We originally planned to stop in Portland, Maine on our way north. However, the days we wanted to visit, there was no space available. It was Lobster Boat Race weekend! So, we decided to try Portland on our way back south.
Portland Yacht Services
The PYS dock master was terrific. After a call on the phone, he met us at the dock and quickly and efficiently assisted with the lines and instructions for showers and laundry facilities. He also had excellent recommendations for “best fried clams in Portland”.
We unload the folding Brompton bikes and head to our fried clam lunch at Gilberts. As promised, it was delicious and fueled us for the rest of the day exploring Portland by bike. The waterfront is busy with cruise ship tourists, but the Portland vibe is great. People are genuinely friendly and gracious. Bike trails go everywhere and bike lanes are respected by motorists. We followed the waterfront trail directly adjacent to the marina for several miles as it looped around the peninsula and led onto the bridge north to Falmouth.
As we ride our bikes we notice that next to the street storm drains, there are stenciled lobsters with the message about no dumping. Whereas in the Seattle & Bellingham area, they have stenciled salmon next to the storm drains.
Hmm, I wonder, ...does the mid-west have stenciled cattle next to the storm drains??
We are impressed with the variety and character of the Portland downtown and residential neighborhoods. There is revitalization without total gentrification. A great mix of neighborhood shops, industry, individual houses, small multi-family homes, apartment houses, brownstone houses, and new townhouses. Ancient granite curbs edge each street. Old brick sidewalks undulate from the roots of the large trees that line the streets. Peek-a-boo parks and quiet plazas are found in unexpected places.
Ed’s Old Neighborhood
One of our first missions was to locate the house where Karl’s dad, Ed, grew up. With the address, 44 Summer Street, and Google Maps on our cell phones, we head to the south end of downtown Portland. We easily navigate the brick and cobblestone streets, and the 6-speed Bromptons handle the hills up to Summer Street. Our ride takes us through interesting and revitalized neighborhoods. We locate the address on a dead-end street, but Grandpa Ed’s house is no longer there. Instead, there is an empty lot and a community garden. From the top of the hill we look down on the abandoned waterfront railroad yards where Karl’s grandfather and uncle worked their whole lives.
We continue further into the old neighborhood which was primarily Polish-speaking immigrant families in the 1930’s and 1940’s. A few blocks away we locate Klewiada family’s parish church. St. Louis’s Catholic Church is the only Polish Catholic Church in Maine. The sign outside the church notes that Sunday mass is said in English and Polish. We try to get a peek inside to see the stained glass window that was donated by Ed’s father, but it is all locked up and no answer at the rectory next door. We also check out Ed’s alma mater, Portland High School. Still operating in downtown Portland.
Portland Head Light
The next day, we take a longer bike trip to Portland Head Lighthouse located in Cape Elizabeth about 6.0 miles south of Portland. Bike paths take us up and over the Fore River and into South Portland. Tree-lined streets and some very large homes are along the route. The bright white lighthouse is surrounded by a rocky shoreline. There are several tourist busses from the cruise ships, but it still is an excellent day for the bike trip.
We head back to Bravo taking our time to wander the backstreets of Portland. We stop and check out the Portland Museum sculpture garden. Back at the dock, we watch the teen sailors practice and cruise ships depart. Sun sets on our last day in Portland. In the morning, we must continue our southerly migration.