I can't remember when I first wanted to see Maine or the reason why the idea appealed to me. Maybe it was in third grade when my teacher, Mrs. Bozarth, told us the story of Asa Lovejoy, from Massachusetts, and Francis Pettygrove, from Maine, flipping a coin to choose between Boston and Portland when they named the new town they were building on the shores of the Willamette River here in Oregon. Perhaps Hawkeye's poignant description of his home in Crabapple Cove, Maine during M*A*S*H episodes was an influence. I also remember being drawn to the paintings of the Maine landscape on the covers of the L. L. Bean catalogues when I first started ordering from the company more than 25 years ago. A few years ago when Gary and I read about Steinbeck's experiences in "Travels with Charley," we talked about how much fun it would be to follow his route through New England. More recently while researching family history, I discovered my great grandmother's family came from Maine. Maybe Maine is in my blood.
Regardless of when I decided or whatever the reason, I told Gary on our return from a San Francisco trip in May of 2009, the next excursion should be to Maine. Much to my surprise he took me seriously. More than six months ago, he booked a direct flight to Boston then proceeded to bring home stacks of books from the library extolling the wonders of New England.
Traveling with Gary is an adventure. I never know for sure what to expect. The only guarantee is a day packed with new experiences from sun up to sun down. He is so skilled at finding interesting things to do and see that I suggested he start a travel service. He said he would have to call it "Gary's Thoroughly Exhausting Travel Service" and he was right. We started every day of our New England expedition by 7 AM and often didn't return to our hotel before 9 PM. It was one of the most marvelous and most tiring seven days of my life.
Months ago when I first looked at the photos in the travel books Gary was reading, I kept thinking no place could be this beautiful or this charming - it just can't be real. Now that we have been there, I can say without a doubt the places we visited are among the most beautiful and charming I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Over the next few days, I will share some of the sites and experiences of our magnificent journey through Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.