Inspired by Stephen King Country – Maine

Stephen King and Maine inspired me when visiting two weeks ago, but probably not the way that you think. It’s the perfect state for King to live in and produce books. A certain kind of books. Horror. Sometimes vacations aren’t at all what we expect.

Our first stop on the tour of Maine.

After flying into Bangor for our 30th wedding anniversary, Danny and I rented a car and drove right to his house. Okay. That sounds super creepy and stalkerish, but it’s a town landmark. Go ahead. Google, Bangor Landmarks. It’s on the list along with Paul Bunyan’s statue, (Dang, missed that one), and the Bangor Historical Society, with Chipotle Mexican Grill at the top of the list. Bangor has a population of 32,000.

As I drove up West Broadway, there were several cars parked along the wide avenue. Some voyeurs took pictures through the glass of their vehicles. Not us. We walked up to King’s gate. The wrought iron contained a spider and web, a dragon, and a capital K, just in case you weren’t sure if you had the right address. Exposed to the street, the home seemed to invite onlookers, as opposed to the house next door which hid behind a thicket of bushes and trees. The weather was perfect. Drizzling with a touch of fog.

Stephen King's House

Then we ate lunch in downtown Bangor. An advertisement for a play at the Penobscot Theater hung in the window. My favorite of all of Stephen King’s work, MISERY would open on Thursday night! We bought tickets for a mere twenty-seven dollars. I wondered if The Man himself would be in the audience.

In the meantime, we explored Bar Harbor, Bucksport, Camden, and Rockland and found a few bookstores. Each had a section set aside for Stephen King’s books. Some were like shrines.

A storefront in Bangor advertising Stephen King Tours.

IT displayed in Bangor store window

“He’s prolific,” said a young waiter. “He writes every day and sticks to a routine.”

Curious, I looked it up. According to an article written for Open Culture, King ritualizes writing time like some prepare for bedtime.

He’s quoted as saying in Lisa Rogak’s Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King:

“I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”

Maine is a summer vacation destination.

We arrived in October! Somehow, we didn’t get the memo.

Some shops and restaurants had already shuttered. We stayed at the gorgeous West Street Hotel in Bar Harbor and discovered nearly the entire island including the hotel would close in another week or two.

Until then, cruise ships deposited eight to ten thousand people on shore EVERY DAY! Older people filled the sidewalks, gift shops and restaurants in the quaint downtown. Sometimes I led Danny into the street to pass them.

Because of the older median age of the tourists, warning signs lined the trail in Acadia National Park.

What steep grade and sharp curve?

Quaint meaning super dinky.

After leaving Acadia, I looked up towns to visit. A blog post with Prettiest Towns in Maine came up at the top of the feed. I perused the list. Portland was too far away and so was Kennebunkport. Blue Hill was sort of on our way back to Bangor. We arrived and drove past a gas station, a co-op, a gift shop, cafe, and beautiful harbor surrounded by nicely tended homes and yards. We drove back and asked a customer coming out of the store with a bag of groceries. “Where’s the downtown?” I asked.

“This is it,” he said.

Most of the towns were like that. We rarely saw fishermen on the lakes or active boats in the harbor. I had always dreamed of going to Maine to embody Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote and ride my bike. We only saw one biker since the hills were killer.

Every town seemed to hold its collective breath.

I thought fall color would be at its peak.

Because of warm and dry weather, most leaves were still green and many had already dropped. That happened in the Colorado mountains last fall. We arrived on their first rainy day.

We found colorful landscapes in Acadia.

Fall in Acadia

We encountered more cemeteries than people.

We could drive for miles and never see another vehicle or police car. The entire population of the state is around 1.3 million.

One of many cemeteries in Maine

Between the ghostly quiet towns and the huge expanse of undeveloped forested areas, goosebumps rose on my arms more than once.

I described the isolation to my son who said, “Maybe it will inspire you to write a book. It sounds like a great place for serial killers.” Right after his comment, I noticed Patterson’s new book, HAUNTED, about this particular variety of killer set in Maine. He must have traveled there in October.

