Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Vermont Vacation

During the week of September 14th Kate and I like to get away in celebration of when we supposed to get married so a few months back we booked three nights at the Quality Inn in Barre, Vermont.  We both always wanted to go Vermont to see the sights and check out King Arthur Flour and Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory.

A couple days before we left Kate got the urge to leave early, and I couldn't agree more.  Checking with the hotel they gave us a rate we liked so we booked to leave a day early.  But first we were going to Funtown in Saco to meet Dad, Linda, Adam & Nell, and their boys.  Addison broke a small bone in her elbow and was not able to go with us.

We had a great day at the park and the rain held off giving us good weather.  I also managed to pull through having been awake over 24 hours by the time we headed home.  Now leaving the next day we had a lot to do finishing up laundry and getting packed up.

Sunday morning we awoke early because Wesley boy deemed it was time to get up.  Loading up the van I almost forgot my CPAP machine, which could have made a long trip.  My hose had broken Saturday morning and I couldn't get a new on at Kennebec Professional Pharmacy because they don't sell those on Saturdays.  Legit.

The route we took to get to Vermont took us on the Kancamagus Highway, one of our favorite roads.  Before entering the pass we got some boss breakfast sandwiches at the Sweet Maple Cafe in Conway.  On this day there was a bike trek on the pass, we passed a few on the way up and when we got to the top I stopped to take a picture of the sign.

A cyclist was there and asked if I wanted her to take my picture with the sign, I declined.  I asked how her ride was and she said "It's all downhill from her Yeehaa!" and off she went!

Our next stop was in Bath, New Hampshire at the historic Brick Store: America's Oldest General Store.  It's a place I've wanted to check out since I first read about it a few years back and I must say I never need to return.

We arrived in Barre, Vermont before check in time so we grabbed a late lunch at Mr. Z's where we learned that Barre was pronounced Berry.

We checked into our Quality Inn on the second floor.  The room was nice, two full beds and a corner we could put Wesley's pack in play in.  The room also had a small dorm fridge but we couldn't control the temperature and it froze things.

Kate called the front desk and asked for a microwave, they said they would bring one up.  After some time in the pool, where I impressed Katie with my excellent swimming skills, we headed back to the room.  I attempted to pop some corn for Wesley when the microwave caught fire!  So Kate called down for them to replace it.

I decided to take in a flick downtown at the local theater the Paramount.  It's a small two screen theater with a sister theater the Capitol Theatre in Montpelier that has five screens.  This is where it's different.  Neither theater shows the same movie and on weekdays the only have one screening at about 6:30pm and on weekends a 3:30 & 6:30pm screening.

It's a wicked nice theater, prices are reasonable and their popcorn has real Cabot butter on it!  And it sure is good!  I went and saw IT, the theater rooms are decent size with newer seats, the floor is slanted enough that the person sitting in front of me didn't block my view.  Great flick!

Monday we got on the road early heading south to take in some sights before going to Kate's cooking class at King Arthur Flour.  We first stopped at the Cornish-Windsor Bridge that connects New Hampshire and Vermont and is the longest covered bridge in the United States.

Next stop was the Willard Covered Bridge, which is unique as it's twin covered bridges.  The first built in 1871 and the second one in 2001. 

Taking a wrong turn we just rode it out and ended up at the Taftsville Covered Bridge in Woodstock.

On the way to King Arthur we crossed over the Quechee Gorge and even though I took some pictures it did not do it any justice at all.  It was amazing to look at it.

We made our way to King Arthur Flour in Norwich to check out the grounds and have lunch at the cafe before Kate's class, she had signed up for a four hour bread making class.  Lunch was really good!  Wesley's kids meal was fantastic and by BLT was delicious.

I had this big plan for Wesley and I to go to the Quechee Gorge Village where they had a toy museum, train ride, carousel, and other thing that Wesley and I could do to pass the time.  We get there and the toy museum is closed as was the train and carousel. Wesley had no interested in being there.  He eventually fell asleep in the van but woke up after an house.  I drove around for a long time looking for a playground for him and cloudn't find one in a 20 miles radius.  It was a rough few hours.

Kate loved her class and had made some damn delicious breads and scones!  It was all well worth it.  That night at the room we had some fancy bologna and cheese sandwiches on her fresh baked bread.

