teddog: (Default)
I'm so bad with these reports... but if you're still following it along:

Tuesday was our last day in Maine. The flight was scheduled to leave after 1pm and our car was due back at rental place for 12:30pm, so we still had the morning to ourselves.

On a stupid note, it turns out that we only really got along with our hosts at breakfast that morning. Up until then, they seemed very aloof. Turns out that what brought them out of their shells with talking politics. You know, one of those taboo topics you never talk about. Go figure. They also gave us some homemake blueberry jam, which was also a plus, because I happen to really like blueberries. XD

An aside, but what I think worked best in our favour at the B&B was that we were the only people staying there. There was another room, but it was empty, so the second floor gave us some "space", as it were, although we only really went back to sleep. Staying at another person's house is kinda strange. I'd probably think twice about going the B&B route again, but some of them do look more inn-ish and quite charming in a way.

We packed up the car and headed over to Damariscotta for a last visit there. We went into Remy's, the local discount place, and poked around. I managed to find some strange chocolate there to add to my US chocolate collection, most notably Sky Bars:
http://www.necco.com/OurBrands/Default.asp?BrandID=11
Never seen them before and haven't seen them since.

I also picked up a metal Slinky (now a desk tool at the office), since the darn things are so hard to find now, and Steff picked up some toys for her kids.

We made our way back to Portland, although we kept a decent pace so that we could do some more exploring. We were so tired on the Saturday that we leave the city as soon as possible and took off for South Bristol. Portland is a decently sized city and reminded me a bit of Erie. The downtown is small, but fairly clean and nothing too shocking. Heck, the area around the ferry to Canada is borderline TOO clean for me. What was neat, though, is that the ports are still working ports.

Walking around the port lands is like stepping onto a movie set, except that you know that all of the quirks and details are real, created over countless years. It's hard to describe what they look like, but imagine narrow dirt roads, lined with wooden buildings with strange, leaning angles that house fish markets, with piles of ocean fishing gear in between. It's a world that before that day only existed in pictures and books for me. Eyeopening, really.

The day was moving on, so it was time for us to get to the airport. That was the plan, at least. You see, in Maine, you have the change of encountering intersections that aren't clearing marked and... we ended up on a strange side of town and hopelessly lost. And time to return the rental was ticking down. Steff found a Tim Hortons and sent me in, since I'm Canadian and all. They gave us some directions that we took with some worry, but got us back to the airport fairly quickly.

About Portland's airport - It's a cute little airport. Check in went fast. However, the security guards were rude and insulting (went over my ID like I was a massive security risk and made some questionable comments) and acted like they had a stick up their butts. I HATE that you need to play along with that BS to board the plane. A poor woman broke down in tears as her jacket went through the x-ray machine with her ID in i. My word, something REALLY needs to be said about culture of fear.

The flight to New York was rough and I found it nerve wracking. The less said, the better. When we landed, we ended up passing by Manhattan Island. It's the first time I've seen it since the 9-11 attacks. The skyline looks emptier now.

I don't remember too much about LaGuardia, because most of our focus was on getting to our plane. We hoofed it across from one end of the airport to the other, a bit of a headache since it wasn't close like at JFK. All I remember was that the screen displaying departures and arrivals looked dated, but the terminal looked like it was kept up better than JFK. Food prices were also insane and even though I was hungry I figured I'd wait until we got back to Pittsburgh.

Oh, and we flew to Pittsburgh on the Steelersmobile:
http://www.wpxi.com/sports/14097117/detail.html
The plane was wrapped in Steelers logos and colours. This was really funny because we had just launched football stuff right before I left.

We arrived to Pittsburgh in one piece. Like Maine, it was already starting to feel like home. I grabbed my bags and Steff went to get a rental.

Or, rather, attempted to.

ALL of the rental place were sold out! Okay, that's a bit of a lie, because we could have gotten a 12 seater van if we wanted to. But yeah, no one had any cars. It was insane and stressful. Steff started phoning around to find us a ride. She managed to get a hold of her dad, thankfully. We had dinner at the airport while we were waiting. For airport food, it was surprisingly good, if a touch pricey. I also grabbed some allergy meds, because I actually am allergic to dogs so I figured that I'd get that taken care of as soon as possible.

