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SPRING UPDATE: Journey to the Cold Coast

Apri 05, 2022



Greetings fellow virtual travelers. Tis I, the mandog one. Well, to be frank... there has been an update to that long used pen name.


There is a new companion. Not quite another dog, but a feline of very similar traits. And since I couldn’t ever contend with transitioning from as cool of a moniker as mandog to catman for fear of some unprovoked retribution for the egregiously presented broadway spinoff, I’ll stick with my current alias and introduce you all to this appreciatively friendly and fuzzy, van friend of mine.

[ BUBS ON A BEACH ]


I met Bubs in 2020 when Bella had brought him along for a visit to the sea. He arrived in a backpack, space-bubble of sorts and I have since then always imagined him as a galactic, space-traveling kitty. But in the time we’ve spent getting acquainted, I’ve come to realize he is as much a part of this planet as we are, in particular his adventurous and bold, Bush Kitty version. The moderately dog-like kitty who I’ve seen stalk birds to no avail, climb trees, parkour walls, befriend horses, dogs and anyone else he greets, mush down copious amounts of chewy bugs and ultimately treat us both to a daily dose of entertaining theatrics and soothing, heart warming joy.


[ LITTLE PAINTED DESERT, AZ ]

I’m sure many questions arise about how one can traverse the nation with a pet, a cat no less. And I’m working on a extensive van guide that details a lot of our day to day actions and, of course, provide some valuable insights as to what it’s like with a cat on board, but for now, it’s time to update readers on our travels since last September.


I was previously headed back to the Carolinas to then rendezvous with Bella in Ohio where we’d receive the new set of wheels.


And so, it is without further adieu that I must also introduce you to Bruce, our faithful steed that carries us to these dream-filled destinations.





A 2021 136” wheelbase Dodge Promaster outfitted by a phenomenal builder by the name of Valley Hi Vans located in the unique town of Bellefontaine, OH.


If you’re interested in a build of your own, mention our names and good things might come your way. Wink Wink (discounts)


Since handed the keys, Bruce has performed phenomenally. We brought him over to Massachusetts to spend the holidays and perform a few customizations and outfitting of our own before embarking on a maiden voyage up the East Coast of Maine.

The learning of Bruce happened with ease. We overcame a minor electronic battery monitoring issue, resolved a frozen water pump, didn’t get stuck in a snowstorm, but did pick up a mouse that had to be dispatched after it ate some soap and underwear and ultimately traveled with ease as we had spent many a months on the road similarly learning this lifestyle inside the Tacoma. We knew the steps and all we could give our minds to was how luxurious and comfortable it was to spend our days and nights in this stellar spaceship.


[ CHROME DELETE — BEFORE ]


[ BLACKED OUT — AFTER ]


[ CUSTOM CAT DISH ]


[ SINK ORGANIZER ]



[ WINDOW SHADE MOCKUP ]


[ HIKING THE N.E. ]


[ JUST A HAPPY GRONK ]

For the travels we were so fortunate to be graced with excellent late fall weather in Western Mass and caught the mountainous leaf change just after its prime and before it turns to a solid state of gray. But before we could take off, a job offer too good to pass up came my way. We decided to hit pause on our intended road travels and made a quick departure to Beaufort, South Carolina to aid in the delivery of a 78’ Nordhavn to West Palm Beach. A 44 hour, 357 mile ocean journey that filled us with warmth, smiles and a good story to come back with.


[ DEPARTING HH ]


[ INSIDE THE HELM ]

We hopped on a plane, drove through the scenic oak hammocks and saw our beauty awaiting us at its private residence. By 6AM we were steaming up the shallow Skull Creek toward the Hilton Head inlet.

Once offshore, the winds were a steady 15kt, pushing seas up to 5’ from the west for the beginning of the trip. It was not friendly, not even in this 110 ton ocean behemoth. We tucked in closer to shore and by the time we had adjusted our course to 208º and rounded Tybee Island, we were headed for the Space Coast in balmy 78º weather with a much more relaxed 2’ sea. A pearly smooth 3’ NW swell kept the stabilizers active, but we had entered into an absolute state of sublime, with dolphins breaching and riding the bow, sunsets that will go on with us in our minds forever and the everlasting and enthralling breathes of open ocean air.