Tuesday before we headed west towards Lake Champlain we went to a medical supply store I had found the day before and I was able to buy a new hose for my CPAP machine.  We stopped in Waterbury at the Green Mountain Coffee visitors center.

This was not what I expected, it was basically a Green Mountain Coffee cafe with a tiny section of historical information on the company and that's about it.  It is located at the active train station which in itself is an old train station so that part is cool.  Otherwise not worth the stop.  Kate enjoyed Espresso Bueno in Barre much more.

Our first stop in Burlington was at Lake Champlain Chocolates factory.  They offer a free tour, but we just missed it.  All it appears to be is a video and then an explanation of the factory that we can see behind class.  We were able to go and look for ourselves. 

I did like that you could see them in action filling the trays making chocolates.  Of course we bought a couple each.

We went down the lake front next to look at the lake and because I wanted to get a couple pictures of the two different Lake Champlain Monster statues.  We were also able to see the North and South Burlington Breakwater Lighthouses.

For lunch we hit up Al's French Frys in South Burlington.  I had found the it on the internet and it did not disappoint.  Opened in the late 1940's they serve burgers, dogs, frys, chicken and more.  Once again they definitely know how cook french frys.

After lunch we returned to Waterbury to take a tour of the Ben & Jerry's Factory.  This was without a doubt the busiest place that we went too.  I mean there were bus loads of kids there and just tons of people.  We got in just before the 1:15pm tour.

You can't take a pictures on the tour except in the flavor room at the end.  The tour starts with a video showing the history of the company and then we go into a windowed room overlooking the production floor.  I really like watching stuff being made.  After we go down to a room where we are all given a sample, Stephen Colbert's Americone dream, and we can see the flavor room where they make on flavor and you can take pictures, they were making Maple Walnut.

Of course we got a fresh cone and the ice cream tastes completely different than in the store, it's a lot creamier.  We then let Wesley play on the playground for a spell before departing.

We stopped next in Stowe at the Gold Brook Covered bridge.  This bridge is believed to be haunted and is also called Emily's Bridge. The story dates back as far as 1849 about Emily who is essentially left by her fiance and in her despair threw herself from the bridge falling to her death.

Now the fall isn't very far so I guess she could have hit her head on a rock knocking herself out and drowned in Gold Brook.  You should check out this website that is dedicated to bridges supernatural phenomena.

Continuing the day we went to the Cabot Cheese Co-op for another factory tour.  This one was a lot different as you go into the factory and although not on the actual production floor you do go in the hallways and it's very noisy.  Kate had a hard time hearing the tour guide.

They were making cheese but on the far table so we couldn't see it that well.  It was fun all the same.  Oh yeah, they were making cheddar jack and the jalapeno odor was wicked powerful!

We went to Positive Pie for dinner and it was indeed good pizza, a bit pricey though.

Wednesday we went North all the way to Canada!  We crossed over in Derby Line into Stanstead, Quebec on the auto run and missed out exit.  In my defense though it was right after customs and I didn't recognize it as an exit because it wasn't an exit but a left turn.

We then hit construction and was pushed onto the south bound lane causing us to miss an exit.  We eventually got turned around took a side road, route 141 south through Ayer's Cliff where we stopped at a rest area.  They had a swingset that Wesley just pushed back and forth with Kate instead of actually swinging on.

Switching from route 141 to 143 we went into Stanstead and stopped at  Les Marches Tradition hoping to find some Covered Bridge Chips.  They had none, which was sad. We decided to have lunch in Quebec at the Rendez Vous Restaurant and it was great!  I had a burger, Kate a BLT, and Wesley some chicken, but the prize of the meal was the poutine, it was amazing!

We walked next door to the Parc Hackett playground where they had a merry-go-round!  Don't see many of these around anymore most likely because they are considered dangerous.  I myself had an accident on one in 1st or 2nd grade at Pray Street School falling in the running track and getting clobbered on the back of the head.

Wesley loved the merry-go-round and the playground in general.  We always try to do something for Wesley when we keep him cooped up in the car for a long time so he can get out and run around. I think it's a fair trade.

