Archive for the ‘Maine’ Category

Bicycle rides around the country, and the world

June 18, 2013

Here in North Carolina, our summer days are often too dang hot for bike riding, unless you get up at the crack o’ dawn (which we occasionally do). But in many parts of the country and certainly in northern Europe, where one of us hails from, this is the ultimate cycling season. To that end, some trips to inspire you.

201306_01_placestobikeFirst, check out the book “Fifty Places to Bike Before You Die,” by Chris Santella (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95). Santella is more editor than author — he enlists advice from a hosts of cyclists, from advocates to tour guides to writers. It’s a great read, and for cyclists like us, it’s like reading a dessert menu that spans the globe.

For those of us sticking closer to home, I wrote a list of cross-state bike rides for the Boston Globe that I’m reprinting here. As avid cyclists know, nearly every state these days offers some kind of multiple-day ride. Many are staged by volunteers or advocacy groups and are quite affordable, though, yeah, you’re not staying at the Four Seasons. For you luxury-minded riders, I suggest a trip with a commercial tour company, of which there are zillions. For the rest of us, check these out or Google your way to rides in your favorite states.

Participants of the Ride the Rockies

Participants of the Ride the Rockies


One of the most rugged cross-state tours, this year’s sold-out Colorado version (right), from Telluride to Colorado Springs, features three scenic mountain passes and 20,400 feet of climbing over 513 miles. June 8-15, (Some friends are about to embark on an awesome Colorado tour. I had to pass because of my work schedule. So sad.)


Inaugural weeklong event kicks off Sept. 7 with a challenging 400-mile loop starting in Orono and including stops in Belfast, Castine, Bar Harbor, and Bangor, with a cumulative elevation gain of 24,000 feet. Routes will change yearly.



The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, an annual seven-day, 470-mile ride in July, is the oldest (since 1972), largest, and longest bicycle touring event in the world. Day passes available. July 21-27, (I did this in 2005.  What a blast!!!!!!!! Make sure you train for it!)


This year’s tour, themed “Pines to Vines,” takes 250 riders from near the Canadian border north of Spokane south to the Hood River with about 21,000 feet of climbing and spectacular scenery. Aug. 3-10,

Logo of the 2013 Bike Florida tour

Logo of the 2013 Bike Florida tour


The 20th anniversary ride, in early spring 2014, will showcase northeast Florida’s back roads, trails, and beaches. Dates and stops to be determined.


In the shadow of the Pilgrims

November 17, 2011

Original and still-grand entrance to Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

We’re tooling around New England the week of Thanksgiving, and while we won’t be in Plymouth channeling the Pilgrims, we will be on the move. Here’s what I can’t wait to see (not counting my friends, of course!) Downtown Brattleboro, Vt. Specifically I’m curious about the after-flood effects, hoping that recovery has been going strong. The expanded DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass., long one of my favorite spots in metro Boston. My old house in Quincy and downtown Quincy, which I’ve read is being redeveloped in a major way. The mightily expanded Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; I’m really eager to see that one. Finally, in Portland, Maine, the ever-evolving downtown. We’re also taking the ferry to Peaks Island, which I managed to never do when I lived in New England. Away we go!

When you bee in need of mead

April 5, 2010

Ben Alexander next to the tall columns for the fermentation process

When Wessel and I were in Maine a couple weeks ago we made a point to visit Maine Mead Works in downtown Portland. I was impressed that they really live up to their “or by appointment” declaration with visits other than regularly scheduled tours. I called ahead and owner Ben Alexander made time for us outside of their regular hours, not knowing I was doing a piece for the Boston Globe. (Yes, I told him when we arrived!) Here’s the story, which ran in the Travel section of yesterday’s Globe:

PORTLAND, Maine — Workers were busy as bees the day we visited Maine Mead Works, housed inconspicuously in an industrial section of downtown. Inside the 800-square-foot space, two young men were bottling the signature blueberry mead, a caterer had stopped by to pick up a case of the in-demand beverage for a culinary event at the Portland Art Museum that evening, and owner Ben Alexander was preparing his deliveries for the day. Those alone keep him busy — these days Maine Mead Works’ HoneyMaker mead is sold in 150 shops and restaurants throughout the state and shipped to more than a dozen other states.

Maine Mead Works can produce 500 to 750 bottles a week

If your notion of mead is a thick, syrupy liquid consumed at Renaissance fairs, Alexander, 34, would like to have a word with you.

“People expect we’ll be serving mead in a skull-like mug that you need both hands to hold,” he said. “The perception is that it’s always cloying and sticky, something you only want a few sips of. But we’re one of the few meads that is really more like wine.” That includes the alcohol content of 12.5 percent.

To help educate the masses, Maine Mead Works offers regular tastings and tours, where visitors can see every step of the mead-making process — except the bees.

Mead, “mankind’s oldest drink,” as Alexander likes to say, is a simple concoction made with 20 percent honey and 80 percent water. The honey, primarily goldenrod from northern Maine, comes from Swan’s Honey in Albion.

