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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vacation - Is it better to stay home?

We just got back from vacation in the Great State of Maine.  Everybody in Texas should go to Maine to see what life should be like where it rains and actually has seasons.  That's why I chose Maine for vacation, probably a recurring annual event!  As guests of John and Kim Libby (2 of the most wonderful people in the world and the parents of my daughter-in-law, Kate), we spent 4 days on Matinicus Island, the most remote inhabited island off the coast of Maine, about 23 miles.  The schedule each day was exactly what I wanted it to be, nothing at all!  Oh, we hiked, played cards, ate lobster and slept a lot, but only when we wanted to. The only thing I had to do was come home because our time was up and we couldn't drag it out another second, so we left reluctantly.

While on the island, as I mentioned, we hiked.  That is probably a little misleading, since our hikes on the island included the shoreline.  There are maybe 3 small beaches on Matinicus Island and a hike along all of the beaches (if they were all lined up side by side) would take maybe 5 minutes.  The rest of the shoreline is solid rock - granite - which must be climbed, not simply walked on.  The island is all of 2 miles long and just about a mile wide at its widest part.  Any other island this size would be circumnavigated in a couple of hours, but not Matinicus.  Oh, what I didn't say about Matinicus is that the island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and those waters are the richest lobster beds in the world.  Meaning, of course, that the island is surrounded by zillions of lobster traps with their associated floates, ropes, and etc.  Anyway, those traps are constantly being lost and the tides and currents bring those traps, etc. to the shoreline, beach, rocks, what have you. So, any hike along the shoreline involves not only climbing rocks, but avoiding a fortune in crushed, crumpled, whatever you want to call it, lobster paraphenalia. However, we successfully navigated our way down to the southernmost rocky tip of the island for a picnic lunch, complete with stray dog sniffing around us.  To get back to the cabin, we hiked along the rocky shoreline, all the way, having sufficiently prepared us for a nice afternoon nap!  Oh, and the lobster!!!!! Yum Yum - I'm supposed to be alergic to shellfish, but who cares - I'm on vacation.

Despite the perils encountered on our first hike along the rocks, we decided the next day to hike north from the cabin to the most westerly tip of the island, known as West Point.  More rock climbing, but it was worth it because the day was beautiful and I wore shorts for the occassion - dumb idea.  Even dumber was Kim deciding to wear flip flops on this hike.  Having recovered from the hike to the point, the decision was made to find and hike along a trail through the forest over to the island's landing strip - dumbest idea yet, but fun nonetheless.  What we found for a trail was a small indentation in the heavily overgrown vines that covered the trail and those vines were from the blackberry plant, and those of you that are familiar with blackberry vines know that they have stickers, or a better description might be small fish hooks on the vines.  Another contributing factor to this hike is the fact that the forest is a spruce forest and a fungus (amongus) is attacking the forest and killing the trees rapidly and those dead trees like to fall across the trail in the hundreds.  Previous hikers have used chainsaws to clear person sized gaps in those dead trees so that people can pass easily.  However, nobody has chosen to provide that service in a while and there were more uncut trees than cut ones.  Meaning - we had to climb over or crawl under them, mostly crawl, sometimes on our elbows and knees.  Thank goodness there are no snakes on Matinicus Island!!  Because I'm writing this, you will understand that somehow we did make it and you'll understand why wearing shorts on this fish hook vine, dead tree infested forest trail were bad ideas!  We all survived to tell this tale and I'm sure one day we'll look back and laugh about this (as soon as the arm, leg, knee and elbow wounds heal).

When time forced us to leave the island behind, we headed to the mainland and eventually ended up at the Oxford County Fair - a true county fair, complete with chainsaw competion (boy we could have used those guys on our hike!!) and ox/steer pulling contests.  So we watched in amazement as men and women handled chainsaws, with motors belonging to small cars, cutting 12 inch square logs 3 times through within 5 seconds, some less than 4 seconds.  After wandering through barns and show buildings, we were attracked to loud noises and followed our ears to an area with a tall pile of dirt and a small almost vertical ramp.  With little notice, a young man on a snowmobile came zooming toward the ramp and shot up in the air almost 50 feet, landing safely on the pile of dirt, and then he did it again, and then another young man did a back flip while in the air ( did I say they were 50 feet in the air and no net) - crazy.  And just as fast as we were attracked to the spectable, we grew bored and moved on to a more interesting activity, eating supper.  We topped off our exciting visit to the fair by finding the barn where the pulling contest was being held.  We watched as men and a woman drove pairs of steers over to a metal sled with large concrete blocks for weight and when sufficiently attached to the front of that sled, coaxed their animals to pull the sled about 6 feet.  They continued until the teams were eliminated because of the ever increasing weight.  Exhausted from the excitement of the last event, we made our way back to the Libby's home in Freeport, Maine for a good night's sleep and the sad preparations we had to make in order to come home to Spicewood.

One more exciting thing I was able to witness was the Bush compound at Kennebunkport, Maine.  John drove me by there and I am here to testify, the place is worthy of 2 ex-presidents and then some.  That whole area reeks of money.  You couldn't even afford one of the estates around that area if you won the biggest lotto out there.  You have to be born into the kind of money it would take to have a place there, and to think that the Bush compound on Walker Point is a vacation home!!!  Anyway, I'm glad I got to see it.

A nice lunch in downtown Freeport and off to the airport for a long plane ride home.  Made it just after midnight.  So to answer my original question, "Is it better to stay home?", heck no - go for it - and by all means, get to Maine if you can.  All the beauty we once thought was in Texas has moved northward to Maine AND it rains there!!!


  1. Wonderful first post! I hope there is more to come...posts that's is.

  2. I love this, Dad! Maybe one day you'll take your favorite daughter with you. Hint hint hint!

  3. Loved it, Ira! I think you should write a book! BTW - it rained again yesterday......

  4. I could hear your voice as I read this, your first blog, big brother. I look forward to hearing more from you soon. And often. Loves!