One of the things I wanted to check out, which I told the border agent and he thought was funny, was the Stanstead Stone Circle.  Built in 2009 it's kind of like stonehendge and the spot is also a 45th Parallel Marker.  We had a lot of fun there and met some locals that had a kid near Wesley's age.

One thing that was peculiar was how we expected everyone to speak french and they did, until they realized we spoke english and then they spoke perfect english to us. According to the couple we met at the Stone Circle most people spoke english in the area but the closer you got to Quebec city the more people spoke french. 

Even though we were denied Covered Bridge Chips I did find some Mars bars at the pharmacy.

In Derby Line I checked out the Haskell Free Library and Opera House with sits on the boundry between the US & Canada.  There is a black line down the middle of the building inside showing it.  It's unique as residents of both countries and utilize the library without going through customs they just park on their countries side and walk in.  Before 9/11 they had to border issues here, post they've had to close them up.  Here the road is blocked with flower pots.

Making the most of hour final day we stopped in Montpelier going to the Vermont State Museum located next to the State House building.  Unfortunately they were closing in twenty minutes, fortunately she let us check it out without paying.  It's a really nice museum, similar to the Maine State Museum, but is on one floor instead of four floors like ours.

The State House in Vermont is beautiful and the backdrop of the mountain behind it adds to the charm.


Thursday we packed up for the drive home.  We stopped in Littleton, New Hampshire at Chutters candy store where I got the kids and myself some frooties.  Kate got her and Wesley some chocolates.

We had lunch at the Smoking Good BBQ food truck in Bethel and it was the best BBQ I've had in a long time.  Kate got the pulled pork and I got the brisket with the mild sauce, so flipping good!

We had a wonderful time exploring Vermont and we were lucky to have great weather every day.  In the morning it was wicked foggy because we were in the mountains, but it would always burn off by mid morning.  The interstates seemed like they were built on the side of the mountains so we were always high above the towns below. 

I don't have a need to go back to northern Vermont again, but I would like to explore the southern part of the state, and best of all Kate can take another class at King Arthur Flour if she wanted too!

Later Readers!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Washington County Vacation

Earlier this year we decided to take the kids on a camping trip in the summer, we decided on Washington County eventually choosing Keenes Lake Family Campground for three nights.  We would prefer Cobscook Bay State Park, but with my sleep apnea I can't go that long with out electricity for my cpap machine.

We headed out the morning of Tuesday July 11th getting Vanna all packed up and was on the road by 8:30am.  Our first stop wasn't until we reached Belfast so Kate could grab a coffee at Bell the Cat.  Just after leaving Belfast Canaan asked if we wanted to play a game where we keep track of all the out of state license plates that we see.  This became quite the event over the duration of our trip and Canaan kept track in his new journal.  We had a lot of fun with this and I will have the totals at the end of this post.

We stopped in Columbia Falls at Wild Blueberry Land, a tourist trap where the building is shaped like a blueberry.  It was kind of neat and a place I've always wanted to stop.  Ultimately for me it was just okay.  I bought a blueberry muffin so we could all sample one of there blueberry creations, it was ok, Wesley liked it.

Next we drove down the road to Addison to get a picture of Addison with her town.  Unlike Canaan, Addison is a very small town, not as small as Wesley, and I snapped a couple pictures of Addison near the Welcome To signs, the post office and fire department.

Out next stop was in Machias at Helen's Family Restaurant. It was my first time visiting there since the fire burnt it down in 2014.  It has changed a lot!  The food is still good and the pies look amazing!  We sat a three sided booth that was perfect, Wesley likes to sit on the bench and not use a highchair or booster because he's such a big kid.

I had ordered a Maine Street Club which was listed as a double decker BLT with ham and I requested no ham. The waitress came back out and said they were all out of deli turkey and asked if I wanted a grilled chicken breast on it. I said sure, but was confused because no where in the description was turkey listed.  At the end of the day my sandwich was absolutely delicious!!

We arrived at Keene's Lake Family Campground just before 3pm and upon check in was told that the cabin that I had reserved back in February was rented out.  Seriously!  Long and the short they could us up in a camper, but Kate HATED the location it was currently in, in a field with no fire pit 10 feet from another camper.  She said her husband could move it but he was in Ellsworth and wouldn't be home until 6pm at the earliest.

