Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Raising the Bar

I can't resist a play on words.* This is merely a hint about our trip to Bar Harbor on Tuesday. (What hint? I just said that's where we went.) Better than “crossing the bar,” which refers to death! Although that might be a better metaphor, considering how many times we wanted to kill each other today. Just a little bit of bickering. Probably the seven-day itch—the togetherness is getting to us.

Before attempting to engage in any social interaction, I rose early to go for a run before breakfast. I meant to get out by 6:30 or so, but in the end it was about 7:00 before I made it down the stairs and out the door. (I'll do better on Wednesday.)

There's a pretty good loop route from the Inn that I used the last time I was here. It's about 6½ miles, a little longer with the extra distance to Shipps House. From the center of Stonington you run north on 15 (trying to keep out of the way of oncoming cars!), a little over two miles (actually 2.67 from the Shipps House) to Lily's Cafe; turn left on what I believe is called Airport Road and follow that road another two miles; then take another left by a mini-mart at Burnt Cove and follow that road back into Stonington. An extra repeat up and down Main Street and then back to the Shipps House netted me 7.25 miles for this morning.

The hilly road brought back a few memories of the half marathon. Is coastal Maine made up of all hills? Still, despite my rather stiff legs and sluggish feel (and the hills), I did a few 11-minute and a few 10:30-minute miles, which would be typical for a morning run at home. I was a little nervous about lack of a bathroom on the route until the mini-mart, but luckily the upset in time zones and the lack of fiber in my travel diet (replacing wheat bran and Fiber One with whoopie pies and blueberry pie, and masses of vegetables with, well, nothing) saved me from any traumatic moments on the road. (There were lots of trees along the way, but I had no desire to use one! Unlike my sister, who will go on the beach or the side of the road before using a porta-potty or questionable public restroom. She has an obsession about germs; I have an obsession about not exposing myself in public!)**

Of course since I had left later than planned, that meant I got back later too, leaving little time to shower and dress before getting to breakfast. This led to quarrel #1, with my mother (who by the way, was not ready to go herself) “We'll never get there on time! It's almost 9:00!” “Yes we will, breakfast goes to 9:30!” “We still have to get down there! I'm not going!” “You are not skipping breakfast! We'll take the car!” My dad came back in as words were exchanged, which should have demonstrated to him that we don't just fight with him. (I'm not going to relate every tiff that occurred all day. But this sets the tone.)

Anyhow, we drove down to breakfast and got there at 9:15, in plenty of time. I brought my own packet of Quaker Weight Control Oatmeal (which I highly recommend for travel, as it has added protein and fiber, and not a lot of sugar) (along with some dried cherries and cinnamon) because I couldn't justify eating the muffins and bread that are the staple of this kind of breakfast. (I did partake of their fruit, yoghurt and tea.)

By the time we ate and I spent a few minutes on the computer (okay half an hour or so, maybe a little more), it was mid to late morning. The plan was a trip to Bar Harbor, which was my dad's choice of destination. I mention this because there has been some implication on his part that we only do what I want to do, not what he wants (which is total B.S., although I would admit that there was some time devoted to my half marathon, and otherwise I am just a good activity planner). Actually at this point our plans for the Stonington stay are equally divided amongst everyone's desires. Bar Harbor for my dad today; a climb up Blue Hill for me tomorrow morning; and a boat trip for my mom tomorrow afternoon. I do admit that the Blue Hill excursion could affect the boat trip, but that's all dependent on how slowly we get up and down the Hill.

Bar Harbor is a very pretty seaport town, near Acadia National Park, which is quite popular with travelers and tourists. Tons of shops. Strangely enough for a tightwad, my dad loves looking in shops. That's the main appeal of Bar Harbor to him, I think (as well as the scenery, of course). I, on the other hand, a well known shopper and spendthrift (although also a tightwad in some ways), did not have a strong desire to browse through shops again today. However, I was happy to enjoy the scenery.

It's a pretty long drive from Stonington to Bar Harbor (made longer by my stop to take pictures near the bridge leaving Deer Isle), and by the time we arrived it was nearly 2:00. The delay had also included a bathroom stop at McDonald's, where I decided to address my caffeine deficiency by trying a McDonald's latte. Big mistake. The latte was horrible. It just tasted like not-very-good coffee to me, and I couldn't even taste the sugar-free vanilla that was supposed to be in it. Maybe they forgot it. The old guy who took my order seemed a little clueless, maybe he forgot to push the right button on the cash register. Anyhow, Starbucks has nothing to fear, in my opinion!
When we did get to Bar Harbor I was hungry, my mother was hungry, and I don't know whether my dad was hungry or not. But to avoid further argument (like whether or not lunch was appropriate), I just told him that we were going to eat and he could go walk around if he liked. He chose to come along for lunch.

