Maine roadtrip

A short loop northward, early spring 2011

With no commitments lined up in late March, I decided to take a little roadtrip up into Maine for a few days. Having found the "mile zero" end of US 1 down in Key West over the prior holidays, one goal was to go find the *other* end in Fort Kent ME. It had also been years since I'd been in Acadia, so that was worth another look. And I recently learned that some friends were moving to Tenants Harbor, a little farther down the coast, so that area was maybe worth poking into as well.

As I started off in the morning, there was rain and even a little soggy snow through most of southern Maine and I started thinking the trip might be on the sloppy side in general, but it began to clear as I got past Portland.

[Small images are linked to larger versions.]

Freeport, where else Having never been through Freeport before, I took a brief loop into it and found myself at one of the Canonical Places where people head when they visit. Freeport isn't actually that exciting; it's a bunch of high-profile stores that got themselves clustered in so close together there's no place to park. It's basically a semi-outdoor mall. Yawn.

On the way to here I got a little mixed up as I-95 heads more inland, and what I really wanted was I-295 that runs along the coast toward Brunswick. A brief spin along some backroads corrected that. At Brunswick I then departed the interstate for real, and was going to be on US 1 aka the "coastal highway" for quite a while.

crane in Bath cranes in Bath
Cranes over the docks at Bath, along the Kennebec River, taken on the fly from the bridge. Looks like there's more stuff here perhaps related to the Brunswick Naval Air station that I'd passed a little ways back.

St. George and the dragon? I kept going along Rt. 1 to Thomaston, where 131 would then take me down through St. George to Tenants Harbor.

Saint George, huh? Here's what one finds when rolling into the town center. Cute.

quarry rock dump, Tenants Harbor There's also a huge pile of rock tailings from a quarry. Actually, a quick flyover in Google Earth shows that there are several of these piles around the same area. Granite quarrying has been a fairly big deal through Maine's history, and near the sites one often finds these dumps of broken pieces that couldn't be used or sold. Just a big tumbled heap of granite chunks, much of which does not look particularly stable and I thus had *no* inclination to clamber up this mess.

big dead barn small dead barn
A large and quite dead barn along 131, and its smaller neighbor up the road a piece. This continues my running tradition of snagging dead, tumbledown, decaying or otherwise decrepit barns, houses, and other buildings. There's something oddly fascinating about them -- what the ravages of nature can do to man-made structures.

Prius taxi In Rockland, I happened to spot this local Prius taxi and pulled in next to it to add to the yellow-and-black-decals theme. Had a nice chat with the driver, who really appreciates a hybrid's strong suitability for hack duty. I related how the Boston-area drivers who have moved to the hybrid Camrys absolutely love them. No more worries about idling!

Yukon hybrid A little farther along, spotted a Yukon "two-mode" hybrid at a light. We don't see too many of these in the wild; they and the hybrid Escalades and Tahoes haven't sold too well. Considering that in GM-speak, "two-mode" is a euphemism for "far too complex for its own good [to avoid infringement suits from Toyota] and doesn't save any gas whatsoever".

smaller version of Bates Motel?  Searsport Entertaining dilapidation along US 1 in Searsport, showing how flexible wooden structures can become over time. I'm not sure why "mini Bates Motel" comes to mind, as it isn't especially a Victorian horror, but still...

bridge piers, Verona new bridge and old rusty bridge
Bridges across the Penobscot into Verona, old and new. The old span is disused and rather rusty by now. I'm amused by how there are lighting fixtures mounted at each cable attachment in the new construction; the bridge probably looks quite nice at night.

bridge piers silhouetted After crossing, I spotted a guy by the side of the road with a camera on a tripod and swung my head around just in time to see what he was shooting for, turned around and went back to get my own version of it. It was getting late in the day, enough for the sun to sink behind the pylons. I thought it odd that one has windows in the top and the other doesn't, but a little research reveals that the far one is an observation tower over [the other!] Fort Knox.