Kate and the kids were able to get to their swimming gear and they headed for the lake, mine was at the bottom of the tetris pile and I couldn't get to mine.  Once he finally got back and the camper was set up it was pretty near 7pm.  It wasn't an ideal situation but we made the best of it.

They put the camper in a nice secluded lot in the trees.  Kate got a fire stoked up and the kids roasted hot dogs for dinner.

Inside the Camper Kate and I slept in the "master" bedroom, we put the table down to set up Wesley's pack and play, and the kids slept on the bunks in the back.  My mom and Irving had a similar camper when I was a kid, the layout was different better in my opinion.  But the camper worked, we had a place to sleep for three nights and we were able to use the air conditioner the first two nights which made sleeping better.

Wednesday morning Kate made pancakes and sausage for breakfast, fantastic!  We then went swimming for a couple hours down in the lake.  The shore was not nice and sandy but rocky and unpleasant.  Once you waded in a ways it wasn't as bad but my flat feet did not appreciate it.  The kids LOVED the lake and spent a couple hours in it each day.

They especially loved the float that they could climb on and jump off making up games each time.  The amount of other kids that were there varied from day to day.  I even  climbed aboard a couple times throwing the kids off, mostly Canaan, several times before they "threw" me off.

After swimming we had lunch, I made Kate and I a couple awesome Turkey sandwiches the kids opted for peanut butter.  Wesley went down for a nap and I took the kids in town to Calais on a quest for Covered Bridge Potato Chips.  At the end of the day several stores and supermarkets were visited and none of them carried the delicious chip produced in neighboring New Brunswick.  I even called Covered Bridge and they said they were not aware of any stores in Calais that were carrying them.

Initially we planned on have a day in Canada but we discovered crossing the border with the kids would not be simple needing notarized documentation from their mother saying it was okay and more.  Kate and I decided to not do it, however regretted not bringing at least my passport card so I could hop over on my own and grab us some kettle cooked goodness.

Canaan wanted a loonie, at one store I stopped at all they had was a toonie so I got him that.  At a couple other stores he was told they could not sell him one.  Finally at an Irving I asked a gentleman with Nova Scotia plates if he had one I could buy off him, he did, but stated he technically owned by about 15-20 cents for the dollar I gave him.  Canaan was very appreciative and excited.

Before heading back to the campground we stopped at Whitlocks Mills Light, the northern most lighthouse in Maine.  The land is privately owned but you can see it from a scenic turnout off route 1.  You can actually see it better then it looks in the pictures.

Back at the campground Kate had managed to read about 100 pages of her book in the two hours we were gone.  We woke up Wesley and went to the St. Croix International Historic site.

The US side has a self guided walking trail complete was some very nice statues that tell the story of the colonist party that landed on St Croix Island in 1604.  It was pretty nice, at the end we went down to Red Beach which is not much of a beach as much as it's a collection of rocks.

Once again back at the campground Kate took Wesley to the playground and I took the kids back to the lake for an hour.  We were supposed to have access to a charcoal grill at the cabin and had brought burgers to cook on it and now we didn't have one. 

Earlier in the day at Marden's I bought this mini charcoal grill for $7, Kate cooked the burgers on it, but it was more of a hassle than it was worth.  The burgers were good.

Much like Tuesday and Thursday we finished the evening Wednesday around the campfire making smores and enjoying the fire.  This night Addison cooked me an amazing near perfect smore.

Thursday morning was met with rain.  Kate cooked up some french toast and bacon, once again breakfast was fantastic.  After cleaning up we headed out to explore starting in Lubec.

We went downtown where on the waterfront you can see Mulholland Point Lighthouse on Campobello Island, Canada.

Then checked out the small main street where the kid's mother's boyfriend's sister Shana has a pottery gallery, Cobscook Pottery.  It was closed but hours stated it would open at noon.

We went to West Quoddy Headlight which is the Eastern most point in the United States.  It is not lost on me that the Eastern Most Point has a lighthouse with West in the name of it.  The big kids and I explored the keepers house museum where Canaan signed the guest book for us.  We stopped at Lubec Channel Light on the way back to downtown.

