A New Thanksgiving Road Trip Tradition

Wile away the miles with notes of thanks.

Tommy read about a wonderful idea in Highlights Magazine, which we tried at the FamilyRoadTripper household this year: The Thankful Jar. The idea is to put a label a jar that says something like "Our Thankful Jar" at the beginning of November. Place a little pad of paper and a pencil nearby. Whenever you think of something that you're thankful for, write a thankful note and place it in the Thankful Jar. Then, during your road trip to Thanksgiving Dinner, open the Thankful Jar and read the notes. You can take turns reading if you want to.

Some of the notes we opened this year:
I'm thankful for apple pie
I'm thankful for my husband
I'm thankful that we have such a wonderful home
I'm thankful for whoever is reading this
I'm thankful for Spiderman 3
I'm thankful that my family forgives me when I make mistakes
I'm thankful that my family believes in me
I am thankful for Thanksgiving
I'm thankful for our health!
I'm thankful for strawberry and banana pancakes!
I am thankful for my children
I am thankful for the planet we live on

What are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving Memories

The Familyroadtrippers blog was featured a couple of days ago in a Portland Press Herald article about Thanksgiving road trip memories. Tom Bell, the author of the article, stumbled across this post about my most memorable Thanksgiving, a road trip to Maine through a snow storm to have a wonderful diner at my Grandparent's house.

Carved into memories

The excitement of travel and traditions of families can create vivid experiences that last a lifetime.

It was a Thanksgiving travel nightmare for his mother, but Daniel Morrison still remembers it as a "magical" journey.

He was 5 years old, riding in the back seat of a rusted-out Volkswagen Beetle as his mom drove from Massachusetts to Belfast. They ran into a surprise snowstorm and ended up staying overnight in a hotel somewhere north of Portland. The next day, he arrived at his grandparents' farmhouse just in time for the Thanksgiving feast.

"I always think of that particular Thanksgiving," said Morrison, now 43. "When you are driving through the night in a blizzard and the wind is whipping through the floorboards, it carves its way into memory."


Thanks for the plug Tom!

Upper Penobscott Bay, part 2: Bucksport, Maine

Bucksport has great attractions: A haunted, spooky grave, a huge granite and grass fort, and an observatory that's 42 stories high

North of Belfast and Searsport is a little town called Bucksport on the Penobscott River which is guarded by Fort Knox. The fort was built in the middle if the 19th century to deter British invasion (the Redcoats closed off the river twice -- during the Revolution and the War of 1812).
The bridge over the Penobscott River has recently been replaced and the new one features the fastest elevator in Maine shooting up to an observatory that offers views spanning from Camden in the south to Mount Katahdin in the northwest. But there's more than a fort and a bridge to Bucksport.
There's a legend.

Begin with the curse of Johnathan Buck
The town of Bucksport is named after Col. Jonathan Buck, a Revolutionary war hero and one of the first settlers of the area in 1762. After the British seized the "plantation" to choke off the lumber communities up river (Bangor among them) from supporting the colonists in the revolt, the town lay dormant. It was resettled after we whooped the king.

But there's more to the story. A whole spooky-lot more. Look at the stocking foot on Col Buck's grave stone. Where did this come from? How could it appear even after replacing the original stone? The curse of Johnathan Buck first appeared in the Haverhill (Massachusetts, Buck's home town) Gazette on Marsh 22, 1899:

"Jonathan Buck was a Puritan to whom witchcraft was anathema. When a woman was accused of witchcraft, he sentenced her to be executed. Then according to the paper, "the hangmen was about to perform his gruesome duty when the woman turned to Col. Buck and raising one hand to heaven, as if to direct her last words on earth, pronounced this astounding prophecy: ‘Jonathan Buck, listen to these words, the last my tongue will utter. It is the spirit of the only true and living God which bids me speak them to you. You will soon die. Over your grave they will erect a stone that all may know where your bones are crumbling into dust. But listen, upon that stone the imprint of my feet will appear, and for all time, long after you and you accursed race have perished from the earth, will the people from far and wide know that you murdered a woman. Remember well, Jonathan Buck, remember well."
Many other variations of this tale are here.

