Monday, August 4, 2014

Maine at Last

In April of 1945, Galen Cole was a raw recruit in the United States Army just getting in on the tail end of the war in Europe. His unit was going out on patrol, riding in a half track vehicle, and as they got underway another soldier asked Galen to trade seats with him. Galen's amiable agreement allowed him to live to tell the tale. A German artillery shell hit the side of the vehicle he had started on and killed all 5 of the men on that side of the half track. Galen was wounded but returned to the United States where, at the age of 29, he became the president of his father's company,Cole Express in Bangor, Maine.

Bangor Bunyan barely better than Bemidji
Galen enters our story because, upon leaving New Hampshire, we were scheduled to spend two days at an RV park in Palmyra, just outside of Bangor. The reason we were stopping over in Bangor is unclear. It has something to do with the order in which Vicki made reservations for our stay in Maine but at this point even she is not exactly clear on how we ended up in Palmyra. Yet there we were with time to kill and a Google search of "things to do" in Bangor Maine produces an extraordinarily short list. The  Cole Land Transportation Museum and this statue of Paul Bunyan marking Bangor as his alleged birthplace (see alternate opinions here).  Anyway, we ultimately found ourselves spending an afternoon wandering through a collection of assorted vehicles from the history of Maine travel, shipping and transportation.

Chris pilots a horseless carraige
Galen Cole grew up in the Cole Express Company and had a lifelong fondness for both cars and heavy equipment which he wanted to share, probably with anyone who would listen but primarily to schoolchildren. So when he was looking for a way to rid himself of some of the excess cash he had acquired, he decided to build a museum to honor the business his father had built. The result is a gigantic warehouse filled with vintage vehicles and various associated artifacts. In addition to passenger vehicles of all kinds and delivery trucks from the transport company, there is also a section on fire engines, one on snow transportation and snow removal since this is, after all, New England, a full-sized train engine and several railroad cars, a section on military vehicles, and several other areas of interest.
Stanley Steamer bakery truck

It would be impossible (or at least unacceptably boring) to try and give an overview of all of the items on display but a few in particular caught my eye. Near the entrance is a Stanley Steamer delivery truck. Everyone has heard of the Stanley Steamer but I had never seen one. They used either kerosene or gasoline to boil the water and were surprisingly safe. They were designed so that if too much pressure built up, the tubing would rupture and the spraying water would put out the flame long before the boiler could explode. No Stanley steamer ever blew up during use the way the steam engines on  locomotives and steamboats routinely did. The Stanley Company was eventually driven out of business by the internal combustion engine which was faster and cheaper. No Stanley Steamer was ever able to maintain a power output above 20 HP.

Model T Snowmobile
The internal combustion engine was exemplified by Henry Ford's model T of which quite a number were on display. I particularly liked this one which was altered with a kit to turn it into a snowmobile. The kit was sold by a third party company actually known as The Snowmobile Company in New Hampshire in 1922. They boasted that this contraption could go over roads that a horse and sleigh could not.

A pair of Beetles
Speaking of car kits, this is an interesting pair. In the background you see a classic Volkswagen beetle from the 1960s. In front of it is a faux MG sports car built from a kit on the exact same chassis and engine. I remember when I was in college, someone on campus had a similar kit that turned their bug into a shortened Rolls-Royce.

They had a section on John Deere products which included a 50s era tractor. There was a button on the display which looked interesting, so Christopher went ahead and pushed it. It played a recording of tractor noises. I suppose Mr. Cole thought that was terribly educational.

I will go ahead and include a few more pictures at the end of this post for your education and amusement. Meanwhile, Christopher is going to pop in here and tell you about our arrival on the New England coast.

Christopher here. I was frankly relieved to see Palmyra disappearing behind us. My parents seemed to enjoy themselves, but if you're like me, you probably think a room full of tractors is rather boring. The reason you think that is because a room full of tractors is objectively quite boring. In fact, that's where we get the common English phrase, "boring as a room full of tractors." But I digress...

