What’s the Maine idea?

What does a pig, a whale and a moose all have in common?

 Our trip to Maine!

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It started with a moose and ended with a pig but everything in between was riveting. We set out on a Sunday in an RV out on the open road, just the six of us. That’s right, we are a family of SIX! Dad, mom, five-year old, four-year old, two-year old and one year old. One Man and five women. Before you think it… we DO have our hands full and it IS a lot of weddings. Okay, now that that’s out-of-the-way; our RV is a class B motor home that sleeps 10 and the layout was perfect for our needs. With four beds in the back, bunk style, a queen up over the cockpit and a cafe table and couch that convert, we were able to leave the table and sofa usable while the kids slept we could still cook, talk, watch TV.

I know what you’re thinking: We are nuts! Who takes four small kids on a long trip in an RV?!? We do. For argument’s sake, it’s not easy and requires planning and a special “traveling with small child” attitude that took my husband a few days to grasp and a few more to master and by then we were home again. He didn’t agree completely to the idea stating that “they are too young.” Resistant and wanting to be accommodating to me he went and is worse for the wear.

WHY MAINE?

WHy Maine

Miss Rumphius, a book written by Barbara Cooney, is about a young girl aspiring to lead a life like her grandfather; she wishes to travel, come home to live by the sea, and the third thing he instills in her is to make the world more beautiful. As she accomplishes her dreams, this children’s book follows her to faraway places and back home to live by the sea, and when she realizes she still needs to fulfill the most important of her desires, she stumbles upon a brilliant idea of lining the Maine coast with lupines and becomes known as the Lupine Lady. This beautiful story is my favorite to read to my kids because before reading it, I too wished to travel to faraway places and live by the sea but my most important and steadfast dream has always been to make this world more beautiful.

Inspired by Miss Rumphius; I began researching Maine a little and what it has to offer. I found a plethora of information on a popular website that if you search the internet “visit Maine” I’m sure you will find the same one. The problem is that I plan this trip to explore exciting and fun nature-loving activities like moose watching (everybody was really looking forward to this one) and then we are on our way up there, a 400 mile 7 hour ride, only to find the advertised website and amenities are another 4 hours further into Maine than they were supposed to be, it was disappointing. The website divides Maine into several regions and you can search amenities by region and then city, which was convenient. I found campgrounds museums and excursions, one of which included moose watching. When I called the phone number to make our reservation I reached a web hosting company that managed the website of the company that ran the tours. After the run around, I finally got through to find out they do not in fact offer moose watching however, their sister location another 4 hours northwest does, did we want to book with them? HA! Dream of moose watching on this trip crushed. We only have until Friday to return our rented RV and the purpose of this trip is to explore the coast, just like in Miss Rumphius.

The only moose we saw on this trip :(

The only moose we saw on this trip.

 

WHY RV?

Ah, the renting of an RV. Three of the keys to traveling with any small child is bathroom breaks, snacks, and busy fun.

The layout

The layout

An RV affords these three essentials easily while maintaining steady pace traveling to the destination. I’ve heard stories where it takes a family SIX hours just to leave their state which should only be about one hour because of the catastrophes of being ready for the trip. The bathroom is on board in a RV so there is no searching or getting lost trying to find one. The bathroom is a big one for me, I’m a kind of mysophobe when it comes to public restrooms. We know who has used it and the last time it was clean, I don’t have to fumble with tissue to “make the nest” and the privacy of not listening to a stranger’s business and likewise is comforting. Snacks are more manageable in a full kitchen. We are not limited to what fits in the snack cooler and one to two kids cups and then have to restock. We had a refrigerator stocked with affordable normal sized packaging, not wastefully expensive travel packs and juice boxes. Keeping the kids happily busy is a key to their sanity and ours because if they don’t have something to do we become their something and typically the goal is being as obnoxious and needy as possible. My kids are far from perfect but they are well-behaved and sweet to the core so keeping them happy is easy. We buckled their car and booster seats at the cafe table. Snacks and coloring or games and toys were easy to manage riding down the road. We were even able to work on reading and math in their learning workbooks.

Aside from ease in traveling with small children, renting a RV opposed to other methods of travel poses some serious savings in your pocketbook.

First method of travel I’ll review is flying:

Our closest airport to Portland, ME charges $1,536.00 for four seats on an hour and a half flight. (our one and two-year old would be on our laps)

We would need to rent a car for the five days that we were there at $100.00 per day for a total of $500.00.