Burn off some steam at America's First Fort Knox!
The other Fort Knox is near Louisville, Kentucky and is full of gold, so you can't run around and play. Fortunately, this Fort Knox is mostly empty, save for some cannons, so running through the battlements and over the grass is perfectly acceptable.

After the drive to Bucksport and viewing the spooky grave, it'll be about time for lunch, the fort is a great place for a picnic. To make it easy, pick up a couple of sandwiches, or (lobster rolls) across the river in Bucksport and bring them over to the fort. Explore for a half hour until you find a picnic spot and then let the kids loose.

If you're a photography freak, bring a tripod for interior shots (it's dark in there and flash doesn't always do justice to what you're looking at). Which reminds me, bring a flashlight. Or two or one for each of you. If the kids each have a flashlight, they'll be busy running around the dark spots and it'll be easier to scare the pants off them in the dark, dark prisoner cells...

Top off the day way up over the bay (well, river to be exact)
One of three bridge observatories in the world, the Penobscott Narrows Observatory has one of the the best views in the state (world?). The other two are in Thailand and Bankok. This 420 foot tall observation tower is part of the new bridge that runs next to the old bridge offering a structural contrast of 20th and 21st century bridge building. Open and accessible to all from May through October, you buy a ticket at Fort Knox, across the river.

Tip: Good place for Leaf-peeping!

Upper Penobscott Bay: Belfast and Bayside, Maine

Belfast and Bayside have everything except crowds.

Camden, Rockport, and Rockland area are nice, but let's face it -- they're crowded. Sometimes they're very crowded (usually). Among the best sailing, but also great places to explore, eat, shop, and drive around. There is even a lighthouse to visit.

As a kid, I spent summers in the cottage we bought from my great Aunt Alice in Northport. In a community called Temple Heights Spiritualist Camp (there are Spiritualist meetings each night during the summer). We weren't Spiritualists, and there weren't many kids in Temple Heights, just a bunch of old people going to Spiritualist meetings.

Up the dirt road three miles was a community called Bayside, which is another settlement of Victorian cottages, but with many more kids. And a playground. And we spent a lot of time there each summer. A dock with both a swimming float and a boating float, a playground, basketball court, beach, and big grassy hill provided almost more entertainment options that a bunch of kids could exhaust. Nowadays, the dirt road is asphalt and not nearly as desolate. But it's still a pretty drive (or bike ride).

Further up the road maybe 10 miles is Belfast, the city of this section of Maine Coast. Belfast has had a bit of a renaissance in the past couple of decades. But the Gothic Revival buildings downtown and Greek Revival sea captain's houses have always been classic. The working waterfront (lead photo) has a couple of tugboats, a breakwater, a long grassy park for goofing around in, and a seafood restaurant.

There are also plenty of opportunities for shopping with art galleries, gift stores, clothing and the oldest shoe store in America, Colburn's Shoe Store, where I used to buy my shoes as a kid. Come to think of it, I suppose I ought to stop in and buy a pair of Hush Puppies next time I'm in town.

Keep rambling up the road to Searsport, an old fishing town with some of the most beautiful houses you'll see along the Maine coast. Before you make it to Searsport though, stop in to Perry's Nut House across the river in Belfast. The kids will love it. If you like looking at architecture, spend a little time tooling around Searsport. You can also stop in to Treasures and Trash, an antique/junk store in a big red barn.

Shadow Puppets: Dog

Tom shows us how to make a dog shadow puppet.

The video is a little dark, but I think you'll get the process if you watch it a couple of times...

Barf Bag from Family Road Trippers

Name the place in the Find this Place posts and you can win a custom made barf bag from FamilyRoadTrippers. They're sure to become collector's items.

If you'd like to win a custom Ralf Pack, just identify the location of one of the Find This Place photos. Stephen, from airsicknessbags.com, asked for a sample barf bag even though he didn't know where the monster rock is, nor did he even vote in any of my polls at left. I'm sending the bag in the photo at right to Steve for his collection, but I'm a little disappointed that he couldn't find the answer. After all, it's somewhere on this blog.

And I must say, I'm a little disappointed in Steve and the other viewers of this blog for not voting in the polls. About 10 - 20 people visit each day and only 5 have voted in two of the polls and eight voted in another. I even added the first poll as an ice-breaker...

Please vote early and often!