Sleigh Rides and Sugar Shacks

I’m an expert in taking vacations at inconvenient times of year. Who goes to Spain in August? Or Maine in March? Besides me… of course. In my defense, my touring job doesn’t spoil me for choice. Taking time off requires my touring show to stay in one place for more than a week so I can pay someone to come out and replace me. At that point, when I go on vacation often depends more on the schedule/location of the show and less upon what days I’d really like off.

That said, I’m not working on a show anymore so technically I could go anywhere; but Maine was the closest scenic place for some good r&r and I also got the ocean and a lack of tourists clogging up the works. In case you were wondering, that’s why Maine and it just happened to be March at the tail end of the coldest snowiest winter in decades.

Good thing I have a fireplace in my room

1802 House fireplace

And while we’re on about the weather, I woke up today and it was snowing so a sleigh ride seemed completely reasonable, even though it’s the first official day of spring.

Doc and Joe

I went out with Rockin Horse Stables  pulled by Joe and Doc, their ginormous Belgian draft horses. 2000lb apiece with feet the size of dinner plates, in case you were wondering, and they pulled 10 adults across a field like it was nothing. It snowed the whole trip, there was at least a foot of snow under the sleigh and we had actual vintage fur pelts covering us in the sleigh.

me in maine

Felt very Little House on the Prairie even though it was basically a glorified trek across the field with the farm house in sight for most of the trip. However, I would do it again because it was snowing. In March. And I’m on vacation. Plus those horse were delightful and I got to feed them carrots.

Rockin' Horse Stables

The official opening of maple syrup season happens today and that’s the other banner event in March. Some of the sugar shacks cheated and opened yesterday so I drove up to Merrifield Farm to check it out

boiling syrup

The boiling syrup was kind of incredible. You could bathe a 10 year old in those iron vats. After you took out the syrup, of course. There were also some blacksmith demos and cows to pet, masses of maple cotton candy to eat and maple sugar creams to finish off the experience.

But that points up the real thing about Maine Maple Sunday: it’s all about the kids.

Kids on snow

With snow piles to climb and all that sugar, what kid wouldn’t love Maple Sunday?

Having no children, I had my ice cream topped with maple syrup

Merrifield Farm

Wandered a bit and then got back in the car. The drive up there through the back woods of Maine was worth the whole day so I’m not mad. I’ll see a few more sugar shacks today and let you know if I have anything else to say about maple syrup.

This sign from a local nursery as a final note:

I almost wet my plants

I actually laughed and turned the car around to take that picture.

But the best part of today is that I’m here voluntarily and I don’t have to be anywhere else. Cheers to that!

Buffalo to Kennebunkport

Spring is the time of plans and projects – Leo Tolstoy

Truer words…

I just left my job with Phantom of the Opera in Buffalo and took off on a road trip to Maine for a few days.  Weirdly, this trip is eerily similar to that time 3 years ago that I closed South Pacific and took a long epic road trip  at this same time of year and also from Buffalo.

It’s trying to be spring here in upstate New York. The snow is melting and the sun is out but it’s still in the 30s.

Upstate New York

Highlights from the last two days include breakfast with my friend Corey Polish on the last day of our third show together.

Spot coffee in Buffalo

SPoT coffee is an upstate New York chain ( I also like their Rochester location, which is in a converted auto show room). They do breakfast all day including excellent omelets and really spectacular coffee. If every local coffee chain was this good and this consistent, Starbucks would be out of business.

Super fresh spring rolls at a Thai food truck parked at a gas station in Brattleboro Vermont

Thai food truck in Vermont

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it’s 30 degrees outside and people are braving the weather to order from a food truck parked at a highway intersection, you’re best off stopping and getting something to eat. It’ll be worth it.

And it totally was. That sauce was garlicy and a little bit sweet with ginger and chili. Almost anyone can make a decent spring roll but great sauce is a different story. If you happen to be driving through Vermont on Route 9, make a stop at Taste of Thai.

And then finally an arrival to Kennebunkport Maine. Happy hour with a great book and a Cormac McCarthy loving bartender (and a photo of Kennebunkport natives…)

Ramp's bar & grill

Followed by a quintessential Maine dinner of mini lobster roll and lobster bisque at Alisson’s Restaurant
Alisson's RestaurantThe lobster roll was only ok. That’s been my reaction to most lobster rolls I’ve eaten this year so maybe I’m just not a fan? I don’t get it because I love lobster and will put mayonnaise on anything but they always seem soggy and flavorless. By contrast, the lobster bisque was phenomenal, rich, lush, creamy, lobstery… Perhaps I’ll give up the roll and stick with the soup.

I’ve spent the last two driving days taking two lane roads and trying to shake off the weight of the show. I think in many ways I’m trying to capture the sense of freedom and completion that I felt on my last road trip and trying to realign myself to the rest of the world. Fortunately, the seasons are with me in my transitional space

Budding trees in Vermont

I love spring in the north where winter is giving it up but it’s not quite warm and there’s still snow everywhere. When I got out of the car to take pictures I could hear water rushing under the ice and snow. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow but there are fresh buds on the trees. It’s winter’s last gasp.

I saw a dear friend of mine, the Celt, in Saratoga Springs last night. We had drinks, gossiped about our friends and told stories and I was again most thankful for the friend choices I made in my 20s. When we parted ways he texted me and said “Normally this is a curse, but I don’t think it is for you… may your life be interesting.”

May he be right.