In fact by this time I was sort of waiting for sunset, as it was said that shortly thereafter a perigee full "supermoon" was going to rise. It had turned into a beautiful, crisp and absolutely cloudless evening that would be perfect for spotting it. As I got into Ellsworth and turned onto 3 to head for Acadia, it was close to sundown so I mucked around trying to find a piece of high ground to shoot from. I found one open area except that there was a Wal-Mart planted right in the middle of the shot, and every other place was either too low or had too many trees. And as dusk fell there was no sign of a moon yet, so I thought "bugger it" and kept going southeast. Figured I could keep an eye out for the first hint of moonrise and pull over someplace later.

rise of 'supermoon' I was glad I did, because I *just* made it to the bridge over the Mt. Desert Narrows when I spotted the ol' girl just peeking over a nicely distant horizon, with the bonus of a water path in the picture too. I pulled over and clamped the "gorillapod" onto the bridge guardrail and snagged a few shots to pick and choose from. This one still needed a bit of postprocessing to try and reduce the red rim around the edge; one downside of point-n-shoot optics. I shot it on the dim side, to try and get some actual surface detail from the moon and then worry about the surrounding landscape in post.

moon over Bar Harbor Nonetheless, it was a beautiful [albeit chilly] night and a tranquil scene over Bar Harbor, where I was still headed.

What do they say about getting to Acadia? "Drive north until your ass falls off, and then turn right." Well, that's about what I'd just done, so it was time to find accomodations for the night. I had the car rigged in sleeper mode but it was pretty cold, plus I was still shivering from having squatted next to an icy guardrail for 15 minutes, so my intent was to wimp out and find a motel. I wandered rather randomly through Bar Harbor ['scuse, that's "Bah Hahbah"] and down to the public pier at the waterfront. The taxi driver had mentioned that about 75% of the lodging places were closed for the season but a few are open year-round. In the process of getting a little confused as to which way to drive out of the pier area I went along a narrow little road that happened to dump me in the front parking lot of the Bar Harbor Inn next door. Which was open for business. So I stayed there.

It was comfy, but I could not get their internet hookup to work at all even after talking to the provider's support line for some time while they tried to debug things. That was pretty ridiculous; my usual impediments with lodging-service networking have to do with incompatibility in browsers vs. content and can be worked around, but in this case I did everything they suggested and the damn hijacker-box router *still* wouldn't let me out of the walled garden. So I gave up and read the various in-room info about Acadia to plan for the next day.

[It turned out later that the ISP actually didn't even know the place was open, and may have invalidated all the preallocated guest passwords in their own database. What a useless amount of overhead and complexity, anyway -- trying to give each guest a separate "lemme out" password and manage all that muck. The right way to do it, as increasingly discovered across the lodging business as a whole but not nearly soon enough, is to just provide a vanilla DHCP-enabled router, block TCP 25 to prevent drive-by spamming, and otherwise don't get in the way at all.]

Bar Harbor storm outfall pipe I partook of the Inn's surprisingly well-supplied breakfast and had a leisurely stroll along the shoreline in front of the place, where a couple of mildly entertaining things were found. Obviously the storm drain outfall doesn't discharge underwater anymore. The smooth rocks seen here are typical of the Maine coastline, where actual sand is fairly rare.

balanced rock, near Bar Harbor Inn A "balanced rock" that plenty of other people probably take pictures of, thus somewhat violating my policy that I generally refuse to, and I hadn't even erected that little cairn on top of it. But it just shows the general placement of shoreline and hotel, and the wonderful crisp clarity and blue-ness of that 100% cloudless morning.

clear the roads, i'm sixteen Funny bumper sticker spotted in the lot as I packed up to head out.

Scuttlebutt had indicated that a lot of the Acadia National Park loop roads were closed at this time of year, so I opted to head down Schooner Head road [closer to the shoreline anyway] and see if that would eventually connect to the park road. It does, and it turned out that not only was enough of the park loop open to connect out at the other end and keep going around the island, there are no entrance fees at this time of year. Double bonus.

[Here's a direct link to the Acadia map PDF at the NPS site, as it's otherwise buried behind dumb javascript-based links that don't help an increasing proportion of website visitors.]

Champlain mountain Off Schooner Head and across a swamp, the east side of Champlain Mountain. The infamous Precipice Trail wanders up this somewhere.

Sandy Beach Sandy Beach, one of the few places that actually *does* have some sand. And very very cold water, of course, pretty much year-round.

woodsy hideaway, Seal Harbor The road to Otter Cliff was closed off, but I continued around to Seal Harbor and diverted off the park road onto the smaller residential roads. The houses back here must fetch extraordinarily high values due to location; many of them are like this little woodsy hideaway tucked in amongst deep pines and moss-covered rocks.

