Belfast, 2001

I was firmly set on getting out of the city to see the Persieds meteor shower this year, so I rented a cabin in Belfast (on the good advice of a friend who'd visited there a few years back) and rented a car to get myself well out of the city glow. It was well worth it.

Sat Aug 11

I originally wrote this journal entry sitting on the porch of my rented cottage, listening to the waves crash on the shore. Bliss. :)

I had set my alarm for 8:20 and was up with it. Q's old room mate was staying with us until this morning, but they left for the airport before I was finished with my breakfast. I had time to fill a water bottle, check email and LiveJournal before the taxi I'd called for last night arrived to pick me up for the trip to the car rental agency. I also repacked my stuff in my larger backpack, so that I could bring along a blanket and some warm clothes for star watching. There had been a heat wave that just broke, I was looking forward to the cooler air along the coast. The taxi cost exactly the amount that the rental agency was willing to reimburse me, since they wouldn't do pick ups on the weekend. It ended up being a different Enterprise than I'd rented at when I drove up to the border to renew my TN visa. I upgraded to the next level of car so that I'd have one with a tape deck to take the car adapter on my compact disc player, but it ended up having a CD player in the dash. I pulled out of the rental place at around 10am, having arrived a bit before I had planned to. I popped in the Assemblage 23 discs that I'd just bought, Contempt and Failure, and then my Intermix CD as I drove north on I95. Traffic was heavy at the New Hampshire border just before the toll booth, so I took a rest stop that ended up bypassing a little of the congestion. I passed the exit for Hampton Beach and remember finally that that's where we'd ended up to watch the Leonids shower last year in the cold. There was a back up in Maine as well, but not too serious. Tons of Land Rovers with bikes and canoes and kayaks strapped to them were on the road. At Augusta I took highway 3 across instead of 1 along the coast, since it seemed as if it would be faster. Slow and erratic speed drivers were bugging me all day, and 3 turned out to be a 2 line highway, with a couple of passing lanes on hills. The car I had rented was a Toyota Camry with zero pick up, so I ended up stuck behind people on a regular basis, but I wasn't in any real hurry to get to Belfast, since my hard and fast time to arrive before was midnight when the shower would peak.

The most interesting signs that I saw on the drive:

plus a huge brown and moss green field, scattered with boulders and rising to a ridge with a bright blue port-a-potty sitting in the middle of it, all by itself. A guy had stopped to take a picture of it with a professional looking camera, but I passed the opportunity by. There was a very pretty bridge across a gorge as I drove into Ellesworth (I think).

After a fairly slow 33 miles going across on 3, I made it to Belfast where 3 connected to 1 and I took it out of town to the Colonial Gables Oceanfront Village. It was around 2:30pm, so my room was available, and the inn keeper commented that someone used to visit on a regular basis with my last name, so she pronounced it properly the first time. My room hadn't been made up yet, so I called the front desk to request it be made up and dumped my pack in there anyway, then took a stroll down to the beach to scope out star watching perches. I picked out a north east facing rock that would serve as a good back rest, but was a bit disappointed that there was no clear view out to the ocean - some islands blocked the way. I walked back up the hill to my cottage and the car and drove just down the road for some food at a pub. The fish and chips were quick to arrive and relatively cheap. The family sitting behind me had screaming kids and someone knocking over a tray. Two guys were talking quietly at the table in front of me, and the other table in our nook emptied of the family that had been sitting there after I arrived. The kid seemed to get a kick out of my haircut. I mostly watched the wind play with the wild flowers and the bushes outside the window, and felt a bit out of place in my industrial band t-shirt, mostly shaved head, and cut off army shorts. After lunch, I considered stopping at the book lovers attic, but the speeding cars and congestion made stopping a bit hazardous and there didn't seem to be any customers already there to lend an open air to it. I drove back over to 3 and down it just a bit to a sewing supply place that I had spotted on the way in, but they didn't have grommet pliers, just some really pretty quilting fabrics in astronomical and astrological designs. I drove into Belfast proper then to explore, parking by the IGA so I could grab some groceries for use in my full kitchen.