Meadery makes dry and semi-sweet meads

Maine Mead Works started in 2007, when Alexander, a technology entrepreneur, partnered with Eli Cayer, a hobby mead maker, beekeeper, and community organizer. (While Cayer is still a co-owner, he recently left to start his own mead-making operation.) The two men turned to pioneering mead maker Garth Cambray, a South African scientist. Cambray, an expert in advanced mead-making systems, supplied Maine Mead Works with its initial yeast and taught Cayer and Alexander his “continuous fermentation process.”

Visitors can see where the mixture of honey and water, which is called must, is pumped into the fermentation room. Within 24 hours, 85 percent of the sugars in the must are fermented into alcohol. The process takes place in eight five-foot-tall tubes; production can be expanded by adding tubes. For now, the meadery can produce 500 to 750 bottles a week.

After the must is fermented, it is then pumped into maturation barrels, where it’s aged. The must-to-bottle process typically takes six to eight weeks, Alexander said.

Ben serves mead not in globlets but in nice glass tumblers during the tasting session

We were eager to taste the stuff, which comes in three varieties — dry, semi-sweet, and blueberry. Special flavors are made throughout the year, including one that was still on hand, the “applecisor,” made with apple cider instead of water. Other seasonal flavors include cranberry and lavender.

As Alexander promised, the mead, served in nice glass tumblers, not Medieval-looking goblets, is much closer to wine than syrup. The dry is a tad sweet, but not very, and the semi-sweet is just that. The plucky blueberry has a touch of tannin from the berry skins. We preferred the dry and semi-sweet, and bought several bottles for ourselves and friends.

“These varieties will taste different in another batch because the honey changes from season to season,” Alexander said.

I guess we’ll have to come back and see for ourselves.

Maine Mead Works, 200 Anderson Street, Portland, 207-773-6323, Free tastings and tours are held 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday or by appointment (hours may vary seasonally). Bottles (750 milliliters) cost $14 to $16.

In the Maine woods, with snow and wine

March 8, 2010

Here we go! Wessel snowshoes to the hut carrying a backpack and skis

While spring is in the air (yay!), my thoughts are still with the winter wonderland we recently submerged ourselves in at Maine Huts and Trails, near Maine’s western mountains. For now, the four-season system contains 30 miles of trails and two full-service off-the-grid lodges, or “huts.” At some point, it hopes to grow to a dozen lodges covering 180 miles. You can go to one at a time, or hike or ski between them. And, yes, the ski trail is groomed.

I learned about it last year, when one of my professional organizations, the Society of American Travel Writers, gave Maine Huts a Phoenix Award for outstanding conservation efforts. As an awards judge, I read detailed information about the environmental practices, including solar energy, geothermal heating, and composting toilets (love those!). I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.

A glimpse of Flagstaff Lake Hut through the woods. Lodge is more like it

Wessel and I were there the last two days of February for a Washington Post travel story, so I’ll save the details for that. We aren’t strong skiers, so decided to stay at one hut and explore around there instead of attempting to ski 10 miles to the other hut. We chose Flagstaff Lake Hut over Poplar Stream Falls Hut because it’s a flat area. For ski weenies like us (especially me), the cross-country skiing from that lodge was non-life-threatening and sublime.

The hardest part of the weekend was the hour-long schlep in from the car on snowshoes, carrying loaded backpacks with our skis and poles strapped on the back. Agony. Most skiers just ski the 1.7 miles in from the parking lot, but I would have ended up like a turtle on my back, yelling at Wessel to please roll me over and set me upright again.

Diane skis over bridge across creek

We were lucky to have nice temps (high 30s!) with fresh snow both nights, so the mornings before the meltdown were transformative. The world was all white, with snow weighing down the branches and covering the ground. We had a blast skiing on the gentle trail that runs along the lake, which, in the summer, you can swim in. Closer to the lodge, we snowshoed out to a piece of land jutting into the lake. Dunes of wind-swept snow rose along the banks and a white backdrop shone as far as the eye could see. Sublime.

Beauty from the banks of Flagstaff Lake

The cost is about $75 a person per night for a private room and a yummy breakfast and dinner. As of this winter, the huts can also serve beer and wine. Woo-hoo! The rooms range from three beds to family size and are pretty stark, but staying inside isn’t the point here. While I think anytime but mud season or black-fly season would be a draw, if you can come when there’s snow, you will be enchanted. That’s a promise.


Sweets for the sweet (that’s you!)

May 6, 2009

This just in (June 2009)! Dean’s Sweets won  a “Best of New England 2009” award  from Yankee Magazine and a “Best of Portland” 2009 award from the Portland Phoenix. Yee-haw!!!!

Dear Chocolate fans (i.e. the world),

Truffles from Dean`s Sweets

They're as good as they look

I know this is hard to believe, but I’m going to keep this short and sweet, just like Dean’sSweets’ “extraordinary hand-dipped” truffles.

