Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How I Passed for a Bar Harbor Local, or Maine Recap Part One

I can now say from personal experience that I do not recommend getting four hours of sleep before embarking on an extensive travel day.
Sometimes I really regret being caffeine-free.
I rolled out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4 AM to be at the Michigan Flyer stop by 4:45. I'd never taken it before, but I have to say I really appreciated being able to walk two blocks and then be driven to the airport. (I know it's not free, but when you add up gas, parking, time, and aggravation, I thought it was more than worth it.) It was fun walking through the city in the perfect quiet moment - the bars had been closed for a few hours, but it was still too early for even runners to be up and about.

There were also some of the most hilarious people waiting at the stop with me. This old couple nearly had a WWE throwdown over which garbage can to use, and some poor girl had to repeatedly explain to her elderly father why he couldn't cut in front of me when the bus arrived. (Please note, there were about 10 of us. Everyone was getting on the bus.)

The drive was pretty pleasant and I managed to doze so I would not be the crankiest person ever by the end of the day. After arriving, I spent a thrilling 45 minutes in the security line, and nearly had a heart attack when the TSA agent confirmed I was going to Portland, Oregon. Was it a trick? No, this dude just had no clue that Portland, Maine, was a real place.

I didn't get a picture, but we flew on the tiniest airplane. It was even smaller than the commuter flight to Toronto or the connector to Champaign, IL. We ended up sky-checking our bags, which honestly I love doing. You get the comfort of hauling your junk around with you and get a visual of it being loaded, but you don't have to do the overhead bin dance of stress.
Approximate size reference.
The flight was less than two hours, and we were officially in Maine! Almost all my family vacations have been out West, so it felt pretty bizarre to be on the East Coast, though it was incredibly beautiful. To land at the Portland International Jetport (no, I did not make that name up), you fly out over the ocean and circle back towards land, so we had great views of the coast.

Next came (one of) the most stressful parts of the trip - picking up the rental car. I found this crazy tip online that if you signed up for USAA, which is free, you could get a discount, waive all underage driver fees, and add any other USAA member as an additional driver for free, even if they weren't a member of your household. Michael and I signed up, and somehow, for reasons beyond my grasp, this was legitimate, and we rolled out without paying any extra fees. We had to laugh because the only trouble we had was them repeatedly demanding Michael show a major credit card, not a debit card. They never even asked to see his license! (It was also hilarious to get the upsell spiel when it was just two of us with one suitcase each. How would we ever fit?!)

Our next stop was to get something to eat so that I did not have a hangry explosion. We had already gotten directions to a restaurant, but it took longer than expected because holy hell driving in Portland. After some adventurous turning and never being quite sure if streets were one-way or not, we found a free spot close by. We had a surprisingly good lunch at a place called Hot Suppa! My grilled cheese used local Maine cheese and was super fresh.
Lost the pictures on my phone, so just pretend this is mine.
We had planned another activity in Portland, but our spot was only for one hour. This meant more adventurous driving! Approximately 75% of the time was spent by me driving past perfectly adequate spaces because I hate parallel parking. We did find some magical two hour free spaces in a random neighborhood. (Also, if the streets weren't bad enough, you needed an IQ of 200 to decipher their parking sign instructions. It didn't help we kept thinking it was Saturday, not Friday.)

Our next stop was the International Cryptozoology Museum. One of my biggest guilty pleasures is Bigfoot shows. I once broke Michael after over five consecutive hours of Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet. (It's so hard to stop once you start. You know they'll find Bigfoot two seconds into the next episode if you change the channel.)
The logo is not Bigfoot because reasons, I guess.
I'm glad TripAdvisor clued us in on how to get there aka go down an alley past a shady smoke shop to an industrial door. The museum was pretty fun. It was more of a personal collection, with the "signs" all print-outs from Microsoft Word. I wasn't expecting the Smithsonian though, so it was entertaining.
Haters gonna hate.
The one part of the museum I found really interesting was a cabinet discussing when certain animals we consider ordinary were officially documented. Apparently the cheetah was not officially a real animal until the 1900's. I don't really have an opinion on Bigfoot, but it made me think about how species discovery works and what animals we take for granted, per say. I also loved the pop culture case, which had a variety of Bigfoot (and other cryptid toys).
100% going to get a pair to walk around campus in this winter.
We stayed until closing before embarking on more driving fun. I nearly lost it when a street dead-ended into oncoming traffic at a light that gave people turning both left and right the right-of-way simultaneously. We did get to use the Maine Turnpike once we finally suffered enough to be allowed on the highway. It was different in that you paid a dollar to enter...and that was it. I mentally pumped myself up for more toll booth hell when I saw the turnpike ending signs, but there was nothing. I feel like the Maine residents tried but missed the concept.

The drive to Bar Harbor was about three hours, but only got really bad during the last hour from Bangor on. This involved a million turns in the dark with uncertain speed limits. We managed to locate the hotel without any serious mishaps and checked in to find a pretty nice room. (And we saved $50 a night by staying .2 miles down the street from the other host hotel, psych.)

