Category: maine

Sea Glass Hunting on Monhegan Island

It’s interesting that sometimes it takes someone coming from hours away to get you to do the touristy things people do when they come to your state. Denisa and I have lived here for 14 years now, and we had yet to venture to any of the islands off the coast of Maine, despite the fact that many people come here to do just that. For the first while, it was because of the expense ($38 for a ferry ticket?), and then it was because we had kids of ages that didn’t really line up right to do the outing, and then it was because we were busy, and then . . .

There comes a point when you begin to convince yourself that if you haven’t done something all this time, then there must be a good reason you haven’t done it, and you stop even considering doing it anymore.

Thankfully, a friend from high school came up to visit for the weekend, and one of the things he was planning on doing was taking the ferry out to Monhegan Island, famous for its artist colony and beautiful landscape. If that had been all it was, maybe I might not have decided to go, but he also likes to go looking for sea glass, and that’s been something I’ve been curious about enough that I decided it would be fun to tag along and see how it was done. Denisa and MC came on the journey as well. (Tomas had to work, and Daniela had drama camp.)

To get out to the island, we first had to get to the ferry. We took the one out of Port Clyde, which was about a two hour drive for us. Once we arrived, I was surprised to see the range of car license plates arrayed on the dock: Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and more. People were coming from all around to go to this place I’d just ignored the whole time. It took an hour to get out to the island on the ferry, though the company did fill some of that time talking about the history of the island and the surrounding area, and the lobster industry. The ride was choppy enough that by the time we arrived, my stomach was very glad we were about to get off. I had expected a large ferry without too many people on it. Instead, it was a small ferry that was pretty packed, leading me to wonder just how busy the island would be.

Monhegan is only 1.75 miles long and .75 miles wide. In my head, this was a place we’d pretty much be able to completely explore in a couple of hours. No cars are allowed over onto the island, though some of the people there do have trucks they use for transportation. There’s a small village there, with quite a few houses, though many of them seemed like they were probably rentals for people coming out to stay. Cell coverage was spotty, but existent. Restaurants were few and far between, and prices were what you’d expect on a remote island. If you’re looking to come and check out stores, this is not the place to go.

However, the island is criss-crossed with plenty of hiking trails. We set off right away into the middle of the island. I had been expecting wide trails with plenty of visibility, like most of Maine’s hiking. These trails were very narrow, and the forest in places was incredibly thick. It reminded us more of the rain forest at times than of most of the other places we’ve explored in Maine. The trails were generally easy to see, though markings were few and far between. In most places, the trail was maybe a foot wide. Some mud, because it had just rained, but the real obstacles were tree roots and rocks. It wasn’t easy hiking, by any means, but it was absolutely gorgeous.

In our three hour hike around the island, we probably saw about 5 other groups total. It was a much bigger place than I expected, and it generally felt like we were alone. If you want peaceful, secluded beauty, this is definitely a good place to go.

The sea glass hunting was less than overwhelming. We headed to Pebble Beach, which we’d heard had the best offerings on the island. We got there as the tide was coming in, which wasn’t ideal, so perhaps there was better hunting farther out, but where we were, to find any sea glass took an awful lot of combing through the boulders and pebbles. The pieces we did find were generally small: tinier than the tip of my pinky. On the other hand, we had a great time doing it. MC loved the sense of exploration, and it was fun to have something to do together. The beach was nothing like a place where I’d want to go swim. Far too rocky. (And it was only 65 degrees that day, anyway.)

(We did try one other spot I’d heard had sea glass: Fish Beach. It was very small, but it had quite a lot more glass. Unfortunately, almost all of it was pretty new. New enough that it was another place I don’t think I’d want to swim, even though it was sandier. There was just too much glass. Go figure.)

We had lunch at a small cafe. Nothing extravagant: some pizza ($3.50/slice) and wraps ($8.00/each). The food was fine. We might have gone to some of the other restaurants, but finding out where they were was a struggle. (Remember: bad internet), and the prices seemed like more than we were really up for at the moment. One of the best things I bought the whole time was the $1 map of the island that included all the hiking trails. We used that a ton, and I’m sure we would have gotten hopelessly lost without it. (We’d also considered bringing Ferris on the trip, but I’m very glad we didn’t. He would have been far too hyper on the ferry, and he would have gone crazy on the island. We’d tried taking him on a short hike a few days before. It was sensory overload for the puppers.)

In the end, we stayed five hours, and I think that was about right. I’d considered coming out to stay with the family on the island at some point, but I don’t know that I will, having been there. I loved the outing, but I think I’d likely get bored if I were there for too long. (Though maybe some boredom and internet-free time would be just the thing. I’ll keep thinking about that.) I’m sure it would have gorgeous night skies if we were to stay over, though it was foggy and overcast the entire time we were there. (Luck of the draw.)