 

Winters are tough. The state depends on summer tourism. We ran into an enthusiastic local in Acadia National Park who raved about wintering among the shuttered towns. “We sled and cross country ski. It’s beautiful in the winter.” The Mainers were very friendly, positive people reminiscent of the Midwesterners I grew up with. We really enjoyed meeting them.

MISERY in Bangor.

On Thursday night, the Penobscot Theater filled and the lights dimmed. After the first few lines, the words, “I’m your biggest fan,” were uttered by the character, Annie Wilkes played by AJ Moonie while grateful and drugged out Paul Sheldon, played by James Konicek, groaned in pain. Moonie nailed Kathy Bates’ portrayal of the deranged nurse and I could almost see James Caan in Konicek’s pained expressions as the crippled victim.

Here’s what surprised me.

In the super intense parts of the play where Annie became brutally violent, the crowd tittered, giggled, and a couple guffawed. Every time someone made a bodily sound it woke me from MISERY’s spell.

When I mentioned it to my son, he remarked that sometimes people react inappropriately when fearful. The scenes were super realistic. I cringed several times, so that could be true.

I’ve been to children’s productions where the audience showed more respect to a cast by not talking. Maybe Mainers don’t get to the theaters very often where we are all instructed to sit quietly. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.

It didn’t throw off the actors. They never missed a beat. Maybe they’ve witnessed this many times before. The small ensemble cast of three would make Stephen King proud.

We scanned the audience but King didn’t make it to that night’s performance. I’m sure he will take a stroll to the theater sometime between now and November 5th. I bet he’ll love it. We did!

Inspired by vacationing.

The irony of the setting hit me afterward. King chose Colorado for MISERY, even though I found Maine a better location in many ways. I could imagine super fan, Annie Wilkes, lurking in a clapboard house under the canopy of gnarled oaks just waiting for her chance. Both places endure winters with lots of snow.

Stephen King and I almost physically ran into each other many years ago in a fitness club. We both said, “Oops, sorry,” and kept walking. At the time, he consulted on the mini-series, THE SHINING which took place at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. THE STAND took place in Boulder. He must have been inspired by his trips to Colorado. His latest release, SLEEPING BEAUTIES, co-written with his son, Owen, takes place in a poor Appalachian town. Perfect.

Danny and I almost left Maine a day early. Instead, we drove to Camden, one of the highlights of our trip. I took this photo as we headed out of town.

The harbor in Camden, Maine

Life being ironic, as usual, we got stuck at the airport due to thunderstorms in Chicago and a stubborn baggage door. We had to stay an extra day!

Instead of flying through Chicago that Sunday, we traveled through New York. I remembered my son’s words when starting the four-hour trip home from JFK. “Maybe Maine will inspire you…”

I pulled out my cell phone and began to write.

