After leaving the beautiful setting in Bar Harbor, we traveled about two hours up to the coast to the little seaside town of Lubec, Me. We settled into a small but beautiful campground called Sunset Point that basically sits on Johnson Bay and looks across to Eastport, Me. There were very few campers in the campground upon our arrival and the office was open but empty. I heard the owner bellow, “Can I help you?”, from the large deck of her house that sat at the entrance to the property. She made her way down to check us in. I paid my cash for four days and was told to find whatever site I liked at the end the section with water and electric. Once again we had a site that provided a few beautiful sunsets in varying stages.
One stunning sunset after another
We chose Lubec because it is the gateway to Campobello Island and the Roosevelt Campobello International Park and the Roosevelt Cottage. Of course, when FDR, Eleanor and the family would travel to the island for the summers they had to take the train from New York through Boston and were ferried across to the house from Eastport. In 1962 the International Bridge was opened and Eleanor Roosevelt was given the honor of being the first person to ride across the bridge bearing her husband’s name. She died a short time later after that visit, her last trip to the cottage that was purchased in 1909 as a wedding gift for the couple by Franklin’s mother Sarah. Franklin’s mother and father had owned the cottage next door for many years.
On our first day in Lubec we decided to visit the West Quoddy Lighthouse and the state park. The lighthouse, which is now automated and still operated by the Coast Guard, is the eastern most location in the contiguous United States. It is ironic in that it is called the “West” Quoddy lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse is beautiful, but you can definitely see how ships could be lured to close to the rocky shore and end up wrecked. And as an aside, I learned that there really is a Passamaquoddy Bay. I remember having to endure the viewing of Pete’s Dragon more times than I would like to recall as it was of the kids’ favorite movies. Little did I know it was a real place although the town is fictional.
West Quoddy Lighthouse – I think I see Mickey Rooney in the window
On Tuesday we visited the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park, which houses the Roosevelt and Hubbard cottages (as you can probably guess – not really cottages) and the carriage roads, is owned and operated jointly by the American and Canadian governments. It is operated by a commission made up of representatives from both countries, one of whom is the granddaughter of Franklin and Eleanor.
There are several things to do while visiting the park including taking a tour of the house, a walking tour of the property and enjoying what is referred to as Tea with Eleanor. We toured the house and took what was called a FUN tour which was in fact both fun and informative. The house, with eighteen bedrooms, is definitely not a cottage. It sits high on a hill that leads down to the water looking across to Eastport. Franklin was an avid and expert sailor and taught his children the art as well. One of the remarkable things about the house was that it was equipped from the time that the Roosevelts altered the house in 1915 with indoor plumbing with hot water included.
The “Cottage” and some of its rooms
Another very interesting facet of the house, which speaks a great deal about the Roosevelts, especially Eleanor, was that many of the servants had rooms on the second floor of the house adjacent to the master bedroom and the bedrooms of the children. There might be a connection between that fact and what seemed to a lifelong respect and affinity for common people that seems to have infected their politics and later lead to the New Deal programs and policies that permanently changed the landscape of American life and were the birth of the middle class in this country. Or maybe they just wanted them close in case they needed them.
After we had toured the house we took a FUN tour and learned a lot about the property and a lot of little fun facts about the Roosevelts. The property also includes what is known as the Hubbard Cottage. Sarah Hubbard was a famous pianist and opera singer and asked her husband who was a wealthy banker to build the cottage for her. One of the striking elements of the house in an enormous oval window that Sarah spied in a building that was going to be torn down in London and asked her husband to buy it and have it shipped to the island and placed in her dining room overlooking the bay. The window and the view are stunning.
Sarah Hubbard’s famous window.
After visiting the park, we took a ride through the rest of the island out to the end and the lighthouse. We were not able to actually get to the lighthouse unless we were expert climbers. It was exactly what you would imagine as your typical lighthouse along the Maine and Canadian coasts.