Good thing, too, because Steff's dad brought along Lance. I don't know if Steff has told any stories about Lance to people before but I can confirm that they're true. He's a lovely looking dog, but he isn't all right upstairs. The poor thing probably had something happen to him when he was younger (Steff found him when he was older) so you feel bad for it, but as time passes on, you start to wonder if he's using it to get ahead.

We finally made it to Lordstown around... I can't remember, but I think it was pushing 10 or 11. I got introduced to Noggin. Some of the shows are okay, like The Upside Down Show (it reminds me of old TVOntario shows from the 1980s, but with less Toronto), but then, there's Wubbzy.

THE EVIL ONE

Okay, the art direction on Wubbzy looks cool, when it's still. As soon as it starts moving and the characters start talking, you begin to wonder who thought this was a good idea, who ponied up the dough for it and WHAT DRUGS WERE THEY ON?! The main character? I didn't realize that it was supposed to be a guy until I heard the opening. I'm STILL not sure, to be honest. And his friends come across is one-sided extensions of a single idea. We have Wubbzy, the gendery confused "child", that female pink rabbit thing, who is supposed to be the techie of the group, and a male bear thing that's supposed to be the smart character. Also, why does Wubbzy not wear clothes? And why... do I take that damn show so seriously?!

Next up, my adventures in Ohio!
teddog: (Tech! Stop Failing me!)
Apparently, I cannot sleep tonight! More Maine pics! MORE!!!!

As always, pics are under the cut! )
teddog: (It's Run On Imagination)
Working through the backlog. There's pics of adventures here.

And rocks.

Lots of rocks.

Pics under the cut! )
teddog: (We interrupt this program to annoy you..)
I've been slacking on uploading Maine pics.

PIIIIIIICS! )
teddog: (In Soviet Russia broadcast hijacks you!)
Back onto the retelling of the Maine adventure!

Monday morning. I woke up, looked outside and saw a sea of lobster buoys. The scene was surreal - I guess that with the bad weather before, they hadn't been in full force. If you've seen Steff's photos, the camera caught only a tiny handful of the total number.

The weather was much more pleasant than the damp Sunday - warm but windy - and I called ahead to book tickets on the schooner trip. The drive over to Boothbay Harbour seemed longer this time. It isn't a short trip by land, mostly because you need to go fairly far inland and then drive out again. It's about an hour or so, but the scenery is nice enough, with strange little stores like the Centah of Attention.

Boothbay was more lively during the day. It was packed full of tourists poking around at all of the different stores. Lots of t-shirts for sale. Kinda reminds me of Niagara Falls, to a point. Unlike Niagara, the non-touristy areas of Boothbay (which we also drove around and explored) seem to be financially stable, so it's less scuzzy overall (although the scuzziness is why I like Niagara, but this is beside the point...).

Steff probably does a better job describing the boat, but we got to sail on a decently sized schooner. With the winds being unsually rough, there were large swells and the normal whalewatching boats stayed in the harbour. Our boat, on the other hand, was unaffected. There were four other people on the trip, not including the two-man crew (a husband and wife team), but they stayed in a little seating area while we sat on the desk. Originally, we had cushions to sit on, but as we starting going, it was harder and harder to stay in one spot with the cushion because the top was slick and apparently the natural position for a schooner is with the ship sitting at a 60 degree angle. With the wind, we went beyond that and managed to dip the edge of the deck in the water. That's the point when I was holding on for dear life.

The sights were neat, including the slightly creepy (and for sale!) Fisherman Island, a large private island with hills, grass and NOTHING on it but an old house. There was also a ship in Boothbay Harbour named "Bay Penny", but I don't think anyone here will really get that joke. I'd say that getting used to standing and walking around on the ship was just as interesting. Despite the swells and the wind, I didn't get seasick at all. Go figure.

Alas, it ended too soon and we found ourselves back in Boothbay and hungry. All of the places around there were painfully overpriced, so we drove around and found... more overpriced places to eat. So, it was time to head back over to the Harbourside! This time I ordered a NORMAL sized plate of food.

