Sunday, July 10, 2005

Day 135 - A weekend on the road !

Close to 1500 miles of driving a Pontiac Montana, around 120 miles of cruising on the Atlantic, 50 plus miles on an NJ-transit train, 12 miles of whitewater rafting and to top off all that, 5 miles on an air-train too ! Well, that's how I would describe my July 4 weekend trip to Maine and Boston. :)

Right from the time we started off from a very crowded Penn Station to our late-night ride back home, it was a fun-filled trip all the way.

We started off from New York's Penn station early Friday evening and caught a train to Metropark. From there began our 250-mile drive to Boston, at the end of which all we needed was some sleep.

Dozed off around 12 and caught up on sleep for abt 3-4 hours and then, it was time to get ready and be on the road again. With just a stop for breakfast, we drove all the way to Bar Harbor in Maine.

Located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine, Bar Harbor is a historic tourist town famous for soft sandy beaches and granite cliffs. Well, we were more than enthused about going on a whale-watching tour on the Atlantic and got on a catamaran for precisely that. But then, with unusually choppy seas and waves climbing over 8 feet, the whale-watching tour was curtailed to an Atlantic cruise. And we missed our date with humpback whales.

Instead, we cruised along Millionaires’ Row, a line of spectacular summer estates built for America’s most powerful families...from Rockefeller to Martha Stewart, everyone has got a plush mansion by the sea-side here. And on we went into the Atlantic on a very chilly breezy afternoon.

Over forty miles off Bar Harbor, we found some seals.

On our way back, we saw many beautiful lighthouses...but then, the three and a half hour cruise almost started getting to me. Ah, now I know what sea-sickness is all about. Inspite of all the excitement, I started having this strange sensation which forced me indoors, where I spent the last few miles of my cruise.

Back on firm terrain, normalcy was restored and we were back in our cars to go on the famous Acadia National Park scenic loop drive. Of course, this loop is considered to be exceptionally beautiful during fall. If you ask me though, even the middle of summer wasn't far behind.

First stop was a short-one by the steep Precipice Trail, a hiking trail suited for all budding cliffhangers. This trail is now closed to protect some extremely rare species of birds which migrate to this hill. Then we went on to Sandy Beach...ah...haven't been to a chillier beach than this ! In the middle of hot hot summer, the water of the Atlantic was barely 5 deg Celcius. Some of the bravehearts amongst us though, still managed to soak themselves in the freezing waves. Another factor that makes this beach so very different is the grainy nature of its sand. Well, the sand here is just made up of crushed shells, pick up a handful of it, and you can see only pieces of shells, there is nothing else at all.

Next stop on the loop was the Thunder Hole, which was more of a disappointment, as it just turned out to be waves lashing under a small sea-side cave. The name was just another of those marketing gimmicks, I suppose.

Well, as the evening wore on, we drove ahead on the loop to the top of the Cadillac Mountain. At 1532 feet, this is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. And it's claim to fame is, that it is the place where you can be the first to see the rising sun in the United States. We were here for the setting sun, though. And were witness to some breathtaking views of the Acadia National Park when the sun went down. It was wonderful opportunity to make good use of my new camera and I sure made the most of it. BTW, you can check out my complete photo-album for this trip, or just the featured pics here on my new photoblog.

Okie, back to the trip and we were too tired to visit any more we had a quick dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then, drove all the way to Waterville where we had our hotel booked for the night.

Day 2 was designated for white-water rafting, and most of us first-timers were very very excited. Eventually, it turned out to be much more fun than we had anticipated. And I enjoyed every minute of the 12-miles rafting on the Kennebec. The first four miles were the real fun part with level 3 and level 4 rapids. Later on, the river slowed down considerably, but we were all so excited that even an incorrigible hydrophobic like me jumped off the raft and 'floated' on the river. Probably the best day of our trip...

...and then we drove back to Boston and hit the sacks with the intention of clearing off our 'sleep debts' as much as we could.

Day 3 found most of us dead-tired...but still all enthusiastic to visit the hallowed precincts of Harvard and MIT. So, on Independence Day, we ended up strolling the beautiful gardens of Harvard. Not surprisingly, we hardly saw anyone on the campus...but the Memorial Drive along the MIT campus was bustling with activity...with people waiting for the evening fireworks over the Charles river, which we had to give a miss to get back to NY.

We left Boston around 5.30 pm, and expected a smooth, uneventful journey back home little knowing that we had some more excitement lined up our way.

Well, we drove all the way to New York City and then realized that we had no idea which exit to take on the I-95 route. We were still wondering which exit would be ideal when we realized that we were already on the George Washington bridge and well, on our way into New Jersey !!

A couple of miscalculations later, we exited the interstate and within minutes, found ourselves lost in some dark seedy lanes of Newark. A very interesting hour followed, at the end of which, thanks to a few phone calls, calculated guesses and pure luck, we ended up at Newark's Liberty International Airport !! :)

We got off the car, took an air-train to the nearest NJ Transit railway line and came back to Penn Station.

Phew, that last bit of adventure drained us quite a bit. But then, what better way to top off a weekend as exciting as this one ! :)


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