of rejection.

NO VACANCY

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND GET THE LATEST CREATIVE IDEAS AND DIY TUTORIALS RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

By Portland it was pretty clear there wouldn’t be any motels, hotels or any other lodging available. The world and country had changed these past 20 years. What was once a sleepy state well off the beaten path had become a tourist mecca. And on the hottest weekend of the year, was it surprising that half of New England seemed to have the same idea to beat the heat?

By Portsmouth, my dad had thrown in the towel. There would be no motel. There would be no vacation. Our next stop (that wasn’t for gas coming in or pee going out) would be home in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

Eight hours to Bar Harbor.

At least an hour driving around in circles looking for somewhere to lodge.

And eight long, hungry, cranky and tired hours back home.

I don’t remember much of the ride home. I must have fallen asleep at some point.

Looking back on it, I feel for my father. He wanted so badly to recapture a weekend from his younger years and share it with his family – a weekend that meant so much to him because he lived it with my mom. I know he felt terrible about that trip – even more so because mom warned him beforehand. And, really, I don’t blame him for trying. When I think back 20 years, it seems like yesterday. I’d most likely have done the exact same thing! But the past is tricky. Magical moments are nearly impossible to recreate or recapture no matter how much we may want to. It’s better to leave them as good memories and instead strive to create entirely new ones with the ones we love.

Have a travel disaster? Share your story in the comments!

TNP Related Posts




visit our

shop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

51 Comments

  1. Oh man, I feel for your Dad. My husband, younger son, (our older son was too cool for Disney) and I had a magical trip to Disney World in 1989. Everything was perfect. It was early December and the parks were decorated. The cast members were outstanding. Our son loved the Ft. Wilderness home that was our room. Over the years, I’ve been back to DW over 30 times and have never been able to recapture that flawless trip.

    Feel for you too though Greg. When I was a child, Dad had us leaving for vacations between 3:30 and 4 am. I had 3 brothers at the time. We traveled in a Vista Cruiser station wagon. The worst was a trip to Nuevo Laredo (1968 when it was still safe). We made a stop at the Hemisfair in San Antonio – disappointing. The highlight of the trip for my brother, M., and I was we were introduced to Mr. Rogers which came on one of the 2 channels available in our motel. We howled with laughter watching Mr. R.. He’d say something, M and I would look at each other and just lose it. Good times

    1. Wow! 30 times to Disney! That’s amazing! I only went for the first time in 2017 with Handan and Baris. Glad you can relate to those ridiculous early morning starts, lol! 😀

  2. Your story brought back memories of my childhood. I had motion sickness so bad that they always gave me a paper bag for every trip. Back then there was no Dramamine and they did not know to put me up front so every vacation was hell for me!

  3. I guess there was no pulling into an alfalfa field for the night? I’ve done that. No sleeping on the beach? When I was a child and on the rare occasion when we could convince my aunt and uncle to milk our cows as well as theirs, we would drive from Missouri to the Colorado Rockies to vacation in the one-room cabin my Dad had built during the Depression. Dad could build and fix anything, but that meant we usually were driving some heap that he’d bought cheap and could repair. The year I was nine, the rods were going out on this old green Dodge that was our current ride and we had to drive 35 mph across the plains of Kansas and Colorado. Things finally got so bad that my Dad stopped somewhere in Kansas and convinced this garage to let him use their pit and make his own repairs. We always drove straight through so my sister, brother and I had been sleeping in the car. While Dad toiled, my Mom took us into this adjoining cafe and let us have ice cream for breakfast because we were being such good sports. What a treat. I don’t remember the bad parts. We eventually reached the cabin and had a wonderful vacation. Must have had to drive back just as slowly, but my Mom and Dad were at their best when we were on vacation, and I loved those times when whatever old car we were in wrapped us in love.

    1. This is a great story, Teddee! I love the fact that your dad convinced a garage to let him DIY his car! Good luck with trying that today! Beautiful story – I can picture every detail!

  4. When our first son was about 8 months old, we went on our first vacation to a little tiny ‘resort’ with cabins. The place was a disaster – dirty, dark, the door didn’t even lock…it was almost scary to be in! There had been some flooding in the area so everything was a huge mud puddle. The crib we were promised was not available but the room was so tiny it wouldn’t have even fit! Worse, there was absolutely nothing to do, at least with a baby in tow. Horseback riding was about the only thing they were offering that weekend, after advertising lots of great activities. We figured we’d make the most of it, but upon eating our first meal at the resort restaurant, our debit cards didn’t work. We assumed it was a fluke and it was just charged to our room. We went to the tiny grocery store the next day and again, our card declined. It had been flagged for being out of town (we were young and didn’t know this was something we needed to do!) We decided at that point to just go home!