Boothbay Harbor
After a few hours of driving, we arrived in Boothbay, Maine, where we would be staying for the next ten days... or possibly twelve. There was a bit of a discrepancy between what the Shore Hills RV Park had us down for and what Mom thought she'd reserved. None of us has actually gone to the effort of checking our schedule, but sooner or later we'll probably have to pay for the two extra days or else cancel them. Roger and Vicki had apparently been lobsterless for as long as they could stand, and we barely waited for the RV to come to a complete stop before hopping in the car and heading to Boothbay Harbor. Mom had a list of various lobster shacks she had read about, and she seemed determined to visit all of them in our time here. The one we chose for our first lobster of the trip was the Lobster Dock. Well, I should say
Lobster shack at long last
Dinner on the hoof
the one THEY chose for THEIR first lobster. As I have mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of these creatures. I have a bit of a phobia of scorpions, and crossing them with cockroaches and growing them to the size of a Chihuahua does very little to increase my affection. Then again, I probably wouldn't enjoy eating beef either if they cooked the cow whole and I had to butcher it at the table. Anyway, my parents seemed to thoroughly enjoy their first lobsters, if the carnage left behind was anything to go on. I had some runny clam chowder and some passable fish and chips. If you go to the Lobster Dock, go for the lobster. I was beginning to realize that if I didn't get past my issues with these crimson crustaceans, this was going to be a very long trip.

Dinner out of  the hoof

What better place to start my therapy than the restaurant we tried the following day? Kaler's Restaurant was not actually on Mom's list, but we'd ended up paying an arm and a leg to park on the waterfront for the morning, and when lunchtime rolled around, we wanted to go someplace that wouldn't require us to move the car. We ended up at a table right at the door to their dock with a nice view of the bay. They even had a touch tank out on the dock with lobsters (rubber-banded claws of course), a hermit crab, and a few mussels and clams amongst a wad of seaweed. Deciding that it was time to conquer my fear, I walked out on the dock and plunged my hand in. After brushing a lobster with my pinky, I squealed and yanked my hand right back out. After a few more tries and some frankly embarrassing whimpering, I got hold of one and plucked it out of the water so Dad could snap a picture. The lobster wriggled like mad, flapping its tail and doing its very best to reach me with claws it could not open. I looked it right in the eyestalks, preparing to tell it I was no longer afraid. It wiggled its little mouth parts as if to say, "of course you are, you big sissy," and I dropped it back into the tank. Determined to show me up, my father immediately stuck both his arms in up to the elbows, grabbed a lobster in each hand, and maniacally waved them at the camera.

Maniacally waving lobsters
For lunch, Mom and I each ordered a cup of clam chowder and a lobster roll, while Dad took his turn at fish and chips. We also had some crab fritters which were like little crab-cakes at the center of large wads of fried dough.
Quintessential lobster roll
For those of you still struggling with the opening of this paragraph, you read that correctly, I ordered a lobster roll. The lobster roll is the primary method of invertebrate consumption in Maine, more popular even than the mealtime butchery method. Deciding that I just might be able to get onboard with this whole thing if I didn't have to tear apart an exoskeleton, I threw caution to the winds and said "I'll have what she's having" after Mom placed her order. Lobster rolls come in hot and cold varieties. The former is hot lobster meat in a bun slathered in butter, whereas the latter is chilled lobster meat in a bun slathered in mayonnaise. The ones at Kaler's were cold, and, as with anything slathered in mayo, taste primarily of mayo. I actually enjoyed my first go at lobster, though I thought the meat was fairly similar to shrimp but at a considerably higher price. Still, I'm determined to try a hot, buttery one before we leave Maine.

Lobster Wharf
The last of our lobster stops so far was the Lobster Wharf, just down the street from the Lobster Dock. I actually had to look up what the difference between a wharf and a dock is, and it turns out, there basically isn't one. Both restaurants had lobsters, both had docks, both had runny chowder, but the fish and chips at the Wharf were much tastier, if you're not into a meal that requires a nutcracker. My parents were interested in such a meal, and once again I was subjected to the spectacle of two old fogeys tearing apart scorpion roaches. These were hard-shell lobsters, whereas the ones at the Lobster Dock had been soft-shell. Both of my parents seemed to enjoy the hard-shell variety even more, if that's possible.

Get use to this sight
As for day activities, we had all sorts of fun things planned for the Boothbay area. We weren't in a little podunk town like Palmyra anymore, and we had far more interesting options than a Land Transportation Museum. So naturally, we immediately visited the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Sigh... Dad, you want to cover this one?

to be continued ...

Bonus pics from the Cole Transportation Museum

Model T fitted out as a tractor
How did they get that in the building?

The hearse collection

Antique firetruck with traditional trampoline for firehouse parties

I want one

Yet another Model T as a freight delivery truck

Early freight transport

1 comment:

  1. Christopher - I love your posts. Your Dad's not doing too bad especially with the description of the tractor sounds. I really cracked up on that one. I can't believe I'm following three families who are in Maine. But I'm not a lobster eater. I like Maryland crab but lobster you can just keep.