How Much Do We Explore?

An interactive map of the major places we visited in New England from April through November, 2018.

In the above map you’ll notice one of the markers is in the ocean, about eighteen miles due south of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. This isn’t a mistake. That area is where we saw a trio of sleeping humpback whales in the Right Whale Critical Habitat in Casco Bay, one of three such habitats in the Atlantic ocean along the eastern seaboard. Right whales are endangered. For a long time they became tangled in what’s known as “float rope”, a synthetic floating rope used by countless seagoing fishermen of all types. Float rope is now banned for use because of the right whales. With all that float rope needing disposal the float rope craft industry was born, and the used rope became entry floor mats, hallway runners, baskets, and countless other home decor items. New float rope is still available but only for use in the crafting industry, not for use at sea.

The extended pectoral fin of a sleeping humpback whale in the northern Right Whale Critical Habitat off Boothbay Harbor, Maine, on July 10, 2018.

That may seem like a lot of information to include in a blog post about exploring, but that’s exactly how Mary and I explore. There are many places we go to that have some serious backstories. When we end up in a “critical” sanctuary of some kind, we want to know why that sanctuary was created. What exactly is being protected, and why does it need to be? In the case of the Right Whale Critical Habitats, that the float rope craft industries were subsequently created is quite interesting to us as those are the kinds of souvenirs we’re interested in, not only in buying them but in possibly making some of those items ourselves.

Something we’ve noticed over the years is that we only explore when we’ve traveled somewhare other than where we live. Living in both southern Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia, from 1988 – 1994, I only swam in the Atlantic Ocean three times that I remember. The kids and I swam a lot in Norfolk as we had an eighteen-foot diameter pool in our backyard. But it really wasn’t all that convenient at any point during that time to pack everyone up and head to any of the nearby beaches. That my oldest was stung by a jellyfish once off the southern tip of Maryland may not have helped the situation, but he’s still an avid swimmer when given the chance almost thirty years later.

It wasn’t too long after we’d arrived in Maine in April of 2018 for Mary’s first-of-two thirteen week assignments that we became friends with our hosts on social media. It was soon after that, that our hosts mentioned to us that we had done more and seen more in the local area since they met us than they had in the forty years that they’d lived there. When we mentioned that people explore more when they’re away from home, they wholeheartedly agreed with us. That really seems to be the way things work out with a lot of people we’ve asked about where to go and what to explore. The locals can tell us about their favorites and what they’re involved with. But if we really want to get into where to visit in a region, asking fellow traveling medical professionals or their spouses gets us more information about day-long and overnight trips.

Visiting Stephen King’s home on August 31, 2018.

We also enjoy the old-fashioned activity of “going for a drive”. On August 31st we made the drive to Bangor to visit the Duck Of Justice at the Bangor Police Department, and to also pay a visit to the home of author Stephen King. It was a quick drive up the Maine turnpike, about ninety minutes, to get to Bangor and enjoy what we wanted to do plus a nice lunch and some shopping. But then the simple question was this: SR1 runs along most of the coast of Maine. Why not take a drive out to the coast, and take SR1 along the coast back down to Brunswick before heading back inland to the apartment? In ended up being a drive over multiple hours on crowded two-lane roads down the coast. But in doing so we finally visited the beautiful seaside towns of Searsport, Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville, and quite a few other towns and villages.

That’s what we do. We plan a trip, we get somewhere, we do what we’d planned, and then instead of going home we either ask “What else is around here?”, or we say “Let’s head that way, it looks interesting.” And then we do just that. It’s fun, we see a lot more than we’d planned, and we learn more about where we’ve visited. And we have a great time doing it. Try it, you’ll probably like it.

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