Monday, September 6, 2010

Road Trip/Sketchbook Journal: DownEast (Part 1)

After many days of traveling and adventures, we arrived at the ultimate destination of our road-trip: Bar Harbor, Maine. My girlfriend scored a fantastic gig as a Visual Information Specialist (ie "Graphic Art Ranger") at Acadia National Park, one of the crown jewels of the East Coast. Encompassing much of Mount Desert Island, plus some satellite locations, it lies approximately 45 miles from Bangor, and 175 miles up from Portland. This place gets a phenomenal amount of visitors during the tourist season, and it's also not unlike Denali and many other Alaskan destinations in that the off-season population reverts back to a fraction of year-round residents. In just over a week of exploring, we experienced some truly amazing scenery and met many welcoming people - it'll be a real pleasure to hang out there longer and learn more about this beautiful and interesting part of the country.
And yes, this news will confirm the suspicions of many folks over the rumor: I will be temporarily relocating for a while this January - returning to teach over the summer and reconnect etc. I'm not particularly inclined to move: definitely want to stay in what's been my adopted home for the last 25 years, and the trauma of uprooting from the community (not unlike the grumpiness of my older cat whenever he has to vacate the lap) is vying against the excitement of another "reboot." That and I finally get an opportunity to learn how to draw lobsters and lighthouses.  

The "Jamie Day-Care" while Diane was attending to work was an "oasis of taste" in downtown Bar Harbor: the Tamarind restaurant had a super-tasty organic deli, and served as a convenient pit-stop for me to catch up on correspondence, update the itinerary and get in a little doodling. The only time I felt disconnected and marooned in this supposedly remote location was when the batteries died in the iPod. Even at its best, cellular connections were spotty on the coast, though getting untethered from the digital umbilical cord was a deliberate side-benefit to travel. While navigating with Google maps did save our clueless butts several times, unfortunately more often than not the message was "Your location could not be determined" - which actually sounded just about perfect.
The cafe camp-out sessions weren't all that different from the normal routine in Fairbanks (aside from that whole really big body of water thing): hunched over the sketchbook while gripping coffee in one hand and stroking the goatee all the while "people watching": observing the unending stream of tourists ebb and flow through the neighborhood. As compared with the rest of the Lower 48, I noticed beards making more of a comeback here, and noted how every local seemed to be exceptionally well-versed in giving directions, and also that the clouds move really fast and the people move really slow.

A big hat-tip also to the Jesup Memorial Library: besides providing one of the rare wi-fi spots, it was a perfect retreat for browsing local newspapers in an absolutely gorgeous building. My instinct upon visiting any new place is to make a beeline for the bookstores, breweries, cafes and library (not necessarily in that order) to quickly gauge the community, and over the next eight or so posts I'll share a few of my favorite places we came across. 


  1. Looking forward to comics with an east-coast accent. No google maps and the ocean on the 'wrong' side, good thing those folks are good at giving directions!

  2. Lahbstah, Baa Haabah, chowdah etc.
    Nope, not gonna happen.

    Though now you know what the deal is if strange little lighthouses start cropping up in Nuggets.

    And, compared to ravens, I find seagulls to be mostly unintelligible and lousy conversationalists.

  3. You didn't stop by new Hampsha for a beah.

    I developed an inconveniently early awareness of how alien the ocean environment is for humans. Inconvenient because I was about 7 or 8 and my salty Dad was trying to turn me onto sailing. I wanted to, in theory, but in the boat I was about as enthusiastic about water as the stereotypical cat. It's all MURKY and GREEN and sh** down there! Weird stuff lives there.

    Eventually I got so far over it that I have nearly drowned doing risky crap several times. Funny how we're directed by all these influences.

    Art is the same way.

  4. Yes, art is: I've nearly drowned while drawing but that's another story.
    I think I was traumatized at childhood by weedy farmponds with slimy things wrapping around legs down in the deep and dark. That and old B&W monster movies (like Attack of the Giant Leeches) didn't help with an overactive imagination. Then I grew up and learned about the REAL things that actually EAT people in the water, like salmon.