Somes Sound, fjord In Northeast Harbor I kept turning left to hug the shoreline, and wound up on Sargeant Drive right next to Somes Sound, referred to as the local glacier-carved "fjord" that opens out to the ocean and more or less bisects the island. There's even a plaque alongside the road that shows how it and the whole island were formed.

[Why do they refer to simple signs as "interactive displays" nowadays?? You read it, you don't interact with it.]

The other reason I stopped here was for the ice walls over there behind the car, which I wanted a closer look at.

splash ice icicles from runoff ice-coated pines
The day was a little above freezing and with bright sun, so plenty of snow-melt runoff was happening. This tends to create all kinds of interesting little landscapes near where water drips, trickles, or rushes. Much of the rock here was armored in ice sheets but with water sneaking in behind; I've also included a short video [8.5 Mb] of what that looked like.

But the day was wearing on -- enough with the artsy stuff for now, time to get off the island and head for my next stop which I had actually scheduled up the previous afternoon. This took me back through Ellsworth proper and about ten more miles up 3 to a bucolic little country road locally called "the Winkumpaugh".

telephone museum, Ellsworth The primary fellow who runs this place was kind enough to let me visit outside of their usual July-to-September season. I think I successfully let him understand that I had a longtime interest in phone systems, and wouldn't mind a bit of construction/restoration detritus and chaos kicking around. I happened to suggest a day when he needed to go do some stuff around the museum anyway, so it was relatively convenient for him.

How did I find out about this? The couple who started Galley Lighting are also some of the Museum's lifetime board members, and when I was up at Galley helping with a pickup the shop guy handed me a card for the museum. It became one more reason to roadtrip into Maine.

Strowger switch demo, step exchange step-by-step exchange
The place is awesome. They have *working* examples of just about every electromechanical phone system technology, from cordboards to Strowger/stepper switches to a full-blown #5 crossbar frame. And they talk to each other, i.e. you can make inter-exchange calls between the various demo systems. These are a couple of the small step exchanges, one of which includes a box with pushbuttons to simulate dial pulses as slowly as you want to watch the step-by-step selector index up and around. These systems, despite their deceptively small size, were complete exchanges and could serve on the order of 500 subscribers in their day.

5 crossbar The crossbar frame occupies a much larger footprint, but brings in more versatility for handling funny stuff like hunt groups, Centrex, and other classes of service. The crossbar relays are also more reliable over the long term, which is why they eventually supplanted the step switch. I asked about how touch-tone decoding fit into that picture as it began to appear about the same vintage, but didn't get a detailed answer on how those calls were cut through as opposed to when originated with pulse dialing.

I grew up on a 5XB system when first starting to fool around with phones as a teenager, and managed to sleaze my way into a tour of my local central office way back when. Seeing this definitely brought back memories.

wet cells In a separate building they have a couple of more unusual systems, complete with a microwave link that once connected them to the next office. And a 48V block of wet cells backing up its power, just like it would have in a real deployment.

Of course they've got any number of actual telephone instruments themselves on display too, from all kinds of locations and eras [anyone remember what bakelite is?] and many of them still work and are used for the demos.

old military truck This ol' monster is parked in the driveway; not sure what it gets used for. The way these military trucks are built is awesomely utilitarian, but certainly not designed to save any fuel or the environment.

The museum has a lot more *stuff* stored away than what's publicly shown, which they often refer to as Heavy Metal Objects, and they're continually working on ways to restore more of it and get it set up for viewing. They're always looking for more members and work-day volunteers, and boyhowdy is this tempting to get more involved with.

It was already late afternoon by the time I got on the road again, and I only had a vague idea of where to head next as long as it was basically northward. While I generally like traveling during the day so I can see stuff, with days still on the shorter side I figured it was okay to do parts of the trip at night and miss some of the passing landscape. So I'd keep going as long as seemed reasonable. Eastern Maine isn't really where the serious hills are anyway, and by dark I'd probably be a little more inland and away from the scenic parts of the coast.

pink & lavender house Entertaining house colors, somewhere near Millbridge.

field of red stems As I wandered along 1 or 1A or whatever it is through there, I kept passing fields of this reddish ground-cover which turned out to be the thin chopped-off stems of something, maybe post-harvest? One colleague suggests "wild Maine blueberries", which if cultivated on this scale doesn't really make them "wild" anymore.

renewable energy stuff Renewable-energy installation outside some sort of salmon authority building, in East Machias. Although I'm not sure how much good the vertical-axis turbine is going to do located down in a little valley like this.

geese in the road With all the signs about moose and deer, maybe geese are not among the critters one expects to find routinely wandering about on the roadway. But there they were, and took their time moving. Clearly I was driving through *their* farmland so they were hissing at this big object that suddenly intruded into their space.

