Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista. And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.
Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring. Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations. Enjoy the ride and the views.
After a pleasant night stay in Old Orchard, ME, I got up early in the morning with my grandchildren Joselyn and Rockwell to hopefully catch a sunrise and boy did we get a royal treat!!
The skies were colorful with shades of pink, purple, blue and orange and then the ball of the sun rose up over the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most amazing I have ever seen!!
This was going to be a long day for us as we would drive up to Portland to see a famous lighthouse and then into New Hampshire, onto Vermont and then back to Connecticut to drop Rockwell off. From there we would return back to Lexington…a good 20 hour day from start to finish. Following is the route map for the day.
The rest of the family was up soon and we were ready to get packed and head north to Portland to see the famed Portland Head Light. Of course, we needed breakfast, so we stopped at The Cookie Jar in Cape Elizabeth, ME. They offered a wonderful selection of fresh baked goods so we grabbed a few donuts and a fresh loaf of whole grain bread. We would eat the donuts at the lighthouse. The RED VELVET donuts were to die for!!
The Portland Head Light was only a few minutes from the bakery in Port Elizabeth. Situated along the spectacular shores of Fort Williams Park, at 1000 Shore Road, the popular landmark is owned and managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, ME. Construction on the original lighthouse was begun in 1787. The original tower measured 72′ from base to lantern deck and was lit with 16 whale oil lamps. It was first lit on January 10, 1791.
When we got to the park we enjoyed donuts, orange juice and an amazing few of the rugged and rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth with a backdrop of the historic lighthouse. Julianne , Marissa and the kids took a nice hike along the shores while I protected the table and the food.
This little visit was one of the highlights of the trip for us. This old lighthouse and the scenic surroundings were absolutely splendid. But we had to move on.
The next leg of the trip was my “selfish pleasure” I must admit. Over the years of my life I had, to this very day, visited 49 of the US states (having visited New Hampshire and Maine in the past two days). That left ONE state remaining on the list – Vermont. And the other thing I wanted to do on this visit, since I discovered the place in my research, was to visit Sandwich, NH and get a sandwich in Sandwich.
So, westward ho to New Hampshire we went, driving along Maine Highway 25 through Cornish and Porter and into Freedom, NH. When we arrived in Freedom I searched diligently for the Post Office. You see, my friend Antsy McClain has a song titled “Living in Aluminum” and there is a lyric in the song that says “I’ll send you a Post Card from Freedom sometime.” I wanted to actually send Antsy and a few my other Flamingohead friends a postcard. But alas, we didn’t find one so we moved on, continuing west on Hwy 25 into Sandwich, NH, with our timing fairly close to noon.
Sandwich, NH is the perfect example of what I imagined an old New England town would be like. We drove around looking for a cafe or a restaurant….JUST so I could say that I ate a sandwich in Sandwich. I even stopped in the town hall and asked and was told there was no place!! So, as you can see, this was an absolute Sandwich Fail and I will likely never hear the end of it from my wife! Turns out that the closest place for a sandwich near Sandwich is about 22 minutes away on Hwy 113 in Holderness, NH at the Squam Lake Market Place. So, off we we went.
The Squam Lake Market Place is like an upscale convenience store located on the western shore of Squam Lake at the intersection of US Hwy 3 and NH 113. It has a meat market, some locally made goods and a place to get sandwiches. But note, there is NOT a restroom on the site. You have to drive down the road to the library and use the Porta-Potty.
We were all starved and so I ordered sandwiches for everyone…four grandkids and three adults. I was in major shock when I was told that the total was nearly $80!!! A jelly sandwich for Lyla was $7.00!! All of a sudden I was in “Squirm Lake.” Already in trouble for the Sandwich Fail in Sandwich, going out of our way, etc., I was then in the doghouse for a “fancy meal” priced sandwich lunch.
The sandwiches were good, but $12 for a simple sandwich was a bit overwhelming. But at least the sandwiches were good.
From Squam Lake we headed further southwest towards Brattleboro, VT….still a bit out of the way, but got me into Vermont, even for a few moments!! My 50th State was finally checked off the list.
We had taken Hwy 9, crossed the Connecticut River and there was the sign. From there we were in Vermont for a total of about 5 minutes as we drive south into Massachusetts to return to Vernon, CT to drop off Rockwell, give the family a hug goodbye and make the long drive home back to Kentucky.
A couple of stops for fuel and food along the way and by about 2 AM we were back home in Kentucky. A long trip home but a wonderful 5 day trip to the Atlantic coast.
Life is always good when on the road end enjoying the ride…especially with family!