An average hotel room for 4 nights is $155.00 per night which totals $620.00.

Our meals would be from restaurants and take out or delivery menus. On average a family of six could eat breakfast at a local diner for around $40.00, lunch in a cafe $50.00 to $60.00 and dinner easily would be upwards of $80.00 a total of $180.00 per day. Eating out for the week would be about $900.00.

Not including souvenirs, activities, or incidentals, just getting, staying and eating comes out to $3556.00

Of course there are ways to decrease this budget by renting a smaller car, I priced out a minivan because our car seats and big family needs a lot of room. We could eat at McDonald’s everyday but we choose to live long not die young, and the cut-rate motel charges half of that comfy clean hotel but realistically I wouldn’t let my kids breathe the air in that fleabag of a hole in the wall.

Moving on.

Just to drive ourselves in our own car and stop along the way at hotels would be a much longer trip and expensive to boot.

Our van gets 19 mpg and would cost $217.00 in gas to travel a round trip of 1100 miles.

We would be wearing and tearing it up all the way there and back bringing in maintenance and repair costs that are immeasurable.

The quality of our trip would consist of waking our kiddos earlier than the sun to eat a cold breakfast and sit for hours and hours if we were to make it up to Maine before dark. A seven hour ride on a one and two-year old is rough. It would be a lot of tears and complaints.

The hotel and meal costs would be the same but rental car eliminated, the total for this scenario is $1,737.00 not included the added maintenance for our vehicle, which would likely include an oil change, tire rotation and an alignment or brake work, our van needs breaks every 1800 miles.

Sure, the price tag is appealing but it comes at a greater cost to our children. Riding in cars for hours is not fun, no matter the destination!

Another method of travel we considered was by train. This excited me because a new experience is an opportunity for learning! I’m not just referring to the kids; dad and mom would gain a lot from it too.

We would first have to make the two-hour car ride to NYC to board a 2:40am train at Penn Station traveling a little over five hours to Boston, then change trains to head up to Portland, ME on a two and a half hour ride arriving at 11:35am. Total travel time: nine hours thirty minutes.

The cost of this method would run $560.00.

Add in the rental car, hotel and meals and we are up to $2,580.00.

Taking a bus is of course an option however not practical for our family of six so I have opted out of pricing that one.

Now on to what our trip actually cost.

The rental fee for the RV totaled $1,575.00. We spent $325.00 for gas. Our food bill for the week was $135.00.

Totaling $2,035.00!

a note about food: when going on vacation we rush to finish the milk or suffer and cringe at throwing it out because we know it will be rancid by the time we come back. This trip, we took it all with us; milk, butter, eggs, cheese, jelly and mayo. From our fridge into the RV and back home with us.

We also were able to use all our own sheets towels cooking utensils and everything in between. downside: the laundry. Yes I had eight loads of laundry to do when I got home, but that’s not any different from a regular week I spend in my home.

The beauty in an RV is that it’s our method of travel,  hotel and restaurant(kind of) all balled in one.

PACKING PREPPING PLANNING

We packed enough clothes to not have to worry about doing laundry until we got home. We brought along a first aid kit and some busy work for the kids. Other than that we were left to the devices of the open road and spontaneously stopped along the way for food(other than what was in our fridge) at local markets and attractions.

We made arrangements for our pets early on and dropped them off on our way to pick up the RV.

This being our first RV trip, we just kind of winged it. Something I enjoy, you never know where you’ll end up or who you’ll meet. One night we slept in a Sears parking lot. We followed RV park signs and with what little research on the area I found one incredibly amazing RV park we will definitely be returning to.

I planned this trip long in advance. I’d been aching to visit Maine for years and summer 2013 was it. I chose summer because Maine, being a northern state, wouldn’t allow much outdoors time in sandals had we gone any other time of year. (I hate socks!)

On the first day we brought the RV to our house and loaded her up right in our driveway-no suitcases needed. 🙂 Milk eggs and butter from our fridge to the RV and away we went! The excitement of a new place and riding down the road in this house-on-wheels was enough to keep the kids occupied and happy for a few hours before our first dilemma. Even a seasoned traveler(which I am not) forgets the occasional toiletry. I forget my toddlers bottles! Oh jeez, we were approaching bedtime on the very first night not even 100 miles from starting out and my baby is screaming in hunger because dopey mum forget to bring the satchel of bottles.

