September 25, Bucksport

Good morning! Another fun-filled day in coastal Maine. (I really thought Maine was named after the old French county with the same name. During the pop quiz on the bus, I learned because it was a sort of “mainland” among all the islands. sigh.) We had an early departure time, so suitcases were showing up outside hotel doors at a shockingly early hour. After breakfast and a last-minute head count, we headed out of Portland. We had now acquired a driver, a jovial local named Joe, who has promised to find us a moose to admire.

The first thing we visited was the Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse (completed in 1791) in Maine. George Washington ordered its construction. Here’s a couple photos:

:P1010778  P1010776

That second photos looks like a postcard. It is that lovely there. There was much fussing that the leaves hadn’t begun to change much. We saw a few hints of orange and red, but none of the promised spectacles.

For a pit stop, Linda had arranged a quick visit to the Delorme Publishing Company, which primarily publishes atlases. They also have a company store near the bathroom, and of course all the tour members descended, eager to look at books. We did create a run on the various bird charts of New England birds, which I’ve already found helpful.

We cruised through Freeport after that. Freeport is the home of L. L. Bean, and we passed by multiple stores carrying their goods. Yes, we were pressed for time and No, we didn’t need to stop and shop, though I suspect if we could have persuaded Linda and Joe to stop the bus, we would have spent several blissful hours shopping, and finished filling up the hold of the bus.

Our second adventure was cruising through Bath, by the Bath Iron Works, and getting a few glimpses of some new high tech US Navy vessels under construction. Not conducive to photographs. Then we stopped at the Maine Maritime Museum for a tour and a lecture. It seems, years ago, every coastal community in Maine, blessed with trees and a coastline, built ships. They’re almost all gone now. This one in Bath has been turned into a museum. I think I went through it years ago, but don’t remember much. The size and the energy required to build the huge wooden vessels defies imagination. There’s a huge sculpture showing the outline of the Wyoming, their biggest ship. Most of the workshops are pretty much the way things were while the place was still active, early in the 20th Century. Most of the tools seemed pretty primitive–even the sewing machine I found was pretty basic. I got a photos of the house lived in by the owner of the works:P1010779 and an outbuildingP1010780

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the museum or the various buildings in which construction took place, but it was interesting, and deserved a longer visit. A local expert gave us a very animated, informative talk that chronicled the history of the ship builders, and some very interesting details of building techniques.

Next stop was the amazing Penobscott Narrows Bridge, which has the tallest bridge observatory in the world: 420 feet above sea level. I felt safe at that height, being safely enclosed, but at least one tour member had to bag it and return to earth. Safe to say, the view is worth the effort. Here’s one photo: P1010783and another:P1010784

I’m afraid the photo doesn’t convey how high up we were to take the photo. It seemed we could see the curve of the earth from that height.

From there, it was a quick trip down to road to Bucksport, our home for the evening. Our hotel was right on the water, and there was a very nice walkway, built fairly recently, along the Penobscot River from one end of the little town to the other. Last Christmas, the last paper mill in town closed suddenly, throwing 500 workers off the job. This was a huge blow in a town of just 5,000, and yes, there was a grim look about the place.

Some of us were dropped off at the local supermarket, and we decided to walk to the hotel. I walked through a little old 19th Century cemetery, and, on the way into town, saw a poster for a Baroque music concert that evening at a local church. Trying to figure out where the church was, I stopped a comfortable-looking middle-aged couple. They were chatty, but said they weren’t locals, and after a minute, I said “Are you from Scotland?” They, rather abashed, admitted they were, and lived just above Inverness. They were looking for a place to eat, but I couldn’t help them, either. But it was delightful to speak with them for a minute.

I managed a quick walk by the river before dinner, and got a photo of Fort Knox (same guy as the gold fort, but none here). It had been built around the time of the Civil War, in fear of a Confederate invasion. That was a non-starter, and the fort was never completed. But it was in a lovely location. Here’s a photo: P1010785

I also got a wonderful photo of a wading bird, but my little bird chart was useless here. Tell me if you can identify this: P1010787

There wasn’t a restaurant in our hotel, so we ate at a funky little cafe across the street. I am getting to know this Road Scholar group, and they are every bit as funny, curious, well-informed, articulate, and good company as the folks in other tours I’ve been in. After dinner, four of us headed off to the concert. It was utterly superb. There were three veteran musicians, playing harpsichord, flute, and viola de gamba, and three young musicians, university students who were also former students of the flute player, two singers (brother and sister, we thought) and another flute player. I was unfamiliar with these particular pieces by Baroque composers, including Schultz, Telemann, Bach and Handel, among others, but they were all exquisite, and beautifully presented. The standing ovation at the end of the short concert was certainly deserved. No photos of that, since most of the appeal was audible. Then, a short walk back to the hotel, and it was the end of yet another lovely day.

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