At this point I was on a small county highway or some such, 192. The GPS indicated some sort of waterfall site of possible interest up here a ways, which I thought to go find by basically racing the oncoming dusk. Found the tiny road that theoretically went in to it, but which dead-ended in a huge mound of snow just as it turned to dirt in front of someone's house. This gave another of several inklings that many of the back roads in rural Maine simply aren't plowed in the winter, as locals who need to go up them are more likely to on snowmobiles or ATVs. Oh well. There wasn't enough daylight left to park and hike in, so I gave up on that.

sunset over rt. 9 Given the direction I was already heading I decided to cut off the easternmost point of Maine, e.g. skip visiting Lubec and Quoddy Head and just keep going north. 192 brought me out to Rt. 9 under a mundane but still cloudless sunset.

deer warnings 9 is a faster road with its share of ups and downs and curves, so it's likely that people routinely overdrive their headlights. Maybe if they slowed down a little at night?? ... Nah, unthinkable. That wouldn't be American, where the posted 50 or 55 seems to be regarded as a *minimum* speed under almost all conditions.

Oops, is my snark showing?

9 eventually brought me back to US 1, and I was decidedly in the boonies now with very little in the way of local resources that weren't shuttered for winter. Longish story short, I had to head up about another 80+ miles of US 1 to find the next "knot of civilization" with reasonable accomodations, landing me in Houlton where I-95 comes from inland to intersect US 1 again. That intervening stretch of 1 is *very* desolate, with clusters of a couple of houses maybe every ten miles and nothing else around -- well, not that I could really tell, as it was dark and I wasn't there to sightsee at this point. My eyes were glued forward as far as the high-beams could penetrate watching for the next batch of inevitable deer. The signs don't lie, but at least the deer I encountered tended to stand around watching me go by instead of actively jumping out in front of oncoming vehicles.

It was down into the low twenties by the time I made Houlton, so I once again opted to spend money on a room with real heat [and working internet this time]. Of course it would be cold, I was 250 more miles north from home. The guy at the desk mentioned something I hadn't known previously -- the eyes of moose don't reflect car headlights like those of deer do, so they're harder to see at night. And bigger and darker and taller, frequently leading to messy driver fatalities as their thousand-pound bodies fall in through windshields. But I wasn't likely to see any until getting farther inland around this time of year anyway. Leave it to a local Mainer to pass on all the good moose lore, of course...

That night I learned that another largish storm was rolling out of the midwest toward the northeast, promising to bring at least some snow, slated to arrive the next evening. Hrmm, I thought; this might become problematic, but certainly wasn't enough to make me 180 on the spot and head home.

ice crystals on mirror Morning outside the motel was quite cold, and a thin skin of ice crystals had condensed onto everything so that I needed to scrape all the windows before rolling out.

Mars Hill, far away US 1 is a little less desolate up here, tracking through miles of gently rolling farmland. As I passed through Blaine -- yes, that's really Blaine, Maine -- I noted a hill that seemed taller than everything else, and as I got closer I realized "hey, there's a windfarm on top!"

This is Mars Hill, and helped explain why I had seen a couple of model planets mounted up on posts along the highway. The Aroostook County locals have constructed a distance-scale model of the solar system along a stretch of US 1, which unfortunately doesn't actually place Mars in Mars Hill but the idea of a model on that scale [1:93 million!] is fun. Here's a little more info on it.

glam shot w/ wind turbines on Mars Hill The GPS showed some small roads heading closer to the actual hill and the ski-slope on its western flank, and it being still fairly early in my day I decided to go explore a little. The roads in fact make a loop completely around the hill, with the brightly sun-lit eastern side and no other traffic on this dirt-road stretch providing a good "glam shot" opportunity.

Oh! Canada! I was a half-mile from the Canadian border to the east. The terrain didn't look particularly different over there.

Even with a certain amount of the snow melted away at this point, it was clear that snowmobiles are a major transportation method up here. Not only are the fields running alongside the roads obviously tracked up, in fact all of northeastern Maine is criscrossed with official "recreation trails" with their own traffic signs, and they probably become major thoroughfares in the winter. With their own set of OUI problems, given some of the warning signs I spotted here and there.

