Eastport Return 2022: The Drive, Part I

Eastport, Maine, is not the easiest destination, but once there, it is cool, pleasant, and relaxing in mid-summer. Barney gets the credit for discovering this tucked away town after two shorter Maine trips—one to Ogunquit and one to Portland/ Scarborough. Over the years we returned to Eastport five or six times and fell in love with this Downeast Maine area on the Bay of Fundy. I was eager to visit again, to savor the memories and enjoy new experiences in the summer of 2022.

A savored memory–Eastport 2010

A veteran of numerous great road trips with Barney and aware of the current chaos of air travel, I decided Gracie and I would drive. We left Birmingham the day after my granddaughter Rachel’s beautiful wedding (See below.), stayed our first night in Knoxville and our second in Carlisle, PA. Our third “stay along the way” was Saratoga Springs, NY, a Victorian throwback to the popular mineral springs and spas of the 19th century.

The beautiful and fun wedding of Rachel Reuse and Andy Hamm in Huntsville on July 9

“Health, History, and Horses” is the theme of Saratoga Springs. First settled in 1819. It became even more popular in 1832 when railroad tracks reached it and again in 1863 when the horse track was added. Gracie and I weren’t there long enough to visit any stables or the famed track, but there were bronze horses and horse-themed paintings everywhere we looked.

A true Victorian throwback across the street from our Saratoga Springs hotel

Gracie loves to travel, and we had done well the first two nights on our own, getting in and out of our accommodations easily. She is crate trained and views her crate more as refuge than prison, so I’d learned to put it on the luggage cart, let her hop in willingly, then place the suitcase and stuff on top. She’d ride peacefully to the room without barking and was content to get back in the crate if I had to leave the room for something—like breakfast. Unfortunately, when we were unloading in Saratoga Springs, I made the mistake of putting her in the crate first and then lifting it up to the luggage cart with her inside. She weighs only 12 pounds, but the whole thing collapsed and spilled her, her bunny, and the fleece pad out onto the sidewalk. What a mess!

Then housekeeper Chrissy came to the rescue. She’d been on a cigarette break at the corner of the building and rushed over to help. While I got Gracie calmly on her leash, Chrissy disappeared into the building and came back a minute later with one of those large, wheeled tubs for laundry. “This will work better,” she said and began piling all our stuff into the tub, including all the pieces of Gracie’s crate. We set off for our first-floor room, where Chrissy unloaded everything. “Back again in a minute,” she said, then returned with a big grin and a small bag of doggie treats. “We keep these in the laundry room. Now you’re all set,” she said, handing me the bag. I was tired and couldn’t remember exactly where I’d stashed my cash for the trip, so I asked if she’d be working in the morning, and she nodded.

Once we settled in and got the crate snapped back together, I promised Gracie I would never again pick it up with her in it. Then we set out for a pleasant, late afternoon walk. Our hotel perched on a hill overlooking the Deer Park Spring, with a set of stone steps leading down into the park at the back of the parking lot. It was nice and shady, with lots of benches. According to a historical marker, drinking the mineral waters in the area was a social gathering experience back in the day when the Saratoga Springs Grand Union hotel was the largest in the world. People who couldn’t tolerate the strong taste and smell of the mineral water (probably like rotten eggs) found a great alternative in gathering to drink the fresh water at the Deer Park spring. With today’s varieties of pollution, that is no longer an option, but the park is still a great place to walk and appreciate the many memorials.

This travel story has a southern and Alabama connection because, in 2014, the University of Alabama Press published “Simon Baruch: Rebel in the Ranks of Medicine (1840-1921) by Patricia Spain Ward. Dr. Baruch (father of philanthropist Bernard Baruch) was a physician and scholar who came to America from Poland as a teenager. He studied medicine in South Carolina and Virginia just before the Civil War, served as a surgeon to the Confederate military, and was captured and imprisoned twice over three years. During Reconstruction, he helped reactivate the South Carolina medical association and served as president of that state’s board of health.

In 1881, Baruch moved to New York City where he became a prominent physician and a leader in the nationwide movement to establish free public baths for tenement dwellers. (I wonder what happened to those.) He was a huge advocate for fresh air and fresh water, which led to the popularity of mineral springs destinations like Saratoga Springs.

Next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we packed up, and I wrote a quick note to Chrissy, explaining the main reason I so appreciated her help the evening before. This was my first solo trip with Gracie since I lost Barney, and I was trying hard to be self-sufficient. When Gracie’s crate collapsed, I felt the frustration of handling things alone, and then Chrissy came along. I had tucked a cash gift inside the note, which she insisted on reading right when I handed it to her outside the laundry room. “Can I give you a hug?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said. Then Gracie and I set off on a lovely drive across Vermont and New Hampshire, then on to Bangor, Maine. Stay tuned.

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