We went back to downtown Lubec after to wait for Shana's shop to open.  When she arrived the kids were very excited to see her and she greeted them with big hugs.  We visited for a while, she gave us all a small pottery piece that she had made.  We got a vase that will go on the kitchen sink window sill for the flowers that Addison picks Kate.

We had lunch at a place Shana recommended Uncle Kippy's Korner.  The food was good and reasonably priced for the location, Kate had a meatball sub and the kids and I split a pizza.

We drove to Eastport and by the time we got there the sky had cleared and the sun came out.  Once in Eastport we grab a tasty treat at the Moose Island Bakery.  The eclairs were just as amazing as we remember and I let the kids get these huge cupcakes!

We walked around exploring the downtown shops and the sea walk.  While in Lubec I was showing Canaan a map that showed how close Lubec and Eastport were by water and an hour by land.  While on a dock in Eastport I pointed out to Canaan how you could see the Lubec water tower, church, and international bridge from Lubec into Campobello Island.

The fisherman's statue was still there and there was a new mermaid statue on the waterfront.  Canaan posed hilariously with it, however, Addison was disgusted that her boobs were bare and she didn't have seashells covering them.

On the way back to the camp we stopped in Perry at the 45th Parallel Gift Shop where the kids and Kate explored, Wesley and I stayed in the van.  Then we stopped at the actual 45th Parallel marker that Canaan found quite interesting.

Back at camp the kids went swimming for the last time and I let them stay in the water late about 7pm.  I made Kate and I turkey sandwiches and the kids roasted themselves hot dogs over the fire.  They really like doing that.  Canaan put a roasted marshmallow between two cowboy cookies and called it a smookie.  Kate had made a couple dozen peanut butter and cowboy cookies that we brought with us.

Thursday evening was much cooler and it kept the mosquitoes away.  We stayed up later as Kate burned through the rest of the wood, except what she set aside for Friday morning.  In total we bought 8 bundles from the campground, about a bundle was left behind from a previous camper, and we all gathered about 4 or 5 more in the woods around camp.  We enjoyed fires each morning and evening and anytime we were at camp.

Friday morning we ate breakfast and were packed up and ready to go by 9:30am, which was great timing.  We stopped off at the St. Croix International Historic Site visitors center, the kids had picked up booklets they had to fill out to become Junior Park Rangers Wednesday and we were dropping them off.  The kids had to take the oath and be sworn in where they received a sticker, temporary tattoo, and Junior Ranger patch.  The patch is really nice.

The drive home on Route 9 was quite boring.  The only plus is the majority you can drive really fast!  Our plan was to stop in Wesley to snag a photo of Wesley in Wesley, but he was sleeping and we didn't want to wake him.

We hit construction a few miles out side Bangor that added quite a bit of time to our travels, it was annoying because we were all getting hungry.  We had lunch at Chic-Fil-A, no surprise there, which the kids love as do we.

The drive from Bangor went well and we got home about 2:30pm.  It was nice to be home, even nicer to take a shower and get cleaned up.  Kate went back to Bangor with Jesse for the Cyndi Lauper & Rod Stewart concert at the waterfront, she had a great time.

You could say Saturday morning concluded the vacation as we went to the laundry mat because our washer is still broken.

All in all it was a fantastic vacation and everyone had a great time.

Later Readers!

License Plate Game

We saw thirty four, technically 35 states including Maine and seven Canadian Provinces.  One car with a Maine registration on the rear featured an English plate on the front, not sure if it was an actual plate or decorative but it was neat.  There were several non-Maine plates that we saw that we couldn't tell what they were.

United States
Massachusetts 98
New York 71
New Hampshire 59
Connecticut 36
Virginia 22
Vermont 17
New Jersey 15
Maryland 14
Ohio 10
Florida 9
Colorado 8
Rhode Island 8
Michigan 6
Indiana 4
California 3
Illinois 3
Oregon 3
South Carolina 3
Alaska 2
Delaware 2
North Carolina 2
Pennsylvania 2
South Dakota 2
Tennessee 2
New Mexico
Washington State


New Brunswick 161
Ontario 12
Nova Scotia 8
Quebec 4
Prince Edward Island 3
New Foundland

Government 5
England 1