It was getting late into the day and we wanted to do SOMETHING special that night. It was our last night in Maine, after all. After getting some snacks, we started driving over to the Pemaquid lighthouse... and ended up at the Pemaquid Beach instead!

The beach was AMAZING. It's an honest to goodness white sand beach, with lines of black sand mixed in. The colour of the sand is from granite, so the whole beach sparkles when the sun hits it at the right angle. The water was cold, reminded me a bit of Thunder Bay, but the beach was warm and great to walk on. We walked to end and then relaxed a bit. Steff started digging a deep hole in the sand and me, not to be outdone, started digging one to match, although mine looked like an awful mess. Steff then got the idea that would should dig across to make the holes meet up. We tried it and it didn't work at first, but it turned out I was digging at the wrong angle. I corrected that and... success! The tunnel was stupidly strong too and could stand ME jumping on top of it.

The sun was starting to set, so we raced back to watch it set at our spot. Oddly enough, the sunset wasn't as amazing as the ones I see at home or would later see in Ohio. It was more muted. Our dinner at the spot, more or less, were Wicked Whoopies, the most unfortunately named snack product that's local to Maine. Behold, a website!
http://www.wickedwhoopies.com/
I'm kinda baffled as to how someone can eat those on a regular basis. They're like Joe Louis up here, but with no chocolate topping and about 10 times the filling. The filling isn't a soft cream either, but something akin to the icing you find on cakes at the grocery store. Oh, they're also something like 700 calories each. Steff only managed to eat half. I finished mine but... NEVER AGAIN.

We drove around Rutherford Island, down to Christmas Cove, just enjoying the night for one last time. The most striking mental image I have from this is looking out the car window, out to a clearing, and seeing the full moon out over the ocean, all in shades of black and blue. It was unworldly.

There was also a creepy driveway that appeared to be build up, but you couldn't see the house at the end.

We drove back to the spot, exploring South Bristol's tiny downtown after dark. It was dead, as you can imagine. Kinda surreal too, as many of the past shops have been retrofitted into homes. Unlike the jobs that you see in parts of Hamilton, they're REALLY nice homes. They just look like stores. Steff decided to push her camera to the limit and see if she could take any night shots. I don't know if the results have been posted yet. They looked good on the camera screen, at least.

We went home after than, ending that last night in Maine.

Next Time... Day Five (Tuesday the 16)!
teddog: (We interrupt this program to annoy you..)
I'm not feeling well, so photos are going to have to wait.

We woke up the morning of the Sunday to discover that the nice little town of South Bristol was completely covered in fog. I was kinda curious what coast fog was like, but I wasn't expecting it to be as thick as it was. At points, it was far to see more than a foot beyond the car.

Still, we decided to go adventuring and traveled down to Pemaquid Point, where there is a lighthouse and a small museum. Along the way, we past a road with a sign claiming there was a Jam Stand on it. You see, it's not uncommon to see signs for local business, but they're almost always for antique stores. Jams are different. Out of insanity, we headed down, AND DID NOT FIND THE JAM STAND.

So we continued onto the Point. The coast here is all rock, unlike any rocky shore I've seen before and I lived up north - I know my rough shores. What set this one apart, aside from signs warning about seals on the rocks, was the type of rock. It's a mix of granite and what looks like it was once molten rock that ended down into the water and cooled. You have to wonder about what series of events created that piece of the coast.

There were also sea gulls that much, much bigger than the ones in Toronto. Lots of wild flowers, including some wild roses that Steff noticed.

We explored the museum; mostly artifacts from the area's shipping and fishing history. The old folks running it were nice, but wanted us to explore various tourist traps around town. Uh, NO. By that time we were freezing and after a brief chat, Steff and I realized that neither one of us had packed an sweaters. We're geniuses, you know.

