Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Exploring Bailey Island

It's another beautiful day on Bailey Island.

Yesterday I wrote about how -- on the upcoming Tour -- we plan to stop in a single location for a couple of weeks, and explore the local area. We're actually already doing that. Our stop in Bailey Island has been extended to three weeks, so there's plenty of time to check out the local scene.

On Tuesday we walked a large chunk of the island. Long walks are an antidote to car travel. Only on a walk can you see a community in real up-close-and-personal detail, while working out the kinks of too much time spent sitting. We picked a shoreline street and checked out the architecture of fifty houses lined along the western waterfront.

Eventually, our walk took us to Cook's Lobster House, a local institution that was made famous by the 1998-99 series of VISA commercials. They were one of those places where "'d better bring your VISA card -- because they don't take American Express!" Even though the location of Cook's was not revealed in the TV commercials, people sought the place out.

Cook's does deserve its reputation. The seafood is delicious and abundant, and nearly every table in the place has a view of the water. But they aren't kidding when they say "Bring your VISA card," because it's hard to get out of there under $30 per person. If I hadn't brought my VISA card I think I would still be there washing the dishes.

From the north and east tables of Cook's one can see the cribstone bridge which links Bailey Island to Orr's Island. Made of 10,000 tons of granite blocks, it is the only cribstone bridge in the world. The cribbing allows the tides to flow easily through the bridge, which is nice for the tide but not so great for traffic. I'm guessing it was either too expensive or impractical to get longer pieces of granite, because the bridge is extremely narrow. If you are towing a trailer or driving a motorhome over this bridge and you encounter a truck coming in the opposite direction, you'll need to stop or at least slow down to a crawl to ensure you don't bump each other. In some places this would be regarded as a one-lane bridge.

Over the Labor Day weekend I took the opportunity to check out some of Bailey Island's undersea life. The waters of Maine are famously cold, so a wetsuit is a good idea. I pack a 3mm shorty, along with fins, snorkel, and mask, wherever I go. Right now the water is about at its warmest for the season, which means mid-60s. When it's wavy, the temperature drops into the upper 50s.

So snorkeling here is something you do only if you are highly motivated. Having grown up along the murky waters of Lake Champlain, where visibility rarely exceeds 10 feet, I personally love seeing undersea creatures in clear salt water -- even if that water is so cold I can't stay in for more than 15 minutes. Floating along the rocky ledges that form tide pools at low tide, I spotted blue starfish, dozens of multi-colored crabs, little brown striped fish, periwinkles, hermit crabs, and a multitude of gorgeous plants swaying in the waves like tiny palm trees.

Is this Airstreaming? Yes, it is ...


At 8:02 PM, Philip Terhorst said...

We love Baily Island! We visited in the summer of 2004. We had dinner at Cooks on 4th of July, then watched fire works from out in the parking lot. We hope to return and spend a week or two in the near future to get to know it better. Your article brought back fond memories.


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