Sunday, October 11, 2009


We are at the Elks lodge in Ellsworth, Maine (map), a dozen miles north of Mount Desert Island (referred to by locals as "MDI"), home to Acadia National Park.

Friday we had a beautiful drive from Cobscook Bay, turning south off US-1 onto ME-189 and heading to West Quoddy Head, which despite the name is actually the easternmost point in the United States (East Quoddy Head is in Canada, on the other side of the channel). After spending some time at the lighthouse and museum in the state park there, where the admission fee ($3 for non-residents) is collected on the honor system in an iron ranger, we also stopped at the "easternmost gift shop" a few miles west, to purchase a pin commemorating the achievement.

From there we continued west on ME-191, which disappointingly offered only an occasional glimpse of the coast -- hardly worth the bouncing and twisting. We stayed on US-1 all the way to Ellsworth, and were on Bar Harbor Road south to MDI by 4:00. Unfortunately, even though it's only ten miles, we did not arrive on the island until 5:00, because one-way traffic control due to road construction had traffic backed up five miles.

We stopped at the National Park visitor center, which was closed but had maps available. Good thing -- we learned on the map that the park road runs under several low bridges. The campground, though, was accessible via State Route 3, and so we widgeted our way through downtown Bar Harbor and then south to Blackwoods Campground, where a very rude and imperious camp host simply turned us away at the gate. We were prepared for this possibility -- there is nominally a 35' length limit and 11'8' height limit -- but it was aggravating the way it was presented. This is only the third time we've been turned away at a National Park campground, regardless of limits (the other two were Mather at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and one of the concessionaire-operated campgrounds in Yellowstone). It's particularly annoying, as I wrote about Mather, since a 35' trailer behind a 20' truck or car is permitted without hassle, but our 39' coach is not, yet we require 16' less space.

Oh well. We worked our way back north on the other side of the island, past the picturesque Northeast Harbor, and back here to the Elks, where we are the only rig in the back parking lot. We walked right next door to Luigi's restaurant for a nice dinner, and yesterday morning we unloaded the scooters so that we could explore the park.

First stop was breakfast at Martha's Diner here in Ellsworth, a little hole in the wall recommended by blog reader and fellow bus and trawler enthusiast Paul, where we had fantastic fresh crab omelets.

After breakfast, Louise returned to town with two week's worth of laundry, while I set to reassembling the wiper motor and replacing the anemometer, which we snapped off on a low tree on the island. That used up my last replacement anemometer, and I've heard that Somfy has discontinued these, so I am not sure what I will do about getting another spare.

In the afternoon we rode the entire Park Loop Road, stopping at several overlooks and the Jordan Pond House, where we could warm up by the wood stove -- it was in the 40s for our ride, with a brisk wind. After we completed the loop we headed into Bar Harbor for dinner. We rode around the entire town, which is pretty much the tourist trap one might expect, not much different from Duval Street on Key West, Fisherman's Wharf in SF or Monterey, or Mackinac Island. On a Saturday night the place was packed with pedestrians, and every boarding establishment we passed on-island had its "No Vacancy" sign out. To make matters worse, two giant cruise ships were anchored in the bay, a Norwegian and a Princess, disgorging some 10,000 additional people into town; at least by dinner time most had returned to their ships.

Nevertheless, we could not get a table at any of the nicer joints in town, most of which have maybe a dozen tables and are fully reserved well before dinner time, but the Mache Bistro at the edge of town allows open seating at the bar, and we were lucky to get two seats together for a very tasty meal in traditional French style. We now feel like we've had the Bar Harbor experience and our fill of the park, and we are done on MDI.

Today we will continue southwest along the Maine coast.

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