Thankfully, Damariscotta wasn't too far away, so we hiked it back up there to visit Reny's, a local discount chain in Maine. The store had this nice, "discount before Walmart" feel to it. That said, their selection of women's sweathers sucked, so we went for the guys sweaters instead. >:)

Damariscotta, being slightly touristy, has a lot of little stores, so we poked around for a bit. The local bookstore didn't have any Star Trek books. Oh yes, we looked! You better believe we did. It did have books by a certain stuck up someone in fandom. Her author bio was one of the biggest pieces of bullshit I've read since college. "Traveled the world with her family and a trunk of books!" WHAT? We also took in the local gift shops. There were some cute things there and I regret not buying anything there. Next time, and there will be a next time.

We headed back to the Harbourside for lunch and I ordered too much food again. The place was really hopping for a Sunday afternoon and we got to listen in on some political conversation.

As for what we did next, I don't really remember. I know we poked around the island some more and went down to Christmas Cove, and I think that we might have almost fallen asleep at some point, but eventually Steff decided that she wanted to know how much time and effort it took to send a lobster to Ohio.

We went back to the "downtown" and visited Osier's Wharf. Osier is, of course, Dave Osier, a very charming fisherman that Steff was quite smitten with. We originally only showed up to price how much packing a lobster as a carry-on would cost, but he let us go down on the docks to look up close at his fishing boats. Our timing was lucky, because right around then was the time that several local fishermen were coming in with their lobster catches for the day.

Dave gave us a crash course in lobsters, everything from how to tell the males from the females, the different in hard shell and soft shell, how the lobsters are stored and sold and why lobsters in the supermarkets look so lifeless. Recently caught lobsters FIGHT BACK. Really eyeopening and sorta one of those strange moments were you ponder your luck in actually being able to see what real life is like out on the coast. We also talked about Canadian healthcare and Niagara Falls while Steff and him talked more about his trade.

It was getting late and the fog was starting to roll in, so we went over to the Harbourside and found it closed. Not too annoyed, we drove 10 minutes or so to another place to grab dinner... and it closed as we were walking up to it. All of Damariscotta was closed.

Apparently, Maine closes early on Sundays.

We roamed, looking for something decently cheap and open, the latter part being the most important! Our travels took us down towards Boothbay Harbour.

There was a gas station outside of Boothbay that sold subs and this was as good of a dinner as any, so we picked up some and decided to travel down to Boothday Harbour to find a nice place to pack and eat.

Instead, we found a massive tourist trap.

That's what the Harbour is, for the most part. Lots of trinket and t-shirt stores and overpriced places to eat. Very surreal compared to the quiet pace of South Bristol. Even late on a Sunday, the place had a very ethereal quality to it. It wasn't really scuzzy like some tourist traps - it was actually kept up really well - but it didn't feel real. All of the inns and stores pushed together on a picturesque landscape...

Sorta the type of place I'd like, although this one weirded me out. On the other hand, the town was a popular place to host boat tours and I grabbed a few flyers for schooner tours, just in case we wanted to go back in the morning.

After wandering the downtown for a bit, we piled back into the car and traveled to a parking lot, where we ate our subs under the watchful eye of an ugly fisherman statue.

Boothbay Harbour is a strange, strange place.

We headed home, plotting random fandom crack as Steff dodged the frogs that hopped across the damp roads.

Next time, Day Four (Monday the 15th): On the Sea and On the Beach!
teddog: (Stop - HAMMER TIME!)
With the flight leaving at 6:15, we had to be up around 4 in the morning. Thankfully, the airport was RIGHT there, so we didn't have to run around too much.

Check in sucked. Delta had switched to this booth only system of checking in and of course, the machines couldn't find us! So, we had to talk to a Delta employee, which meant waiting for one. Grrr. After that, we ran off to security.

The layout of Pittsburgh's airport is rather unique, but poses some problems. The "land terminal" (check in, security, baggage) and the "air terminal" (the gates, which are all in one building) are separate by a tram. Kinda cool, but a little silly and it means getting things from one end of the terminals to the other takes a lot of effort. The design of the airport also uses random neon signage, which makes me happy in dorky ways. It reminds me of the Ontario Science Centre in a way. The air side has a ton of shopping and food opinions, probably because it serves all of the planes coming into the airport.

Our planes going out were little Embraer ERJ-145 jets. Let me say that I hate little planes. I find the bouncing in them more upsetting that larger planes. I had a rough flight in 2005 that had what felt like 30 minutes of turbulence, physically crashing my laptop's hard drive and I've never really liked flying since then.

