Old Orchard Beach & Acadia National Park
May 5 – 12
On our drive up the east coast into Maine, we made a short detour for a peek at the Nubble Light House. We didn’t stay long, but spent a few minutes exploring the tidepools and enjoying the picturesque vistas.
We were eager to spend some time in Maine, but when we started looking up campgrounds we discovered that we were arriving before season, and many campgrounds were not even open yet. Of those that were open, some that we contacted were not accepting reservations because it had been such a wet spring that trailers had been getting stuck in the mud. So we were happy to find a campground on the coast where we could spend the weekend on our way to Acadia National Park. It was called Ne’re Beach Campground, and it was in a charming little coastal town called Old Orchard Beach. It appeared to be quite the tourist destination, but it was clear that we were there out of season.
Just a few minutes down Hwy 101 from OOB was another cute little town called Kennebunkport, where apparently President Bush, Sr. has his summer home. We participated in the Kennebunkport May Day Festival with facepainting, games, balloons, crafts, vendors, and a parade that mostly celebrated little league teams and moose mascots. We also found a “proper” bakery for a mid day pick-me-up. It was wicked good.
In Old Orchard Beach I ended up in a conversation with our campground owner, Alan. Turns out that before he started living on a sailboat with his wife, and before he started running a campground, he was a very accomplished chef. He told me stories about his restaurant, and about the times his team delivered lobsters to the president’s home in Kennebunkport for important dinners. Alan even gave me his award-winning “chowdah recipe”. I bought some haddock and gave it a go on a rainy day later the next week. It did not disappoint. He also told me the only place that he would buy his lobsters was Bayley’s Lobster Pound. This was one splurge that I really wanted to make while were in this state, so one evening Coral & I drove along the coastal roads to Bayley’s, where I learned from the local folks that a lobster roll is lobster meat mixed with mayo and served on a warm hoagie bun, that large lobsters cost more per pound because they are less abundant but don’t taste any different, and that all the lobster shacks in Maine are traditionally called “pounds” but they aren’t sure why. Coral and I peered in the tanks and chose the very unlucky lobster that we wanted to eat.
Just 12 minutes and $25 later, we were headed home with a delicious and complicated treat. We watched a youtube video while we dined on the delicious sea creature so that we would know how and when to break open each section. It was yummy and memorable. Brad had 2 gashes on this hands before it was all over.
I must add that we all tried desperately to mimic the accent while we were in Maine, so most of our car rides were filled with us trying to say things like, “I only get my lobstahs from Bayley’s.” “The lobstah in Maine is so delicious I might just steah awhile.” We all failed completely, but were delighted by our own miserable attempts.
We had been instructed by multiple people from different parts of the globe that as we drove up the Maine coast that we MUST stop and eat at Moody’s Diner. So on our drive toward Acadia we stopped at Moody’s mid-morning for a shared a breakfast plate and an emormous chocolate Whoopie Pie (their specialty) for later.
We arrived at our campground just outside Acadia National Park in Trenton, Maine, later that afternoon to find that we had the place mostly to ourselves. We camped there 5 days, and during that time to enjoyed multiple excursions in the park.
I was really hopeful that we might catch sight of a moose during our time around Acadia. Unfortunately, Acadia is on an island called Mount Desert Island (which everyone there calls MDI), and it’s pretty heavily populated. So there are no moose in Acadia. My friend Alan at Old Orchard Beach told me that you often get lucky and see them on highways outside of towns, but we weren’t lucky enough.
Even without moose, we still enjoyed exploring some of the amazing places inside Acadia National Park. It also wins the award for “Cheesiest National Park Visitors Center Video”, a very prestigious award that the Fitzgerald family only gives out once. We are still quoting it….”No, there’s no R in Acadia……..but there ARE mountains, rivers, forests…” Oh, the cheese.
The girls also made a special friend at our campground that was a little girl the same age as Sunny. Her family was in the process of moving from Colorado to Maine, and so they were living in their trailer for a few weeks until their new home was ready. The girls were always eager to be home in the evenings early enough to play with her after she got home from school. They set up a store on the beach for all of the treasures they found and kept insisting that we all come purchase items from them with invisible money. They had so much fun with her that it was another tough goodbye when the time came to continue down the road.
After our visit to Acadia, it felt like we pivoted on our heels and headed back toward the west. I have thoroughly enjoyed our time on the east coast – the culture, the history, the scenery. But the west is totally calling us back, and we plan to answer.
Friends sometimes ask me about things on this trip – how is my faith, how is my marriage, how has this changed my parenting or my view on education or our country or my family’s future. I love these questions, but I don’t feel like I have fully formed responses to most of them yet. All of these experiences just keep coming so fast and furiously that I feel like I barely have enough chance to absorb them, let alone process them. So as this glorious year is ticking around the corner of 9 months, I try to picture myself just soaking it all up like a sponge. I do a little bit of wringing out when I record our experiences on this blog, but I think that it will be months or years after this journey is through that I will be able to truly appreciate all of the lessons that we are learning right now. It has been an amazing time for our family to grow closer together, in some enjoyable ways and and some difficult ways. We are all being shaped and challenged by this experience. And I’m just not sure how life could get any better than this.