Off The Beaten Trail
In Less Than 30 Miles, Writer Finds Three Off-Beat Attractions
We have been traveling for 18 days on our uncharted, breakout trip to New England, after 16 months of staying close to home because of Covid-19 restrictions. We have seen breathtaking views, heard interesting stories, searched for eateries and overnight accommodations and happened upon crazy roadside attractions. We’ve been at the top of tall mountains and down in deep gorges and caves. We’ve had a few small world experiences, when we ran into people who were from near where we live. One thing that stood out and has on every trip we’ve ever traveled, be it in this country, Canada, Europe or South America, is that the world is overflowing with good, kind, caring, helpful people.
We drove away from Freeport, Maine over Highway 1 on Day 18. In less than 30 miles we saw three offbeat finds, the sort of thing that appeals to us. The first was The Big F Indian, a 40-foot tall 1,500 pound Native American statue. Down the road a few miles in Yarmouth, I spotted “Garmin” on a sign and then saw a three-story globe through the window. Because of my curiosity, my husband turned around. As I was taking pictures from the parking lot, I met a man who was about to enter the building. He told me the building had belonged to Delorme the company that makes atlas and gazetteer books. Garmin, a company that is known for GPS technology, acquired Delorme in 2016. I went inside to get a closer look at the model of planet Earth. Former Delorme CEO David Delorme designed Eartha, a globe weighing 2.8 tons and measuring over 41 feet in diameter, making it the world’s largest rotating and revolving globe. Eartha was completed in 1998 after two years of construction and planning.
After traveling a few more miles down Highway 1, we came upon a salt marsh, which we never would have noticed had the man in the Garmin International parking lot not told me about it. A salt marsh is a coastal wetland. When salt water is brought in by the tides, it floods and drains salt marshes. The soil is made up of decomposing plant material or peat, which is usually several feet thick, and deep mud.
Len Libby Candies in Scarborough came up next. I had read in Roadside America about a 1,700 lb chocolate moose that resided inside the chocolatier’s building, therefore we had to stop. A very large map of the United States was painted in red, white and blue on the asphalt parking lot. Once inside the building we sought out Lenny the Moose, the world’s only life-size chocolate moose. We found him and a few smaller chocolate friends, including Libby the Black Bear and her cubs, Cocoa and Chips, in a room with a constant 68 degree temperature. The bears are made of solid dark chocolate with Libby weighing 380 lbs and the cubs each weighing 80 lbs. Lenny was unveiled on July 1, 1997 after being sculpted onsite in four weeks from the finest milk chocolate. He stands in a blue-tinted white chocolate pond. I would have thought my sweet-craving, chocolate-loving husband (so much so that when he gets cut, he bleeds syrup) would think this a terrible waste of all of that chocolate, but apparently not since he purchased a Lenny the Moose tee shirt and hat.
Continuing down Route 1, we drove into the city of Saco, Maine where we were suddenly surrounded by many very large brick structures, with row after row of small windows. Each building appeared to be sound and well-maintained. I did a little research after we passed by these buildings a second time.
Saco Manufacturing Company, which made iron products, built a massive seven story cotton mill in 1826. After a fire in 1830, the business reorganized as the York Manufacturing Company and opened Mill No. 1 in 1832. By the turn of the century, the company was running eight cotton mills. Now one of the largest cotton milling complexes in the US, it employed 9,000 people. Other industries that made machinery and parts used by York began to open in Saco. After being acquired by Bates Manufacturing in 1945, most of the mills were shuttered in the 1950s and the textile machine manufacturers relocated to another state. Textile manufacturing in Saco came to an end after 175 years when the last mill closed in 2009. Some of the larger buildings and several smaller ones have been taken down in the last ten years.
I was impressed to find that some of the old buildings have been converted into one, two and three bedroom apartments with green building standards and solar-powered hot water systems. Another serves as an educational facility and others house offices, artist studios and restaurants.
While looking at a map, Fred found an area that he thought may have access to the water. We aren’t swimmers and I am not that sunny, sandy, beachy woman that just needs “to get my feet in the sand,” but my spouse likes to see the water. On our way to the waterfront location, which was in a Saco neighborhood called Camp Ellis, we noticed a sign advertising lobsters. This was a residential neighborhood, the houses were close together and there was no place to park near the sign. After Fred got his water fix, we pulled over at the end of the driveway of the house with the lobster sign where three men were visiting outside. We did what we do best, that is had a conversation with the men. One of the men, a lobster fisherman named Seth Dube, sold cooked lobster curbside. He was proud that a Trump rally took place last September on the Camp Ellis pier, where Eric Trump spoke to a few hundred lobster fishers, as well as others.
We came upon Cape Porpoise Motel about 20 miles from Camp Ellis. Since we like to support small business and the vacancy sign was lit, we decided to look at a room, something we started doing about 50,000 miles earlier, even in the nicest hotels. A note on the office door directed prospective guests to call a phone number. A pleasant male voice on the other end of the line, told us there were no rooms available, therefore we drove away. Before we had traveled 2 miles, my phone rang with that same man telling us he and his wife had had a miscommunication on the status of their motel’s weekend occupancy. There were two rooms available, so we turned around and were glad we did.
Nunan’s Lobster Hut was a short walk down the street. Although the Nunan Family has been catching lobsters since the early 1930s, the family-run restaurant wasn’t opened until 1953. As we entered, it was obvious by the look of the interior that the family had added rooms, at least twice, as their business had grown. The two back rooms had open trusses holding up the roof. Strings of bare lightbulbs were strung though out this area, which may have started out as storage, but had become a display area for antique and vintage fishing-related items. Among them were nets, floats and lobster cages. The walls were covered with news articles and pictures indicating that many famous people had eaten there over the years. Hugh O’Brien of 50s and 60s Wyatt Earp fame and Paul Newman’s photos were among them. A July/August 2012 edition of Yankee Magazine with Nunan’s story, was part of the mix.
The next day we headed northwest, still on Route 1. Being a 35-year employee of Erie’s GE Locomotive Division, when my husband spotted the sign for Seashore Trolley Museum, he had to turn around and check it out. The museum claims to be the first and largest electric railway museum in the entire world.
Displays of restored trolleys fill three buildings. More transit vehicles are parked outside and vintage bus and trolley rides are available on the grounds.
We continued on the route and then wound through a residential area until we arrived at Nubble Lighthouse. This was my third visit in under 6 years, although I’m not a big lighthouse enthusiast. Whether having an interest in lighthouses or not, when you are nearly 600 hundred miles from home and are near a lighthouse, you stop even if you have seen it twice before.
Our last stop in Maine was at the Kittery Trading Post, which sells nearly everything associated with outdoor recreation. The purpose of the stop was to get a pressed penny for our collection.
We had dinner and spent the night in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Fred looked at a map while waiting for dinner. A woman at a nearby table told her husband “He’s got a map!” She later told us she didn’t know when the last time was that she saw a map. I would have gladly shared our endless map supply which is furnished by AAA.
To be continued.