So, we did what we could on short notice: found a grocery store-bought a few bottles and a brush, boiled them up and filled her belly. Aaaahh what a stressful first few hours.

After that we were smooth sailing into West Hartford, CT Sears and “parked” for the night. Rough beginnings do make for great trips, though! Just wait until the end.

Morning came and we were well rested. A quick breakfast and back on our way. The thing about travelling with small children, they need to stop and stretch and run every few hours so it’s best to keep that in mind when they start to get antsy in their pants. I was looking for local farmer’s markets to find fresh fruit and vegetables and I notice a highway sign for Idylwilde farms.

idylwilde_logo

I thought FARM but it was just what we needed. You can check them out here. Fresh organic produce with meats and cheeses, it was lovely!

After the market we continued on and little while later we made it to Portsmouth, the one and only coastal city in New Hampshire and found our first spontaneous attraction:

The S.S. Albacore!
The S.S. Albacore!

A Naval Submarine that was used as a test sub, the S.S. Albacore “holds a place in history as the first Navy-designed vessel with a true underwater hull of cylindrical shape that has become the standard for today’s submarines worldwide.”

I had an amazing time, learning a lot and picturing what my Grandfather’s life would have been like had he been in a sub while serving our US Navy.

The girls had a blast too! Testing out gadgets and pushing buttons.

We got to look in the periscope and steer, we learned about living quarters, mealtime and what life is like on a sub – so much information!

The Sub was a nice stop for the kids and very affordable on our wallet; I paid $7.00 for me and the girls (under age 7) were free! While I took the older two in, Darryl stayed in the RV with the littler ones while they napped. After eating lunch we were back on the road and in no time, made it to the mid-coast section of Maine arriving at our first RV park.

This being our first, all the others have a lot to measure up to. This place was gorgeous! Quiet, clean and very well maintained. Camping was easy with the general store stocking firewood and other incidentals.

Fun

marshmallows

Marshmallows were roasted and fun was had by all.

We were only here for one night, unfortunately. Otherwise, we would have spent more time enjoying the amenities; if only whale watching wasn’t awaiting our eager little sea discoverers.

In the morning after a short ride over to Boothbay Harbor, ME, we were at sea on our whale watching tour.

We found ample parking for our RV close-by and enjoyed a successful tour of the Maine coast viewing lighthouses, finding seals and spotting whales along the way learning, learning, learning!

Lighthouse

We started out on the top deck out in the open sea air which was fun…for a while. Once we really started moving, we learned of Juniper’s lack of “sea legs.”

Juniper sea sick :(

Luckily and conveniently we went down in to the lower enclosed level and she felt much better; we also had a better view of the whales, being closer to the water.

feeling better

That’s where all the action happened!

SEAL!

SEAL!

After our first spotting, it was hard to get these little eyes unglued from the view 🙂 Which makes the whole trip worth it!

glued

Then…

whale

WHALE!!

WHALE!!

We stayed with a pair of whales for a while but learned they dive deep and stay under for 15 minutes or so, until they need more air so we continued on and found even more. The trip was a great success and we had a blast!

After our awesome whale watching experience we explored Boothbay Harbour a bit.

... admired the art

We walked the streets,

Phone Pics 12186 Phone Pics 12188

then did some local shopping

Phone Pics 12218

and enjoyed scenery and the gorgeous weather.

Next: On to Damariscotta!

I love visiting little towns and meeting new people. A really nice shop owner watering her flowers admired us admiring her planters and offered to take this family shot for us. (a rare thing sans timer because mama-duck is usually behind the lens.

This gem of a place just fell in our lap. As we explored the town and just as Darryl and I were saying we were hungry we happened upon this welcoming store front that was a local grill.

We had an entire dining room to ourselves, while the front of the restaurant was busy, we quietly enjoyed the water views and splendid Art that adorned the walls. Darryl “felt like a king” as the kids ate well and the adults conversed; the sun set and we peacefully reflected on our adventures thus far.

Tummy’s full and time-a-ticking we made the thirty minute ride over to New Harbour, ME and second RV park. It was bed time, we were exhausted so we didn’t take any time to explore but this RV park was also very nice. (Must be MAINE!)

The next morning we rose early and beat the guard to the lighthouse…people were excited!

