Having moseyed down U.S. Highway 1 to Key West in June, we took a respite at home to see if we were infected by any of the unvaccinated and unmasked in the southerly climes. Finding ourselves safe, thanks to our vaccination and mask-wearing, in late July we decided to venture to the other end of the spectrum, U.S. Highway 1 in Maine.
At the risk of sounding like a groupie, I rhapsodize, “Maine is soooo beautiful!” The only negative thing that I have to say about it is that it could be more conveniently located for those of us in the Midwest who aren’t that excited about long bouts in the car.
Like Key West had gotten into my head because of a book, Silas House’s Southernmost, Maine is in my head thanks to my honey, Larry’s, summer sojourns there with his grandparents when he was a “ute,” and the writings of Elizabeth Strout. Books, naturally: that’s where curiosity is born and nurtured. As an aside, if you’ve never read any of Elizabeth Strout’s works, get cracking. She’s a “Mainer,” sets her stories there and both the characters and settings are mesmerizing. You’ll wanna’ go, even if it is inconveniently located.
Our primary destination was Acadia National Park. Not only does it have stunning views, but it is close by “Bah Hahba,” which you can sound silly by attempting to say with a fake Down East accent.
Between Acadia and Larry’s old stomping ground, Popham Beach, is Eastern Egg Rock where there be puffins. You go to Boothbay Harbor for a cruise out to see this enclave that is being bolstered by the Audubon Society. Hang on to hear puffin calls at the end of this Chronicle.
One of the great charms of Popham Beach, Larry’s grandparents’ home, is the ability to be part of what seems to be a minor miracle. You can walk out to an island from the mainland! At low tide you can walk from the lovely white-sand beach out into the Atlantic to Fox Island. Not much beats the wind in your hair and the water lapping on your feet as you begin your traverse on what often is the underwater. They do warn you though to look carefully at the tidal charts so that you don’t get marooned and/or swept away. (Maine can be unforgiving as well as beautiful.) In his guise as my research assistant, Larry tells me that some folks load up with provisions: food and books, and spend the 8 hours there between low tides.
Then, if you’ve had enough of the wonders of nature, you go a bit south to Freeport for binge shopping at the L.L. Bean mothership and the satellite outlet mall that has attached itself like a barnacle to the town.
Also, you are required to stop every ten seconds for a lobster roll. Or, if that isn’t your thing, curiously enough, Thai food seems to be big up there. Even non-Thai restaurants have one or two Thai items on their menus. Maine doesn’t seem like a climate that would appeal to people from Thailand, but then, lots of Southeast Asians resettled in South Bend—and stayed. Go figure.
After the pleasures of Maine, the slog back to the Midwest can be broken up with a day in Seneca Falls, NY at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. If you have one of those National Parks passes, it’s a bit disappointing that you don’t get to use it since the site is free, and it’s not so much a park as a building, but other than that, it’s terrific and easily worth your attention. Not only does it highlight women’s struggle for the vote and better conditions over a hundred years ago, but it features updates on ongoing trials and triumphs. To use a hackneyed phrase, it’s the classic good news/bad news saga: you’ll laugh; you’ll cry, but you’ll be glad that you stopped to see and think about the issues.
So, again in South Bend, and again having escaped the curse of the unmasked and unvaccinated, for Michiana Chronicles this is Jeanette Saddler Taylor.