Fiddle-dee-dee! Isn't that Dandy?

Sunday, May 23, 2010 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Portland, ME to Ellsworth, ME
Since we arrived in Maine, we have seen an occasional sign advertising "Fiddleheads for Sale"-- sometimes outside a store, sometimes at a roadside stand.  Our initial reaction was, "Aren't fiddleheads some kind of fern?"  Of course, we dismissed that idea and thought maybe they were some kind of crab (yes, it's fiddler, not fiddlehead).
Finally today we were in a grocery store that had fiddleheads for sale in the produce department. We had the opportunity to talk with the produce manager who informed us that fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of a young fern harvested for food consumption.

Fiddleheads are a traditional dish of northern New England (predominantly Maine) in the United States, and of Quebec and the Maritimes in Canada. Though available regionally in some supermarkets and restaurants, fiddleheads aren't cultivated and are available only seasonally. In rural areas, fiddleheads are harvested by individuals in early spring.  We didn't buy any today.  Maybe another day.

Driving from Portland to the Acadia National Park region today, we came through the village of Searsport on Belfast Bay where we chanced upon a spectacular vision...a gorgeous field of dandelions at the Captain A.V. Nickels Inn. 
This grand old house was built by Captain Albert V. Nickels in 1874 for his wife, Elizabeth McGilvary, and their five children, later increased by three more. Captain Nickels was commander of several ships during his career including his last ship the infamous ''Iroquois'' built for her speed by Captain Nickels father-in-law, William McGilvary.
The old home has been used as a bed and breakfast and inn, once popular for weddings since it has a waterfront location.  It has changed hands several times in the last decade and is now offered for sale again.

We were quite impressed with two series of letterboxes we found today planted by the same person. Both were in state parks built around 18th or 19th century forts.
Both series commemorated features of the particular fort's history or construction.  The stamps were well done, the clues were just challenging enough, and we got walking tours of both parks.  Perfect!

Another unexpected find today was the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.  The original bridge (in the background) was built in 1931 with a main span 800 feet long. Called the most beautiful steel bridge when it opened, it was found to have serious structural faults in 2003 when Maine's DOT was in the midst of a major overhaul of the bridge. Severe corrosion was discovered in the cables, which had been hidden by protective sheathing. Engineers determined that the bridge could not be saved and a replacement would be required.
The Penobscot Bridge was built using new design technology which not only protects the cables but allows them to be inspected and even replaced individually. The cable goes down the center of the bridge with eastbound traffic on one side and westbound on the other.
The Penobscot Bridge site also is home to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in the top of the west tower, the first bridge observation tower in the United States and the tallest public bridge observatory in the world. The tower reaches 420 feet (42 stories) into the air and allows visitors to view the bridge and the Penobscot River and Bay.  (As is probably obvious, the photo above was taken from the tower.)

   Mailbox of the Day
Daily Stats:
Miles Driven: 177
Letterboxes: 11
Lighthouses: 1
High Temp: 65° F
Gas: $2.79
Dandelions: 11,893