MACHIAS – Sixty graduates of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., are getting a tour and a taste of Down East this week, starting at the bridge that crosses from Lubec to Campobello Island.
They are on a 10-day travel-study program of the Stanford Alumni Association. After three days in New Brunswick, they arrived Tuesday in Washington County to the down-home hospitality that Down East is known for.
Today they leave from Bangor on the Nantucket Clipper, a 102-passenger ship that will take them over seven days to Boston.
“Your coast is so beautiful; it’s timeless,” said Barry Lane, the tour director from Quebec City whose travel company works with alumni groups mostly within Canada.
“I like to bring groups into Maine, go cross-border, because the two sides are so similar but so different.”
The group flew from Los Angeles to Fredericton, New Brunswick, and spent two days in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Tuesday morning they toured Campobello, the summer home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park.
That’s where makeshift local guides sprang into action.
Louise West, executive director of the Machias Bay Chamber of Commerce, had known that “a large group from Stanford” was coming this way, but was short on other details.
Still, she lined up several friends of the Chamber who could talk about Down East – its history, its ways and its charms – to the visitors. They stepped in at the last minute when a few people she hoped could help were not available.
The group wanted to hear about the history of Washington County, the economy, the people and the land.
Valdine Atwood of Machias, a local history aficionado, got on the tour bus at Campobello and talked about Lubec and then, as they passed through Whiting, the Whiting schoolhouse that has served pupils since 1825.
In Machias, Bill Cherry of Whitneyville gave remarks about the Machias River and conservation measures that are taking place, now that the lands are changing through generations.
Barb and Bill Plaskon of Jonesport took the bus through Cherryfield and up to Route 9 as the group learned about blueberry barrens. The Plaskons are keen members of both the Jonesport Historical Society and Sunrise Senior College.
“I’m glad we could do this,” Barb Plaskon said.
Now the group is aboard the Nantucket Clipper for stops in Bucksport, Bar Harbor and Camden, as well as visits to the Farnsworth Art Museum, Boothbay Harbor, Bath, Portland and Kennebunkport. Organizer Lane will tap other local chambers of commerce for the “insider’s visits.”
Part of the tour’s appeal is the fall foliage, but Lane knows the real draw for the Maine portion of the trip.
“The carrot,” he said, smiling, “is the ship.”