My Vacation? Strong to Quite Strong

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This Kid Was Adorable

Originally uploaded by sogrady

Given a choice between a nice, relaxing vacation and one fraught with tension and plagued by disaster, I will of course choose the former. But I can’t say that it prepares me any better for a return to the office, because it’s been enjoyable enough that I’d prefer to just stay on vacation. Permanently.

Unless someone offered us millions of dollars while I was away, however, I will indeed be back in the office tomorrow morning.

I didn’t quite accomplish everything I wanted to on vacation – particularly in the technical department as I’ve been forced to regroup on a personal project – but I’m pleased that I saw most of what I planned to see. Acadia, obviously, but I also managed a couple of half day boat trips and spent yesterday roaming first Peak’s Island, then Portland’s Old Port district, capping it off with an evening of minor league baseball with the Sox affiliate Portland Seadogs. Some comments on those follow, and otherwise look for me to be in the office and available once more on IM/IRC/phone around 9 tomorrow.

Please note, however, that I’ll be out of the office for lunch as I’m heading down to Portland to grab a bite w/ Brenda.

Peak’s Island

Is a smallish – 3 miles or so to circumnavigate it – island in Casco Bay, available via a quick 15 minute ferry from the Portland docks. Tickets are $8 round trip for you, versus $80 for your car. I love walking.

I hadn’t been aware of Peak’s Island’s status as the wedding capital of midcoast Maine, although I might have given that I was invited to one here years ago by a former colleague. The choice is easy to understand in retrospect, as Peak’s Island is as beautiful as it is diminutive, and accessible yet private.

The coast is typical and indistinguishable from dozens of other similarly well preserved coastal towns – Georgetown included. What differentiates the island, as nearly as I can determine from such a short visit, is the neighborhood feel to the place. And the golf carts. The island natives all seemed to be on a first name basis with one another, and they were friendly even to the sunburned guy From Away sporting a camera and back pack. Many had cars – particularly these folks – but golf carts and tiny electric cars seemed to be at least as common, if not more so.

This is a natural consequence, once supposes, when the lot sizes are as small as they tend to be. Even the larger structures tended to be be shoehorned into quarter acre plots or less, with acre plus properties few and far between – at least on the exterior of the island. It’s also heavy on the summer places, much as my grandparents’ Rockport, MA once was, from what I’m told. Peak’s is very similar to Rockport architecturally, in fact, for those of you familiar with that town.

And speaking of real estate, as I’m always on the prowl for something on the water (it gets in the blood, like malaria), the costs were reasonable enough to surprise. This place was in the 300’s, unless I matched it incorrectly. Some of that is likely due to the seasonal nature of the structures, and I’d guess that some of it is the hidden cost of obtaining insurance as an islander (it’s brutal), but still. At a cost of having to sit on a boat for 15 minutes to get to a city and paying premiums for services, you get to live in a small, friendly community on the water. How hard can that be, really?

The Old Port

Perhaps it’s due to my affection for Boston – the cities have much in common – or perhaps it’s being so close to a working harbor, but the real Portland’s – the one in Maine – Old Port district may be my favorite downtown urban space, period.

The area’s dominant architectural theme – 19th century brick – was preserved only through the thoughtful actions of developers back in the 1970’s, according to Wikipedia – an assertion that reconciles well with what I know of the history of the area. Rather than tear down the dozens of warehouses and factories and the cobblestone streets that fed them, these were deftly repurposed into service as the hub of a downtown pedestrian friendly maze heavy on bars and restaurants that opens onto the Portland wharfs.

One interesting fact I didn’t know prior to the weekend – and, in the spirit of full disclosure can’t actually confirm now since I got it secondhand: Portland has the most restaurants per capita in the US, narrowly edging San Francisco in that department.

If you’re visiting Maine, you owe it to yourself to take a quick side trip to Portland’s Old Port district: it’s 5 minutes off the highway, and you’ll enjoy it. Trust me.

Hadlock Field, Home of the Seadogs

This is what you need to know about minor league baseball: my box seat for the game, four rows back of home plate, cost $8. Parking was $5. A Bud Light $4. Seriously.

I was disappointed to discover via the Seadog’s website Friday night that Saturday’s game against the New Britain Rock Cats, the second start for a recently promoted Justin Masterson who threw 6 and 2/3 innings of no hit baseball in his debut, was sold out. Fortunately, I took the time to call the Seadogs ticket office, which informed me that while the game was in fact sold out, they made select season ticket holder seats available at 9 AM day of game. Although it required a hideously early wakeup (7), I was at the ballpark by 8:40 and had a ticket in my hand by 8:57 (they opened early).

On a totally unrelated note, someone in the Seadogs marketing staff deserves major credit for making their game notes available – they’re far better than anything I’ve seen made available by the major league club.

For those unfamiliar with baseball’s minor league system, it basically works like this: each Major League club has an affiliation with a particular team at a minor league level, a ladder which has many rungs (rookie, short-season, low-A, high-A, AA, AAA). The parent major league club provides them with players and coaches, and in turn gains a venue for the development of same. Unlike some of the other professional sports leagues, such as the NBA or the NFL, it’s very rare for drafted players to make an immediate impact in the major leagues. Most have to apprentice for a number of years before they’re ready, working their way up from rookie leagues.

The Red Sox are very fortunate to have a number of their affiliates conveniently located in geographic terms. Our short season entrant is up the road in Lowell, our triple A club is down the road in Pawtucket, RI, and of course there are the Seadogs in double A ball.

In practical terms, this means that kids like these can watch the future Red Sox stars (current Sox Seadog alums include Manny Delcarmen, Jonathan Papelbon, and Kevin Youkilis) – as they grow up as players and people, but at a dramatically reduced cost. That’s one of the beauties of minor league baseball.

How’d the would-be Sox do at my game? Well, the aforementioned Justin Masterson – compared here by Kevin Thomas to Derek Lowe – followed up his partial no hitter with 6 innings of shutout ball, allowing one ball hit in the air. Not bad at all. Who knows, someday I might even be able to say “I saw him when…”


  1. I read your comments on the Patagonia MLC and One Bag from a couple of months ago on The Cleanest Line blog. Just thought I’d add that I use the classic Critical Mass Bag and couldn’t be happier with it. It’s probably a slightly different species than your One Bag but for my use, it’s been terrific. So if you’re ever looking for a top-quality (as all Patagonia products are) commuter/shoulder bag, the Critical Mass does the job swimmingly. Best wishes to you.

  2. hey steve, thanks for lunch. all that sunshine ruined me for more work. as soon as my calls were done, i was at little sebago with the dogs. hope you also found a way to enjoy the great day. see you in august. -brenda

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