    1. Oh, wow, that is a disaster vacation! I’m with you – there’s a lot I can put up with, but with what you described, I would have gone home, too. A vacation is supposed to relax, not infuriate!

  5. Oh my gosh the stories I could tell! My Dad was a Marine so our vacations were tied to moving every year or 3 years from the east coast to the west. Mom, Dad, 5 girls and a dog in a station wagon! Luggage on top and a cooler somewhere in the back because you always ate at a picnic table on the side of the road! This was the 50’s and 60’s and eating out with all of us was almost unheard of! No fast food. Stopping at Stuckeys was a treat! I’m grateful now for all we got to see of our great country. And kudos to my Mom and Dad! My sisters and I spend hours laughing at all the things we did or tried to get away with! Aren’t memories great! I have the best!

  6. Wow, that story brings back a lot of memories. For me, it was leaving the crack of dawn from Quebec City, Canada for Wells or Ogunquit in Maine. My aunt or mom would be driving and my sister and I would be sitting in the back seat with our 2 favorite cousins signing along the 8-track tape in my aunt car. That tape was such a luxury in my head. I remember driving past no vacancy signs a lot and not quite understanding what they meant as I only spoke French at the time. Luckily for us, we finally found something available after my aunt car broke down. I still remember the restaurant across the street where we would go for breakfast. Hot chocolate served in small individual silver tea pots. To this day, I still feel like it is the best one I ever had. Thanks for the trip down memory lane I took while reading your story.

    1. I love these stories you guys are sharing! It’s amazing – so many small details remembered. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

  7. Ha, my travel disaster is also about a trip to Bar Harbor. It was the first trip my now-husband and I took together when we were dating back in 92. It was supposed to a four-day hiking, biking, and kayaking get-away. However, the rain came as soon as we crossed the border from NH into Maine so the bikes got left on the car rack. We hiked up Mt. Cadillac in the fog so all we saw was mist and not the beautiful harbor view you normally see. Then I threw my neck out so badly we had to leave on the second day and find a chiropractor to put it back (hubby said he heard the bones crack back in place out in the waiting room (I think he exaggerates) and we ended up spending the last two days staying at his parents house in NH. (I lived in Boston at the time). Nothing can make two 28 year olds feel like 16 again than sleeping over the parents house. We finally snuck out and went for drinks at the local Chinese restaurant and shared a memorable scorpion bowl that turned out was sized for four people not two. We giggled all the way back to his parents house and tried to hide how buzzed we were while watching TV with them. Hubs was shocked I still stayed with him and even married him after that trip. I wonder if Bar Harbor is cursed. (I actually have been back since then without incident).

    1. LOL, the last time I had a scorpion bowl was in high school (or maybe summer during college). There was a Chinese restaurant in Manchester, CT that would serve anyone with a heartbeat, so we’d make the trek their and get our scorpion on! That stinks about Bar Harbor – definitely a long journey for nothing if you can’t enjoy the scenery!

  8. This trip resonated with me. Back in 1974 my father got a wild hair and decided to take me and my mom to Disney and Busch Gardens. In 1974 neither was what it is today. Busch Gardens was actually JUST gardens. Disney was a tiny little park with no Universal Studios, no Epcot and the like. We lived on a farm in Northern Indiana and I don’t remember us traveling on vacation much at all growing up. In 74′ I was 11 yrs old and farm life was all I knew. My dad, unbeknownst to me, was a wild traveler and never EVER made reservations or an itinerary as your parents did. We drove from Indiana to Orlando, FL in one long excruciating car ride. Did I mention that I get car sick? Both my parents smoked and never rolled down the windows and I can remember sitting in the back seat feeling nauseated and choking on their smoke. We tooled into Orlando about midnight. Same experience as you had… no vacancy signs everywhere. Around 1 am we were all tired and crabby when my father spotted a “boarding house for men.” After some finagling with the owner he talked them into letting us stay one night. Our room was upstairs and there was only one bathroom (downstairs). The place reminded me of a saloon/hotel in western times. It was pretty run down and rustic. The next day we headed out to try and find better sleep arrangements for the next night. My dad managed to find us a motel on the beach. I was so excited since it was my first time to see the ocean that I literally ran barefoot to the beach and promptly landed in a large patch of sand burs. I was in misery and my parents were not very apologetic or sympathetic to my agony. I finally picked them all out of my feet and got to finally step into the ocean for the first time. The vacation ended up being okay. Disney was magical to me and Busch Gardens was just beautiful. The trip had its misery but it also had some good memories. It’d be the last trip I ever took with my father. He was killed in a freak accident the following spring.