Overall, it was a terrific outing, and a great change of pace. If you haven’t been, I’d definitely recommend it, and it’s got me thinking about other outings we might do in the future . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Origin Factory Tour

The local chamber of commerce had arranged for the public to go on a tour of the Origin USA factory this morning, and I’m always a sucker for a good factory tour, so I walked down the street (5 minutes away) to check it out. I’m glad I went.

For those of you who might not be aware, Origin USA started out as a manufacturer of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi tops. I learned this morning that they’re actually the only gi manufacturer in North America. The closest other one is in Brazil. Most of the American companies that sell gis import them from Pakistan, which is where Origin had originally outsourced its production. Then they discovered that the Pakistani company that was assembling its gis was also using the same pattern (the pattern Origin had supplied them with) to sell to other companies, just embroidering a different logo on them. After that discovery, they decided to move their manufacturing line to Maine.

That move was a fascinating process. They knew next to nothing about the actual creation of the clothing–how the machines work. How it’s done on a large scale. But they decided that they wanted to do things the old fashioned way. Manufacturing used to be huge in Maine, and they went around to old factories, buying the old machines that haven’t been used in years and years. In some cases, those machines didn’t exist in America any more, so they’d buy them from abroad and ship them back to Maine. (Ironically, one such machine they purchased arrived, and when they looked at it, they discovered it had “Made in Maine” stamped on it. It had been made in Maine, shipped to Europe, and now finally made the return trip years later.)

These days, they’ve branched out to making gi tops and bottoms, t-shirts, jeans, and boots. All of it is locally sourced. They bought looms and weave their fabric on-site with American cotton. They buy leather and dye it locally. They’ve taught themselves and their team how to service the old machines. It’s a knowledge base that was on its way out in America, and they’re working on bringing it back in a big way.

I had a vague idea they were in town, but I had no idea just how much business they’re actually doing here. They’ve got 50-60 employees, they’ve bought multiple buildings across the area, and they’re shipping a whole slew of orders world wide. It’s a compelling story, and it made me want to find out more about them and what they do. They strive to make products that are built to last. Their jeans are made with rugged material throughout (even the pocket linings), so they won’t wear out. I might try getting a pair the next time I need jeans, since I’m sick of my jeans always wearing out at the knees too easily.

Anyway, it was a great tour, and I’m glad I got to go on it. It’s wonderful to see a manufacturing success story right here in Western Maine, where so many businesses have closed over the years. I’m willing to pay more for something that goes to help local workers in such an immediate way, and I wanted to pass the information on to all of you, in case any of you feel the same. I’m not sure how often they offer tours, or if they will again, but it’s worth the time to go on one. Check them out!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

On the CMP Corridor

This post might be a fair bit shorter than many of you might expect. I haven’t said anything about the CMP corridor, despite it being pretty big news here in my home in western Maine. For those of you outside the state, it boils down to this: there’s an effort to bring Canadian power down to New England, and to make it happen, it has to go through Maine. That much is established fact. What’s far from established is what all of that means. To illustrate, allow me to quote the summaries that supporters and objectors are using for the project. Guess who says what.

First:

The New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) is Central Maine Power’s proposed 145-mile long corridor of thousands of high-voltage megatowers cut through the Maine woods. CMP’s corridor would be as wide as the New Jersey Turnpike, and the towers each as large as the Eastland Hotel in Portland. This corridor would be cut through pristine Maine wilderness in order to bring electricity from Canada to Massachusetts, with no stops in between.

Second:

Why do so many people support New England Clean Energy Connect? Because it will create jobs, revenue and economic opportunity for Maine residents and cleaner air throughout New England at no cost to Maine residents.

To say there are strong feelings around this project would be a severe understatement. But it’s also far from as straightforward as either side would have you believe. How can you know that? Well, it’s a project that received support from both our Trump-lite former governor Paul Le Page and our staunch Democrat new governor Janet Mills. (Though they supported it for different reasons.)

Of course, some would say that’s just a sign of our politicians selling out to big business, but I need a few more facts before I decide to whip out the old tinfoil hat, and I tend to think many “conspiracies” are nothing more than people choosing to read the facts in a certain light.

So where do I fall in all of this?

Nowhere. I have been unable to find reliable information sources that convince me one way or another. At this point, big money has entered the picture on both sides of the argument, and both sides are using the exact same arguments. If you love the environment, then you either hate this project for slicing up our pristine woodlands, or you love it for bringing clean energy and cleaner air to all. If you’re about economic development, you either want Canada to take its power and go home, or you want all these jobs that will come to Maine.