This was Bella’s first time crewing on an ocean-going vessel. She was brought on as a cook and at first, the exposure to rough seas brought her into a state of nausea, but she quickly recovered and soon we were rotating through our nightly 4 hour shifts with ease.


For our efforts we were paid handsomely and even treated as guests to the Lauderdale boat show afterwards.


[ BLiSS ]


[ SHE GOT A TASTE ]


[ DELIVERED ]


[ DEPARTED ]


For more information on Ammonite, an award winning yacht and their current Bahamian Charters check them out here.

 

We were back again on an airplane, returning to the coldest corner of the nation to resume where we had left things off with Bruce and our intended maiden voyage through the rest of New England. Maine’s tourist season had come to a close, and with it most all of the businesses that thrive on the summertime warmth had as well, but as it was still a few months before the dead of winter, we weren’t completely shut out. We still had the amazing and expansive scenes of nature, graciously, all to ourselves. The roads, towns and even Acadia National park were mostly empty and we had what’s considered a top national park abandoned and open for us to explore.

Collected for you here are THE MAINE JOURNALS: Tales from the road as we embarked on a fourteen day, 1875 mile journey up the cold coast and back.

[ THE COLD COAST ]

CHAPTER 01 — New Hampshire

09/11/21 — 51º daytime high and blue skies


The Deconstruction of Fall”

Orange-brown leaves pile beneath their weathered and abandoned counterparts. The hills rising higher as we curve our way North depict a foreboding signal that winter is ready to settle onto their empty and awaiting limbs.

CHAPTER 02 — Wilkinson Swamp

“Maybe We Are New to This…”

Camped at a clearing in the woods, that signaled to us as an active work site, with heavy machinery parked and logs stacked gave us some concerns, but we went against our senses and stayed the night anyway. A startling sound at 5AM of giant timber being dropped into the bed of a logging truck not twenty feet from our spot had us erect and wondering what should we do. We’d already awoken to the sounds of a light drizzle earlier that sparked a concern of potentially becoming stuck in the soft, tilled soil on our very first night. Not a scenario we intended to see out, but the rains never fell any harder and so we relaxed a bit.


An hour of laying there gathering ourselves from a patchy night of sleep and a second vehicle wheeled into the lot. Promptly exiting and swinging a flashlight around in the still dark chasm of this remote patch of forest, I see the light come our way and quickly jump from the bed putting on my pants and shirt to have a chat with this person. I see the light bouncing as their path is still headed directly towards us, and I scramble to find my sweatshirt in the dark. A loud knock on the driver door as I slip it on over my head and see the worker take a step back. I later thought, “What must’ve been going through his mind as he showed up to work this day to find a conspicuously parked van at his work site.”


I crack the door and see a flannel-shirted laborer with a scraggly beard.


“Whatcha doing buddy?” he asks with utmost curiosity. I am relieved to see I’m not already met with hostility, but at least a sense of respect in there being two humans speaking to one another.


I tell him, “Oh you know, just camping.” He laughs and elects to withhold words for a moment. I fill in the awkward void, “Did I take your spot?” He laughs again at the absurdity of this moment and says, “Yeah. Something like that.” I explain we were just traveling through and thought this was a quiet enough spot to tuck in for a few hours of rest before heading on. He explained his position of a not-so-friendly boss that will be here shortly and not going to like the sight of us. He kindly suggests a bog further down the road that would be more open to that sort of thing, but still has no idea how we came to be here. It could’ve been an alien encounter, for all its worth. And it wouldn’t be our last encounter of this sort for the day.


We wheeled a short distance down the road and stopped at a turnaround within an intersection to get our bearings. We made a quick cup of coffee to get our heads on straight before figuring out where we would travel towards. It was day two, less then 24 hours into the voyage, when another work truck pulls past and gives the breaks a hard foot. It sits idling, throwing exhaust steam into the cold morning air. We sit in the front seat, not minding it much attention, but when it wheels back in reverse and then throws it back into drive to pull up alongside us, I tell Bella to roll down the window. She struggled to roll the window down as we were still so new to the controls. The man, younger, but as weathered as the last one, also with a beard covering most of his face looks at us and says without any provocation, “Oh, alright. No kidnappers today.” We look at him and laugh, disarming his suspicions. He says, “It’s my kids bus stop and I see a van parked here. I couldn’t go to work not knowing.”


