Maine (August 1993)
I spend a full day at Acadia National Park (42,000 acres, and established in 1919) off of the Maine coast. What a spectacular place! (see photo to the right in the Reich section below) Mountains interspersed with lakes, coves, rocky cliffs, forested trails (over 120 miles of trails), and views of the ocean. I need to spend more time there when I visit again. It is the highest elevation on the eastern seaboard, the 2nd most visited park in the U.S., and the only national park in the northeastern U.S. After Acadia, I participate in a five-day bike tour with a group of about 14 people (four were from Florida) through some highly scenic village and cove areas along the Maine coast (see photo to left). We see (and raid) blueberry fields everywhere. I have a GREAT time, and am eager to sign up for bike tours in the future (lets see: Europe, Costa Rica, New Zealand, the Canadian Rockies, California, Nova Scotia...). We stay at superb inns and eat DELICIOUS dinners. They really pamper you on these trips. I end up covering about 200 miles during the five days, and am surprised to hear from one of the tour guides that the average age for their tours is 45. The only minor hitch is that I have shipped my bike (via UPS) from Florida, and it doesn't arrive until the second last day of the tour (It takes eight business days to arrive— while in Florida, I am assured that it normally takes a maximum of five days. Naturally, it takes only four days to ship back to Florida when I don't need the shipping speed!) The tour company is Vermont Bicycle Tours.
Following the tour, I rent a car for some sight-seeing in the central and western parts of the state. The roads turn out to be well-marked, and free of visual clutter (such as billboards). Spend an afternoon at the Wilhelm Reich house: Reich was a famous (infamous?) psychologist who studied under Freud and developed a theory that a sexually repressed childhood leads to the development of adults who are authoritarian, apathetic, violent, militaristic, religiously fanatical, hierarchical, patriarchal, etc. (one of his most well-known books, which I was strongly influenced by, is The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which was an explanation for the rise of Nazi Germany). He eventually developed a theory that there was such a thing as "orgone energy," which was plentiful in people who were psycho-sexually healthy, and which could be accumulated in an "orgone box" that people would sit in for treatment. He also developed a "cloudbuster" which, he claimed, could either generate rain or stop the rain. In any event, during the 1950s, the FDA started accusing him of creating fraudulent products. Several of his books (such as The Function of the Orgasm) were burned, and he was eventually sent to prison, where he soon died. I have several of his books. Much of what he said—especially in his earlier years—was probably quite valid and socially useful. Some of his later work seems a bit quirky, but certainly should not have led to the persecution he suffered.
Back to Maine: I spend a full day whitewater rafting the Kennebec River. It is great fun. Rafting begins at the Harris Station Dam below Indian Pond and runs through 13 miles of unspoiled wilderness to West Forks, where the Dead River joins the Kennebec. Demanding Class IV-V rapids start just below the dam and are intense for the first four miles. Rapids include the breathtaking Three Sisters, Alley Way, and Magic Falls (which is the largest drop on the river). Central Maine Power Company controls the water flow from the Dam. High-volume water gives the Gorge some of the best continuous heavy whitewater in the eastern U.S. Afterwards, not only did they show us slides of the trip, but they also showed us a professionally made video of it—complete with background music, slow-motion scenes, and subtitling. I buy the video as an amusing memento to look back at when I'm in my 80s. Next time, I want to try the Penobscot River, which I am told, has more dangerous rapids.
After rafting, I spend two days on a mountain bike trip with this laid-back, granola-type new-age guy in the western Maine wilderness. Once again, I have a great time. His tours are very small (it was just him and me) and customized so that you design the tour to whatever your interests might be. He takes me on some of the best and most grueling and unforgiving mountain bike trails I've ever been on. We also go canoeing on a "bog," and soak in a hot tub at the end of both days. One of the most enjoyable aspects of it is the absolutely quiet atmosphere: no sounds of cars, planes, power tools, or people. Just a deafening silence. The experience is superlative. On one night, I pick out and prepare a dinner from one of his vegetarian cookbooks. It is so delicious that I write it down to bring home with me.
The trip concludes with a ride up the southern Maine coast (George Bush and obnoxious tourist country). Fortunately, I am able to largely escape both of those problems. I spend a few days in Portland, which is an excellent, pedestrian-friendly city (photo at right) filled with grand Victorian homes (and a great condom shop!). Along the way, I stop in approximately 40 old bookstores and buy five or six freethought books—unfortunately, the state is extremely weak in that category. They feature mostly travel books.
In 1994, the state population was 1,240,000. The coast contains a bay that gets the highest tides in the U.S. (288 feet in Passamaquoddy Bay). There are 2,500 lakes in the state and 3,500 miles of coastline. "Downeasters" brag about lobsters and the large temperature range (-46 degrees to 105 degrees). Food canning and freezing are major industries. Statehood came in 1820. Except for the southeastern edge, the state is a wilderness of lakes, streams, and mountains.
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