This is Part II of my posts about our visit to New England, most specifically Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (with a drive through Massachusetts). Day 2 was a nice day of travel south to Mystic, CT and then north all the way to Maine. Following is a map with our basic route
We took a fairly easy morning and went over to pickup our grandson Rockwell, who would join us on this two day adventure and off we went.
Our first stop was at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT. This is actually a person’s house with a huge backyard full of self-sculpted dinosaurs. The brainchild and creation of Jeff Wells, this unique “haven” got its start in 1981. He has well over 30 dinosaurs, including a life-size T-Rex, most of which are made from welded metal fabrication. Some are pretty realistic!! (See a detailed writeup about Jeff Wells on Roadside America.)
Fairly easy to get to, you get off at Exit 79-A on I-395 , then immediately take Hwy 2A exit 1. Drive north on Hwy 32 for a half-mile. Wells Dinosaur Haven will be on the left, across the street from the casino. It’s back in the trees and easy to miss, but look for the red house, brown fence, and small dinosaur sign.
Though visiting is free, Mr. Wells requests that you ask to enter. So, we knocked on the door and I even called the number (860-848-0616) to get permission. Nobody was home, so we went in and I made sure that we left nothing but tracks, a Guest Book Entry and a Donation. It really was fun for the kids to walk through and see all of the dinosaurs. The adults were fascinated too!
Jeff Wells’ work is very good. I would count this place among my must see places that would include Jurrustic Park in Wisconsin, Enchanted Highway in North Dakota and others. I will likely do a special post just on this place in the near future.
After our visit in Uncasville, we were off to Mystic, CT for a visit and for lunch. Founded in 1654, the town now has a little over 4000 residents. Many know of the town due to the famous 1988 movie Mystic Pizza which helped kick Julia Roberts and Matt Damon off in their careers. We had actually considered going there to eat, but decided against it after hearing numerous reports that it really wasn’t too good.
But, since it was the site of a well known movie, it was a fun place for a photo op! So, Julianne and I hit the scene and at least got a photo. Wherever I am with my sweet wife is a slice of heaven!
Mystic is actually a very scenic New England coastal village. They have a well known Aquarium (which we didn’t visit due to cost and time limitations), a seaport, which includes a unique museum called The Museum of America and the Sea, and nearby in Groton is the Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum. Unfortunately, we had a tight schedule, so we opted out of these two museums as well. But, we DID have time for lunch and opted for a local eatery that served Thai and Asian cuisine since we are all fond of that kind of food.
We discovered the 4 Roosevelt Asian Bistro on our drive in and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there. It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy.
The restaurant is not a large place, with only a few tables. The staff was very friendly and helpful (and willing to handle a crowd with three adults and four young children).
Each of the kids got some kids specialities and I think there was some curry ordered and a couple of vegetable dishes. I enjoyed the Pad Thai with tofu. The prices were reasonable and the food was excellent!
With tummies full, and palates pleasingly tantalized, we were ready to take off on the long drive north to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. We hopped on Interstate 95 and stayed on the road through Massachusetts, skirting around the traffic of Boston on I-495, a quick cut through New Hampshire and then into the bottom neck of Maine, my first visit there. With a stop in New Hampshire’s Welcome Center Rest Area (in Seabrook, NH) and then into Maine, I had officially hit my 48th and 49th states in the United States!
After the brief stop in Seabrook, we were back on the road headed for Maine. Unfortunately, I-95 offers few glimpses of the rocky coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. You need to be on US Highway 1 to get those great views. We were hsutling to get to Old Orchard Beacwhile the sun was still up so that the kids could play on the beach and Julianne and I could sit on the beach and watch the sunset.
We had made prior arrangements to stay at the Normandie Motor Inn, a 1960s style Motel that was literally right on the beach. We were a two minute walk from our room to the beach. They had a special rate and it was perfect for us for the one night stay.
I think was actually my first time ever to stay in this kind of beachside motel. I was close back in the 1980s when I stayed in a motor inn near Rehoboth Beach, DE, but it was a five minute drive from the beach. So, it was a thrill for this young-hearted grandpa!
We watched the sun go down and then we watched as some folks came in to do some night fishing for sea bass. Their poles were lit up with blue lights that would shake and shimmy when there was a fish on the line. And, when the fun was over, we made our way into town to find some dinner and enjoyed some fresh seafood at a place called the Bell Buoy Restaurant. It was very kid friendly though it also had a bar. The kids were all happy with their meals.
It was a long day…we were tired and finally made it to bed. The morning would bring us a wonderful sunrise and a new day of fun. I’ll cover that in Part III.