© 2003, 2004, 2005
10 for the Road
Just back from
to the online home of travel columnist Donald D. Groff, who has
dispensed advice and stories since 1988 in such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer,
the Newark Star-Ledger, The Kansas City Star, Newsday, Salon, Condé Nast Traveler, Consumer Reports
Travel Letter, The Boston Globe, and Endless Vacation magazine.
from . . .
Photos ©Donald D. Groff except as
a beach, lobster & a moose
through Maine in August fills one's soul like the wind fills the sails
of the schooner Margaret Todd sailing from Bar Harbor. In early August
2003, coastal Maine complained of unseasonably wet and humid weather,
but it eased by mid-month and visitors leaped headlong into this outdoor
fantasyland. The recreation menu at Acadia
National Park and Mount Desert Island is unrivaled: hiking, biking,
kayaking, canoeing, cliff climbing, nature study, horse-drawn wagons,
frolicking on Sand Beach. At meal time, lobster weighs heavily on the
collective psyche, and restaurants provide sympathetic counseling.
Off trail, Bar Harbor is full of pleasant surprises, including the Opera
House Internet Cafe, possibly the most soothing cyber cafe atmosphere on
the Margaret Todd
The 151-foot, four-masted schooner tours Frenchman Bay
with a Park Service ranger who speaks of nature and
history. Carol at first was disappointed because the boat was
motoring, but eventually the engine
was cut, the sails filled, and a smile spread over her face. 2003
adult fare for a two-hour tour: $29.50.
Each order is numbered and placed in its own net sack.
traps / Photo by Carol Clark
Route 3 leading to Mount Desert
Island is home to several lobster "pounds," eateries
where the crustacean is king.
|How ordering can make
Among the best-known of these businesses is the Trenton Bridge
Lobster Pound, an informal place serving delicious lobsters and
its own brand of chaos. To the staff and regulars the ordering
protocol all makes perfect sense, but newcomers arriving at peak
periods need not look for
any "the customer comes first" placards here.
Based on a
Saturday evening visit (closing time: 7:30 p.m.) here's how
it works. On entering the small and jam-packed ordering area, you
are drawn to the line leading to the cash register. If you are lucky, another
guest will advise you to go first to the
right, where a sign says "order lobsters here."
(One might think that sign is for fish market service; one would
An employee will ask what size lobster
you want ("average" is 1 1/2 pounds), pull one kicking
from a cooler, weigh it, scrawl a number on its back, write the
number on a blackboard, and instruct you to give that number to
the cashier when you finally make it through the other line. While
you wait to order other meal items, the sole cashier will be
calling out the numbers of earlier orders that are ready, hence
you get to see other people not even in line go ahead of you while
the line seems not to be moving at all.
If you're ordering clams,
chowder or other dishes -- and no lobster -- you will get the
distinct impression you are a second-class citizen here, as others' numbers come up while you stand helplessly.
When I spoke this thought aloud to Carol, the cashier overheard me
and snappily denied that was true. But I am sure it has been
some time since she walked in the moccasins of a new
If you are lucky enough to reach the cashier
before your lobster is ready, you'll get a second chance to wait
while your other dishes are prepared. No worries -- you'll be
called on the loudspeaker for those, too. At the cash register
you'll also discover that the lemonade listed for $1.50 on the
blackboard is actually canned lemonade in the same cooler as the
other soft drinks.
Once you've assembled all your meal components and carried them
to the outside picnic tables, don't overlook the sign announcing
that there is no busing service. It also instructs you to dump
your shells and other residue into the provided trash can
and walk your tray and any implements back to the serving counter
near the cashier. This is not a seafood place
that gives you moist towelettes.
Above, the outside dining area. Below, steaming seawater.
It has a hose attached to
the side of the shack, but a sign warns customers that it is not
to be used. Inside we found a sink, cold water only, with no paper towels.
Many will excuse this inattention to niceties, chalking it up to
local "charm." It's authentic, unpretentious, they might
say, like a boisterous deli. Please. The emperor has no clothes.
And it may be rough-hewn, but it's not cheap.
In the hour and 15 minutes or so we were there, the restaurant
served at least a hundred people, probably with an average tab
per person of $20 or $25. During
the wait, everyone near us had the same thought: This
place is raking it in. The prevailing attitude was
that we were there to have a good time, and everyone was looking
forward to the meal. But there also was a "we're not having
that good a time while we're waiting to have a good time" temperament.
Perhaps the pound could borrow a page from the
airlines and post someone at the door to greet the unindoctrinated.
May a lobster pinch me when that happens.
Day breaks on Lake Webb, near Weld, in Maine's Western
Kawanhee Inn offers rooms in the main lodge and cabins on the
hillside and lake front.
Inn on Lake Webb
If midnight is the witching hour, 6 a.m. must be
the moosing hour. It was for us on an overnight stay at the
Kawanhee Inn, a picture-perfect lodge whose cabins are
occupied each summer by returning regulars. A handful of
rooms are available in the main building and we lucked into one of
them at the front desk. At 5:30 the next morning, innkeeper
Sturges Butler lightly rapped on our door then outfitted us with
paddles and life vests, and soon we were gliding through the mists
as sunlight peeked over the hills. We marveled at the quietude,
broken only by keening loons, then just off the shoreline in the
distance we spotted a bulky figure. An adult female moose stood
chest deep in the water, feeding on water lilies. We watched, then
continued paddling. When we returned 20 minutes later she was
still there, sometimes dipping into deeper water, swimming,
munching audibly. When we got back to the lodge with our photos,
Sturges was delighted. He had been sending people out there
for a long time, he said. But no one had actually come
back saying they saw one.
93 memorial; Atlanta; Nicaragua;