Friday, January 28, 2011

Made It To Maine

I have had many conversations with fellow Americans who feel quite strongly that they want to visit all 50 states before venturing to foreign shores. My family was first stationed in Germany when I was only 18 months old so that pretty much nipped any such plans for me right out of the gate. In the time since I’ve been blessed to visit over 30 foreign countries and 42 states leading up to Thanksgiving of last year. It was over that holiday period that I upped that number to 43 – I finally made it to Maine.

My hosts live in New Hampshire, another state I had not previously visited and taking the count up to 44 of the 50 states but that is another story. After Turkey Day they decided I should explore the small but picturesque coastline of their state and also include time in the great state of Maine. Like I was going to say no? Off down Highway #4 from the Concord area we went towards Portsmouth for brunch and then across the Piscataqua River estuary in to Maine. The feeling is not like a huge monkey off the back necessarily but there was a joyous sigh heaving from my chest and heart at finally making it to this fabled corner of the country.

We were still several hours from Canada being only at the southernmost tip of the state but I still felt a sense of being in a whole other world when we crossed over. It was only a day-trip across the border so I don’t begin to pretend to a comprehensive understanding or wealth of knowledge about the state in general. We toured the small town of York, first founded in 1624 but even here were not particularly targeting the local history so much as the sea-side summer resort area around Cape Neddick. Of the three things Maine is possibly most famous for, lobster, impossibly complex place names and lighthouses our target was the lighthouse at the cape guarding the entrance to York River and harbor.

Known as the “Nubble” Light, the Cape Neddick lighthouse is a classic lighthouse for this part of the country. It sits on an island that is not open for public access but is nonetheless one of the most popular coastal attractions in the state. The first version was lit on this rocky island in 1879 and was the scene of a U-Boat sinking in 1943. The “Summer People” that flock to the area each season bring the bulk of the traffic to visit this state landmark.

Consider that Boston is less than two hours south on Interstate 95. All along Long Beach Boulevard are cottage inns, bed and breakfasts, condos, homes and time shares catering to the tourists only slightly less well-heeled than the Kennebunkport crowd maybe an hour up the coast. I couldn’t help imagining the scene from “Jaws” with the car ferries disgorging the sun seekers on the shores of Amity for their summer holidays. I learned, though, that the caretaker’s home on the island has not been inhabited in quite some time despite much interest due to plumbing issues.

The lighthouse is beautiful. As a gateway to the rest of the state it serves not only to protect the surrounding waters but also to welcome one and all to the wonders of Maine. It only causes me to wonder what lies deeper in to the unexplored wilds of this historic state and to look forward to returning soon.

Gotta go!

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