Bella and I were both internally trying to come to terms with that perhaps the van itself presents a certain alarming irrationality upon people and hopefully this wouldn’t be a recurring issue. He asked if we needed any help, directions, etc. and we said we were fine and would be on our way shortly.


But before we could, we were encountered again, by another parent (perhaps the opposite to the last one) that did her best to politely explain to us that we look “real sketchy” just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere at a bus stop. I said we were just plugging in our directions. She kept insisting on the notion of how sketchy we looked, but seeing us with her own eyes, didn’t think we were as such and blurted out a few more series of contradictions. We figured it was time to go, despite being in a safe, pullover spot and attempting to direct ourselves without doing so on the go. It doesn’t make us feel good to be judged in this way, certainly not in the first hours of being inside this amazing and expertly-constructed vehicle.


We had to accept that our past overlanding experiences were certainly still here with us, but ultimately, in this vehicle, maybe we are new to this.


 


CHAPTER 03 — Bailey Island

10/11/21 — 44º and drizzly


“It Never Gets Old”


We slide right into the coastal harbor scene as easily as the tide moving through the rocks. Delicate, green grasses wade along gently to the rhythmic sea. The waves, hardly a crashing force, merely come and go like the impressions left in a pillow.


The points extend outward into the sea like gnarled fingers, gripping tightly to the shore. The stark gradients cast over us at sunset was piercing. So much so, that the scene started to lull us into the illusion that none of this was real and we had stepped into a living work of art. Witnessing the brushstrokes happen atop the water, tricking our minds into believing we were both the artist and the audience. And maybe we just were those things.


We camped in a parking lot dubbed “Makeout Point” which had its occasional visitor to loop through, take a short stroll and gaze upon the views just as we were doing. The ocean was calm through the night and as the sun rose in the opposite corner of our sheltered horizon, we crawled out into the cold to once again take in the splendor. I walked over to the deceivingly shallow and narrow, Jaquish Cut where a diesel powered lobster boat was churning through the ebbing tide. From behind me I heard a voice say, “It never gets old.” I turned to see a local gazing upon the same view with a smile and desire to express that, they too, took part in this sacred, visual ceremony.


 

CHAPTER 04 — Portland

11/11/21 — 55º and sunny


“Enjoy the Quest” -Loren C.

We backtracked a bit, sure not to miss a recent and intriguing discovery in Portland — The Cryptozoology Museum. If anyone is unfamiliar with Loren Coleman or the likes of the pseudoscience, Cryptozoology, that investigates the unknown, legendary and mythical creatures, you can check out it out here.

Our heads filled with the likes of Sasquatches, Skinwalkers, Pukwudgies, Dover Demons and Mogollon Monsters, had us brimming from ear to ear, and even a national map that showcased all the various sitings for these anomalies, including the Berkshire Incident (mass UFO sighting) and in the north of Maine, deep in the Katahdin Forest there’s the lore of the Specter Moose, that appears and disappears. Traveling back further in time, the Penobscot Indians accounted for it in their tales of Pamola, an evil spirit that presents itself as a flying moose and resides atop Mount Katahdin (terminus of the Appalachian Trail). It’s also likely that Pamola can still be given any blame for the less than desirable weather that blows down from its steep slopes.

Speaking of cold weather, we were slowly acclimating our gear to handle the brisk winds and chilling air. Next to our campsite was a gift shop called Lands End to which we picked up some new toboggans, a few take-home gifts, excellently spicy mustard and a fragrant balsam fir pillow. At night, Bella was convinced there was a Pewudgie coming through the bushes, but we later found out there were turkeys roaming the island. Or was it a Pewudgie? We were certain to keep these names on the tips of our tongues now as we continued north along the coast.


 

CHAPTER 05 — Bath

12/11/21 — 45º driving rains and 50mph gusts


“Chaotic Coast”


Overnight the ocean transformed itself into a raging, aggressive beast. Waves progressively grew taller as the tide shrank beneath its force. A nearby landmark dubbed, Giants Staircase, highlighted its fury as nearly ten foot tall waves heaved themselves onto the rocky coast.


Rain, mixed in with the shattering sea spray, pelted our faces with a sting as it whipped along sideways at us. We clambered around on the sharp angled rocks, inspecting the piles of periwinkle snails, admiring their strength and considering their value as a delicacy.