Maine highway

~~~

Have you ever gone on vacation with completely different expectations? What’s your favorite King novel? Have you seen IT in the theater?

Related posts:

Invaded and Homeless in Paris: Photo Essay

21 Thrilling Movies for Halloween!

Haunted in Bruges! Photo Essay

Haunted at the Stanley Hotel

 

68 thoughts on “Inspired by Stephen King Country – Maine

  1. What a Great Adventure and to take in Misery too! Maine is on my list to explore – HUGE King Fan and Mystery reader. I have come upon a few places in my travels that I thought okay let’s check it out and then proceeded to fall in love with its natural beauty, uniqueness, specialness, etc. Thanks so much for sharing – Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

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  2. I have always wanted to visit Maine…my husband and I are having trouble deciding if we want to visit there via cruise or car….decisions decisions Ps…that “Vote For Pennywise” sign is awesome! My son decided to dress as him this year for Halloween!

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  3. I had that happen when I saw Catching Fire…people were laughing and generally having fun, and the Hunger Games movies aren’t comedies. I blew it off as being a small town girl in a big city theater.

    My favorite book of his is Lisey’s Story and my favorite collection is Full Dark, No Stars (of which I believe the new movies 1922 is the opener). Never been interested in It, and I have yet to read Misery. (I’m in a phase where I keep putting off his books for some reason…it’s lasted for over a year…)

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  4. We have been wanting to visit Maine in the fall, Thanks for the tip about the cruise lines. I would not want to be there with all those “tourists” milling about. We travel most places off season, take back roads, and keep away from “tourist spots” as much as possible anyway.

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    • I had no idea! Fall is tricky. Just like anywhere else, there is a range of peak color. Mother Nature is so unpredictable! We thought we might be too late but came too early. Oh, well! Camden isn’t on the cruise list so it was perfect for visiting. Many of its shops would close too.
      Let me know how you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Maine. My mother lived there before she moved to New Hampshire. She met my wonderful stepfather there. I’ve driven past Stephen King’s house too. It’s very cool. Love the bats on the fence!

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    • Thanks, Jay!
      I agree! What is wrong with people? Especially when it can be distracting to the actors. One guy squeaked his shoe throughout the whole play. Why???
      The play was terrific though. I hope Stephen King watches it. I’ll have to check his tweets!

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  6. This sound so amazing. I’m glad you and your husband had an amazing time in Maine home of Stephen King. I recently purchased Stephen King’s new book Sleeping Beauties featured his son Owen King. I didn’t start reading it yet. But I will and do a full book review on it. This was an awesome blog post to read.

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  7. I loved Maine in the summer. I lived in Connecticut and it was an easy drive. We stayed at the Colony in Kennebunkport and tried to work our way to a window table at dinner. I think we were about twenty seasons short of making it. Have some lovely paintings of local artists like John Gable.

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  8. You guys go on the neatest vacations. Great photos. I’m a big chicken when it comes to horror, so the only Stephen King book I’ve read is Insomnia. It’s not too scary, but it’s really good. Happy 30th Anniversary to you and Danny. I got a kick out of that picture of him in front of the “Danger” sign. Really interesting post, Susie. I still can’t get over your last post, though, and the haunted room. You’re way braver than I am!

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    • Strange things happen to me for some reason. Ha!
      I had no idea that most of the population was coastal. When we drove to Bangor and back, we would see very few cars. The second night, we stayed in Ellsworth at a time-share and thought about how super dinky it was. At the end of the week, I realized it was huge compared to all the tiny towns we drove through.

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    • I will! I’ve heard of it. I started Joe Hill’s new book, Strange Weather last night. He’s the other King son. Tons of people come during summer and the state booms. The party was over by the time we arrived!!!
      Thanks Jennifer!

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  9. I liked ‘Thinner’ and the movie as well. But there is a lot I cannot read and movies seens I cannot watch because of my past bad experiences.

