13th May 2008 – Bar Harbor, ME to Portland, ME

Portland Maine Harbour photo
Image Source: http://gearpatrol.com/2015/07/15/portland-maine-travel-guide/

We drove to Portland, Maine’s biggest city (although still only a measly 60,000 people live there). As a port town, its main industry used to be fishing. It then shifted to agriculture and manufacture, before becoming more service-industry based, and apparently the place has developed something of a reputation for good quality restaurants. It was sounding promising, and the weather had been holding up nicely. We arrived in bright, warm sunshine.

The drive, of course, gave us another opportunity to tune in to some dire radio stations. Now, I know I said earlier that there is something special about driving on the open highway in America with classic rock playing on the radio, but over the course of our trip and many hours of driving, it had become apparent that there was actually very little variation in the music played on U.S. radio. The most frequently played records were by the Eagles, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Bryan Adams and Queen.

These artists take up probably 90% of all airplay, with the other 10% divided between U2, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Supertramp, Leona Lewis, and the various solo members of the Eagles.

As I have mentioned, Mass is into classic rock in a big way, so when I’m complaining about the lack of decent music on the radio, he’s probably thinking, “This is decent music.” And when I’m complaining about the lack of variety, he’s happily singing along to Hotel California for the tenth time that day. And at the end of a long, tiring six hour drive when I don’t want to hear another song by the fucking Eagles ever again, Mass is busy whacking off at the thought of an even longer drive the next day, during which time an all-day Eagles music marathon will be playing on the radio.

In Portland we checked in at Fairfield Inn, which set us back $70 for the night. It was quite a luxurious place and it offered free fruit and cookies, and a build-your-own sandwich room. That’s the sandwich you get to build, not the room.

Unfortunately there was a conference due in town for a hunting and fishing centre, so the following day the price of a room was set to rise to $99. We decided this was too much and that we would book in at a trusty Motel 6 in the morning instead.

In the news, it looked certain that Obama would be seeing off Hillary Clinton in the election primaries, wildfires were raging in Florida (thought to be arson) and John McCain wanted to blame China and India for global pollution.

Driving into Portland earlier in the day, we had heard a DJ on the radio boasting that his new hybrid SUV was capable of doing 22mpg. This immediately smashed all our preconceptions that Americans can’t make fuel-efficient vehicles and aren’t concerned about the environment, and instantly proved John McCain’s claim to be correct.

We had been promised plenty of nightlife in Portland, so we decided to get a cab to downtown that evening.


[1] In 2009 Portland was awarded the title of “Foodiest Small Town in America.” Foodiest. Really? Fuck off. Seriously, that’s almost as bad as the American’s creation of the word “winningest”.

Mark Jackman is one half of the Jackman Brothers, who have written a trilogy of humour books set in the fictional town of Old Liston. He has also written a number of travel diaries, including the Mass and Peahead series about his road trips through America with his buddy Mass.