Man In A Suitcase

Portland, Maine

My visit to Maine was part of a plan to complete my 50 state checklist. I've gone to a lot of places for work, but no one ever wanted to send me any further into New England than Boston. And so I found myself planning a road trip to a couple of states I'd missed. My first stop was Portland, both because it was a place I'd heard of, and therefore would likely have something of interest to see, and because one of my Scaper friends lived there. I don't often have people to visit on my road adventures, so this trip was a particular treat.

Driving around Portland, I began to understand for the first time why someone would want to live there. There's a beauty that I hadn't found in other places. On the other hand, I suspect that a little time in a Maine winter might disabuse me of any ideas of resettling there. And even in my short visit I encountered some of the downside of the local climate. On my first attempt to shoot the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth I wouldn't even get out of the car; the wind and the rain were way too much for a wimp like me. Or maybe I was just worried about protecting my camera. Sure, that's it. Luckily for me, a second visit before I headed out of town offered better conditions for photography.

Bangor, Maine

I planned my trip with some care, choosing the second week of October in hope of getting some autumn colors. It's one of the few things I really miss about California. We don't get particularly bad weather, but we also don't get the drama of a proper fall. And Maine didn't disappoint. My destination for the day was Bangor, home to Stephen King and the only other place in the state I could name before I arrived. But first, on advice from a web friend, I was on a mission. I was headed to the town of Round Pond on Muscongus Bay, home to what he claimed was the world's best lobster roll. Thank heaven for GPS; with all the twists and turns, I'd never have found my way otherwise. And at the edge of the bay I found a metal shack. I called out, found that it wasn't as unoccupied as it looked, and had my lobster roll. From that day to today, I still regret not getting a couple more for the drive.

My memories of Bangor itself are scattered. Downtown didn't interest me much, although I liked the countryside well enough. Cell service was appalling when I was there; AT&T could manage Edge but nothing faster. Food was better, including my only experience with blueberry wine, which wasn't nearly as sweet as I'd feared. And I spent most of my time along the Penobscot River, trying to get a good angle on both the old, disreputable and disused Waldo-Hancock bridge and its modern replacement.

The next morning I turned west toward New Hampshire. The drive took me through miles and miles of farmland, quite a change from all my desert driving of past road trips, and especially brilliant in the fall color I'd hope to encounter. And every now and then I'd encounter an old industrial city. Lunchtime I reached Rumford, Maine, an old paper mill town on the Androscoggin River. Androscoggin is a name I associate with Maine's second most famous resident, Hawkeye Pierce, who as I recall attended a college of that name. I spent an hour or so exploring Rumford, mostly looking for the best places to photograph the river. Not sure how well I succeeded.

Franconia, New Hampshire

Maine and Vermont were new to me with this trip. Not so New Hampshire; I'd paid short visits to the state several times during trips to Boston and its suburbs for work. My destination was one of the state-owned liquor stores, where the prices were far better than either Massachusetts or California. I also loved the stories of the cat and mouse games between New Hampshire and Massachusetts police, with the latter attempting to stop their residents from avoiding sales tax by sneaking their purchases across the state line and the former attempting to foil the latter. I believe the stories were true; I hope they were but have my doubts as the decades pass.

In any event, I had to drive through New Hampshire to get from Maine to Vermont. I stopped for the night in Franconia, a ski destination in season, although not so much in this particular season. I had to satisfy my photographic self with more of that autumn color, this time with the advantage of the mountains I didn't get in Maine.

Burlington, Vermont

Contocook & Dunbarton, New Hampshire

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