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      • When I was a boy my Parents sent me back east alone on a plane to spend 12 weeks of the summer of ‘1967’ residing with Aunt disgusting (who was my father’s sister) and her cruel and pedophile husband ‘Uncle Creepy’. That was a frightening very lone 12 weeks’ I was never touched but I seen some horrible things’. That was the true ‘It’ experience. Even though I was not touched aside from him putting a loaded old navy cult .41 caliber pistol up side of my head, and threatening me just to see me freak out. Watching my girl cousin at times in sheer shock, unable to speak and tears welling up. That was enough for me to have nightmares for a long time, I hated that man for decades and when he finally got his Karma as Prostate rot and died a long slow painful end. I still had anger and fought with thoughts like traveling there at night and digging his grave up and ejecting him from the Christian Grave Yard. Uncle creepy didn’t touch boys but her sure messed up a lot of little girls, and still in their adult lives after he was lone gone they still have serious issues coping in life.
        That’s why I make it damn clear that I hate Pedophiles. The last time we visited my Dad, my wife and I flew back east together to see my Grandmother, my Dad’s mother’ the Creepy’s showed up for a visit, we all sat upon the front porch pouring sweat from the humidity and my wife looks down and then wide eyed nudged me and got me to look at the man’s walking cane he was holding. The man had carved about thirty plus Labia Majors and Minors (to put it politely) into that walking stick, my wife and I freaked out. I stood up, told my father we were leaving and now so get me and my wife on a plane and out of this state now! And we left I said good bye to my grandmother and never went back writing those people off as disowned. But it wasn’t the first time that I have disowned people in my life. I have truly experienced non fictional Stephen king stories.
        I am half a century old and I have gone through and have seen a lot. And being a sensitive as you, I had an N. Irish Girlfriend that saw dead people and she would tell me some frightening events. I have been researching the time period of 1870s’ and the history of Cerro Gordo and Inyo County, I have come across some mentioned haunting that occurred in the 1871 built American Hotel up on the Mountain where I encountered the cold spot in the same hotel and the badly diseased ghoulish nude women specter I encountered by the road in the middle of the day on the way out and back down that mountain. That the all the real life Horror I never want to endure again. Yes people scare me.

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          • That’s why Uncle Creepy put the Gun to my head, because his daughter that he and another Pedophile were raping had severe Stockholm syndrome, (look that up.) I told her I was going to tell someone, and two nights later I was in the living room and uncle creepy’ rushes over to me grabs me by the arm and shoves a cold steel .41 caliber pistol to my head, and told be if anyone finds him out, he was going to spray my brains across the room. I was kid, an eight year old scared boy, I had no one to tell or turn to, not to mention I feared my father and his entire opportunistic thieving gun hording opportunistic hick Billy inbreed family. My Step mother and father were far from ok people. I fear them, she would lie, and I would be beaten and thrown across the room stunned and broken. I was beaten at four for asking to go out and swing upon the swing set, I ask her more than once and she went hostile and called him home from work. When he drove up I was opening closets for an exit out of the house, I tore down everything on hangers trying to escape him while she laughed. And I just asked to out to swing. My Life was nothing but King novels man.

            My sister Patty told me she has no idea how I survived those evil people, or how I turned out ok in the end. I think I just hold a lot un said, and live life as best I can with what I got, and I was isolated from them, which protected me, which protected me from them, if it wasn’t for a tiny black & White TV, and for the cast of Gilligan’s Isle and of the Adams Family and Barbra Eden, and Elvira. The outer limits. I would have lost my sanity fell into depression and lost my and will to go on, a long time ago. But knowing that all I went through in 13 years, it was nothing in comparison to what so many other children are going through. Both I and my wife had a very poor and hard upbringing, and really mean fathers. If any one new what my Parents and Uncle Creepy were doing, what kind of non parents they were and the crap that pulled and pain they inflicted today, they would have been prosecuted.

            I can tell you a story about ‘uncle creepy’ paring the graphic details and your hackles with rise and you soul will scream out, and it is a event that would scare the hell out of Mr. Stephen King. Uncle creepy was thee ‘It’. King couldn’t come even close to writing Uncle Creepy as a Frighten horror character. And this is in my head, because I lived it. His appearance was tight flesh pulled over his skull, pointed nose, and his skin was gray tone, the kind of gray tone like that of Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish’ The Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wisteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac, ‘The Boogey Man’. And those are the titles I would deem ‘Uncle Creepy’. Did uncle creepy killed or eat children? I cannot answer that because I never witnessed it.

