Boy, was it hot. And when you are dressed in black riding gear with a full-face helmet, hot becomes even hotter still. We don’t compromise on safety. Debbie and I both wear full-face German-made Schuberth riding helmets. I have a Finnish-made Rukka armored riding suit, and Debbie’s is made by Rivet. We treat our long distance touring as the ultimate test in personal safety. And over two decades with 100,000 miles on North American roadways, we believe we have learned a few things.
There is nothing like a long road trip to take the pulse of the American economy. Anecdotal evidence is often a better way to gauge economic momentum than relying on stale, massaged numbers from the government. On our 2008 and 2009 road trips, disaster was evident in every town and small city along our route. Truly shocking are the words best used. The year 2010 still produced unpleasantries. By 2011, things had clearly picked up for the better, as fewer and fewer vacancies, for sale signs, and closed signs were visible. As we headed out this summer, I did not expect to see a lot of improvement. And it turns out that my early concern was justified.
Soggy is a good word for overall business in the six-state upper East coast region we rode through. All six states are non-right-to-work states, and the lack of a strong competitive position is obvious. Any manufacturer who opens for business in a non-right-to-work state is simply nuts. And these states tend to be high tax states as well, another stinker. Click to our Open for Business map for guidance on the right to work issue.
The biggest and grandest old line hotel we stayed at in Bar Harbor told me the season was off to a slow start. Our favorite Maine coast lobster shack told me that without the horde of Asian tourists, business would not be so hot. Most every business owner I spoke with was cautionary, saying that although business was better than in the dark days of 2008/2010, it was far from robust. With few exceptions (Fore Street in Portland), we were able to get into all our first choice restaurants. Fore Street, to its great credit, is one of the most unique restaurants in America and well worth a trip to Portland. Portland has a nifty nearby airport. The place to stay is The Portland Harbor Inn. Reserve a suite or you may not thank me for this recommendation. We have stayed often.
Portland is a great little walking city with much to do, including a number of first rate dining options. We’re big on Maine oysters, which can almost compete with the blue-chip standard, Island Creek oysters from Duxbury, Mass. When we first rode into Portland a number of years ago, we were pointed to J’s Oyster for oysters. Most travel guides will often send you in the same misguided direction. The oysters are pre-opened and the clientele pretty well fueled with ample high-octane lunchtime adult beverages. Not many return-to-work candidates in a room with the noise level of a European soccer match. No thanks for J’s.
I’ll have some of our Portland oyster options for you in my second Harley trip installment. I will also have info for you on the best wine shop I have come across in New England. If you are as interested in Burgundy, as I am, you are in for a treat. This trip out was our second long trip on our new Harley six-speed, ABS Heritage Classics, and, for our money, the best bike Harley has ever made. My last three Harleys have been Road Kings, which you sit ON. With the Heritage, you sit IN. The Heritages are easier to maneuver and ride better at highway speed. And you get that that classic Harley look.
We spent six days on the coast of Maine, and I have a number of special recommendations for you. In terms of a summer or fall vacation, the coast of Maine comes up big. And there are a handful of locations that would work real well as a six-month residence. Prices on the coast of Maine are far more reasonable than in, by example, Newport, R.I., where Debbie and I spend our non-Key West summer months. Lots more to tell you next week.
P.S. Read The Terrien Terroir, about the 2007 Terrien Chardonnay showcased at Browne Trading Co.’s May tasting.