I walked down the street to the Eclectic closet and browsed in there for a while, but not really in a clothing buying mood. I did stop into the Fertile Mind bookstore where I couldn't resist the second book in A Series of Unfortunate Events about the Baudelaire children and their continuing woes. The streets were littered with bears in various cute poses and paint jobs. Made me twitch, especially the empty pedestal with a note about how the bear had gone visiting an alternate location. I went back up the hill towards the car, and just had to drop into the Gothic cafe. As I was paying for my white chocolate ice cream, the guy in front of me who was waiting for his complicated coffee order to be filled, ducked out of line and put his stuff at the one empty table that was left. The waitress was nice enough to clear off her stuff from another table and I took my glass cup there, but it was shaped so that the melted bits would slop over the sides as I tried to scoop out bites. I got a cardboard cup and transfered the partially melted ice cream into it instead and finished it in peace, starting my new book. I finished the walk back towards the car and popped into Oulette's IGA - lots of French influences around. I grabbed some bread, cheese, more water, yoghurts, a can of fruit salad that I couldn't resist since it had extra cherry halves in it. By the time I loaded everything in the car and drove back to the cottage, the room had been made up, so I stuffed everything into the fridge and I settled on the porch to write in my journal and relax for a bit. There were lots of ants and acorns on my porch, and the sun was trying to slant under the awning to get me, but my feet were put up on another lawn chair. It was sunny with wisps of clouds high up, and not nearly as hot as it was in Boston the day before. Sail boats and kayaks were moving in the harbour as I contemplated how to kill the hours before the meteor shower would be visible.

I finished the book I'd bought, testing both beds for firmness before settling on the one farther from the door. I took a shower to wash off the sun screen I'd coated myself with, just a shower box, no bath, but there was a cool gas stove in the kitchen (narrow, made of white metal, and match lit, from a rusty orange metal container with a box of wooden matches in it - the metal made a more effective striking surface than the flint on the box), and dishes were supplied. I replaced the sun screen with insect repellent when I was dry, and then I strolled up to the office and then down to the beach to sit a while at sunset and enjoy the sky's display. I caught the last half of Top Gun on cable - the sound track brought back lots of memories from high school. I bundled up in jeans, a sweater and a hat, and went down to the beach at around 10, and saw a satellite tracking across the Milky Way. The sky was crystal clear and dark, perfect viewing conditions. Still not time for the shower to start, so I went in again and watched part of What's Eating Gilbert Grape. I made myself two cups of hot tea for the caffeine and the warmth, as it was seriously cooling down now. I managed to lightly singe my hand when lighting the gas stove though, I started the gas before striking the match and the flame flared up when I applied the lit match to the proper burner. From midnight to 1:15 I saw 31 tracks, sitting first on the log and then lying down, then I brought the blanket with me down to the beach and settled on the makeshift bench around the fire pit. The fire was still giving off some warmth, but not enough to keep me warm, I had to keep the blanket around my legs and head since the peak of my hood would obscure too much of the sky. I heard a loon and lots of crickets and the sound track of the video games in the entertainment room next to the playground. I was getting quite cold and went back up to the cabin to warm up, and then settled myself on my porch with my gloves on as well, all bundled in the blanket, and with a pillow from the bed to cradle my head. I had a limited view of the sky, with the awning and the roof cutting off part of the horizon, and the trees behind me another part, but the best viewing area was visible. By this time I was getting very tired from the drive and not sleeping well the past couple of nights, but I managed to last until 2:10am, seeing a total of 48 tracks. Consulting the Space Weather web site after the fact, one of those tracks was actually a booster rocket burning up as it reentered the atmosphere. There were maybe 5-10 really long impressive ones, but a lot of tiny streaks that I almost wasn't sure were meteors. Not the best shower ever, but I enjoyed it immensely, and just wish I could have stayed up later to see more of it.

