Commentary

John Patrick Ford

Ford is a freelance writer located in San Diego. He can be reached at johnpatrick.ford@sddt.com.

Touring

It’s impossible to avoid a meal with lobster in Canada’s Maritime provinces and the state of Maine.

Why are the covered bridges of New England often painted red? Did the farmers use the leftover red paint from their barns?

The Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland was settled only a few years after the establishment of the Virginia colony at Jamestown in 1607. Because of this region’s isolation from the mainland until bridges and tunnels were built in the mid-20th century, the land still retains a colonial environment.

The adventure of 19th-century whaling days is still alive in spirit among the historic islands off Cape Cod, Mass. Once the whaling capitals of the world, Nantucket and New Bedford preserve the romance and hardships of the young men who went to the sea.

How do you experience France without the tiresome and expensive flight to Europe? Areas of French Canada are a convenient option. Montreal and Québec City are obvious choices, but another kind of France lies in between.

For nearly two centuries, Hawaii and the islands of the South Pacific have attracted famous writers who have savored the exotic tropics. The early chroniclers were the explorers who left a rich history of the South Pacific in their published ship logs and accounts of first encounters with Polynesian culture.

For those planning a trip, spring in California’s Sierra foothills is a colorful panorama of wildflowers and fruit orchards in bloom. Clumps of lilac-blue lupine growing 3 feet tall mix with batches of orange poppies along the roadside and up the hillsides.

Far from the clutter of urban New York is a retreat made famous by the rich and famous of the late 19th century. Nestled at the mouth of Narragansett Bay, R.I., is a charming colonial-era village called Newport. What makes this idyllic hideaway famous are the ornate mansion-museums that border the scenic shoreline.

Local wags in Alaska, called “sourdoughs,” like to tell you that cutting the state in two still makes Texas the third-largest. That gives a perspective on how vast this northern wilderness compares to the lower 48.

A strange sensation of history stirred me as I stepped into the original ruts of El Camino Real approaching the mission of San Antonio de Padua in the remote Salinas Valley. The reality swept over me that I was treading in the footsteps of the 18th century Franciscan padres and hundreds of Spanish soldiers and Native Americans who walked from mission to mission along the California coast.

One of the appealing features of touring the Maritime Provinces is the diversity of cultures in a relatively compact area. The Atlantic seaboard of Canada was first settled by the French, then ceded to England as reparations for wars fought in Europe. As a result, settlers from both countries came to North America to escape the military strife and religious intolerance that shook the Old World in the 17th and 18th centuries during transition from monarchies to republics.

Our 50th state was plunged into the 20th century from the idyllic tropical paradise of the prior century when it was granted statehood in 1959. A surge of new development spawned by tourist business and faster air travel changed the environment. Today, it is challenging to find a spot where the legendary Hawaiian lifestyle delighted residents and visitors before World War II.

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