2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country
In September 1992, my wife Joanie and I ventured from our new home in Fairfield to visit Acadia National Park in Maine for some serious hiking and cycling. Acadia was an easy choice—we had been awed by photos of the park’s spectacular rocky coast, tree-lined carriage trails and dramatic mountaintop vistas. Since we were still newlyweds but had not yet started a family, my car would be perfect for the trip. At the time I was driving a somewhat rare Volvo: a 1990 780T Coupe. The 780 was sleek, designed by the legendary Bertone styling house in Italy. With only two doors and a large trunk, it was ideal for a young couple. We hung our mountain bikes off a primitive trunk rack and headed north for one of the best road trips we’ve ever had.
Fast forward to September 2015. With both of our children now in college, we decided to reprise that first Maine trip. We actually had been back to Acadia a couple of times with our two kids, most recently in August 2011. The kids loved the place almost as much as we did, but we looked forward to experiencing it again as just a couple. For this new adventure, the folks at Volvo supplied us with another unique Swedish offering: The S60 Cross Country. The S60 Cross Country is based on the excellent S60 luxury four-door sedan, with AWD and a ride height raised 2.6 inches giving it nearly eight inches of ground clearance. Power comes from a 250 HP turbocharged five-cylinder engine delivering up to 28mpg. With sharp 19” wheels and a curvaceous exterior, the car looks really good, as noted by quite a few folks we encountered during our trip. If you need a bit more luggage room, Volvo also offers the Cross Country treatment on its V60 Wagon.
Due to a last minute snafu, we needed to quickly get a bike rack. Fortunately, Jacqui Dowd of the Ridgefield Bicycle Company fixed us up with a Thule Archway. This state-of-the-art trunk-mounted rack was easy to mount and even easier to load our two bikes onto. Once in place, the racks and bikes were rock solid and stayed in place over bumps and speeds of up to 75 mph.
We decided to break up the 450-mile trip with a stop for lunch in Ogunquit, Maine. The harbor-side town is quaint and offers up quite a few restaurant choices. But since we were finally in Maine, we opted for delicious and seriously fresh lobster rolls from The Lobster Shack. Stomachs full and back on the road, we decided to take a more coastal route North heading along Route 1. The ocean views and a good audio book (The Boys in the Boat) made the miles fly by. Crossing the Penobscot River, we marveled at the uniquely designed Penobscot Narrows Bridge. From there it was a short leg to our hotel in Bar Harbor. A quick but heartfelt thank you to Volvo’s engineers: After eight hours on the road, we were remarkably fatigue-free. Volvo’s seats are the best in the business: comfortable, supportive and fully adaptable to a wide variety of drivers.
After unloading the car, we headed out to find a good spot for dinner. Downtown Bar Harbor offers a multitude of dining choices for every palate and almost every checkbook. One of our favorite places also happens to be one of the most affordable: The Thirsty Whale Tavern features delicious fresh food from burgers to local seafood to hearty chowders. Plus, the bar offers more than a dozen beers on tap, with numerous regional choices.
In the morning, the sun was shining so we jumped on our bikes and hit the quiet carriage roads that wind through the park and beyond. Financed and supervised by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the 57 miles of rolling broken stone carriage roads were built between 1913-1940. 45 miles of these roads lie within the park confines and in addition to cycling, they are open to hikers, horse riders, horse-drawn carriages and cross-country skiing. The intersections are well marked enabling easy navigation to a variety of scenic locations.
On day two it was time for some hardcore hiking. Acadia features over 120 miles of the best hiking in the Northeastern US, ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous. We opted for strenuous. Our hike to the top of Penobscot Mountain took us over a route that included very narrow and steep rocky sections, some which utilize iron rungs embedded into the rock face. But the spectacular views from the barren, 1194-foot peak were a great reward for completing the climb.
Over the next four days, we explored many more miles of carriage roads and hiking trails. Getting around the park and into Bar Harbor is easy via the Park’s Island Explorer buses, but you are missing out on a great experience if you don’t drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road yourself. From the Loop Road you can access most of the major sites including Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, Jordan Pond, and the Otter Cliffs. The road itself is a flawless, undulating ribbon of asphalt that takes you from tree-lined forests to the breathtaking beauty of Otter Point’s rocky coast with views to rival California’s Big Sur. At the end of the day, drive to the 1530-foot peak of Cadillac Mountain for stunning vistas of forests, lakes, and islands and ultimately, incredible sunsets, too. On clear days, you can see over 100 miles from the summit which is the highest point within 25 miles of the coast on the entire Eastern Seaboard. In the fall and winter months, Cadillac Mountain is also the first point in the US to see the sunrise.
One treat not to be missed in Acadia is a meal or afternoon tea at The Jordan Pond House. The restaurant has been serving their signature popovers since 1890. Served steaming hot out of the oven with local preserves and butter or with ice cream as a desert, you’ll be hooked from your first bite. But be warned: the wait can be quite long to be seated, so make a reservation.
The weather was unseasonably warm and rain-free during our visit. At night, the cloudless skies and very little light pollution offered an incredible view of the stars, the Milky Way and best of all, the Super Blood Moon lunar eclipse. It was a remarkable sight and a great capper to our visit. On the trip home, we needed to make one more tourist stop in Freeport, ME. The town is home to dozens of retail outlets, but you have to visit LL Bean’s flagship store, open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. No matter what your outdoor interest, the sprawling Bean campus has something for everyone. And a really big boot, too.