Sun Aug 12

The combination of the meteors and Top Gun gave me nightmares about death from the sky. Tumbling green bombs and sidewinders and earth and water boiling. Kids talking loudly outside kept waking me, but I dozed until 10am and my Palm alarm went off. I had put on the gortex pants that I'd bought for riding in the rain and put a towel over my head and the wool blanket on top of the minimal covers on the bed to stay warm during the night. Should probably have just tried to turn up the thermostat. I threw my stuff into the pack, and the pack into the car and drove up the hill to check out, grabbing a postcard for my friends in Vancouver, the husband of the couple being Irish and hopefully appreciative of the peaceful scene of Belfast that I sent them. I decided to head up the coast to Acadia National Park since I had the whole day free, not having to return the car until the morning. Just before entering the park's peninnsula, after about an hour of driving, I stopped at another IGA to grab some water and some Balance bars. Just onto the peninnsula, there was a bedding outlet and I grabbed some cheap hunter green sheets to round out my linen collection, but was disappointed that they didn't have bed skirts. Nothing like having all our sheets match but then have the clashing box spring peeking out from underneath it. I hit the park's information building and found a trail that I could do with my sore foot - easy with some rocks and right on the coast. Took highway 3 to 122 down to 122A off of which the Ship Harbour trail departed. A chipmunk dashed across the road as I was slowing down to find the trail head.

The Ship Harbour trail parking lot was the least busy of all the ones I'd passed to get there, over the hour or so it took me to get down to the end of the park, but it was the most remote from the body of the state. It was an easy trail, but there were lots of tree roots and rocks to climb over. The tide was coming in as I walked along the figure 8 trail, the wrong way as it turned out, opposite from the nature guide map that was available in a box at the head of the trail. Along one side of the trail there were lots of pink granite slabs stepping down to the water, and a channel that ships used to get into the sheltered harbour. The air was very clear, but the sky was grey and there wasn't much wind, and lots of bugs. There was a large section of rocks that would have been perfect for sky watching last night. The tide was running into the harbour the train was named for as I passed that point. I saw a chipmunk in a tree close to the path, and even though a little kid was running around and yelling close by to it, it didn't budge and let me watch it for a good long while. The loud kid's brother pulled a berry off of a bush beside the train and popped it into his mouth. Parents these days. I managed to get a huge mosquito bite on the back of my right hand, it was larger than a quarter by the time it stopped swelling. Two mosquitos got into the car as I was slipping in, but I managed to kill them w/o killing myself in the process. Overall the park was a lot more built up than I expected, but it had been added to the park lands a bit at a time.

I stopped for gas at Ellesworth and drove up to Bangor on route 1A to connect to 95 w/o having to go back across on 1 or 3. Took 95 to Portsmouth with no stops. Traffic was heavy but mostly moving, I twas tired, so I stopped at the same garage that Todd and I had used after our mountain biking excursion in the area. I found the Portsmouth Brewing Company again and had the chowder that I didn't get to try last time and couldn't finish the linguine that I had as a main meal, it was huge. The tea I ordered seemed to have come in a soapy mug and just didn't taste right. I was stopped for about an hour and a half to recharge for the final stretch of the drive home, and it was drizzly when I came out, but smelled nicely of the sea. I paid a whole dollar for parking and backtracked to 95. Traffic was very heavy down to route 2, and the car didn't help by pulling to the right all the time, and the wipers didn't clean the windshield clearly. I listened to a big band radio show (need to check out Big Band Jump and listen to the archives). I made it home to Watertown eventually and parked the car a ways away from the house, since the close by spaces were taken. Forgot the CDs in the car the first time I cleaned it out, so back out to get them. I unpacked right away, and told Q about the trip, and was in bed by 11. The next morning I complained about the car's handling (it had also had the bodywork abused by a former renter, with lots of divots on the trunk and out of the upholstery) when I returned it and got a bit of a refund as well as a free upgrade for next time.


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