And then? You guessed it, more driving. We went to a pub called the Thirsty Whale for dinner because it had seafood that did not cost a million dollars. I tried lobster (I don't like and am mildly allergic to most seafood.) I really liked it, I hadn't expected it to be sweet like crabmeat, which is one type of seafood I have no problem eating. Our server nearly face-palmed though when we ordered root beer instead of alcohol. Hey, it was still locally brewed and quite delicious. I would never drive after drinking, but I have to wonder if roads would've made more or less sense if I were drunk.
Who knows why we stuck out like sore thumbs?
We both totally crashed that night. We had signed up for a two mile fun run followed by a breakfast the next morning. However, after a brief discussion after the alarm, we elected to skip the run and roll into breakfast as late as possible. (Technically, we had only paid for food, so we felt less obligated.) I normally would feel bad about doing something like this, but I'm really glad we did, because I think we enjoyed our day a lot more with the extra sleep.

We finally did haul ourselves out of bed to walk to the expensive host hotel. The breakfast ended up being just their continental breakfast, which was a bit disappointing. It was still good, though. Afterwards, we walked to the next building for the expo. There were no lines or issues with packet pick-up, though it felt strange to be getting an "experience" marathoner bib. It still hasn't quite sunk in that I am a marathoner. I briefly tried on the official race jacket and found it did not fit at all, so I ended up buying a race-branded fleece. Best decision ever.
Eager Feet Mom insists our tailor could easily fix this. I respectfully disagree.
After the expo, we drove to downtown Bar Harbor again to pick up Subway sandwiches for lunch and for the car ride back to the airport the following day, because there would be no time to stop. (I was so super prepared I had brought my cooler so we did not die. I might be too Type A for my own good.) We ended up checking out a few shops, and I bought a lobster finger puppet because why not. I met another nice tourist, and we played with them in the store for five minutes also because why not.

Finally, we headed out to Acadia National Park, which was barely re-opened on time. Trust me, we were sweating it out like crazy. Thanks, government. We watched the introductory park film (rating: not award-winning) and paid our entrance fee. I was amazed by how many people were so upset they had to pay $10 (for the whole vehicle for seven days). It's not like this is a particularly cheap place to get to, if you make it to Acadia, you can afford the $10. I also had to show my ID because the ranger seemed to think my Spartan-branded Visa was suspicious.

We spent the day driving the Park Loop Road, which let us see a bunch of really cool sites without putting tons of stress on our bodies. I wish we had had more time, because I would've loved to hike up Mt. Cadillac, rather than drive, but it was still fun. Mt. Cadillac is the highest point in Maine, but we met a couple from Washington who thought the whole thing was hilarious because they had a mountain behind their house that was 1,000 feet higher.
Unfortunately, the low elevation impaired their picture-taking abilities.
We stopped and ate our sandwiches on some of the rocks and got a million weird looks. I guess no one had heard of a picnic. We also managed to snatch enough cell service to check football scores. (We were in a terrible situation where Michael had no service and my phone wanted to charge me international rates for data, even though we were no where close to the Canadian border.) I was a bit sad to see there was a gift shop at the summit...how American.

Later in the day, we went to one of the carriage trails to fit in our shake-out run. I found the carriage trails interesting because you had to know where you were going, where to park, and what you wanted to see on the trail - you couldn't just stop and consult a sign. I had done some research beforehand and found a small waterfall, which was conveniently one mile from the trailhead.
Hadlock Falls (the dark spot on the right)
We were about ready to eat our own arms at this point, so we went to the pasta dinner early. Thankfully, they were already open and we rolled right in. They had the most amazing garlic bread - seriously a 1/4 loaf of bread drenched in oil. I had two but could've eaten approximately 100. At this point, we finally solved the mystery of why people had been asking us in confusion if we were from Michigan all day. Michael and I had Spartan stuff on, and we found out from the MDI High School volunteers running the pasta dinner that their mascot was the Trojans with green and white for colors. It finally clicked - people thought we were locals!
It looks like Sparty if you squint. And by squint I mean close your eyes and imagine Sparty.
I felt bad for causing people so much mental distress. A family next to us finally asked after what was an extensive debate between themselves. I nearly broke before this point though because I had to listen to a high schooler explain to her grandma why gluten is the most terrible thing in the world and why she had to get gluten free pasta and she has so much more energy because she's not digesting unnatural gluten and she's an expert because she read one article. I restrained myself but almost lost it again when he grandma started explaining why marathons are bad for you. (Apparently, you should only run twice a week for no more than three miles each. Who knew?) I know I have a lot of pet peeves, but overweight couch potatos giving exercise advice is definitely in contention for the top spot.

One of my grandparents can't walk for five minutes but has no qualms about lecturing me about how I will die of pneumonia after swimming.
After dinner, we got to hear the guest speaker, Zoe Romano. She went to France this summer and ran the entire Tour de France route, the first person (and obviously first woman whoot whoot) to have ever done so, and raised over $190,000 for charity. She was super down-to-earth and made me feel like I could accomplish any goal if I put my mind to it. (Time to put my mind to getting more money to afford it!) She really emphasized mini-goals, which I think are so important mentally. I felt nervous about meeting her, but I really wanted a signed picture, so I'm glad Michael forced me to stand in line. She was just as nice and really easy to talk to.
The awkwardness level here is acceptable.
After going back to the hotel, we realized we didn't have anything to attach our gear check tag to the bag with. I went to the front desk and got sandwich ties. This was pretty much the best runnerhack I've ever discovered. Maybe people do this already, but I totally want credit for it. We packed our stuff together to prepare for an early morning departure and settled in for a relatively good night's sleep. Our Marathon Maniac qualifying race depending on it.

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