Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Trip - Maine's South Coast

Yesterday, after a lazy day of blogging in my pajamas, I got dressed and we drove off to the mall for the bookstore and for Target. The man at the RV Park office had given me directions that became less and less clear the farther we went, but we finally found Target and then came back to the bookstore.

A while ago, I had picked up College Algebra Demystified, because my friend the astrophysics major told me that I'll do much better in my coming Chemistry class if I know Algebra. She said Trig will help me with Physics. Well, the last college Math class I took was 33 years ago, when I was a senior in high school and took Calculus at the University because our high school didn't offer it. But I don't remember it anymore. Or Trig. Or Algebra. Not well enough, anyway.

So I started the College Algebra book, and the first section was on quadratic equations with a useful tip on how to solve them. But it used words that I had to look up, because I didn't even remember what they meant after all this time. Simple concepts (or, they used to be) like, quadratic equation and coefficient. And after I looked them up, I realized I needed to start with something a lot more basic than College Algebra.

We had tried, farther up the coast, to get to a bookstore, but the only one in that town was a used bookstore, where I picked up an old Algebra & Trigonometry textbook and started working on that. But that one proved just as frustrating as College Algebra Demystified, because it didn't have any of the helpful hints that a teacher would give you, and the answers in the back only gave the answers for the odd-numbered exercises and didn't show how they arrived at those answers.

Yesterday's trip to the big bookstore was to get Algebra Demystified, which it turns out starts with fractions, even though those aren't really part of Algebra. But the book explains that the principles for multiplying and adding, etc., fractions will help when you're doing Algebra with fractions. So I started it last night, and I get it so far, and I'm finally feeling optimistic about being able to brush up on my Math before I have to take Chemistry and Physics.

That was yesterday. Today we had plans. We drove to my nephew's Navy base to pick him up at lunchtime. He had received permission to have the afternoon off to spend with us. When we got near the base, we called to let him know we were there. He had told us there was a small parking lot over to the side just before the main gate, so we parked there to wait for him.

He was still in his barracks room and had to walk across the base to the front gate, so our wait took a while. I noticed a sign mounted on the chain-link fence around the base that looked something like this:

There were some Navy guys inspecting commercial trucks in front of our parking spot, and I got out and asked one of them if I could take a picture of just the No Photography sign, and he said, No. He was nice about it and suggested finding a picture on the internet, so I said OK and put my camera away. And we waited some more.

Then after a while, another of the truck inspectors looked at me and made one of those hand-arm motions that traffic cops make to tell you it's time to make your left turn. So I rolled down my window, and he told me I was on government property. I told him we were waiting for my nephew, and he asked if my nephew was on his way and I said yes. Then he said I can't take any pictures. I told him I wasn't, that I had put my camera away, and they all left us alone after that.

When my nephew arrived, he didn't mind that we weren't doing anything really exciting. He was just glad to not be working and to be hanging out with Grandma and Aunt SkyePuppy and Scooter.

The Portland, Maine, area has four lighthouses that we wanted to look at. I had copied down the directions from the Old Orchard Beach website's Things To See and Do page, so we could visit the lighthouses from north to south and then hit Kennebunkport, if we still had time, and look at all the rich people's mansions on Ocean Avenue.

But we've noticed something about Maine (besides the glaring lack of moose). Their roads are badly labeled. Very badly. The numbered Routes don't tell you very often that you're still on the right one. And a lot of the junctions just have a sign with the Route number and a two-sided arrow, but no indication whether you should make a right or a left turn for the direction you want to go. So we picked the wrong direction several times and had to turn around again.

And a lot of the streets don't even have the name on them anywhere. You just have to know that this is Spring Street, because it's the one with the light over by the mall. And too many of the streets that do have their name on a sign in the right place all have the same name: Dead End.

We found the Cape Elizabeth lighthouses at Two Lights State Park, but there was no access to either one. So we could only look at them from afar, more afar from the second one than the first. Here's the first;

And the second:

I found the lighthouses less interesting than other things at the park. These chairs were just beyond a fence marked, "Private Property." What a nice place that would be to spend a summer.

At the little shop, which advertised ice cream novelties even though they were sold out, there was a table out front with baskets of different kinds of sea shells.

From Cape Elizabeth we went on to the Portland Head Lighthouse. It's on the property of Fort Williams Park, so you can get up close to it.

I'm not sure what this little round window is for. When I went to the museum in the attached building, the door was locked. They closed at 4:00, and it was 4:02.

In the park, the old Battery and other battlements are available for climbing and playing.

But we headed off for lighthouse number 3, the Wood Island Lighthouse. Unfortunately, Maine's total disregard for labeling routes and streets, along with some unclear directions from the Old Orchard Beach website ("Take 9 through downtown" -- Which way??? Which downtown???), left us driving through multiple quaint downtowns that were all closed for the season, searching for Route 208. We got to the coast near what should have been a lighthouse as dusk was approaching, only to find a curving stretch of coastline full of large homes by the beach and nothing tall enough to hold a Fresnel lens.

With no more time left in the day for lighthouse-finding, we stopped for pizza at a place that's open year-round, and then we took my nephew back to base, where the truck inspectors had stopped for the day and there was nobody to tell us to get off government property.

But we had forgotten one thing when we had prepared for our visit with my nephew. We didn't bring the address of our RV Park with us, or the directory book with the directions. Without an address, Gina couldn't get us back, so we had to fly without instruments, so to speak.

Our lazy day yesterday that took us to the mall was what saved us. The mall was right by the interstate, and we knew how to get back to our campsite from the mall (mostly--there was always that one turn that we seemed to miss that made us have to turn around). The interstate had signs telling us which exit to take for the mall, and then there were signs from there directing us back the the RV Park. Thank God I wanted that Algebra book!


paw said...

Oh my. Quadratics and coefficients - what fun (insert frownie).

Did you ever post on why exactly you're leaving tech? Or is it more that going to a new profession than leaving the old? I hear a lot of that, and I get it on many levels, but I don't recall reading your reasons.

And while you're up there, any plans on visiting Halifax? I like Nova Scotia and it seems like a good time of year to be there. And the Bay of Fundy, well, that makes me thing of you, ma cherie. Its right there!

SkyePuppy said...

Paw, mon cher,

Yes, I think I've posted my reasons in bits and pieces. The basics are that I do mainframe programming, which requires corporate headquarters, which means large metropolitan areas where I can't afford to live, which means long commutes, and I've done that way too long. Plus all the consolidations and off-shoring of jobs just make it harder to find mainframe work.

But there's medical work almost everywhere, which means I can live close to work. And I find Nuclear Medicine (especially PET scans) fascinating. So that's why the switch.

No, we didn't get to Nova Scotia. We're in Massachusetts now, at my brother's house, and we won't be going back up north.

Great to hear from you again!