On Driving to Maine (Maine Recap Part 1)

The drive from our home in Exton, PA to Portland, ME was, thankfully, an uneventful one. We pushed back from the driveway at 1:30am. For portions of the trek only the moonlight was beside us. It was a peaceful and solitary experience for me. The Mrs. and the lil’ one were back to sleep within a 1/2 hour leaving me plenty time to devour my newest music purchase – Alexi Murdoch’s “Time without Consequence”.

Our first stop was the sleepy (at least at 7am) fishing town of Portsmouth, NH. There we had a remarkable breakfast at Friendly Toast, on Congress St. The Toast appears to be a restaurant cooperative run by a gaggle of young folks, each with a multitude of tattoos, a punk rock fashion sense, and bedhead. It was awesome. We sat down at 7:45am and shared the expansive space with only one other early-riser. By the time our credit card was charged, the place was hopping and at least six servers were on duty. The decor was carnival chic and in the corner hung a six foot toy helicopter. The pancakes were sold individually, which we found odd…until our daughter’s one blueberry flapjack arrived. It hung over the sides of an eight inch round plate! A menu curiosity turned out to be a $4 bargain. My ham and pepperjack omelete was served with red skinned potatoes and toast the size of a much larger state, while the Mrs. enjoyed her much-loved french toast, friendly indeed. Delicious food, delightful service, and quirky decor. A better start to our mini-vacation there could not have been.

From there, we made our way to Portland, Maine where we joined up with family and rode the Maine Narrow Gauge Railway. Although, I couldn’t resist a quick hop off I-95 to drive through the ultra-quaint Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. If only we had the time to visit the maker of our favorite toothpaste!

(view from the train)

Once in Portland, we toured the modest Railway Museum and rode the Narrow Gauge. Not being familar with what Narrow Gauge meant, we were confused to see what appeard to be a trolley car in front of our parking spot rather than what we thought of as a ‘train’. Turns out the space between the rails is only two feet (and Maine has the most of such track in the country) so smaller trains are what is used on the smaller track. Makes sense. Two of the trolley-style passenger cars offered an al fresco view of the Casco Bay along the 25 minute journey. There were two traditional indoor cars which sat empty during our ride due to the beautiful weather. The ride dead-ends at a tressel bridge, which the train would have crossed at some point in history, but is now in disrepair. It is a shame. It would enhance the short trip considerably if one could travel over the water. There is a 10 minute pause at this point and during that time the conductor speaks about the Bay and it’s Islands, the birdlife flying about, and the train itself – a GE Diesel-Electric Locomotive. He also allows for one child at a time to climb up into the engine car and tells the children all about the gagdets, wigdets, and buttons inside. This makes for a great photo-op – your lil’ train lover (possibly in their new conductor’s hat purchased for $6 in the museum store) leaning over the engine car staring off into the distance. Pretty cool.

Quick aside: We rode the rails on Thursday as the overpriced commercial machine that is Thomas the Tank Engine was taking over for the weekend starting that Friday. The price for the same journey was set to rise from $6 (for ages 3-12) and free (ages 2 and under) to $16 for all those above the age of 2. For those not indoctrinated in the “Day out with Thomas” experience, they essentially slap a Thomas face on the front of an existing train and jack-up the price of the ride. Sure, there is other family themed entertainment available, but kids who love trains tend to care most about the trains and less about the suddenly expensive petting zoo or moonbounce. Crazy I say!

(plate bolted to the engine car)

After the railway, we drove the short distance into the town of Portland. Parking was scarce on this Thursday afternoon. All the garages within three blocks of the waterfront flashed their red FULL signs at hopeful (and at least three road weary) tourists. When we finally did find street parking, we ate a nice little lunch at Dry Dock restaurant on Commercial St. The Chowder was heavenly – I could have eaten a bucket full.

More on the trip tomorrow…

Out With The Kids


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