Having spent most of my summers in the state of Maine while growing up, with a weather forecast for rain the day we arrived in Portland, Maine, I knew we would be best off indoors that day, setting aside the following day for exploring outdoors in better weather. So we drove two friends from Australia (on their first visit to this part of the USA) south to Kittery, Maine, to visit the expansive factory outlet store malls (which they had heard about, but not experienced). On the motorway we were only able to go about half the legal maximum speed due to the torrential rains. I had experienced a lot of rain in Maine but never anything like this. We knew Hurricane Joaquin was heading up from Bermuda, but far away. Little did we know that a once in a 1,000 year confluence of weather factors was producing a total deluge across southern Maine that morning.
We thought it strange that the Polo Ralph Lauren store that we pulled into was closed. Finding some repairmen nearby, we learned that the electricity at that end of town was out. Driving further through the town, we found no traffic lights, store lights nor home lights on. Off the road we inquired at the Maine State Visitor’s Center and found out that there was no electricity anywhere in town — in fact, the lights were out from Portsmouth, New Hampshire (to the south) to well north of Kittery, a distance of about 30 miles (48 kilometers) along the Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Giving up on showing our friends their first outlet stores, we opted for the next best alternative — a hands-on fresh lobster lunch. Knowing the area, we decided that our best bet was Mabel’s Lobster Claw Restaurant (family owned since 1953) in Kennebunkport, Maine, half-way back up to Portland — our favorite southern Maine lobster restaurant. Getting out of the rain for a few hours was good, but devouring 2 pound lobsters was terrific. Not to mention their fantastic homemade blueberry pie a la mode. Getting to the restaurant we went up Ocean Avenue along the piers with 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of water flooding the roadway, coinciding with high tide at 1:30 p.m. By the time we left, the rain had subsided, and the flooding diminished with the ebbing tide.
Driving our friends around the town, we had to head to the number one “attraction” in Kennebunkport over the past 20+ years — Walker’s Point.
Although his main residence is in Texas, George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States of America, maintains the “Bush Compound” (his family’s summer residence) on Walker’s Point — a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean on the north end of Kennebunkport. Wikipedia details the history of the property: “The estate was purchased in the late 19th century jointly by David Davis Walker, great-grandfather to President George H. W. Bush, and his son, St. Louis banker George H. Walker. Both built mansions on the point in 1902. D. D. Walker’s mansion has since been torn down….”
“President George H. W. Bush spent much of his childhood at the Kennebunkport estate. As an adult, Bush, his wife Barbara, and their children George W., Jeb, Marvin, Neil, Dorothy, and Robin spent most summers at the estate. The estate has been a backdrop of family weddings, holidays, and receptions. While at the ‘Summer White House,’ Bush hosted world leaders including Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev for informal and private meetings.”
Postscript on our drive back to Portland — many roads in the center of the city were closed late in the day due to stranded cars blocking the streets. We later learned that there was severe flooding in downtown Portland, with about two feet of standing water midday by the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stores — the worst flooding in many years. And luckily, by the next day, the weather system collapsed and we had good weather for exploring the area.