Thursday, September 24, 2015

On the Coast

When I was a lad, we went to Maine every summer. Sometimes just for the day. Mom and Dad would get us out of bed early, very early and we would be on the road not long after sunrise.

In those days, on the state highways, there were picnic areas along the way, sometimes only a single picnic table beside a place to pull over and park. Being New England, the scenery was always special. Even if it was "just" trees. With the sun coming up, burning off the early morning mist, it was always spectacular.

Mom always brought along our favorite cereal and, as a special treat, some fruit to be chopped up and put into the cereal. Not bananas, we often had bananas at home, I remember peaches. Fresh peaches in our cereal as the sun rose on a beautiful New England day.

From where we lived, not far from the Connecticut River, it was about a three and a half hour drive from our house until we crossed the Piscataqua River which separates New Hampshire from Maine. It was always in that area that I or one of my brothers would proclaim that he could "smell the ocean." Though I know now that what we smelled was the interface between the land and sea, the romance of smelling the ocean is in my bones. I will always think of it that way.

We would spend the day on the beach, Wells, Ogunquit, York, sometimes we'd even venture as far north as Old Orchard Beach. My Dad didn't care for that latter place, "too many French-Canadians" he'd mutter. Odd coming from a man who's grandfather was born in Québec. But the Québécois who frequented that area tended to be quite rude and pushy. I'm not saying that they're all like that, just enough to ruin the reputation of the others. And yes, I know what they say about the ugly American abroad. I've seen that more than I care to relate. (I also know that starting a sentence with "and" is a no-no. Sue me, I care not.)

A day on the beach. In those days there was always a clam shack on the other side of the sea wall, somewhere close by where we kids could get ice cream or, if we were feeling really grown up, a clam roll. When I was young I preferred hot dogs, I think it was in my early teens that I discovered a taste for fried clams. Eating them in a hot dog roll, on a sandy beach, paradise!

When the day would start to wind down, we'd pile into the car (after divesting ourselves of as much sand as we could, though Dad would always manage to clean out another bucket load from the car when we got home) and head for a restaurant. That was always the finish to the there and back again in a day trips to Maine. It was always special. Though I distinctly remember Mom and Dad telling us kids that we wouldn't like lobster. It was grown up food. Even back then it was expensive!

After we ate, we'd get back in the car. Before setting off though, my brothers and I had to change into our pajamas. We were supposed to sleep in the car on the way home and once at home all Mom and Dad had to do was carry us off to bed. We were already ready. (So to speak.)

At least once a summer we would do an overnight in Maine. We'd still leave at the crack of dawn, we'd still eat breakfast beside the road on the way there and we'd still be in our pajamas for the drive home. But on those occasions we got to spend TWO days at the beach and we got to go to a restaurant TWICE! Pretty heady stuff for a young boy from Vermont.

Since those early days I have always loved being near the water. When I was a teenager Dad had a buddy at work with a cabin on a lake, we'd rent it for a week. It even had two boats we could use! While I loved the lakes we visited as a kid, I always loved the sea even more.

Somewhere along the way I forgot all that I guess. I always had a love of airplanes too, which is no doubt what drew me to the Air Force. If I'd had better contacts at the recruiting office, who knows, I could have wound up maintaining the F-4 in the Navy. But it was not to be. The Air Force got me, the Navy didn't even try. The Army tried hard but they blew it. The Marines asked but I knew I didn't have what it takes to be a Marine. I'm just too damned lazy, truth be told.

But the sea has always fascinated me. When I retired from the Air Force I was determined to live in New England, provided I could find a job. Which I did and wonder of wonders the job was on the coast, in Little Rhody. Now I get to be near salt water all the time and I love it. I imagined myself, someday, living in a house on the water. Like one of these...

They are beautiful and the view from them is breath taking. The cost is also breath taking, as is the weather when a Nor'easter or a hurricane comes to town. Where I live now doesn't have a water view. But a five minute drive puts me on Bristol Harbor, or Colt State Park where the water views are free. It would be nice to live on the water, but as I ain't rich yet, my current domicile is good for me. (Hey, I have a koi pond, so we're kind of on the water!)

Last Thursday I went to one of my favorite restaurants, right on the beach. A place which will be closing at the end of this year, so there won't be many more opportunities to eat there. So I brought the fancy camera and got there early (I was meeting friends for dinner). These pictures were taken that day. That day was beautiful, the food was superb and the company was sublime.

This summer is gone, the summers of my youth are long gone, but as long as I can "smell the ocean" and hear the breakers hissing over the beach I am content. I have so many memories I can go through and think back to days long gone. What's more, I can make new memories every day.

Here. On the coast.

Looking out to sea.
The Newport Cliff Walk is over there.