But even this obscure part of the road had eventually gotten plowed, and the snow alongside it had gone through interesting melt patterns as the sun and dirt hit it at particular angles. A different shot of it became a potential wallpaper, albeit maybe a little ugly.

GPS: right on the border The GPS showed the road only looping around toward the west, but at the top it actually intersected a paved road that also went to the right -- straight toward the border, soon landing me [the circled blue arrowhead] right *at* the international boundary.

I visited Canada, the car did't Which is how it happened that I visited Canada after all, sans passport, even if the car couldn't get there.

dead barn in Canada And there was another dead barn conveniently located right there.

windfarm access road: closed On the way around the rest of the hill there was an obvious access road up to the turbines; unfortunately gated off or I would have headed right up it for a tour. The end of the hill tapers off here but they installed several of the units lower down on it; with the wind mostly from the south that day and rather light I'm not sure if these were producing much power. Some of the units had furled their blades and weren't turning at all. But as I noted in the '08 trip, there's likely a slipstream effect that yields advantageous wind speeds slightly *behind* the crest of a gentle hill.

The site is run by First Wind, which has several installations around the country. This installation is sized at 42 MW.

rickety building in Mars Hill Back through the town of Mars Hill; not sure what's up with this building but it looked entertainingly ramshackle. Click.

I kept going north, through Presque Isle which seems to be all about convention facilities, and out into another long stretch of rolling farm country. The same sorts of facilities and equipment one sees all the way across the midwest were visible, along with the occasional stores selling tractors and seeders and such. As such, it wasn't particularly interesting as scenery goes, especially when cloaked in in the dull grey of winter's frozen grip.

very slow, subtle approach of storm The weather was still clear in late morning, but a critical look westward showed the first hint of the approaching storm -- the type that would very subtly creep in and slowly blot out the sun. There wouldn't be any hard leading edge visible, just a gradual thickening of cloud over several hours starting with about what I saw here.

wobbly barn Soon I reached the St. John river and began following it along the border, shortly thereafter spotting another example of the flexibility of wooden construction: largish shed, in Van Buren.

bridge street, to Canadian crossing US 1 arcs the farthest to the north in Madawaska, and like a couple of the other border towns has a typical "Bridge Street" to the river. This area is heavy on papermills, as lumbering is one of the primary activities around here.

bridge over St. John river The bridge across to Canada; not taken as I didn't have any of the appropriate documentation with me.

US Customs Instead, I camped out briefly across from US Customs and had lunch.

The building is totally festooned with camera pods, and I sort of wonder what the large white panels to the top and side of the roadway are... radiation detectors, perhaps?

farthest north point This was the farthest-north point I would reach on the trip, about 340 miles north of Boston's latitude. The other "bump" at the top of Maine is a tad higher on the map, but served only by tiny dirt logging roads that likely wouldn't be usable at this point. Although the GPS shows a few small roads, a cross-check with Google Earth strongly hints that one would have to travel on the order of 50 miles on fairly unimproved surfaces to get up there. And many of those little tracks are privately owned by loggers. In any case, probably not the right time of year to think about tackling that.

Frenchville historical train cars Small bits of rail history spotted in Frenchville.

pair of ratty barns Double your pleasure! Two, *two* ratty barns for the price of one!

North terminus of US 1 I finally arrived in Fort Kent, where US 1 ends. It took a little looking around to find the marker; it's tucked in next to a somewhat run-down looking tenement in what's essentially its gravel parking lot. And certainly not overrun with tourists, like the big "southernmost" bollard in Key West was. [Which, by the way, is a total lie, as the real southernmost bit of land down there is off-limits inside a navy base.]

another bridge to Canada The US 1 marker backs onto the river and what I'm guessing is a little park, next to yet another truss bridge, but everything was still buried under snow. Along the top of the berm runs another one of those "recreational trails".