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Just as I had imagined it, The Pemaquid Point Lighthouse sat amid a rocky coastline perched way up above the ocean. When I climbed the tower I felt I was literally on top of the world.

Top of the world

The view took my breath away; the staircase did too.

staircase

After we toured the lighthouse museum and explored a bit outside.

Exploring pemaquid

Darryl took the three youngest to have a snack, while Juniper and I went on a coastal excursion. I was so proud of my little 5 year-old! In flip-flops, this girl climbed, slipped, slid jumped and hurdled over trenches, and slippery rocks like a professional – it was some nice one on one for us too!

Mom n juniper time

This next part was really special:

Lemon Tree has always replied, when asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with the cutest little, “an artist.” While she bats her eyelashes, tucks her folded hands under her chin and looks up at me with a smile. Well… it just so happens that Bristol Park, where the lighthouse is located, also has an art gallery and other buildings to explore. We ventured into to the gallery which was filled to the brim with local artists’ works of beauty. At the back corner a display was being emptied, we approached and asked “Are you the artist?”

An artist

Indeed, she was the artist and although lemon’s face doesn’t show this, she was ecstatic and couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the day, about meeting a REAL artist. It was a lovely encounter and really makes our decisions to home school, travel and be spontaneous that much more valid. Every parent questions themself, whether they are doing their absolute best. After this, I am certain, we are!

A few miles down the road was a sandy beach we found nestled in the rocky coast.

we found a beachIt was small compared to the Jersey coast, which I am used to, but not crowded. And the sand….. oh the sand!

Sparkly beach

If not for anything else, get to Maine to witness one of the most beautiful geological treasures this earth has to offer, many of you probably prepare your meals on it: granite! In all its natural glory, the Maine coast is speckled with shimmering rock and smooth stones. This beach is no different, the sand is speckled and shimmering like a fairy sprinkled pixie dust all over us, we played for hours digging, collecting trinkets and just relaxing on a pristine day.

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We ate lunch and went back to the campground to shower and begin our journey back home. The trip felt short because we stayed busy but it felt long because we had no idea what was in store for us next. Along the way, we paused to browse antique cars for sale on a small lot. We parked and pulled out our little grill for steaks and more marshmallows. After dinner, everyone pajama’d and we started back to the New Hampshire border. We found an inconspicuous parking lot and docked for the night. Woke to experience breakfast at  the famous NH Roundabout Diner. Being from Jersey, We know our diners and this one is tops!

roundabout diner

The service was great and food, amazing! We always struggle to get a group shot and this time was no different:

There is a sculpture garden I’d heard about right at the border here and I was excited to bring the kids because not only is it art, a walking trail and spending time outside; they had goats and a pig we could feed. More learning and life experience … so I thought.

What was a quiet easy walk in the woods admiring the art pieces scattered among the trees quickly turned horror movie scene and traumatizing nightmare for my whole family {except my sister, she burst out into tearing fits of laughter every time this story comes up} We approached the goats but just before we were able to feed them our apple slices, the pig! As it came out of its house its tail was wagging and Juniper bent down to give it a piece of apple; she dropped it between two rocks. As I bent down to retrieve it, the  pig charged us and attacked me. It gnawed at my leg and as I tried to push it away it bit my elbow too! OUCH! I didn’t know that pigs were aggressive animals.

Juniper froze in fear, Lemon ran and screamed, Ash cried in terror and Oak sat in her stroller speechless. Darryl? Oh, he was just standing there; watching. Yep. finally I called to him for help but he didn’t do much, so I grabbed the kids and scurried back down the trail fast as we could.

Recovering.

Recovering.

They ate the apples intended for the goats while Darryl stayed behind to keep the pig at bay but a few minutes later when Darryl came down the path, the pig followed him. After Darryl chased him back home, we assessed the damage and let that be the end to our trip.

Ouch!

Ouch!

On our way home and in the days to come we asked the kids what their favorite part of our trip is and Juniper says “The Whales!” Lemon says “I don’t like the pig biting mommy” (traumatized) After all the fun and exciting things, she remembers the last thing; the worst thing. What a way to end a trip!

We had a lot of fun and it was a memorable trip. I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride and if ever make it to Maine you’ll visit some of these amazing places.

So there you have it. A pig, a moose and a whale: MAINE!

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One response

  1. Pingback: FINALLY!!! A post from the road :) | Blog is where the Home is

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