Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 2)

How to Watch a Nordic Ski Race

Greetings, Off the Maine Road readers!

I realized it has been over two years since this blog has been updated. Surprisingly, not many Maine-related things have happened in my life. If you follow our Facebook page, you may have been able to ascertain that I traveled to Maine last October. Now, I am back for another quick trip, and have decided to write this post about one of my experiences today.

This morning, I left the town of Lewiston for Norway (the town in Maine, not the country). As I drove north, the temperature dropped to a balmy 5 degrees Fahrenheit. My friend was racing in a Nordic ski race just outside of Norway, so I decided to attend.

My relationship to nordic skiing dates back to the beginning of January (yes, a month ago). After taking four Nordic skiing lessons, I can confidently say that I do not possess enough Nordic skiing knowledge to know anything about racing, never mind just moving on skis. Nevertheless, I decided to go and support my friend.

Lesson #1: Drink hot beverages and eat chili.

I arrived at the farm/ski trail and parked a solid half mile from the race, and that’s when it hit me: it’s really cold outside. The parking lot next to the starting line was filled with yellow school buses, their engines running to keep competitors warm. (Did I mention it was cold outside?) As I walked onto the snow, racers rushed in front of and behind me, practicing their starts with their ski poles. Spectators hooted, hollered and rang bells as races went off. There was an indoor space, but that seemed to be reserved only for officials — no warming up in there. The highlight of the parking lot was the chili/baked goods/hot drinks stand, which contained a wide variety of culinary options. While the vegan chili looked tasty, I decided to down a cup of tea every hour to keep my hands warm. In the sun, I was able to warm up a little, but once I stepped into the race area, all my feelings of warmth disappeared. That’s when it hit me: I was stupid.

Lesson #2: Wear warm clothes.

You see, coming from Vermont, you would think I would have brought better and warmer winter clothes. While the warmest things I had were my ski gloves, they were no match to the cold outside. The boots, while lined and warm, also failed to protect me from the cold. My jacket was the Achilles heel of all my gear. And the jeans were no match to all of the other spectators’ snow pants. Snow pants for spectating? Yes. One person looked like a snowman with all the gear she was wearing.

The skiing was, of course, the highlight of my two-hour extravehicular activity. Heats of ski racers would line up for an official to yell “go!,” after which they would ski into the trails and magically reappear 4-5 minutes later. This concluded the race. And then it’s back to the bus for them to warm up, until an hour later, when they do it all over again. If you’re good, you keep doing that a few times. The finals, while probably competitive, were too late for my frozen body to bear.

Lesson 3: Wear warmer clothes (and accessories).

I was at the starting line of the race when a woman, obviously dressed for the weather, asked me, “Where’s your hat?” Nordic skiing, since it does not require a helmet, is the opportunity for Mainers to show off their impressive winter hat collection. Since I did not bring a hat, I missed this opportunity, and told her I didn’t have one. She opened a big to reveal a large number of hand and foot warmers, and offered those to me. I politely declined, which was a mistake. In order to stay warm, I took a victory lap around the parking lot to keep moving my fingers and toes.

After two hours, my friend finished racing and I proceeded back into the car. Cranking the seat warmer and heating up to high, I drove to nearby Pennesseewasee Lake, where I witnessed four tobacco-smoking men crawl out of their eskimo tent and checked their traps for their ice fishing. After talking to them (and walking on the lake!), I decided that I should head to a warmer place.

Tonight I’m in Bath, Maine and will be leaving the state tomorrow. It’s a quick trip, but hopefully I’ll be back soon. Follow our Facebook page for more updates!

And remember:

Dress warmly.

Check out some pictures from the day below!

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Off the Maine Road Turns 1!


Dear Off the Maine Road readers,

December 1, 2014 is a historic day here at Off the Maine Road. One year ago today, this blog was launched with the goal of bringing the beauty of Maine to readers around the world. A year later, the site has seen some incredible growth in content and design, inspired by my Maine visit in May. Although the blog has regrettably not been updated lately, mostly due to my work this summer with Off the Silk Road, I hope to continue providing you all with more content and multimedia. Personally, I have been able to experiment with various website presentation and multimedia techniques.

Thank you all so much for supporting Off the Maine Road this year! If you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to contact me here. I cannot wait for what is to come in the following months and years of Off the Maine Road!

-Benjy R., Editor, Off the Maine Road


Introducing…Off the Silk Road!

I’m pleased to announce that Off the Maine Road now has a sister site! It’s called Off the Silk Road, and as you can hopefully guess, it’s China-themed.

As you may have read before, I will be leaving for China for six weeks. Off the Silk Road  is a place where you can not only see some of my thoughts while I’m there, but also see other posts relating to Chinese culture in the future. I encourage you to subscribe to its email list as well, and like it on Facebook!

Have a great summer and 路顺风!(May the wind be at your back!)

Off the Silk Road

For most of this blog, you have read about places in Maine that are “off the Maine road.” This post will be a little different.

