Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rude awakening

We are at the Elks lodge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (map), a lovely lodge right on the water, a small estuarial bay on Sagamore Creek where it empties into the Piscataqua River and then into the Atlantic. It's been a couple of days since I posted here and there is a lot to update.

Monday we continued down US-1 along the Maine coast, with an excursion south on ME-32 along Muscongus Bay to Bremen, where we toured the Maine Cat factory. Co-owner Lynn Vermeulen was a wonderful host, and we spent most of the time aboard a hull that is well along to completion. Frankly, the absence of a completed boat was not really a liability for us -- we actually preferred to see the gritty underside of all the systems and fixtures. We also got a good look at how they lay their glass up and the joinery details as we viewed three other hulls in various stages of construction.

While there are certainly some modifications we would have to make to suit our lifestyle and tastes, we thought the boat was a good fit for us and is now among the front runners in our search. The boats that are launching in the next year or so will be the ones we will be looking at on the used market four or five years from now, when we are ready to buy. All four of the boats we saw in the shop are already sold; hull #2, which is the lone complete boat in inventory, is heading to the Bahamas for charter, and our next step with this boat will be to try to book a charter at some point while she is still available. (We don't want hull #2, or #1 for that matter, as they are both 12-volt boats; we prefer 24 volts, which is what all the current and future production will be.)

By the time we returned to US-1 it was late afternoon, and we started looking at our overnight options. Since our fuel level by this time had dropped to the point where we could no longer run the heater, and the overnight temperatures have been dropping into the low 40s, we knew we'd either need to fuel up, or find power. Since we also knew that diesel would drop another $0.15 when we crossed into New Hampshire, a cheap power outlet would be ideal. We also knew it would rain most of the day Tuesday, and we needed a spot where we could spend two nights if we needed to, since the wipers are still out of service. That ruled out most of the convenient free options such as L.L. Bean, Wal-Mart, or Cabela's.

The Portland, Maine Elks Lodge fit the bill perfectly, with 30-amp power for $10, and we dialed that in to the GPS. On our way, we traveled through Newcastle and Bath, reminding us exactly why this area is called New England (we did not bring coals to Newcastle, nor did we bathe in Bath). Shortly after Brunswick, US-1 travels immediately alongside I-295 all the way to Portland, and Jill-the-GPS kept trying to put us on the freeway, but we held fast to our route.

That took us right through downtown Freeport, where we had briefly considered staying at the L. L. Bean flagship store, which is open 24 hours and allows overnight RV parking, so we could stroll the downtown and window shop. As it turned out, there was no need -- there is a major pedestrian crosswalk every half block, and on Columbus Day, the town was packed to the gills with shoppers. We crawled through town at 5mph, stopping at each and every crosswalk, sometimes for a good half minute or so -- Odyssey tends to have the effect of actually slowing people down as they cross the street. We feel like we got the whole Freeport experience just driving through town.

In another fifteen minutes or so we came to Yarmouth and the DeLorme headquarters, home to Eartha, the world's largest revolving globe, as well as a retail store showcasing not only all of DeLorme's products, but also map-related paraphernalia of every description. We make extensive use of DeLorme's Atlas and Gazetteer products, as well as Street Atlas USA, but still we could find nothing we needed in the store. We did enjoy seeing the giant globe, though, from each of the three floors of the building.

We arrived in Portland with plenty of daylight to find the lodge (map), which is right across from the airport. Despite having at least six 30-amp spaces, we were the only rig in the enormous lot. After briefly being social when we went into the lodge to make our donation, we pulled a lone scooter out and rode the mile or so to Espo's Italian Bistro for a nice dinner, stowing the scooter upon our return in anticipation of the rain.

Rain it did, all Tuesday morning. I used the time to continue working on finding a replacement wiper motor, a goose chase that has taken me down many dead ends. I stayed focused on that, to the exclusion even of blogging, until 1pm, when reader David arrived as previously arranged for a brief visit. David has been providing us with lots of local information about Maine, and he came through again by letting us know that the new Cabela's across town in Scarborough had a free dump station. We had a nice visit, spanning nearly two hours. By this time, the rain had stopped completely.

We decided to make a dash for it since the rain was done. The Cabela's turned out to be on the most direct route out of town, and we stopped to empty our tanks as well as do the requisite amount of browsing. Again we found nothing we needed, but did spend half an hour in the store. They have generous RV and Truck parking spaces, along with the dump station, potable water, kennel cages, and even a horse corral. A lone small sign in the opposite corner of the lot, which is allocated to park-and-ride use, says that overnight parking is prohibited by city ordinance. I am guessing this is not enforced in the RV area of the lot, but I can't be sure since we did not attempt to stay.

