Traveling in the Time of COVID – All Good Things Must Come to an End

It is always hard to leave Acadia and Mount Desert Island when our time there comes to an end. Why is it that on that last day the weather is almost always gray and rainy as if the island is crying with us at the sorrow of our departure. So it was with this trip. We are both sad to end our 5th trip that my husband who usually likes to drive the Park Loop Road before we leave nixed it this time. We packed the car, said our goodbyes to Matt & Kristi who own the Saltair Inn in Bar Harbor and drove off the island already thinking of our next trip.

We headed to the Marshall Point Lighthouse hoping the weather would clear. Sadly it did not and was actually worse than when we had stopped there earlier in our trip. Despite the drizzle, the place was also crowded. After a short debate, we decided to leave.

It was almost 2pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. We spotted signs for Schoolhouse Bakery and pulled in. It always amazes me to find these small local businesses out in remote areas and how they manage to survive, most primarily because of tourism. The pandemic messed that up for so many of these businesses. This bakery however was also a favorite with the locals who know the pastries here are delicious treats. Overheard another customer saying the cream horns are the best. I met a lady in the parking lot who was there to get goodies for her husband’s birthday. She had a beautiful and rare Sable colored Husky she let me pet and love on while we waited for our sandwiches. The woman who owned the bakery seemed none too happy to wait on us as we came right before closing. I do apologize for that. Had a turkey sandwich which was just average. Next time, I’ll get the fresh baked baguette as a base for the sandwich and one or more of the desserts like the Whoopie Pies.

We arrived in Portland to stay at the Hampton Inn. I rarely encounter bad places to stay but let this be a cautionary tale of one. I usually patronize Hilton properties as I am a Hilton Honors member and their properties are clean, nicely decorated and well run. We had to surrender the rental car to packed valet parking. The lobby was crowded with other guests who were not practicing social distancing at check in. I was told no king rooms were available so had to accept a room with 2 beds as they are fully booked for the night. Odd considering less people are traveling.

We go up to the 3rd floor. There is a seal on the door which is suppose to indicate the room has been cleaned/sanitized and no one has entered since it was done. I see cleaning staff still in the hall – a result of short staffing caused by the pandemic. As a frequent traveler, I was already in the habit of performing inspection of any rooms I stayed in even before the pandemic. At first the room looks ok, but later I see the following – smudge on acrylic shower as if cleaning product had not been entirely wiped off and brown spots on both the bathroom door and on the wall under the full length mirror in the entry area. I used a disinfectant wipe to clean the door and those spots sure look like poop. Gross! A clean sticker means nothing at this hotel. It gets worse – the next morning when I go to use the hair dryer. The bag containing it has what appears to be vomit on it. How long had the bag been this way and why had housekeeping done nothing like swap out the bag. I spray the bag and dryer down with Lysol and wash my hands thoroughly. I do report all of this to the front desk when we check out where I am greeted with a meh! shrug of shoulders. I will never stay at this property again and if you value your health, you shouldn’t either. I did file a compliant with Hilton Corporate but only received a form email reply.

We had not made any dinner reservations. A walk to Eventide behind the hotel found a 5 hour wait to get a table! They had set up tables outside in tents. Calls to other restaurants also resulted in no availability. Popular DeMillo’s was not taking reservations for small parties. (?!) Portland seemed full of people, more typical of a normal Saturday night in the Old Port pre-pandemic. There were a lot of young people, some drunk and disregarding social distancing, crowded into outdoor seating outside pubs. We are able to get into the Sebago Brewing Company after a short wait. We were seated in a booth in what looked like a private dining space. My husband enjoyed 2 Frye’s IPAs, a bowl of clam chowder and a Korean Beef Bowl, while I had a Lobster Roll on lettuce instead of a roll.

We skip the greatly scaled back free breakfast offered at the hotel and head to Standard Baking Company, knowing they have awesome pastries. There is a line in the parking lot as no one is allowed in the bakery. Instead orders are taken at a table outside and then you are called when your order it ready. The line moves fast and we get an incredibly moist pumpkin scone for me and a blueberry scone for husband. We go back to the hotel and gobble down the delicious scones with coffee and Hot Chai that we also got at the bakery.

Even though we had a mid-afternoon flight, we had no need to stay at the hotel any longer. I really wanted to get a couple of donuts from Holy Donut to enjoy on the flight home. Unfortunately, their online order app was malfunctioning probably overwhelmed by the number of people wanting their Sunday morning donut. A call to the shop and assurance that they had plenty of the flavors I wanted, we head over there. There is a LONG line in the parking lot. They are only allowing 2 – 3 people in the small shop at a time. Those waiting are pleasant and we chat including giving a woman some tips on visiting Acadia as she is headed there. Are these donuts worth the almost 1 hour wait? You bet! I get one each of Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Maple Bacon.

We head to the airport. The check-in counter is quiet. As we are walking to security my husband sees a sign that says “Boomerang – A resident of Maine who keeps returning.” Since I lived in Maine as a child, this describes me perfectly. I keep coming back. Can’t stay away from this beautiful state.

We have a long layover at BWI, so we eat a early dinner at the Silver Diner. Wonderful crab cakes. As we are leaving, a man at a table is grinning at me as if flirting. I am a bit disturbed by this as my husband is right behind me, then I realize while he is smiling – I am walking around without a mask on! I got so used to not wearing one while in Maine, I just forgot. Thank you sir, whoever you are for being so kind and not calling me out.

As we wait for our plane to arrive, there is a disturbance at the next gate. A man is refusing to wear a mask to board his flight and he is being denied boarding. He is screaming and swearing and chases the gate agent around the gate area yelling at her. Talk about feeling unsafe. The man gets more angry and I am hoping he doesn’t have some kind of a weapon that was missed at security. It takes 30 minutes and a combination of at least 6 airport security officers and sheriff’s deputies to get him to leave the area. What a scare! And that folks, is just one more thing you may encounter when traveling during the pandemic. Stay safe out there, but keep traveling.

About J. Matlock, Director of Fantasies

Jeanette's wanderlust started as an Air Force brat crisscrossing the US visiting almost every state. Writing has always been a part of her life. While earning a BA in Journalism from the University of Central Florida, Jeanette found photography was the perfect compliment to writing. She is always on the outlook for what she calls "Right Time, Right Place" photographs that capture a once-in-a- lifetime moment. Her adult travels have taken her to Scotland, England, France, Switzerland and all over the US and she continues to crave going to places to experience adventure, great food and lifestyles. She has written travel journals for the web site to share her experiences to guide and encourage other travelers. Her descriptive writing style makes one feel as if they are there sharing the experience. Her love of writing is based on this simple truth: "When I am writing, I know that I am doing the thing I was born to do." (Anne Sexton).
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