We visited Bath, referred to in literature as the City of Ships for its prominence in ship building and its large, expansive Maritime Museum. The rains continued on and off and we darted from one outdoor exhibit to the other in between the shelling rains. We returned to a new campsite, which was basically a pull off on Sewell Pond and by 4 PM, five hours until our bedtime we had already reached peak stir-crazy. Word searches were our therapy. For dinner we had leftover green beans and faros rice with cheesy potatoes.


 

[ INCOMING ]


CHAPTER 06 — Bath, Bristol

13/11/21 — 43º and sunny


“Don’t be afraid to start over”


We returned to the City of Ships for a stop off at the Cafe Créme for coffee, danishes and then more croissants and coffee while we caught up on our route planning, journal entries and downloads over the available wifi. In the bathroom there was a chalkboard to sign and I drew a Johnny Tarr sea feller, while Bella inscribed a phrase that came to mind, “Don’t be afraid to start over.”

From here we had quite a time at Reid State Park. There’s enough to do here to keep you busy all season long. The wind continued and the waves followed suite. At one point, while approaching the incoming tide a little too closely, we took an abrupt hit from a cresting wave that broke over a rock and slammed directly into us. I shouldered the impact well enough, but the gopro and Bella were toppled instantly. We laughed as we walked back to the van drenched to our core and quickly adorned new, dry clothes to explore another, more calmer, portion of the park.


With a rain shower coming late in the evening, we visited the LL Bean village in Freeport and waited out the rains in a Tuscan inspired bistro.


 

[ PEMAQUID POINT ]


CHAPTER 07 — Pemaquid Point

14/11/21 — 44º and sunny. Winds 20 mph


“We made it!”


We were now beginning our tour of the iconic Maine lighthouses, visiting first the grassy grounds of Pemaquid Point. The fun was once again down at the waters edge, still enticed by the roaring and thunderous slams from the ocean into the broken slabs of coastline.


After much searching, a friendly lady at a local convenience store allowed us to fill up our water tank. Our testing had revealed that we made it six days on a 24 gallon tank. Important information, as was learning that if filling on an incline, the water will come out the air valve first before its completely topped off. Won’t make that mistake again.


A short drive down the road we camped at a trailhead for the Pemaquid Preserve. We were alone with the forest, chilling itself into an enchanted state of calm. We took a short half mile stroll out to a lookout point that revealed the true watery beauty of Maine’s ponds and lakes. For dinner we snacked on toast with brie, crackers, tomatoes and carrots with dip.





 

[ MARSHALL POINT ]

CHAPTER 08 — Rockland, Belfast

15/11/21 — 45º overcast skies and chilly


“I love your van!”


The lighthouse tour continued, with three more occurring today going from Marshall Point aka the Forrest Gump Lighthouse to climbing the steep steps up to Owls Head Lighthouse and then on to the Breakwater Lighthouse, a 7/8 mile long jetty with an illuminated hazard indicator. At the Breakwater, were feeling silly and took turns giving turkey races coming back up the jetty. As we got back to the start, we saw these odd, gray, banana-shaped objects balancing precariously on the rocks. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we realized they were harbor seals coming to take advantage of the low tide.


While visiting a coffee shop we also received our first van compliment from the barista. She was eyeing us through the window before we had even come in. It made us feel good and we transferred those feelings into a fabulous dinner. A peanut noodle dish with tofu and veggies. The peanut sauce was appropriately spicy.


[ THE BREAKWATER ]


 


CHAPTER 09 — Bar Harbor, Acadia

16/11/21 — 37º and cloudy. Very windy


“A Sunrise to Sunset Kind of Day”


Experiencing a fulfilling sunrise to sunset sight-seeing kind of day, we traveled from our boat harbor urban campsite to Bar Harbor for the destination we had long anticipated: Acadia National Park. Considered a top ranked park and the 7th most visited park in the US national park system, its beauty and adventure-filled terrain brought out the best hikers in us. With a fresh national park pass in hand, we were into the park and already onto a famous climb called the Precipice Trail. It was rated as hard for its sheer vertical scaling of an enormous cliff side, using hard iron rungs to pull you to the top. You would teeter along daringly high and narrow ledges and then crawl your way up large rocks using the frigid metal bars.

The heights were dizzying but the climb was like none other. At the top we encountered another nice local that recommended a few other trails we should get our feet onto. She also commented on the arduous task of trying to select her hikes during the summers peak and the immense crowds. I couldn’t imagine the amount of bottle necks on this one and the present feeling of gratitude for having it all to ourselves. We camped at the trail head for our next intended daybreak hike.