By the time we rolled out of Cabela's it was getting pretty late, owing mostly to the late start and the last-minute decision to get rolling rather than spend another night in Portland. We knew we needed fuel before we stopped for the night (or else another power outlet), and we opted to skip the coastal loops through Kennebunkport and York in favor of staying on US-1 and making New Hampshire in the daylight. My web resources indicated $2.52 diesel at a place called Hanscom's Truck Stop (aka Buzzys Bypass Gas) on US-1A just past the bridge.

We had hoped to cross the Piscataqua on US-1, however the bridge is posted at 10 tons -- but not until you're almost on it. We took the truck U-turn and had to widget our way through Kittery to find an alternate route. US-1A, aka the bypass, is posted at 20 tons, leaving I-95 as the only legal way to cross the river. Suffice it to say we went all the way around the mulberry bush to find our way across and then to the truck stop, wherein it became apparent why they have the cheapest fuel in town -- they need the customers. It seems the bypass weight limit was just lowered back in June due to the deteriorating condition of the bridge, and now Hanscoms is a very inconvenient detour for the trucks, where previously it was a simple matter to stop before or after crossing the bridge.

Finding our way from the truck stop to the Elks lodge was similarly challenging, bringing "you can't get there from here" immediately to mind. The GPS wanted to take us all over town, and the directions in the guide tried to turn us on a street that did not cross at grade level. We eventually had to pull into a parking lot and call the lodge for directions. Good thing -- we'd never have found it otherwise, with both the geocoding and printed directions being wrong.

The bartender gave us explicit directions on where to park, and we have a nice view of the water out our windows. Last night turned out to be lodge meeting night, and we sat in the bar for a good hour chatting with the ER (the chief officer of a lodge), the Secretary, and a couple of other officers, all of whom clearly knew we were here and would be staying until noon or so. It's uncharacteristic of us to call a lodge ahead of time, or to spend so much time chatting (usually the lodges are too smoky for us), but it was a congenial group.

So it was extremely annoying when someone pounded on our door at quarter to eight this morning to tell us there was a big meeting at 9am and they would need the whole parking lot. Harumph. I explained that the time to tell us that was when we asked permission to park, before we even arrived, not at oh-dark-early in the morning. He mumbled something about the bartender having failed to notify him, and I pointed out that we had spoken not only to the bartender, but to the ER himself. That pretty much left him speechless -- all he could say was "well, I thought you should know." I closed the window and went back to bed. I was too groggy to have thought to ask why he wasn't at the meeting last night, which would really have put a finer point on it.

Sure enough, the entire lot filled at 9, and a handful of cars had to park creatively. Frankly, I don't think the five spaces we are taking up would have made that much difference, and it certainly wasn't a hardship for anyone. Whatever kind of meeting it was did not last even an hour, as the first cars started leaving before 10. The lot is once again nearly empty, and we are left to enjoy our view of the water in peace on this bright sunny day.

Today we will continue down the coast and into Massachusetts, which will be Odyssey's 46th state. We'll curve around the coast through Gloucester, with an eventual goal of Concord, where we will visit with friends, and Medford, where our mail is waiting. We had our mail sent to a friend there, as well, but she left this morning for New Orleans, and so the mail is with a neighbor, and we are very sorry to have missed her.

We are trying now to remain in cell phone coverage and within a day's drive of a major airport. We learned on Monday that Louise's dad has been hospitalized in Hong Kong; they were on a cruise when a previous condition was complicated by cold/flu and sent him to the infirmary. The ship's doctor was taking no chances, and so he is in ICU ashore, thus ending their cruise. We don't really expect further complications, but if they need assistance Louise is ready to go, and I am prepared to move the bus to warmer climes solo.


  1. "Today we will continue down the coast and into Massachusetts, which will be Odyssey's 46th state."

    So which states has Odyssey not seen yet? Alaska and Hawaii are among them, I assume.

  2. Hawaii will be out until they get that tunnel built...

    We are saving Alaska for a year when we can commit to being out of pocket for an entire season -- to do it right, we'd really like to be heading north in May and returning early September. Also, logistically, this will require a great deal more planning and advance preparation than we are normally accustomed to.

    New England has been the only part of the lower 48 that we've missed up to this point. We've now done Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, thus leaving only Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. We intend to do all three of those in the next week or so before finally "closing the loop."

  3. Rude people need to get their own life's!
    Glad to have met, spent time, but was not long enough.
    Sounds like after leaving the Elks in Portland, it was interesting with bridges, and directions.
    Will be interesting to hear about Ma, the Cape, RI, and CT part. The East can be difficult to navigate. You have your trusted back up driver Opal, she will snarl her way though, and the other "kids" will help Im sure.
    What did you think of the Moxie?
    Drive well, and watch out for the Lookie Loo's
    Portland, Me


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