Instead of the more expensive, touristy restaurants on the main street, I took us back to a takeaway on West Street called the Lobster Claw. It's owned by an older guy named Barry, the food is fresh and homemade, and it's extremely casual and low key. Instead of taking our lunch to go, we chose to sit at their tiny tables. My dad, Mr. Delicate, had a bowl of clam chowder, my mother had the fish and chips which was grilled haddock with fabulous fries (they bill them as fabulous and they really are), and I had a lobster roll without mayonnaise and a wonderfully huge salad. My parents decided to sit outside facing the street, which was fun for them, but I thought it was a little chilly in the shade and huddled inside instead.

Then we did break up and my dad headed out for his shop browsing, while my mother and I strolled down to the harbor. After sitting on a sunny bench for a bit (warm in the sun, chilly in the shade!), we headed along the Shore Path that runs along the waterfront for about a mile, in front of a number of multi-million dollar waterfront homes. (There was a sign advertising the last available waterfront lot for sale at a mere $1.495 million—for the undeveloped lot.) Needless to say, many pictures were taken along the way!

I love this lobster red boat! (Not, however, a red lobster boat.)

My mom and I on the dock. This is practically the first time I've put jeans on all summer (and now summer's over, isn't it?) After a summer wearing nothing but dresses, shorts, and running clothes, jeans take a little getting used to again!

The shore path along the waterfront in Bar Harbor.

A picture perfect harbor scene.

One of the lavish mansions we passed. They call this style “Tudor” because it has two doors, one in front and one in back! (A little Tudor humor; my sister and her husband lived in a Seattle Tudor for quite a few years before they moved to the country last year.)

My mother walking along the shore path.

A side path to the village. We didn't have time to take it, but rather just retraced our steps. The sign reminds me of the footpaths in England, particularly the ones that pass through villages between the houses!

One of the cruise boats that frequent Bar Harbor.

A different view of my mother and me along the path.

We watched this schooner come into the harbor.

Back at the center of town, I left my mother to find my father and set out to find myself a better latte for the trip home. I started at an ice cream shop that also advertised coffee drinks. The server was a young girl*** with a European or Russian accent who, when I started to describe what I wanted, looked puzzled and helpless. Clearly she did not have the ability to make a somewhat complex latte.**** I asked her if there was anywhere else that had espresso drinks, and she directed me to an internet cafe down the street. I promised I'd be back for ice cream.

The internet cafe espresso guy agreed he could make my order (16-ounce nonfat latte, four shots espresso, sugar-free caramel, which they happened to have, otherwise I would have taken anything sugar-free, I'm not particular, really), and he did, although its quality was just so-so. I'm a little spoiled by my peeps at the QFC Starbucks in Everett, where they know exactly what I want and how I want it!

As promised, I returned to the ice cream shop because I wanted to bring my parents a sample of lobster ice cream, just so we could say we had it. She insisted that I try it before ordering, so I did. Lobster ice cream tastes like a very vanilla-y ice cream with chunks of frozen lobster in it. Not something I would want in great quantity, but not unpalatable, and it was the experience I was seeking, anyway. I ordered a small, which was two scoops, with just half a scoop of lobster ice cream and the rest maple frozen yoghurt (which was yummy).

When I got to the car my dad wasn't back yet, so mother and I ate the ice cream while we waited.

Then we headed back to Stonington, with me driving so we had some hope of getting back to use the wireless internet a bit before the inn closed at 7:00. Thanks to my efficient use of the gas pedal, we got back to town at 6:35, I grabbed my laptop, and had enough time to write a couple of e-mails and read a couple of blogs.***** When the inn closed at 7, I spent a few more minutes on the bench outside before joining my parents across the street at the Harbor Inn.***** I haven't tackled a whole lobster since Sunday—tonight I had lobster meat on a plate of salad—but maybe I'll take the plunge again tomorrow.

*Nor can the residents of Maine. Catchy business names using variations of “maine” and “mainely” are very popular!

**I felt like it had been too long since I'd written about toilet topics. Consider this a drought ended.

***Does it show my age when I call a person who's probably in her twenties, a “young girl”?

****I had a similar problem with another accented girl at an espresso counter in Ogunquit. I had to repeat my specs several times, and even though she claimed to have it, it tasted weak on espresso and strong on sugar-free vanilla, to me. (She better not have shorted me on shots, considering how much they charge for extra shots here, compared to Starbucks.) Yes, despite being a good traveler, I am a bit parochial about my lattes.

*****Between the running, travel activities, trying to write a bit, and so forth, I am way behind on my blog reading. I hate to think what I'm missing! It's so much easier to keep up when I'm at work every day...which sounds a little bad, doesn't it?

******The signal doesn't hold up across the street, but I was able to finish looking at the pages I had open, which included the results of the half marathon. I knew my time already, but here's my other stats: 242 out of 601 participants; 36 out of 95 in my age group (40-44).

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