So, major milestone of the trip duly reached! Now I had a choice: to go down Rt. 11 through about the middle of Maine, or try to head down 161 and follow the river some more to Allagash. Problem was, Allagash would likely be a 30-mile dead end, as the roads continuing on out of there not only make no sense on any maps, they're pretty clearly dirt in all the sat views. Or more likely mud and snow right now. I bagged on the idea of trying to offroad a Prius fifty miles from the nearest civilization, topped up the coffee in the diner across the street and went to find 11 south.

ends of logs piled up Route 11 is pretty much all about logging. Log and pulp trucks barrel up and down it all day, and there are quite a few side clearings stacked high with cut trees.

log handling machines log handling machines
One of the saw / pulp mills sort of straddles the highway, so its operations were visible by simply stopping on the side to watch. Interesting specialized handling gear in use.

log truck pulling an uphill The log trucks were for the most part courteous on the road. They are often somewhat underpowered day-cabs, so they'll slow down a bit pulling an uphill. I tracked this one for several miles, whose speed changes seemed perfectly matched to my own fifteen-kilowatt routine and I started wondering why in some *other* highway circumstances the trucks seem to possess more usable momentum than cars, or at the very least often bunch up behind other traffic when beginning an uphill. Galileo says that can't be possible, of course, and this log-truck's apparent power to weight ratio was making much more kinematic sense to me. Thus, I can only conclude that many of the big trucks on the mainstream interstates just lay into the go-pedal hard in the valley *regardless* of whether there's traffic ahead of them or not, yielding the highly unsafe and unprofessional results I so often see. Well, screw that. If they can't handle the dynamics of surrounding traffic in stride, they shouldn't drive, and I'll be one of the first to make their safety managers aware of that.

view to Baxter and maybe Katahdin It was completely overcast at this point, and I was heading into heavier clouds. As I drew level with Baxter State Park off to the west, I looked for Mt. Katahdin -- perhaps it was one of these, and it looked like the snow might have already reached there. In fact a few light flakes were swirling past the car where I was, so obviously the storm was arriving.

11 dropped me onto I-95, and after a short stretch on that I was in Bangor.   ["You bang 'er, you brought 'er!"]  Now I had another choice. I could just bug out of here and do the 4 hours home on the interstate, or try to press on farther west on US 2. The snow hadn't really picked up yet and wasn't sticking to the roads, so I figured I could make the 120 miles or so and reach the New Hampshire border before things got too bad.

I was also feeling sort of a moral obligation and experimental urge. Having wimped out and spent coin on two nights of motel, and with overnight temps now predicted to stay slightly north of 30, I figured I *had* to spend at least one night in the "sleeper berth". I still needed to find the low-side threshold of what ambient temps I could tolerate, given sufficient bedding, without running the car for heat overnight. So I wanted to keep going until it was late enough to make sense for going to sleep, and see how it would go. Taking a very indirect route toward home would provide an appropriate timeframe.

bad potholes on US 2 Problem with US 2 was, it had *many* bad potholes and frost heaves, at least in the earlier parts. Heavy exercise of hole-avoidance skills going on here, as some of these looked like real tire-eaters. As I kept heading west, the snow began sticking to the roads more and there were several plow trucks out trying to keep up with it.

dead barn on US 2, in the snow Most dead-barn pictures are shot on warm-weather runs and include plenty of greenery, so obviously more winter scenes are needed for seasonal balance. This one just screams grey, silent, and dead.

whiteout snow along US 2 The snow kept thickening, to the point where I had to go along alternating between high beams to see farther up an approaching hill, and low to cut off the total whiteout coming at the windshield. At times I was down well under 30 mph and it became clear that this was going to be a long, slow run. Every so often I'd test the surface by stabbing the e-brake pedal and seeing how easily the back end would break loose. It was steadily getting more slippery, but the Prius soldiered on through it just fine, not even kicking in the traction-limiting on the uphills. While the Energy Savers aren't specifically snow tires, they seem to perform well in this stuff.

semi truck off the road, hill curve, Dixfield This poor fella evidently didn't know his limits. Downhill on a curve near Dixfield; must have happened less than an hour ago given the small amount of new snow on the upturned tires and assuming from the cones set up alongside, had already been dealt with. With nobody else anywhere near me I simply stopped as soon as I saw this, barely even invoking any ABS, lit my hazards and nosed in through the cones to swing the high beams onto the wreck for the picture. Entertainingly, while I was out of the car and running around to examine the scene at least two other cars stopped to ask me if *I* was okay.

That whole run along 2 was a very interesting, in the Chinese sense, bit of driving. Fortunately, the farther-west municipalities have larger road maintenance budgets or something because there were fewer potholes to dodge -- not that I would have been able to see many of them by now. For the latter half of the run there was just about nobody out on the roads anymore except me, plow trucks, and a few police. A while later I swung into a small rest area with 3 - 4 inches of unplowed stuff and had a minor struggle proceeding out of that again, but the quick GPS check done there indicated that the next "real town" was Gorham NH. So I'd made the state line, it was somewhere around 9pm, and I figured that if I found a good spot to do so it was time to tuck in for the night.