    1. Wow, that sounds like one miserable trip! I was happy to read that it didn’t turn out all bad, and considering you lost your dad the next year, you’ll always carry that memory – both the good parts and the bad parts!

  9. I loved your story and the memories it brought back…Once my dad and mom put us 3 kids to bed in the back of our station wagon in the garage so they could leave at the crack to drive south to Disneyland. Going to bed in the garage was pretty scary, but we did it with the promise of Mickey and friends. We talked and giggled most of the night, and slept all the way down the 5 to get there. When our girls were little, we did a lot of camping and one of the treats they could always look forward to were the variety packs of sugary cereal, also the only time they got them (I was in the dental field)…and we did eat them out of the box! But the “no vacancy” story brought back memories of our trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. By the time we reached our campground…it was POURING down rain and the last spot was on a hill. We sat hunkered in the car while my husband tried to pitch our tent…he finally gave up and we went on a tour of the city looking for a motel. No such luck…our girls started praying in the car as Dad went into each office looking for a room and remarked that “this must be how Mary felt when they couldn’t find room at the inn”! Finally as we started driving towards Rapid City, I urged my husband to stop at a Little motel down in a valley that had their sign turned off. They had room but had turned the lights off because it was late and they figured no one would be stopping…Turns out they were from our hometown of Concord, Ca! They missed their grandchildren so much that they adopted our girls and spoiled them rotten until it was time to leave!! One of our best memories ever!!! Thanks for shaking my brain a little!

  10. Hilarious, I am from Jacksonville, I still have a house in the newly minted St. John’s by our southern version of US 1, I grew up near butler blvd that will get you most places in 20-25 minutes I am now living next to a museum in Searsport Maine on route one where there is nothing lol and have faced the no vacancy dilemma a year ago in October. I don’t think much has changed since 1980, it is beautiful here though.

  11. What a great story, you had me laughing through the whole story.
    Even though I felt bad for you, I could relate to you in so many ways. My father was a “crack of dawn” traveler as well and we didn’t stop until we needed gas. Thanks so much for sharing your family with us.

      1. We were roused from our cozy beds at 3AM….
        Had to be on the road BEFORE the morning traffic started in.
        We had reservations in Attleboro Mass @ the Park Arms Motel. We would freshen up; have breakfast and then to to RI to my grandparents… then once the sun started to set; no night traffic; it was back to Mass to sleep til ; yup, you guessed it 3AM .. then half asleep back into the car; we had a Ford Ranch Wagon; for the long tedious ride back home. Usually it was an annual trip for Labor Day.. so arriving home on Sunday; chores needed to be done; Monday was the holiday ( explains why we left before Monday morning)…

        And then there was the one time we went north. Long car ride; 2 adults & 3 kids; Dad ran what he called ‘ express runs’ ..
        well after getting car sick; any riding over 2 hours and that was me… the queen of barf; and if he didn’t stop when I begged him; well you get the picture.
        So; after rinsing out my mouth with his dishwater tea ( claimed it kept him awake to drive)… I went back a bit further in the woods to be hidden from sight to relieve myself.. lovely— no paper; and the napkin I had in my dress pocket was gross from wiping down the front of me..
        so; heard about it on tv; so grabbed some leaves; think I might have been 9… and then I loaded up the front of my dress with some apples I seen there.
        I was hungry; now that I had emptied my stomach ( and a few others as well)… they were very tasty.. green but not bitter.. so I shared and then that next weekend my Dad went back there and dug up that apple tree. .. best apples he ever ate.. then he tries to spin it that was why we stopped there…
        Anyways for years we called it “ Bunny’s Puke Tree’ … this was back in early 60’s; believe that tree is still there…

  12. Greg,
    I wish you had captioned those beautiful photos, in particular the lighthouse. Is it called the Nubble?
    You left me guessing.
    Great story anyway.

    1. I’m not exactly sure, Hilary. For the first time, I used stock photos in a post, as I don’t have any pics of Maine from my own camera!

      1. Both of those lighthouse pictures are the Portland Headlight. The Nubble is my favorite view in the entire world; my stomping ground as a teenager!