Add to this that the landing into JFK was so messed up and steep than the first flight was stressful. Ugh.

Delta's terminal at JFK is kinda scuzzy. At the very least, it didn't look like it had been renovated since the 1960s. On the other hand, security there was probably the nicest we saw on the trip. Our flight was delayed and Steff had to leave to smoke several times, but security was really relaxed and didn't have a problem with her popping in and out.

Finally, we made it to Portland, Maine. Portland's airport is like Thunder Bay's, being... well, small! My first reaction, though, was to the smell of the air. Yes, the air DOES smell different. There's a clear scent of sea salt in the air, with something else that might be dead fish, but it smells better than you'd think. What it doesn't smell like is the ocean scent you get in scented candles. :D

We picked up our rental car, a little red number that they gave us after Steff asked for the smallest car they had. This time it actually was small! The trip up to South Bristol is a bit hazy. We were running on very little or no sleep. Steff pointed out some towns, but I don't think I was very good conversation for the first bit. Plus, we got a little lost. Don't ask.

We got out at Damariscotta, a cute little town north of South Bristol. It's touristy, but in a cute, laid back way. You get the impression that the downtown is used by locals as well as visitors, not like Boothbay Harbour. But the Harbour is a tale for another day's report. ;) Damariscotta, on the other hand, has food places serving things other than seafood. It's very old fashioned, and the drug store we visited was the most charming one I've seen in as long as I can remember.

After a while, we figured that we should probably head into town. Since it was long after lunch, we stopped at the Harborside for chow. This was my first run-in with it's low pricing. You see, they had omelettes on the menu and I like omelettes. There was one listed as the "Monster Omelette". Since the rest of the omelettes were priced by the food items in them, I figured that ths Monster would have a bit of everything.

I was wrong. The damn omelette had a cup each of every potential omelette item. But I ate it! HA! I conquered the giant omelette!

So, with Steff happily full and me stuffed, we went to check in at the Bed and Breakfast. Our hosts were okay, but pretentious. The room was nice and clean and the beds were comfy.

Steff wanted to walk to the swing bridge, so I came with. The hills around town are shockingly steep and wear you out after a bit. Needless to say, this was the last time we walked to the swing bridge. After that, we drove!

Along the way, I decided to buy a can of root beer from a vending machine near the bridge. This was a bad idea - the can was bulging and had a best before date from December 2007. No, I didn't drink it.

My memory gets hazy again, but I think we took a nap, or I did and Steff was kept up by my snoring. We woke up in enough time to run over to the Harborside again, where we ordered a pizza and the owner was kind enough to keep the kitchen open long enough to feed us. We took the leftovers back to the B&B, where we ate it overlooking the river.

I also had a bottle of Moxie with dinner, which can only be described as a very bitter cola. It's the offical state soft drink of Maine, though. o___O

Next time, Day Three (Sunday the 14th): Lighthouses, Sweaters and Racing Against The Kitchen's Closing Time!

As always, Steff has photos, so go look!
teddog: (And the fox goes "XD")
Not that many for the first day, but we were just in Pittsburgh. Might be on the dark side, as my flash sucks.

Pictures under the cut! )
teddog: (In Soviet Russia broadcast hijacks you!)
So, I told Steff that I'd work on the trip report to end all trip reports, so here we go!

I left my apartment at 5:30 am to catch the all night buses from Bayview, over to the subway station and then down to the Greyhound station. I caught the one on Eglinton alright, but as I got out to Yonge Street, that one flew by before I could reach the stop. So, I got to wait outside, in front of TVOntario (hahaha), wondering if the messed up stories that [livejournal.com profile] pyat were telling were true.

Caught the last bus of the morning downtown and made GREAT time. We didn't have to pick up many people and hit all green lights on the way down. Yonge Street is so peaceful at 5:50 am. No trouble at the Greyhound station, either. The first bus was a rather nice bus, one that looked like a long distance one that I took once going to and from college. TV sets, but we didn't get any movies.

