Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Pilgrim's Coast

     The warm winds of August fueled our journey for salty air and fresh seafood.  So we packed up the truck once again and headed north to find the succulent tails of lobster and rocky shores of New England.  The ride seemed to pass quickly as we added some roadside attractions to break the monotony of the highway.  A few welcome centers supplied fresh brochures that would create ideas and itineraries for future journeys.  Cabela's served as the halfway point, a place to refuel and visit the restroom and stretch the legs among the wildlife.  We reached the shores of New Hampshire before the sun had gone for the day.  The truck windows opened to the salty air.  We had found our destination.
     Portsmouth is an interesting port town on the border of New Hampshire and Maine.  It is one of the oldest sea towns in the United States.  The streets are narrow and lined with shops and cafes, street performers and sidewalk vendors, and a brewery.  It lends itself to wonderful strolls along the streets breathing deep of the sea air with the quiet roll of the ocean always in the background.  A short stroll across the drawbridge brings you into Maine with a view of the harbor and the lobster rolls to go with it.  We dined at the Portsmouth Brewery while we listened to the musicians play outside in the town square.  The sun set on us as we wandered among the antique shops.
     The sun rose on our northern starting point of Route 1A.  We would follow the old highway out of Portsmouth south along the coast passing beach after beach.  These are not the hot, sandy beaches equipped with boardwalks and roller coasters and game hawkers of New Jersey.  The shore was rocky with boulder fingers that jutted out into the ocean.  You could scamper across the rocks until they disappeared into the Atlantic, find a seat amongst the seaweed and snails and watch the waves pound against the shore.  The beaches are more solid here, tight sand, grey in color, that holds a footprint crisp and defined before it is erased by a wave.
      We crossed the bridge into Newburyport, Massachusetts and the beaches became harbors and the antique stores became farmers markets and craft bakeries and, as always, small breweries.  We arrived just in time for the Yankee Homecoming and a town parade led by Revolutionaries coming home from the war with England.  A perfect taste of true small town New England.  A little further south, we stopped at one of the roadside clam shacks for a couple of crab rolls and some fried fresh clams.  There is something utterly satisfying about seafood right from the boat prepared along a forgotten highway eaten outside on a picnic table situated among the marsh grass with the sand beneath your feet.
     With our bellies full of fresh caught sea fare, we followed the highway south and east to Gloucester.  A workman's town made up of blue-collar homes that look out beyond the harbor into the infinite horizon of the Atlantic.  Large commercial fishing ships were docked at the processing plants and smaller fishing vessels made their way under the drawbridge that stops traffic along the main street.  The kids followed the statues along the walkway that told the tale of fishermen's wives awaiting the return of their husbands and the memorial to all the fishermen lost at sea.  This is more a town of proud people steeped in tradition not unlike their cousin farmers that are the staple of small towns in the center of the country, providers of food for a nation, calloused and tough.
     With no more road or land to the east, we follow the southern coast back west again toward the big city.  Boston looms tall toward the western horizon and the whole country seems to roll away from there.  It is odd and amazing and humbling to stand on the eastern shores and look out following the sun's trek westward and the land that unfolds beyond the eye's sight.  A sight the Pilgrims, the Revolutionaries, the Industrialists, and now my family, have all seen.  A place where so many journeys have begun.

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