Maine 2018

We made an impromptu trip to Maine with our friends Sam and Joanne.

There’s a back-story: we were supposed to be camping this week with Sam and Joanne (and others) but a conflict with school forced some to cancel, and eventually everyone canceled.  Since we all had the time off already scheduled I had the idea for a quick road trip with S&J.  Meghan made the arrangements when they bought in, so game on.

dock and reflection

Found this very stereotypical Maine view while biking on Friday morning

Day 1: Foul Weather, Destination Southport

We left home on Thursday.  S&J had the longer drive, but our house was on the way so we met up here and caravaned the rest of the way together.

A bundle of rain followed them from Connecticut, and would continue to follow us all the rest of the way.

Meghan and I neglected to pack until they arrived, as we were running around all morning doing chores, so they got in a short, much-needed break from driving in the rain.

We rolled into the Ocean Gate hotel around 5 pm.  We had rented three rooms: one for S&J and their son; one for Alpha and Beta; and one for Meghan, me, and Butter-the-dog.  We were spread across different buildings in the resort, but the girls were close to S&J so that was ok.

Our room, unlike the others, had a full kitchen — indeed, that was one of the selling points for us.  It was billed as “not having a view” but that was a lie: the view was, in fact, beautiful.

sunrise

Sunrise on Saturday morning. I didn’t mean to wake up at 5 am, but I’m glad I did since I got to see this.

We went out to dinner at a tiny-but-tony restaurant called Oliver’s at Cozy Harbor.  The food was excellent, btw.  Joanne went high-end and got a “lobstertini,” lobster meat served in a martini glass, but most everyone else went basic with burgers or fish-and-chips.

group photo

Sitting down to dinner at Oliver’s. Everyone was tired. and nobody but the server saw me taking the picture, which is why everyone looks bored

We did check out some of the “traditional” Maine sight-seeing, which is to say we took pictures of the fog:

foggy harbor

The very foggy view from Oliver’s [click to expand]

Day 2: Swimming, Shopping, Dinner at Home

Sam and I started Friday off with a bang: we went biking.  The kids started off with fun: they went swimming in the pool.  Meghan and Joanne started off with style: they took a dip in the hot tub.

After everyone felt ready to start their day, we packed into the cars and took a short ride to Boothbay Harbor.  It was hot so we had an ice cream lunch.  The girls shopped, while I took Butter on a walk up and down the main drag.  She’s truly an adorable dog and we stopped to talk to several people that wanted to “say hi” to her.

sam in kayak

Sam braved rumbles of thunder to discover that a nearby island is not, in fact, an island.

We all took a siesta in the late afternoon back at the hotel, except for Sam who ignored the impending thunderstorm and went kayaking.

After a brief downpour and a bit of lightning, we got going on our planned “traditional get together” dinner: spaghetti and sauce.  This is why the in-room kitchen was important, you see.

For years, when we lived near each other, we would gather at one house or the other and feed everyone with a simple pasta, meat sauce, and garlic bread dinner.  From time to time we do it even now, but the drive is much longer.

I made the pasta, Sam made the garlic bread, and the kids watched TV.  This was about as traditional as you can get without being home.

preparing dinner

After dinner I washed up while everyone else played a game at the table until bedtime.

Day 3: Freeport and Home

Our stay was intentionally short because we were trying a too-good-to-be-true hotel and everything came together last-minute.  Much too short.

After a big breakfast we packed up and rolled out, destination: Freeport.  Sam had only passed through Maine before, never stopping, and Joanne has never been at all.  Both wanted to see the main L.L. Bean store in Freeport.  Meghan is always game to go there.  I walked around with Butter while everyone wandered inside the store for an hour because I just can’t even.  We also made time for the Ben and Jerry’s store, of course.

We made our final leg home, where S&J paid us a final visit before making their way home as well.

Meghan Makes Rank of “Captain Jack”

Our friend Sam is scout master for his son’s Boy Scout troop.  In order to teach the kids knots he put together a knot board to tie eight of the most important knots to know.

There are ranks.  “Captain Jack” is when you can tie all eight, in under two minutes… while blindfolded.

We are very proud of Meghan, who missed being “Fleet Admiral” (all eight, under a minute, blindfolded) by mere seconds.  She beat the pants of every member of the troop, including Sam’s own son.  Fortunately for my own ego we had to leave and could not try for Fleet Admiral one more time.

Storrs Adventure Park

Zip lines are fun.

We spent the day with our very good friends Sam and Joanne, and their child who will be identified in this blog as Mu.  The kids all grew up together so they enjoy meeting up too.

