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Herb Chase: Maine: Rugged and Friendly
lighthouse in Maine

Maine: Rugged and Friendly
by Herb Chase

aine is perhaps the most unique, rugged, American state in the union. Maine natives often appear to be more independent, more determined and more generous than many Americans. In most cases they are friendly, hugely proud of their state and curious enough to welcome visitors with open arms.

Our recent summer excursion through much of Maine confirmed these opinions which are shared by many people who love the state and enjoy the rugged coast, the brisk weather, beautiful countryside and the plentiful supply of fresh lobsters.

Maine lobsters

The cold waters off Maine are perfect for growing lobsters but the state’s ideal oysters cannot be ignored. The same frigid waters are great for raising oysters and Maine oysters rank high on the tables of Eastern gourmets and summer visitors.

I used to teach horseback riding at a boys’ camp in East Waterford, Maine, some 60 miles northwest of Portland, so our five day visit was sort of a reunion for me.

Soon after we crossed the Maine border at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we arrived at Kennebunkport which is a charming country town featuring, for better or for worse, the unusually large and handsome estate of former President George Walker Bush.

George W. Bush, Sr. parachute jumping

We arrived at the Bush property shortly after the ex-president made a celebration parachute jump marking his 85th birthday.

The estate with flags flying is located on a peninsula with low key guards preventing curious visitors from getting near the main buildings. "Kennebunkport’” Bush was relatively popular compared to his son who may, in the opinion of many, rank as one of the nation’s worst presidents.

waterfront in Portland, Maine

Portland is Maine’s major city, made up largely of old-fashioned brick buildings. But downtown Portland has morphed from old-fashioned to “hip” and is now the popular center for youthful exuberance and vibrating entertainment.

Some 30 miles North of Portland visitors are tempted to stop in Freeport to roam through the huge L.L. Bean mail order showplace factory which is open to the public...featuring, of course, special factory sale items. The area around what was once an isolated Bean center has flourished and is now crowded with all the usual discount outlets offering many sophisticated fashionable bargains. Almost everyone has been on the L.L. Bean mailing list at one time or another. Visiting the home base of one of the nation’s original mail order giants is an experience worth having. Freeport is just a few miles south of Bowdoin College, one of the nation’s top small colleges.

lighthouse at sunset

It took seven and a half hours to drive from North Salem, New York, to Blue Hill, Maine, where we stayed in a typical Maine summer cabin located in deep woods with only a slim view of the nearby lake. It would have been faster had we not made several stops including time-outs for delightful lobster rolls, a specialty of Maine fast food restaurants.

Speaking of food, Blue Hill may have little else to offer but we discovered two great restaurants which would match quality and ambiance with the best in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. If you ever get to remote Blue Hill, the location of proud summer homes of “old Eastern money,” be sure and visit “Arborvine” and/or “Table,” a new farmhouse bistro. Almost every restaurant in Maine features lobsters but they were not on the menu at Arborvine and we got along famously without them. Both of these restaurants have earned topnotch ratings which they richly deserve.

Almost every other food stop we made in five days in Maine found us gobbling up oysters, crabs and lobsters.

Friends invited us to private club co-founded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. where we were welcomed and fed still another tasty lobster roll and some great fish chowder. The simple but stately club is not far from Northeast Harbor and the popular Bar Harbor summer showplace.

One highlight of our trip was a last day stop at the dramatic Acadia National Park which has reserved some of Maine’s choicest real estate for visitors and future generations.

It took us ten hours to drive back to New York because, as you might guess, we stopped twice for lobster: once on a deck overlooking a beautiful bay and for a final farewell dinner at dusk just before we crossed back into New Hampshire.

Hi Herb! Loved the article you wrote! It made me wish I could have come too! Thank you for the inspiring tour through your delightful descriptions.

Yoka, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, CA

Enjoyed all the trivia about Hotel Del Coronado. Some Like it Hot is one of my all time favorite films. I always wondered where it was filmed. Wish you had more pictures of the insides.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

Great article, Lt. Chase. I am a big WW2 Pacific campaign buff, and must say that I have never read a story such as yours. You focused on a personal story that rarely gets much coverage.

Sempre Fi! Thanks for your service to our country.

Paul Harper
Edmonds, WA

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