            But there was one day, one event that I will never forget, neither will his victims my Cousin Kate and the Other ‘Gray Man’ young daughter. That had to be the most frightening day I have had, aside from the Summer’s day encounter upon Cerro Gordo and that Being that was in our bedroom that night in 63’ that was the encounter that almost killed me. But Uncle Creepy, proved himself far beyond frightening and that one summer day, was a nightmare. I have never seen anyone as messed up and in shock as my cousin Kate was… And she had to life with that creepy pedophile all of her childhood. One year we drove back east to a visit, I didn’t recognize my cousin, she cropped her hair, she wore Boys clothing. Decades later she told me it was in hopes that her father would lose ‘interest’ in her and leave her alone. It didn’t work the Gray man was far too twisted. Uncle Creepy was just far from ok, he was a sex maniac.

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  10. Great post Susie. Certainly get that eerie vibe just by looking at your photos. I would have found it very odd indeed if I was in that theater as well. Like you said the actors must be totally used to this reaction from the crowd. 🙂

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  11. Will I get thrown out of here if I admit that I’ve never read one Stephen King book? I know people are ga-ga about him, but I dunno… meh. That being admitted, I’d love to visit Maine. I was there when I was a girl, but as your post shows it’s more sophisticated now. Theatre? Cruise ships? Whatever has happened to it!

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    • I felt like we arrived just after the party ended. I would check to see where else the cruise ships stop. Bar Harbor was the only place we encountered them. It was super quiet. That’s why we almost left a day early.

      I’ve only read IT and THE STAND. I can’t handle super horror either. I did absolutely love his son, Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX. Man these all caps on my phone are making me jumpy. Ha!
      Thanks for stopping by, Ally!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You would like ‘Thinner’ its different’. The Regulators’ That the one that freaked me out, I will have to finish reading that one some day, but I had to put it down. The regulators reminded me of the 2010 remake of the Science fiction horror film ‘The Crazies’ a real cult classic. Staring Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell.

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  12. Oh my! Well, I hope I don’t offend any of the Mainahs up north, but you were surrounded by what I lovingly call “The Sticks”. I mean, seriously, I consider anything north of Augusta cow country. I rarely go. I did go to Bah Hahbah not too long ago and I was shocked at the number of tourists crammed on those streets!

    Truly, you need to see the other side of Maine, Portland, Freeport, my area!

    As for laughing during the play, that is ridiculous, I agree. I assure you, some of us here do know theater etiquette. haha!

    Speaking of Stephen King, he grew up in Durham and went to Lisbon High School, same school my son goes to know. The book about JFK he wrote was based on an actual store here in my town that still exists. Spooky!!

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    • NO ONE TOLD US!!!
      We were bored out of our minds. We had a timeshare as a starting point and only stayed there one night since it sketched me out.

      Daya said the audience laughed during The Hunger Games. What??? My book club laughed during Twilight, but it was laughable. Not one person laughed during The Changling, a super intense movie based on a true story.

      It’s so cool how King incorporates real places in his books. SK Tours, (in the photo) takes people around his sites in Bangor.

      Sorry we missed you! Now you can see how that would have been a highlight.

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  13. There are a lot of awesome Bed and Breakfasts and sea side beach homes to rent upon the Oregon and Washington Coast, I felt bad for my sister who worked all year long to travel to the UK. My Sister Patty just called a couple nights ago, she had just returned from a three week road tour of the towns and cities in Scotland, she said she was stuck driving a clown car upon too narrow of roads upon the wrong side of the street. So they (her friend and her) flew the many hours back to the states landing in Boston, and rented a car and toured Maine. That was over an entire day wasted waiting at airports to be patted down and standing in long lines and being crammed into the seat of a jet airliner, sharing one bathroom, seated next to some strangers breathing each other’s air pollution, and life is just too far short for that and paying for it. I know people who have stayed in five star hotels and have brought back home bed bugs infesting their own homes and have had to completely renovate their homes, coasting them thousands of dollars.

    When they could have been relaxing at a lake side resort or music festival, I love the States, but the East coast is a mess and over priced and cramped with too many people, as I have toured and explored every state of the western half of the United States extensively, and have never had a bad vacation or been disappointed. When I chose a spot for us to spend our Honeymoon, I rented ‘The Rose Room’ at the Pink Mansion in Calistoga Napa Valley California. With an indoor pool with a huge fire place and Jacuzzi and it being the end of November, we had the Mansion to ourselves, other than the Host. It’s a luxury Best and Breakfast, and a short stroll to down town Calistoga, and take a limousine to tour the wineries. In room Massages, order 1 or 2 dozen red or pink roses awaiting your arrival. Awesome breakfast and evening wine tasting.