The Head Lighthouse on the tip of Campobello
When we were waiting for the tour of the cottage to begin we struck up a conversation with one of the tour guides who happened to live in Lubec. When she heard where we were staying, she asked if we had visited Monica’s Chocolates right across the street. Eileen said she had seen it, but had decided to ignore it. She highly recommended that we go. It was definitely worth the visit. It was not just a chocolate shop. It was an experience. The business is owned and run by Monica, who is dynamo of a woman from Peru. She started by bringing us and another customer samples of some of her best creations. They were very good and a little different. She boasted about her ingredients, her family recipes for fillings that she had brought from Peru and how she used no additives or preservatives.
The shop also sells jellies and jams as well as jewelry and Alpaca sweaters from Peru. Eileen found the perfect necklace she had been looking for to wear to Sarah’s wedding. Before we were done, we had purchased several sweet treats that neither of us needed, a jar of pepper jelly, which is out of this world, and a necklace. We also got to hear Monica’s story and how she ended up leaving Peru and a very successful fashion business and settling in a little town on the Canadian border. The story was both heart-wrenching and inspirational. It is inspiring how this woman, who had been essentially forced to settle here and lost all of her money because of some serious health problems that her husband was having , was adopted by the town’s people. She taught herself the art of making chocolate and caramel while building this very successful business. She offered to show us the kitchen that was located in the basement. What an operation. We were there for almost an hour. Who would have known that we would have gotten so much out of a visit to what we thought was a simple chocolate shop.
One of the best things about the RV lifestyle is that you get the opportunity to meet a lot of great, interesting people on the road. I know you can meet people at a hotel or in an airport as well, but it is different in a campground. It may be the time factor or the open proximity. Whatever it is, it is special. We met two really great couples at Sunset. Scott and Penny, a retired couple from Indiana, who had come east to attend their nephew’s law school graduation, in Connecticut no less, had made their way up the coast to see Maine and a little of Canada. We met in a way that can only be achieved in a camping atmosphere. Despite owning a trailer, they had decided to tent camp on this trip. I give them a great deal of credit as I would not tent camp at this stage in my life if someone paid me. They, on the other hand, embrace it and seem to thoroughly enjoy the adventure. God bless them.
On the day they arrived, I was sitting outside the RV reading or daydreaming, or both, and occasionally I would watch the progress as they set up camp. The wind across the campground was pretty stiff as it was many afternoons. As they opened their screen house and were struggling to get it to sit on the ground I could envision the screenhouse, maybe with either Scott or Penny still holding on tight, blowing out into the bay. I decided to offer my services to hold an end and walked over to do just that. This is a natural act in a campground. People help each other and share things. I am not sure how much I actually helped, or if they really needed it, but they were appreciative. We also ran into each other on the tour of the Roosevelt Park. We enjoyed them. They are very open, intelligent and interesting people.
On the day that we visited the park we returned to the camper to find two things: the first was that a motor home had pulled into the site next to us, and the second was that someone had saved our chairs and our table cloth from ending up in the bay as the very stiff afternoon winds had come through while we were gone and were still blowing pretty well when we returned. Later, when it was safe the exit the RV, I ran into our new neighbor and asked if it had been him who had saved our stuff. He said that he was in fact the one who had performed the neighborly deed. RVers take care of each other even when they have not met yet.
That night we had a fire and invited Dave and his wife Wendy, as well as Scott and Penny to join us. We had a fun couple of hours talking and a getting to know each other and our stories. Dave and Wendy are also full-timers and have been for about three years. They are originally from New Jersey but now call the Tampa, Florida area home base. We got a good chuckle out of the fact that they were also in the Bar Harbor area before coming to Lubec and were also going up into Canada and visiting many of the same places we were. It was particularly cold that night so we doused the fire around ten and made our way to warmth inside our RVs after providing our condolences to Scott and Penny who were heading to the tent. They were unfazed by the cold and assured us they were well-prepared. I had no doubt that they were.
Before we left we shared our information with both couples. We hope we run into Dave and Wendy during our Canadian summer and we will definitely look up Scott and Penny should we find ourselves in the Southern Indiana area. This is what is best about the RV lifestyle.