People sharing the sand with the gulls.
A brisk breeze from the water.
Sunset of another glorious New England day.
Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
The Atlantic Beach Club


  1. Beautiful stuff, and reminds me of my tours in Newport--and Halifax. Almost enough to make me want to live up there again. Almost....;-)

  2. ...I brought the fancy camera...
    Most of the time I try to have mine with me (in the trunk of the car, anyway)
    I'm only a little sorry it didn't take it on the last trip because there was only one occasion when it might have done better than the phonecam.
    Now all I have to do is download and post what I have.

    1. My vehicle of choice has no trunk. No place really to secure high value items. So if the camera can't be conveniently carried on my person, it stays home.

      Now go download and post, your fans are waiting...

  3. Until boarding a troopship in Brooklyn, my exposure to salt water was the Great Salt Lake. When I travel near an ocean I always try to make a side trip. Live by the ocean? Maybe if I win the Powerball there is a house in Bandon, OR in my future.

    1. Bandon looks like a slice of Heaven. Very nice.

  4. "...until winter." LOL! Best delio? A winter home in Fla and summer home in Maine. ONLY WAY! PS: We have friends retired in Bar Harbor AND Presque Isle from Louisville/Tenn and Shreveport respectively. Go figure..Lets not talk about the heating bills, lol.

    1. Summer in Maine, winter in Florida.

      Works for me!

      (Yes, let's not talk about the heating bills. Painful they are and I'm in a position to know.)

  5. Wow, that was superb, Sarge. Gives me a powerful surge of something akin to homesickness as I recall that big slice of my life where the sea and the sea/land interface were my environment. So if it's akin to homesickness but not quite, does that make it seasickness? That's not quite right either...

    Great word snapshots of family adventures as well. "Fresh peaches in our cereal as the sun rose on a beautiful New England day." What an image!

    I have some similar memories and the restaurant excitement is a big one. My Dad's big bugbear about eating out was the dime they charged to put cheese on a hamburger. Ten cents in those days was very nearly a dollar in today's money, and with hamburgers priced at about 55 cents a significant expense. "You don't need any blankety-blank cheese," he'd say, but he always let us choose, and we always opted for cheese. He had strong feelings about contaminating good beef with ketchup, too.

    Thanks for such a great piece and for roiling up the memory seabed.

    1. Thanks Shaun.

      I too remember the fuss with the extra ten cents for cheese. We usually made do with just a plain old hamburger. When I got my first job I always ordered a cheeseburger. Felt that I could afford it then!

  6. Beautiful pics, and a nice set of memories! I've actually eaten at the Atlantic Club! :-)

    1. Thanks Cajun. I think anybody who has spent time in the Newport area has eaten there.

      Sad to see it go.

  7. I thought I recognized the Cliff Walk. We stopped in Newport last summer on our way to Maine (mid-coast area), and had dinner at the Atlantic Beach Club. Newport is a lovely place.

  8. Love this one! So many parallels with my childhood. And of course I loved the photos!

  9. Great pix and reflections OAFS. Irony abounds- living in VT for the past 27 years and can't get back to Maine but for bits of time. Maniac by birth and ancestry. I have great memories of times and friends on God's Coast.

    1. 'Tis ironic indeed!

      I wanted to get to Maine this year but time and circumstances didn't permit. Madame Mère and I talked about that last weekend. "Next year!" we both agreed. Let's hope so.

      Didn't know you were a Down Easter by birth, Dust. A magnificent state, one of the absolute jewels of the USA.

  10. Ayuh. Dad was from up in The County and Mom was from Waterville. Sis and Dad live amongst the Belgrade lakes. After Dad retired from the USAF we moved back and I spent my Jr and High School years in Winterport on the Penobscot. Will be joining my good friends hunting deer near there this Nov. first time in 40 years.

    1. Ah, you speak Maine!

      The Penobscot, a lot of history on that river. I should write about it, like so many before me!

      The County! Just did some checking (I knew it was huge) but it's over five and a half times bigger than Rhode Island! (Of course, Little Rhody is called that for a reason!)

  11. Good times!

    In the early 70's...73 I think, by brother rented a house in RI when he was teaching (i think) at Navy OCS, not sure, anyway he rented a house on a point right on the water, overlooking the sound and on the right the mansions, the most beautiful location ever. Have no idea how he afforded it on a Lieutenants pay. The original house was destroyed in a Hurricane in the thirties and the old bricks were still all over the beach. My SIL visited a few years ago and the house has been replaced by a much larger house, which the location really deserved.

    1. Wow. I know we get extra money for housing based on location, Newport has always been posh, so perhaps that's how he managed to afford the ocean view rental.

      Must have been pretty nice.

  12. Honeymooned in Maine. Ate 13 forms of lobster.


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