Alpha on balance beam

Alpha didn’t even pause before striding out onto the beam. It swayed but she stuck to it like a gecko.

In our absence, something new sprouted up in Storrs that Sam and Joanne wanted to show us: The Adventure Park.  It’s an aerial park – meaning that you spend your time up in the trees.  There are several courses of varying difficulty to choose from.

In order to climb, you’re strapped into a harness similar to a rock climber’s, with a couple of integrated carabiners and a zipline pulley.  The carabiners can be locked-closed, and are linked via cable.  In order to unlock one, you must lock the other, and the mechanism to unlock is built into the safety lines that guide you through the course – so you must always be clipped in.  Once you start the course, you cannot get into a situation where you’re not clipped to a guideline or tether until you reach the end — very safe and difficult to screw up accidentally or intentionally.

Alpha on high wire

Alpha looking down for her photograph. I estimates that she was about 40 feet up.

The courses include a mixture of obstacles, ziplines, and lengths of high-wire dare-devilry.  The staff is watchful and makes sure everyone is conducting themselves appropriately, as some bits can be a bit challenging.  There is one course that, we are told, active-duty Marines have trouble with.

Sadly, I did not bring appropriate footwear.  Flip-flops are verboten so I could not climb.  The girls scrambled up without a second thought, however, and left me to take photos.  I’m very proud of them!  They handled themselves with grace, and without fear — even when they were forty or fifty feet off the ground and traversing a span like a tight-rope walker.

Both kids going over a pair of obstacles

Both girls working their way over back-to-back obstacles

The park itself is remarkable.  The trees are carefully trussed to hold up platforms and guide-wires with minimal damage — nothing is nailed in, instead the cables are wrapped and tied, and the platforms are help up with wedges to provide friction fits.  Their business model works best when people feel comfortable that the space will not be damaged, so nature preserves and landowners will allow them to set up installations confident that the impact will be minimal.

Both girls ran into a bit of trouble right at the very end on some obstacles that were wreaking havoc with everyone else, too — a staff member was already up in the trees, having just helped extract the previous victim, and was on-hand to help.  The obstacles were upright-‘L’ shaped logs that didn’t behave well when stepped on.  The girls made me proud by keeping their heads, trying to extricate themselves before asking for help, and actively assisted in their rescue (rather than some other people, who just glumly hung there while getting pulled to the next platform).

We stayed and let the kids weave through the courses for a couple of hours, until the shadows started getting long and we had to start planning for dinner on the road.  All in all, it was expensive ($70 for the two kids) but well worth it.

The Last Ringbearer

I was reminded over the weekend about The Last Ringbearer while talking with my buddy Sam, who likes The Lord Of the Rings but had never heard of TLR.

The tl;dr version is it’s LOTR as told by the losing side.  I enjoyed LTR more than LOTR because it provides more context to the events – the political manoeuvring and intrigue, about-faces, and a far more rational  explanation for why the battles portrayed in LOTR are so important.

The original is in Russian, but the English translation is “non-commerical” (the translator’s words) and is free.  It can be found at http://ymarkov.livejournal.com/270570.html where the translator provides backstory for why TLR exists and why the translation is free.

Sam

Aside

[The kids are watching “How To Train Your Dragon 2”]

“Hiccup looks like Uncle Sam.”

“… Oh, yeah.  A very young looking Uncle Sam.”

“Yeah, when he shaves.”

Birthday Party, Part Deux (this time, with lasers)

Alpha’s choice of birthday party was laser tag at MVP.  (Last year we celebrated her birthday with mini-golf at the same place.)  So with a small group of her friends and a couple of adults, we tromped in and had a great time!

I rocked the scores.  Admittedly, there were more kids than adults (myself, Sam, and another adult not attached to our party) and a bunch of kids (again, not all attached to our party) but I really did wipe the other team out twice – two for two. Sam was a not-too-close second.)

I think we need to assemble some more adults and have another laser tag party there some time.  It’s like paintball without the bruises.

Afterwards: pizza and cake and video games, of course. Gifts were exchanged, some of which Alpha was really excited to see.

Alpha is currently off for a sleepover at Rho’s house.  (Like other greek letter-named people in this blog, that is not her real name – though I could imagine someone naming their child Rho so I feel like I should note that occasionally).  After all the trouble Alpha had in adjusting to the move, I never thought that we would be exchanging kids with another family so regularly as we have with Alpha and Rho.

Just an aside: I was chatting with Rho’s mother during the party, and it turns out that Alpha and Rho were rating boys at the last sleepover.  <sigh>