    We’ll never stay in a hotel again not even a five star rated hotel. We have always loved car touring and exploring the states. We just rented a Ford Fusion Titanium Hybrid and drove the entire state from Portland to Medford on 26 bucks in gas.

    And when we came to the Steep downgrades there is an on the fly down grade control button so the car basically drives its self and keeps the perfect speed and breaking controlled, so it doesn’t get away from you. We made a Burger run driving 165 miles in two hours 40 minutes to a ‘In – N’ – out’ Burger for fun, our four year old son had a blast, playing with his Amazon 8 tablet in the back seat. Then we drove him to the coast for the day where I and he flew his first kite on the shoreline it is a 50 foot Mylar dragon kite. I’ll never fly in a plane again unless I charter a privet float plane to visit Lake Tahoe and Lake Coeur de Alene, northern Idaho.

    My dear Sister got stuck one hot summer when she took a train trip to Washington State and the Engine broke down catching fire stranding all the passengers for many hours and on into the night until another engine could be driven down and swapped out. I won’t do mass transportation for a Vacation ever again. And the only other country I have toured and always will is Canada, We road tripped Alberta and Toad tripped Vancouver and curry searching for and buying antiques. Never will I go to the east coast or the UK or Europe. My two most favorite and beautiful states are Colorado and Idaho. And both States are loaded with awesome ghost towns and rich in Victorian era history.

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    • I LOVE traveling but this trip took us by surprise. I’ve never brought home bugs, even when we traveled all over Panama and stayed in rooms with ripped sheets. Just lucky, I guess.
      I’m a people person, but get bored easily, so I will do some research next time!

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  14. sorry I didn’t get back to write this sooner I had to get Rykie dressed after making his breakfast and feeding him and put him onto his school bus for his pree school. I sure love my little boy dearly.

    I think it just that the Bed Bug infestations have greatly increased, as they are extremely difficult to eradicate from Sleeping establishment, and they are just out of control. I highly recommend Calistoga. My Haunted ghost town research has brought me to really search Victorian era towns and establishments. I have very fascinated with my discoveries. Colorado has a vast many ghost towns, and awesome cities as well, what are your four most favorite Colorado towns and what are your four most fascinating Old Colorado mid 1800s’ Mining / ghost towns. Because I have found a new loved hobby of doing such research of Victorian mining town history. Yes, definitely research for your planed adventures. I think it’s just that as with my Sister Patty, you and Danny hit the State of Maine right at the end of summer tourist time, and the locals were in desperate need to close shop and get the necessary things done in preparations for the winter snows.

    I always found the first two weeks of October the most beautiful times to travel the states, when the crowed have dwindled. A lot of my reasoning for not traveling on Planes is that I am physically disabled and so it’s a matter of comfort and long flights equate to physical pain. When we landed At Denver Airport in 1997, I had to travel from one end of the airport all the way across to the opposite side and they had to hold the plane for me. But anything over a four hour flight and I am ready to bail out as the physical pain increases quite a bit.

    I do better in cars. Susie you love the Pink Mansion and Calistoga. And you should do a family gathering on the Oregon coast at a beach house rentals. I tell you which coastal towns to stay at as if I know your likes, if you’re a people person then coming for a crab festival, and if you love whales, we have a twice annual Whale migration, it awesome Susie, we have a huge beautiful Whale she visited our coast and discovered a cove and she remained a resident whale ever sense. But this summer was a bad year due to huge forest fires causing so much fire smoke. I have friends that love living in New York and some in Boston and they wouldn’t live upon the West coast of the United States. I like people, but just not seated right next to me, I get claustrophobic. Let’s face it I am just weird. I haven’t even gone to any music concerts but one. Canadian Singer song writer, humanitarian, an awesome Guitar player Dr. Bruce Cockburn, the tiny theater that night was filled with original hippies and they were wearing their favorite original hippy attire and it was so cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about traveling off-season. Europe was insane in June. Maine was closing up and just in time considering the storm they endured last week.

      Oregon sounds wonderful and is at the top of my list of travel destinations. I bet there are tons of trails to hike too.

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  15. Great trip, Susie! Thanks for taking us all along. Stephen King’s “The Shining” scared the beejeesus out of me! But his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is a must for all writers to read. I’m sure you have! Happy trails and keep taking us along!

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