Frankly, the arguments all make good points. (At least as far as I’ve studied them, which is admittedly not extensively.) And I have heard no argument strong enough to persuade me to get off the fence where it’s nice and comfy. At this point, it feels like they’re all talking around in circles, and so I stop really caring what decision they come up with and just wish they’d come up with a decision. Either way, we’re still going to have both the end of the world and a bright new ecological utopia, so just pick one.

If I had to vote one way or another, then I would vote in favor of the corridor. Why? Because people I know and respect have heard the arguments far better than I could, and they’ve come to decide that’s the best choice. I don’t personally know Governor Mills, but I have friends who do. I don’t believe she’d fold to corruption in the few months she’s been in office. I think she heard the arguments, for and against, given by experts, and she reached a conclusion.

Fair enough.

But that’s only if I were forced to vote. In reality, I’m not, and so I won’t. Not even to advocate that you support or reject the corridor. (Though I’ll likely get friends telling me I’m wrong no matter what.) In an ideal world, we’d have more time, hire some independent analysts, and really get a handle on what the impact of all of this will be. But it appears we don’t have time, so . . .

Whatever?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Evolution of a Maine Driveway in Winter

A lot of non-Mainers will ask me from time to time just what winter’s really like up here in Vacationland. The answer is probably what most people would expect: it’s cold (-10F on the way to work this morning), and it’s quite snowy. (I haven’t seen my yard since November. It’s got 1.5 feet of snow and ice in it, and I don’t expect it’ll surface until . . . May? Maybe April? You never know.)

For the most part, I really don’t mind the winter at all. I have a pellet stove, wood stove, and oil heat to keep warm, and I don’t do too many things that take me outside. The cold gets old now and then (especially when your pipes freeze, as mine did this morning), but you get over it.

However, my personal pet peeve in winter has to be the state of my driveway. I always start out with the best of intentions. If you can keep the driveway clear, life is good. Simple snow is easy enough, especially if it warms up right after. But in Maine, you rarely just get simple snow, and it often doesn’t warm up right after.

My driveway is about 100-150 feet long, I’d guess. I have a snowblower that churns through pretty much anything Mother Nature will throw down, but it leaves around a half inch to an inch of snow on the driveway after it passes by. And sometimes Mother Nature decides to send slush and rain, and then freeze solid right after. You can’t really shovel rain. The water goes where it wants to go, and then it freezes wherever it was.

This is just to say that inevitably, my driveway turns into an ice skating rink over the course of the winter. Very smooth, very slippery ice, often covered by a thin layer of snow. (Which then melts in the sun and freezes at night, keeping the Circle of Ice going.) The kids think it’s great fun to slide around on while they wait for the bus, but I dislike walking on it, and getting the mail is a chore to do.

However, when that’s my big complaint (“I have to walk carefully so I don’t slip while getting the mail”), then maybe it’s a sign I don’t have too much to complain about . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Fort Kenting the Day Away

I’m up in Fort Kent at a library meeting for the day. For you non-Mainers, Fort Kent is way up at the very top of Maine. It took four and a half hours to drive here yesterday. I’m actually staying at a hotel that sits at the very end of Route 1. If I were to get out and start driving on this road, I could keep going until I hit Key West, Florida.

Having driven four and a half hours yesterday, I think I’ll pass. I have to drive back home tonight, after all.

Anyway. Just wanted to pop on here to say it’s beautiful up in Northern Maine. It’s easy to forget there’s the whole top half of Maine. Not a lot of people live up here. The bulk of the population is in Portland and its surroundings. Once you hit Bangor, it feels like you’ve already gone pretty far. But then you drive. And drive. And drive.

Other states have rolling fields and farmland. There are sections up here like that. Potato fields. But the stretch I drove yesterday (Route 11) was almost all trees. And trees. And trees. Not a whole lot of people at all. On the plus side, that meant hardly any traffic. I did stop by a rest stop for a break. No one was there, and I ended up thinking, “This is how horror movies start out. With the main character pulling into an abandoned rest stop and then ending up in some torture chamber in the remote woods.”

I got back in my car, locked the doors, and kept driving. Though I must note no one has tried to abduct me since my arrival in Fort Kent. 🙂 I would imagine people in the far north of Maine get frustrated a lot of them time that the rest of the state doesn’t think about them that much. Or maybe they just don’t care. Not sure which. But if you ever wanted to live away from anybody else, there’s no need to go to Montana. Plenty of space for you up here in Maine.

I can see Canada from my hotel window. I could walk there in about five minutes, I’d guess. It looks an awful lot like Fort Kent. (I learned all about Acadia yesterday. Some fascinating history up here. Don’t anybody tell Trump about it. He might decide to annex part of Canada.)

That’s all I have time for today. Try to get by without me.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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