The first step on our yearlong journey. Day One begins in total blackness just before dawn on Cadillac Mountain. No sign of the sun except a thin red line of clouds. We're surprised to see about 50 people already camped out in well-chosen spots for viewing the big red fireball. Ken sets up his camera equipment and I set up my thermal backup system: blankets, extra gloves, extra scarf, thermos of tea. I'm ready for any surprises the freezing cold mountaintop has in store for me. But wait! Talk about surprises . . . there's my best friend, Susan, and her husband, Ernie. WOW! They said they might try to make the ghastly 5-hour drive to see us off, but I never thought they would. I push over to share my rock-seat with them. Susan gives me a hug and a "travel survival pack" she created: shampoo, cold creme, band-aids, aspirin, pens, candy, more candy, and a Christmas gift to be opened wherever we happen to be at Christmastime. Suddenly I feel sad, knowing we'll be all alone in some strange place at Christmas. The sadness is pushed aside, though, as the sun makes its grand entrance to the applause of its adoring crowd. After the sunrise our friends drive home to their kids and Ken and I go have breakfast before we sit down to figure out how to design and upload our very first postcard on the Web. It takes the entire day. Sure hope we can speed up the process as we get more experienced.
After touring the State Capitol in Augusta we drive down the street to a little town called Hallowell. This town is so doggone CUTE! A charming restaurant,"Slates." beckons us to lunch. Its window boxes stuffed with softball-sized yellow chrysanthemums and purple heather-like flowers make the restaurant doubly inviting. (How do they keep the flowers alive in mid-October?) Inside, the place is warm, cozy. Adorable. It has great food, wonderful decor -- complete with fireplaces, archways and paintings on the walls done by local artists. The service is more than friendly, it's actually jovial as well as competent (my water glass never drops below a quarter full). And the prices are very reasonable, too. An odd thing, though . . . we go outside and a couple reading the posted menu ask us if we recommend the place. We rave about it.They thank us. Then walk down the street to another place. Huh?
Going to the Musical Wonder House we had expected a fragile place filled with expensive little music boxes under big "DO NOT TOUCH" signs. We expected waxy, shiny, intimidating floors; special lights highlighting the exhibits and spotlighting our every move while a snooty staff monitored our behavior. BUT WE ARE WRONG. We walk into the foyer of this gloriously restored sea captain's house, and the signs welcome us to help ourselves. A friendly young man (we discover later that he's from Latvia) rushes out to greet us and tell us our options: a planned tour, or our own self-guided tour. We choose the latter. A dollar-changer machine supplies the necessary quarters to play the old-time music boxes that fill the foyer. We are left on our own. No one watching us. We play every machine to our heart's delight. Laughing, giggling, like kids at a playground, we delight in the different personalities each music box has to offer. Fun, fun, fun. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spy an older gentleman watching us from the doorway. Oh-oh, I think, now the "adult" is going to come over and tell us, "No." But instead, he comes over to show me how to work this humongous music box I had been trying to figure out. It's got drummers and dancers inside. The man is gracious, charming, with a Santa-Claus like twinkle in his eyes, and a delightful Austrian accent in his soft voice. I am captivated by his kindness. He offers to give us a tour of his "back room." Astounding! A room full of 19th century music boxes as big as refrigerators. Our host, Mr. Konvalinka, (even his name sounds musical . . . ) takes us around and tells us stories of almost each and every music box. Every tale is laced with subtle humor. Ken asks in amazement, "Who collected all these?" And Mr. Konvalinka replies tenderly, "A man who was quietly going insane. And hoped no one would notice." Ken and I exchange glances. We look at Mr. Konvalinka. He's not smiling. Ken braves the obvious question: "Do you mean yourself?" The old gentleman grins, but neither confirms nor denies.
Decided we're MAINE-IACS! It's a great state with lots to do. Just the port towns alone offer so much to see and do . . . and taste ( . . .lobster, crab cakes, homemade pies, Yum.)