  13. I love a road trip….a couple of hours or full blown cross country and I’ve mostly done them off the cuff…but you do learn one thing…on a weekend, ESPECIALLY a HOLIDAY weekend, you have to call ahead for reservations, especially in a “hot destination”. Most of the time you can play it as it goes, you don’t always know when/where you’re going to be, so you can’t call. My worst experience was not calling ahead for reservations at Lake Tahoe, NV, on a weekend…we were going to spend Friday day/night in/around Reno, that was until we drove through town…hmmm…it was a grey, damp morning and nothing there appealed, so we elected to drive through…the drive itself was gorgeous, the sun came out and driving down the east side of California, through farm land and cow pastures that reminded me of Switzerland…just grazing Yosemite’s eastern entrance – coming down from Reno, all we had to do was make a phone call at lunchtime but my traveling companion didn’t want to do that .. so even though we arrived in Tahoe around 4:30 pm, it took us 4+ hours, no dinner and lots of mumbled grumbling almost the whole time while we did an almost complete circumnavigation of the lake in order to find a room, and a bad one at that, around 9:00 pm. We had a lake view room all set for Sat/Sun on the CA side of Tahoe, but misjudged our arrival time/day, thus my friend’s reluctance to call ahead…BIG MISTAKE…you can always cancel the reservation if you don’t need it…

    Coming from southeast MA, I drove up to Bar Harbor on a vacation…it was our first stop on the way up to the Canadian Maritime provinces, so we got to bypass Portland. It is a very long drive but worth it. Portland has also been a destination on a different excursion…as I recall, we also had a tough time getting a room there without reservations we did get one, but it was only a so-so room in a neighboring village…who’d a thunk Portland ME was a hot destination?

    The thing is, would you have remembered your Bar Harbor trip if you had gotten a room and completed the original purpose? I’m pretty sure I would not have recalled the Tahoe incident if we’d just waltzed into our Sat/Sun hotel and got into our room a day earlier without incident. And I’m glad I remember it, because it’s on my bucket list to go back out west and take that drive down south from Reno, through eastern CA/western NV again…a beautiful road less traveled and hopefully worth a second look.

    1. Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Such good motorcycle riding and hiking/camping! I used to visit a lot when I lived in SF. Someday, we’ll get out there again…

  14. I can relate to your car trip boredom. I also get violently ill if I so much as think about reading anything in a car. It made for miserable road trips. I can remember driving all the way from central Florida to Washington D.C. as a kid with nothing to amuse me but singing along with Wham on the radio. My dad always drove cars until they were on their last legs, so of course something went wrong with the car on the ride home. I have no idea what the problem was, but my new entertainment all the way back to Florida was to hold a cup of water, and when something in the floorboard started smoking, my job was to poor water on it. I can tell you, nothing is more exciting than keeping the family car from going up in flames.

  15. Greg! You are such a talented writer! I always enjoy reading you and the experiences that you convey so well…….do you write for any publications? You should! (-:

  16. Loved your travel stories! We’ve all got those! Mine goes way back to 1953 and a driving trip from Amarillo, Texas to Miami, Florida! We borrowed my uncle’s air conditioned new car, I was 5. In Miami I got so sunburned that I remember a trip to a doctor, I got carsick every day and coming home we were hit by another car in Pensacola, Florida and I was taken to the hospital (released). My three kids we dragged in a car trip from Plano, Texas to Washington DC and each of us thought about just walking off! The girls only question once we got that the capital was “where’s the mall??” That’s the day they learned there are other meanings to that word. Those are the moments that make memories, of love, boredom and misery! Luckily I’m still making those types of memories with the people I love.

  17. Omg, Greg! This brought back memories of a weekend trip to Rockland, Maine from Western New York in August. My husband had heard about a “Lobster Fest” in Rockland that was supposed to be “glorious”. We (my husband, teenage daughter and I) drove to Rockland without reservations and ended up having to stay in a rickety old building that was supposedly a hotel. The walls were very weird and you swore everyone in the place could see into your room. After we settled in we went to the dining room for some of the much promised super lobster. We shared the dining room with a entourage of about 12 teenage girls in lobster colored gowns who were vying for the “Queen of the Lobster Fest ” title. The lobster was underboiled, mushy and I swore was ” bad”, so we really couldn’t consume it. We went to bed and anticipated going to the Lobster Fest the next day. We got there and were in shock to see a handful of “attractions” that looked like a church picnic in a very poor Parrish. We come from Erie County, NY where our county fair is one of the very largest in the whole country (bigger than the State Fair). Needless to say, we saw it all in under 5 minutes. We decided we’d seen enough of Rockland and left for a drive up the coast. We briefly stopped in Rockland for a meal and a trip on a lobster boat. Rockland was lovely, but alas, had no vacancies. We started heading back home and faced town after town; in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, that had no vacancies. We were so tired when we came upon a creepy old hotel (think Bates Motel) and talked the proprietor into letting us stay. She was like a old gypsy with weird clothing and jewelry, but she had taken a liking to my husband so found us accomodations. We dragged our luggage to the upper floor and walked into a huge suite with threadbare carpet, blood spatters on the bathroom walls, and a stench that wreaked from the walls on and off the whole night. It was like being in a 1920’s gangster movie. We couldn’t wait to leave.

