Traveling has its advantages. Like sitting Saturday by the water on Peaks Island, just off Portland, Maine, eating lobster rolls, watching sailboats and enjoying the cool Atlantic breeze.
Traveling has its pains. Like Southwest canceling your flight to Chicago on Saturday night, with more flights available from Portland through Monday and all rental cars sold.
More on pain later. You didn’t come here to read about our problems. You came here to read about the pleasures of Maine.
So on our last (half) day in Maine, Trish the Dish and I snuck in on some last-minute adventures. (A reader asked who Trish the Dish was? Patricia Dawn King from Moore, Oklahoma lost her mind and married me 42 summers ago. She’s been my beacon ever since).
We took the ferry from Casco Bay to Peak’s Island for lunch, then drove through the posh Portland suburb of Falmouth en route to the airport.
Tramel’s travel blog:Portland Head Light is awesome by land or sea
How many people live on Peaks Island, Maine?
Between Portland and Portland Head, where the ocean meets the bay, are 136 islands. Most uninhabited and most part of Portland city limits. But a few of the islands have either residents or summer tourists, or both. And Peaks Island is the most populated of these 136 islands, with an estimated population of nearly 1,000 year-round and between 2,000 and 4,000 in the summer.
Peaks Island is about three miles from mainland Portland and accessible by ferry. The Casco Bay Ferry runs 10-12 times a day, carrying cars, people and bicycles. It’s quite crowded. The 12:15 p.m. trip to the island included a wedding party, complete with groomsmen in tuxedos. The ferry left cars and pedestrians behind as the boat filled up, and one thing you never want to do is overload a boat.
The drive across the bay takes 20 minutes, so at 12:45 p.m. we were on Peaks Island, home to an elementary school, library, police station, ice cream parlor, grocery store, art galleries, two museums , a kayak rental and a golf cart rental.
Long Island, another inhabited island in Casco Bay, seceded from Portland in 1993, and in recent years Peaks Island and Great Diamond Island have tried the same, to no avail. I don’t know the politics involved, but I do know Peaks Island, 720 acres, is a gem.
When we landed, we walked straight to the Island Lobster Company, which sits on the bay and has two levels of outdoor seating, as well as a grassy knoll of picnic tables near the beach. ‘water. For lunch Trish the Dish had a lobster roll and I had fried scallops as they are considered a Maine staple and I had not tried them on our trip. The lobster roll was the best of the week – filled with succulent meat – and my scallops were good.
Island Lobster Company is an endearing business because there is no middleman. A family runs the operation from the sea to the table. The husband has a lobster boat; the woman runs the restaurant.
After lunch we tried to explore Peaks Island by golf cart. alas, as we would find out with the rental cars from the airport later that day, they were all sold out.
So we strolled around the ferry dock, enjoying our last day at sea.
Tramel’s travel blog:Visiting Old Orchard Beach in Maine is like a time machine
Take the Casco Bay Ferry
The ferry can accommodate around 10 cars at a time and hundreds of walkers. The boat was much less crowded on the way back, as it was the middle of the day.
Portland’s waterfront is quite impressive, with all kinds of commercial ships, and overnight the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl had docked.
Portland and its suburbs have seven of the 10 most populous cities in Maine. Portland has approximately 68,000 residents; Lewiston, about 35 miles north of Portland, is Maine’s second-largest city, with about 36,000 residents. Bartlesville is slightly larger.
After getting back to dock, we got into our rental car and drove a few miles north through Falmouth, which a tour guide says has replaced Cape Elizabeth as Maine’s wealthiest town. Falmouth recedes towards the bay, with dozens and dozens of houses lining the shore. We took Route 88 which, for a few miles, is home to stately New England mansions, not opulent but elegant.
Then it was off to Portland International Jetport. We arrived very early, 4pm, for a 6:55pm flight, so we could watch our granddaughter Alcott Middle School’s softball game via the GameChanger app. Between innings, we dropped off the rental car and went through security. Around 4:45 p.m. came the text – our flight was cancelled. Weather in Chicago, which contained our connecting flight.
I knew what that meant. Saturday night? A small airport like Portland? We were in trouble. I immediately rushed to the counter, I was third in line and we re-booked. Portland had no flights until Monday — lots of people fly out of Maine on Sundays — but my New England geography paid off.
I booked us a flight on Sunday evening from Manchester, New Hampshire, 95 miles away. I made a quick route. See you in Manchester on Saturday night, find a hotel, and we could spend a good part of Sunday exploring New Hampshire, a state we loved on our trip to New England two years ago.
Tramel’s travel blog:Maritime Villages of Maine’s Mid Coast
The problem was, how to get to Manchester? I soon learned that the rental cars were all booked – it’s summer in Maine – and a cab wanted $300 for the ride. So I ordered an Uber.
I asked Uber twice to take me for relatively long distances. Once, with our man Joe Mussatto, from Grapevine, Texas, in Norman, trying to get home from the 2019 NCAA tournament, when all the DFW flights and rental cars were full. This trip cost us $180 and went well.
Another time I had to go from Purcell to Ada, and hit .500. My first Uber driver said she couldn’t go that far. Another Uber driver was happy to take me.
Uber’s strategy is to hold the driver’s destination until the customer is picked up. This motivates drivers to pick up all customers, instead of allowing them to refuse rides to undesirable locations.
I understand this policy. But it doesn’t work when someone wants to go from Portland, Maine, to Manchester, New Hampshire. Virtually the same distance from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. Not all drivers can make this commitment.
We beat .500 again. First Uber driver said he couldn’t do it; he was soon to get his children back. I understand. We all have lives to live.
My second Uber driver didn’t want to go. He sat down and thought for a long time. Then he gave us the green light. Turns out the guy lives in Lewiston and had just brought a client from Augusta, the state capital, 56 miles away.
He was a nice boy. An African immigrant, five years in America seeking asylum, with a wife, three daughters and another on the way. I hope the trip was financially rewarding for him without too much hassle. The charge was $169, and he collected $89. I tipped him $50. So he got $139. And he took a ticket at Manchester airport, after dropping us off. Hope the next customers were heading to Maine.
On the trip to New Hampshire, I booked a hotel and a rental car – what did we do before cell phones? — and soon Trish the Dish and I were in a Kia Soul. We grabbed a little snack, found our Fairfield Inn and crashed.
Maine is behind us, but the adventures remain.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or email@example.com. It can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
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