After the 3- day walk, we decided to take a short vacation and headed up the Maine Coast. Need I even say that we stopped at the L.L. Bean mothership in Freeport? It was a fairly short stop, though, and we didn’t buy out the store.
We also stayed one night in Bar Harbor, which is the last major city on the tourist route off Highway 1 in Maine. It was buzzing with cruise passengers from a ship that heads from New York up to Nova Scotia, as well as with the normal summer tourist trade. We had a fabulous dinner at Mache Bistro, not far from our bed and breakfast, and after dinner, we took a drive in Acadia National Park on the Park Loop road, which affords beautiful views of Bar Harbor (see below).
Then, the following morning we headed back on Route 1 for a couple of hours to the easternmost point in the United States: Lubec, Maine.
A short bridge ride from Lubec, you pass through Canadian Customs and arrive on Campobello Island in New Brunswick. Campobello–the scene of the famous play and movie Sunrise at Campobello with Ralph Bellamy– was the summer home of the F.D. Roosevelts, and a place I have always wanted to visit. It was here that FDR, the virus he had picked up from a stop at a boy scout camp already working in his body, fell ill with polio in 1921. The “cottage” (it’s more like a small mansion) is wonderfully kept, with all of the original furnishings, and you can wander the grounds and trails that the family enjoyed during their many summers on the island. The dock to the Bay of Fundy–which has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world–has been rebuilt, but you can still see the posts from the original dock that would have been used in transporting the paralyzed and very ill future president to the boat that would carry him back to the mainland for treatment.
Campobello does not quite resonate with the same history as the residence at Hyde Park and Eleanor Roosevelt’s beloved Val-Kill, where you can almost sense the energy of the historic figures that walked here during the Roosevelts’ time in public office. Campobello feels more personal. Here, FDR came every summer from the time he was a baby until he contracted polio in 1921–he would make only three visits to Campobello after that before he died. Here, the young Eleanor Roosevelt came to stay in 1903 for a summer visit while FDR was courting her; this is where the Roosevelt children spent their summers growing up, and Eleanor came here later in life to write her memoirs, buoyed by the salt air, lack of telephones, and the natural beauty that is all around. There was no electricity on Campobello until 1948, and the kitchen still looks like it dates from the turn of the century.
I have a fondness for historical sites–it sparks the imagination to wonder what conversations, both ordinary and momentous, took place in these rooms. My dad and grandfather were great fans of FDR, and talked of him often when I was growing up. Even in those days, no one spoke much of FDR’s paralysis, which was so well hidden and carefully managed during his presidency. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t care for FDR–she used to refer to the WPA as “We Piddle Around” , for example— so we had very interesting dinner conversations when talk of the New Deal came up. Ultimately, I have come to admire Eleanor Roosevelt even more than her husband, both for the way she transformed herself and for her courage in advocating social positions that were far ahead of her time. A former neighbor now in her 90s, who I sometimes visit in her nursing home, talked of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt once in the 1940s: “Before she opened her mouth, she was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. And after she opened it, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.” Eleanor also proved that one can remain an active, contributing citizen until a very late age. As she said, “I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.” Good words to remember.