There's always the little question of where to park when car-camping. Rest stops sometimes say "no overnight", although trucks seen idling there all night often belie that. Wal-mart lots are often handy because of their "RV-friendly" policy, except in towns where local ordinance prohibits it, and larger shopping centers in general always seem to have a few stray cars in the lots at all hours of the night which one can just blend in with. Larger motel lots are usually fair game, as cars go in and out of those all the time and few are going to notice if a car arrives and parks and then nobody ever gets out of it. Further discussion of the finer points of being homeless in a car can be found by searching for "boondocking" and related terms. Between that and campgrounds, it's a practical way to travel and sleep on the cheap. Well, except possibly less comfortably in colder weather.

However, down to freezing or a little lower seems to be the working limit, at least with the bedding I had with me, and with a better sub-zero rated sleeping bag, I could probably do even better. After all, people go winter camping all the time without external heat sources, and a car provides the luxury of having a heater anyway. While I slowly wandered around the few blocks of Gorham, I ran the heat high to warm up the whole interior of the car more than it had been, and took note of potential spots to slot into for the night. Obviously out-of-season closed motels wouldn't do because nobody would expect cars to be there. A couple of church lots and service stations were noted as candidates. But as I passed by the police station and toward the town's central park, I noted a couple of cars simply parked on the side of the bordering road and casually slipped in to join them. Many small towns, particularly out west, actually allow RVs and travelers with other self-contained "dry camping" facilities to overnight in or near their municipal parks as long as they're tidy about it. I figured that if my presence was going to be a problem, I was within sight of the police station and they'd spot all the conspicuity tape from their own front door and come over to investigate. My excuse, if needed, would be that it's far safer to stop and sleep than keep going in clearly hazardous conditions while getting more and more tired, right? And if parking here was a problem, suggestions on a more legal one? While the answer in summertime might be "get a room", I don't think the locals' primary aim this far out of season would be centered on increased lodging revenue.

While at least one of the other nearby cars fired up and departed over the course of the night, nobody bothered me and I got a perfectly good night's sleep. The key discovery here was that *not* running the circulation fan hack continually did much to help retain my body's own warmth inside the car, and a few hours later when it began feeling more humid I ran the fan just a little and at a very low level which nicely pushed the moisture out but didn't intolerably lower the temperature. One go-round of that was good enough for the night. Plenty of people snooze in cars for various reasons and don't even worry about air exchange, and just live with the fact that their windows might fog up. There were a few ice crystals on the insides of my windows by morning, hinting that it was somewhere below freezing outside and because I was still cozy, I'd proven more about my little methodology's cold-weather capability.

Gorham train history None of that means that the car didn't get fairly chilly inside by morning anyway, and before really crawling out of the sack I reached forward to fire up the system and run a bit of heat to make my "emergence" step more tolerable and start de-icing the windows. Sometimes ya just have to burn fuel for heat energy instead of propulsion, and take the mild MPG hit. Coffee was available at the Cumby's across the park and then I went back over to snag some shots of the train-history setup they have along one side of the park.

They're still in the process of turning the old locos and cars into a little museum, as detailed in this big picture which if viewed 1:1 can be scrolled around to read the items on the plaque in front.

Gorham train history Gorham steam locomotive detail
They've got an assortment of vintages including steam and diesel. The steam loco seemed unusually "open" in its construction underneath the boiler, so I tried to get a detail shot and lighten it up enough in post so that one can see the various parts. Interesting use of leaf springs.

clearing to the south Amusingly, I had not only been on US 1 for a while and then US 2, I also traveled a small portion of US 3 while finding my way back to the interstate to head home. Everything was beautifully sugar-frosted by the snow overnight, but the roads were clear by then. Soon I started seeing some clearing toward the south, and by the time I got home the sun was out and it turned out the storm hadn't dropped any snow there at all -- no hint of plow-berm across the driveway to chip loose before getting in.

Overall, a relatively short run but yielding a good number of new discoveries. The car looked like a rolling salt mine by the time I got home, but that's what we get from a northeastern winter that just never seems to end.

_H*   110325