Monday, January 23, 2012

Christmas in New England - Arriving in Maine


December 21

We're on our way! Cheers! (Zack and Harry)
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We're on our way to New England for Christmas! My husband and I left our place around 7 a.m., arriving at Zack (our son) and Melissa's place in plenty of time for the four of us to take a cab ride to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), ride BART to San Francisco International Airport, take the tram to Terminal 3, walk to Gate 86, and board our flight with United Airlines. We are packed like sardines in the plane, and we've been waiting on the tarmac interminably here in San Francisco. The heat has been on, blowing through the ventilation system, and it's stifling hot...wait! Now there's cool air blowing. What a relief! And we're finally moving...yay! It was interesting how everyone's inner thermostat overheated at the same time, the sweaters and sweatshirts peeling off in a choreographed and synchronized dance.

That was short-lived...we're waiting again. The worst part of traveling is getting there and getting back. As my son Zack says, “Oh! You mean...the actual traveling?” Yes. That's what I mean.

I didn't get the super-friendly pat-down at the TSA this time, thankfully, but trying to stay one step ahead of my husband was a study in frustration and anxiety. I wonder if he does it on purpose? Here's what I mean: We were waiting on the platform for the tram to the terminal, four of us, with all of our luggage. The tram arrived, people crowded on, and there wasn't room for us. Three of us hung back, and one of us jumped onto the tram at the last minute, just as the doors were closing. Guess who? Luckily, I made it aboard, just in the nick of time, and was able to tell Zack and Mel that we'd meet them at the terminal as the doors slid shut, almost cutting off my derriere. Well, big deal, right? Of course, Harry could have waited at the other end for the three of us, no problem. But he didn't have his ticket on him (one of us was carrying all four), didn't know where to exit the tram, and hadn't paid attention to which airline we were flying on, even. So, you see...it could have been interesting trying to find him while he was trying to find us! Note to self: Make a copy of the paperwork for each person to carry, and nobody gets on board anything unless everybody knows what's happening and when. Seems pretty elementary, now that I write it down on paper.

Yay! We're next on the runway! Here we go to Chicago, where we'll change planes and head to Portland, Maine. I'm very excited about meeting Melissa's family and seeing Maine in the winter.

It's a beautiful, sunny, crisp day in San Francisco. There was thick fog hugging the freeway when we left home, but it cleared, and it's gorgeous out there. Harry's in the window seat, and the view of San Francisco as I lean over him is spectacular from the air. There are lots of ships (tankers, freighters, etc.) dotting the calm, dark-blue waters of the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge looks majestic as it stands guard in the sunshine. Usually when I see it, it is shrouded in fog. It's an impressive bridge.

Our own tree. Note the fish on the wall.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Upon our arrival in Portland, Maine, at 11:30 p.m., we drove an hour or so to Melissa's mother's place in the fog and drizzle. Melissa is an excellent driver, and we all chatted excitedly as we made our way to our destination. Sue and Jim live in Oxford, Maine, and they couldn't have greeted us more warmly, even though it was going on 1 a.m. Sue served us some of the most amazing, absolutely scrumptious, dark-chocolate covered coconut candies that she makes. They are like Mounds...only, of course, so much better!

We are happily ensconced in half of Jim's fully-furnished rental duplex just down the road, having unpacked already. It's so much quicker to unpack than it is to pack! There were plenty of empty drawers for us to use, a pile of towels, and...the fridge is full of goodies. There's Dunkin' Donuts coffee on the kitchen counter, right by the coffeemaker, in case we don't want to go to the main house for breakfast. What superb hospitality! Oh! And there's even a decorated Christmas tree for us. Really? Really. We feel very welcomed, for sure.

Jim's a former law enforcement officer and an outdoorsman. It's pretty typical in Maine to be an outdoorsperson, I understand. So, there are nice antlers up on the wall, and the d├ęcor of the duplex is very masculine. It's his “man cave” when it isn't being used as a guest house. Pretty nice man cave, Jim!

Thoughts on today's flights: The film being shown was “The Road” with Martin Sheen. Meh. But maybe that's because it's a quiet movie, on a small screen, in a noisy plane, with terrible earphones. So, it was impossible to hear the dialog and enjoy the character development. Or whatever I was supposed to enjoy just before I drifted off to sleep.

Both planes were full, and there were many children on board. Bless them, they were all great kids. I didn't hear a single temper tantrum...just excited anticipation in their little voices. On their way to Grandma's for Christmas! Yay! It was at once astounding and understandable that there were so many e-readers and DVD players and laptops and tablets on the plane. It's obviously a great way to keep the kids occupied and interested. Which is wonderful for a parent's nerves. Peaceful coexistence. Ahhhh.....

The welcome sign at Portland International Jetport.
Pretty neat, eh?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We had a two-hour layover in Chicago, where we had a bite to eat at the food court. Come on, United. Get a few more good restaurants in your terminal, already. Harry had a pulled pork sandwich, and I had a southwest-style salad. Surprisingly, the food was quite enjoyable.

Tomorrow (well, later today, as it's 3 a.m.), we're going to make Whoopie Pies! Jim said that these have been officially (as in, there's been legislation) designated as the official dessert of Maine. They couldn't be designated as the official food of Maine, of course, because that would be LOBSTER. Hello! Yummm... Oh, this is going to be a great foodfest vacation, I can tell.

I'm looking forward to seeing the area in the daylight. It's heavily wooded, and I understand there's a lake to see nearby. It must be spectacular in the fall, when the leaves are changing to brilliant colors on the trees! There's no snow, but one still hopes for a white Christmas. Just like the ones we used to know.

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