For dinner, Bella took on the task of creating a fabulous orzo veggie primavera that was rich and creamy with grilled bread bites. Gas at this time was $3.47/g.


[ THE PRECIPICE ]


 


CHAPTER 10 — Acadia NP, Bass Harbor

17/11/21 — 26º and clear skies. night rain


“LL Bean is a winner”


Fall was gracious enough to stick around for us late comers to visit the coast. The leaves still holding firm, hearty in themselves not to give up too soon. And what few fifty degree days we did have, were much appreciated. The nights seemed to bring about a customary routine of pattering rain as we slept, letting off now and again just so we could escape to use the forested bathrooms.

The Day Mountain Trail was a short two mile out and back hike that was easily accomplished in plenty of time to peer out at the amazing watery scene at daybreak. We traveled forth through Acadia hitting the other big names such as Jordan Pond and Thunder Hole. The high for the day didn’t break thirty degrees and the wind continued to lash us into uncomfortable states of cold. We carried around with us the imagined lens of what this place must be like in the heated summer months, but still wouldn’t dare trade it for the intimacy of what we had right now.


We ventured past another LL Bean and decided to see if there were any wool blankets to help moderate our temps during the night. We scored good with finding one the right size, color and at 80% off, couldn’t be much more elated. I had really come to like LL Bean having now picked up a sturdy set of lined leather gloves that have performed flawlessly and my most favorite slip on, lined overcoat.

While at their village in Freeport, we learned that most all LL Beans operate 24 hours a day to keep with the tradition LL himself had originally set forth. That at any hour you could stop in for repairs or if in need of something. When discussing it at the now completely modern and tourist-haven village, the employee told us during the pandemic lockdown, they had to actually get locks for the doors so they could close for the first time ever.


We finished the day with one more final sun activity and visited the iconic Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Considered to be Maine’s quintessential sunset photo spot, we were once again left in isolation with the ocean scene to convey its majesty over us. I had read about getting there early during the busy months as its a tight squeeze to get out onto the rocks and set yourself up for an uninterrupted view of the image to be had. Today, we would have no trouble and snapped photos from all around as the beauty took place.


For breakfast we had toast with ricotta and honey + fruit and split an egg sandwich layered with hummus, cheese and salsa. For lunch we had another ricotta sandwich with tomatoes and carrots and dip. We received two more van compliments today!


[ SUNRISE STROL ]


[ JORDAN POND ]


[ BASS HARBOR ]


 


CHAPTER 11 — Eastport, Houlton

18/11/21 — 50º and drizzly. PM Sleet


“Time for Some Milestones”


It was time to put Acadia behind us and complete the final stretch of the Eastern/US Hwy1 coastline. Landing in Eastport and on out to Sullivan’s Pier, we parked Bruce at the easternmost point in the US. We walked around the docks that floated well below the fixed concrete structure and investigated the varying types of commercial vessels.


On our way north to a racetrack that had open access all year round, we saw three moose in the highway. I’m not the most savvy at nighttime visuals, but I saw what looked like a black hole in the shape of a moose from afar. Sure enough, its shadowy figure slinked off to the side of the road to peer at us from behind a tree. We saw two more in this similar fashion further on down the road.


The racetrack was beginning to get a smattering of snow and the ground was quite soft. It’d be the first time we’d test Bruce’s 2WD out in some unfavorable conditions. There was gravel beneath the slick mud, so I did my best to keep it in line with the existing tracks. It was a long driving day (300 miles) so for breakfast we had quickly fashioned together breakfast burritos and for lunch we had triscuits and carrots.

It should be noted that sunset in this part of the world was around 4:15 PM and pitch black came shortly there after. So, if you wanted to be somewhere for sundown, you had to be setup no later than 3:30 PM. It also meant we could only drive but for so long if we wanted to use the daylight. It would also explain why most days we usually just ate breakfast and lunch and skipped dinner as we were likely asleep by then.

Having reached 1000 miles thus far in the journey, this night would also be one of the few times we drove past sunset. Eastern most point US: 44°54'20.3"N, 66°58'58.7"W


 

[ ALL THE WAY TO CANADA ]

CHAPTER 12 — Fort Kent, Millinocket

19/11/21 — 45º and partly cloudy. Snow