Then, we reached the first headache - US CUSTOMS. This was the biggest "What the FUCK?!" on the trip. Allow me to retell the conversation...
Customs Dude> Citizenship?
Me> Canadian.
Customs Dude> Where are you going?
Me> Pittsburgh.
Customs Dude> Why?
Me> Vacation.
Customs Dude> Why Pittsburgh?
Me> Because my friend in Ohio wants to show me the city. I haven't been.
Customs Dude> Why do you have a friend in Ohio?

Okay, it's none of his damn business why I have a friend in Ohio! But what customs guy wants, customs guy gets, so I explained that we met in online fandom back in 2001 and have grown to be very good friends over the past seven years. This STILL wasn't good enough for him and he made me give my current employer, my position there and the day I was expected back! FINALLY I got to get to the bag search. Oh yes, they search your bags at the US crossing too. However, this was short - I packed my pads last in my bag and the customs officer freaked because of them and passed me through quickly. The funny thing is that she was a chick herself.

Buffalo's Greyhound bus terminal is nothing to write home about. It's in a rough area of town and it's not in the best shape, but there's lots of police officers on duty and it's clean and bright. So, I was a little weirded out, but it was fine. No nearby Might Taco restaurants, alas.

Next stop was Erie. Erie's terminal is in the middle of their portlands and there's no lockers and food service. I didn't realise until after I dragged my duffle bag across the downtown in the rain that I could have asked to have it stored! I was too grumpy to care at that point and I had my sub, so I was the victor in my mind!

Annnnnd then I finally made it to Pittsburgh. We were about an hour late, but [livejournal.com profile] slwatson (Steff!) managed to find me and we ran off to save her rental car from getting ticketed. Her "the smallest you have" rental car that just happened to be an SUV. Yep. I'm not kidding. We have photos!

The two of us were starving, so Steff showed me the beauty of a Pittsburgh traffic jam. Ha! We left town to go eat and came back after rush hour. Pittsburgh isn't like Toronto - Toronto stays packed until waaay into the night, while Pittsburgh clears out after work. It's a lovely, lovely city. Think of a cross between Toronto and Hamilton - very much steeltown roots, but it's a fully fleshed out city. It really is the jewel of the manufacturing belt, especially when you see how other cities like Buffalo are struggling.

Oh course, the view at the end of the Fort Pitt tunnel is amazing! It dumps you right in the middle of the high rises!

Steff took me over to the University to see the Cathedral of Learning. We found an open door and let ourselves in! The cathedral is this skyscraper of classrooms, the second tallest educational building in the world. Now, the U of T has some tallish buildings, but the design and workmanship here is mindblowing. Just look at it!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_Learning

After boring Steff with my chat about building design and styles, we booked it over to Sheetz (WOOT! although I might have to explain that one later...) and then our hotel room. We had an early flight, at 6:15am, so we decided to stay at the Hyatt at the airport. For the price we paid, about $150 with taxes, I wasn't really impressed. It was trying to appeal to the upper class of traveler. At least, I think it was. The beds had a million pillows on them, many of them without any logical use unless you happened to be a perverted fanfic character. ANYWHO, I booked a smoking room (Steff smokes, I don't) and the reservations didn't make it clear that we were in a nonsmoking room. The only sign was a TINY little white sign on the desk. Sigh.

As you can imagine, it's a fair bit of a walk all the way outside to smoke, so eventually we stopped going back to the room and started roaming around the hotel at 1am. The decor in the hotel was of questionable taste - the planter at the elevators on our floor was full of grass and orange... fuzzy.... things that looked like little footballs. Steff took a photo! We also checked out the convention centre (home to a grand piano), the swimming pool (unlocked, despite being closed at 10pm), the fittness centre (open 24 hours) and whatever corners and oddities we could find (ice maker, WOOOOOOOO!). I passed out at about 2am-ish, while Steff never slept.

Our lack of sleep might explain the surreality of the following day....

Next time, Day Two (Saturday the 13th): Airport Hopping and South Bristol! (And photos of Day One and Day Two)

For some more comments and a lot more pictures, you can follow Steff's half along here! (It's awesome, go look!)
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