    It was a trip from hell and one we’ll never forget. It taught us a valuable lesson. Always make reservations ahead of time!!!

  18. What a great story–and such an awful disaster! I grab those hotel/motel coupon books available at Burger King turnpike stops and daydream about traveling! I moved from NH to Maine 31 years ago–and, generally, it is the way life should be. Although having a bit of seasonal affective disorder doesn’t help my lessening enjoyment of winter as I age! It has grown so much since I have been here; it has been a while since I have seen a moose (once from the end of my short driveway)–and I’m 10 min. away from the State House (in Augusta) and 10 min. from a Wal-Mart!

    1. There was a time when we were living in India that I dreamed of buying a house in Maine. Maine and Vermont always had a hold over me (I went to Middlebury College). But 7 years as a homeowner in CT was enough to teach me that I’m done with winter and all that it brings to a homeowner! Give me sunshine and shorts! 🙂

  19. Living in New Hampshire, I have driven that way a number of times. Beautiful coast, frigid water and great lobster, (just squint and forget about the sunburn and the sand in your pants).

  20. I’m sure I have a travel disaster or two to share if I think about it, but I totally understand the car sickness. I can’t read, and can’t even reach down to tie my shoes, in a moving car. My mom used to have salted pretzel sticks for us to snack on to help with car sickness. I think the “cruise ship” philosophy of “as long as you’re putting food into your stomach, you won’t throw it up” seasickness prevention is the same idea my mom had. It sort of works. I always bring Triscuit, and what we called “squirt cheese” when my kids were little, and that seems to stave off nausea. I still don’t even try to read in the car. Tying my shoes is usually avoided. I wear boots or sandals, depending on the weather, and don’t have to tie my shoes.

  21. I, too, had problems with car sickness, somI usually got to sit in the front. Other than that, the only bad car trip I had was in the early 70s when we traveled from Dallas to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to see my stepdad’s three boys. There I learned canned pumpkin is not the same thing as pumpkin pie filling. His mother asked us if we wanted some pumpkin, my two baby brothers, baby sister, and I said sure. She opened a can of pumpkin and just plopped it on our plates. It was awful. And we also learned not to put your Starburst candy in a cooler. It makes them rock hard. Luckily, no teeth were chipped, but my heart was broken over wasted candy. I was also a chunky kid, so candy was a treat. One of my dream vacations would be to travel to Maine, so definitely making reservations when the time comes. Love your posts. Happy New Year!

    1. Canned pumpkin on a plate? I’m trying to imagine it, but my brain just won’t let me proceed, lol! You’ll love Maine if and when you go. One of the most beautiful coastlines in the world!

  22. I laughed when you told about the cereal boxes/bowls. I remember using those on camping trips with mixed success!

  23. Yeah, we had a similar situation once. We arrived at our pre-booked B&B on the 31st of December, at about 6 pm. We did not even cross the front door, as we realised that it was definitely in the wrong neighbourhood. Even the windows were closed up with brown paper… So we soldiered on to find another place to stay for the night. Took about 3 hours to finally find a hotel with enough rooms for 6 people, and this was in a big city.
    Then we went on the hunt for food. No restaurant had space (this was new year’s eve after all), and no restaurant offered any takeaways that evening. We ended up getting something at the 7 Eleven and eating it in the hotel room by 11:30 pm.
    Oh, and we’ve also had a lot of car trouble on vacations, always in a small town, always on a Sunday, and it always took hours to fix. 😉

  24. We went from East Cleveland, Ohio to Bar Harbor pulling our faithful tin mini motel. I as the eldest sat on the floor with Penny our sweet little dog behind my dad. So we get there after miles and mile and miles. Luckily I could read and still do so I started and finished a book and got halfway thru another. Anyway we pulled into the park and unhitched old la motel. Mom made dinner. Everyone of us 5 kids were beat from the drive. They al piled into the camper and Penny and I went back into the back seat. The only bad thing was when mom bought lobsters and cried as she put them in the big pot. I don’t eat fish anymore.