In about two weeks from now, I will be traveling way off the main road, all the way to rural Yunnan Province in Southwestern China. I will be there for six weeks, during which I will be trekking, studying, and immersing myself in all aspects of Chinese culture. Although Maine coverage will be temporarily suspended during this time, you can read about my traveling group’s experiences here. The blog will be in the hands of my trusty Maine correspondents while I’m away. I can assure you that there will be a lot in store for you when I come back as far as the Maine coverage goes. While I’m away, I encourage/challenge you to:

  • Try something new.
  • Go “Off the Maine Road” and visit a place on the blog.
  • Go outside and enjoy nature.
  • Take a picture with a distinct theme or focus every day of the summer.
  • Try a new food.
  • See L.L.Bean’s Facebook page for cool photos of the outdoors.
  • Read Maine Magazine.
  • Travel to somewhere you’ve never been before.
  • Read a new book.
  • Read Off the Maine Road.

And so much more. See how many you can do! Have a great six weeks, and I’ll be back soon!

-Benjy R., Editor, Off the Maine Road

P.S. The picture below is an example of where in rural China I will be spending my time. I took this photo in August 2007.


Introducing the Lighthouse Scale

The next posts on Off the Maine Road will feature various types of reviews many of them eating establishments (restaurants, snack shops, etc.). Rather than rate some of them on the conventional “5 star” scale, I have decided to put my own Maine twist on it. Introducing: The Lighthouse Scale.


The lighthouse graphic you see above is a picture I took of Portland Head Light and converted into a silhouette. Each eating establishment will be “graded” based on the following criteria (each out of 5 points):

  • Food
  • Service
  • Location
  • Atmosphere

The scores out of 5 for each category will then be added and placed out of 20 points for the final lighthouse scale:

  • 1 lighthouse (1-4 points)
  • 2 lighthouses (5-8 points)
  • 3 lighthouses (9-12 points)
  • 4 lighthouses (13-16 points)
  • 5 lighthouses (17-20 points)

The respective number of lighthouses will then be displayed on the post.

I chose this scale to give you, as readers, the information you need to make the right choices in Maine. And the graphic looks pretty darn cool, too.


Rounding Off a Maine Weekend

Off the Maine Road has just completed a weekend filled with food, friends and fun. The trip that our team took to Maine more than exceeded my expectations, and I was able to sample and discover so much more than I ever imagined. I would like to take this time to thank the Maine community for showing us their warmth, hospitality and enthusiasm towards their great state. Coming from New York, I can affirm that the Maine population is so much “nicer” than the people here. Let me explain what I mean.

We were sitting in the Portland Jetport waiting for our flight to New York to take off. At the gate next to us, there was another Delta flight to Detroit which was delayed about 50 minutes. I have flown all over the world, and this was the only instance where the gate staff set up a table filled with snacks and drinks for delayed passengers. It’s all because they care in Maine. So thank you to Jesse, Chris and Kimberly, the gate agents at PWM (if you ever read this).  And thank you to everyone with whom I interacted during my three-day visit, from waiters and waitresses to Bowdoin students for displaying kindness, generosity and compassion in one of the greatest places on Earth. And to everyone else who I met — you know who you are. You can imagine how much of a shock it was to walk out at New York’s LaGuardia airport…

Stay tuned for a plethora of content following this legendary expedition. While you wait, take a look at our Facebook page for pictures from the trip. Thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with this photo below, taken at Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth.

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— Benjy R., Editor, Off the Maine Road



Off the Maine Road is heading on the Maine Road!


Dear Off the Maine Road followers,

It has been a while since I have last written, but I can assure you that this post has some exciting news to share.

This coming Memorial Day weekend (May 22–25), the Off the Maine Road team will be spending three days in Maine. It’s something that I personally am really excited about, and it’s sure to be a weekend to remember. (If this note confuses you so far, read the About page of the blog to see more about myself.)

We welcome suggestions from our readers as to where we should go. Please email us at [email protected], or message us on Facebook. And if you’re a business owner, we’re happy to stop by and give you a write-up on the blog! Simply shoot us an e-mail.

Stay tuned for an amazing round of coverage both during and after the trip! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook for updates!

Finally, check out this short video I produced for the trip, featuring photos from the Off the Maine Road collection. And in case you were wondering, it was produced in under 300 seconds (that’s under 5 minutes if you don’t want to do the math).

Summer Nights: A Maine Extravaganza from Benjamin Renton on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading!

Off the Maine Road Update

It’s been 2 weeks since I started this blog and I have some exciting things to share. First, Off the Maine Road has now been moved to its own website at! Check back often to see new posts in our new home. On the writing front, we will be featuring exciting new content on everything Maine, including some posts by guest writers. I look forward to these fantastic additions to this blog. Please fill out the form on the “Contact” page if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments. Thank you all for supporting Off the Maine Road!

The 10 Commandments of Being a Mainer

Every society needs some type of ground rules,  so I have created the 10 Commandments of Being a Mainer.

(Did I mention that I like lists?)

  1. Thou must take a spiritual pilgrimage to Acadia National Park to see the sun rise.
  2. Thou must consume a Sea Dog biscuit at least once in thy life.
  3. Thou must own at least one L.L. Bean product in thy house.
  4. Thou must consider lobster as a Maine staple.
  5. Thou must gather wild blueberries in Maine’s northern woods at least once in thy life.
  6. Thou must climb Mount Katahdin at least once in thy life.
  7. Thou must be enthralled in the beauty of the Maine loon.
  8. Thou must have at least one sighting of moose.
  9. Thou must savor the delicious taste of Maine clam chowder.
  10. Thou must find beauty among the harshest of Maine winters.
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