That description is taken from the ad copy, yes. But it’s true! These amazing truffles are sold at a store in the historic seaport of Portland, Maine, and online. Dean’sSweets says Mother’s Day is a great time to buy truffles. I say: ANY day is a great day to buy truffles.

Kristin Thalheimer and Dean Bingham in their new store on 82 Middle Street in Portland, Maine

Dean Bingham and his lovely assistant, Kristin Thalheimer

Now here’s my full disclosure. I know Dean (Bingham) and his sweet and lovely wife, Kristin. But here’s my other disclosure. If I didn’t love Dean’s truffles, no way would I be singing their praises. And I’m not doing it to get a free lifetime supply of truffles because, guess what? I already basically have one. In fact, I’ve been wanting to write about the “new” store, which opened in November, but it’s taken Dean and Kristin this long to get photos to me. Why? Because they’re so busy making and selling truffles, of course!

I’ve always loved, loved, loved chocolate, and when I tasted my first Dean’sSweets truffle, I was in heaven. But then I thought, maybe all truffles taste like this and these are nothing special. So I started tasting truffles at every opportunity. And here’s the outcome of my reporting: Dean’s are indeed very, very special. Dean, a professional, working architect, is as precise and artistic with his little chocolate creations as he is with his much bigger buildings.

Kristin and Dean in their new store on 82 Middle Street in Portland, Maine

Kristin and Dean are waiting for you at 82 Middle Street in Portland, Maine

Dean makes a bunch of flavors, including cinnamon, ginger, orange, coffee, cayenne, and many, many more. For a while I was hooked on cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger. But lately I’ve been loving plain old plain — just the chocolate, thank you. Another of his draws is he uses NO nut products. Personally, I’m nuts for nuts, too, but I realize many of y’all are allergic, and that is a crying shame.

Nicole Chaisson`s Hausfrau graphics decorate the store front

Nicole Chaisson makes her mark at Dean`sSweets

Here’s a cool aside, or maybe even a main/Maine event for you. Artist, and author Nicole Chaisson of Hausfrau Muthah-zine fame, will have her art and ‘zines on the walls and on hand at the shop for a spell. Nicole has a Hausfrau graphic novel coming out next month. Woo-hoo!.

So, OK, this wasn’t so short, but it was sweet. Visit Dean and Kristin in Portland, or order some truffles online. I swear to the goddess of chocolate, you will not be disappointed.

Little Jack’s big adventure in Maine

March 25, 2009

From Di’s eyes: This warms my heart and makes me wish I had known either of my grandfathers.

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Feb. 15, 2009, in the Boston Globe)

A grassy lawn is a great place for 5-year old Jack Tuttle to get bike-riding lessons

A grassy lawn is a great place for 5-year old Jack Tuttle to get bike-riding lessons

WHO: Barry Solar, 67, of Boston, and his grandson Jack Tuttle, 5, of Brookline, Mass.

WHERE: Round Pond, Maine.

WHEN: One week in August.

WHY: “My wife and I took Jack there [the summer before] just for a weekend. He really liked it. He called it his vacation.”

JUST THE GUYS: Solar and his wife, Judith, had planned to take Jack together. But when she had to work at the last minute, it became a grandfather-grandson outing.

ON THE WATERFRONT: “I’d rented a townhouse in a complex called Spinnaker Landing. It’s on several acres on a peninsula. We were right on the water. At high tide if you looked down from the bedrooms you saw water. It’s right on a working harbor with a lot of lobster fishing.”

SUMMER SCHOOL: Solar had some important things to teach Jack: rock skipping and bike riding. “Every day I showed him how to skip rocks. We’d go down to the little rocky beach.” In a large grassy area near their townhouse, he helped Jack cycle without training wheels. “I do a lot of biking and I’m encouraging him to learn how to ride a two-wheeler. I had to keep saying, pedal, pedal. He couldn’t believe he could ride.”

NIGHT LIFE: Almost nightly, they’d eat at the Anchor Inn Restaurant. “It’s right on the water, with a screen porch. It’s fabulous,” Solar said. “[On the earlier trip] Jack fell in love with this waitress, named Paige. She still works there, and they hugged when they saw each other. We always sat at her table. She would let Jack help write up the check on the computer. After dinner, Jack, who can’t see stars in Brookline, loved finding the Big Dipper from the parking lot.”

BEFRIENDED: They toured the Damariscotta region daily, taking in sights on land and at sea. “One day we took the Maine Eastern Railroad from Wiscasset to the end of line in Rockland. Jack started talking to a boy his age and they played all day.” The same thing happened on a boat tour. With Hardy Boat Cruises out of New Harbor, they motored to Eastern Egg Rock to view puffins. “You think they’re going to be huge from the pictures, but they’re very small,” Solar said.

One of Jack’s favorite stops was Granite Hall Store

One of Jack’s favorite stops was Granite Hall Store

FROM THE OLD DAYS: One of Jack’s favorite stops, remembered from the previous summer, was Granite Hall Store in Round Pond. “We went a couple times,” Solar said. “It’s a really old store and has candy and toys and gifts, and on the side there’s an ice cream shop.”