It’s been a crazy summer, with flight delays and travel problems and unexpected family events and last-minute changes of plans, so when Robert said he could take a few days off from work in late August, I leapt at the chance to plan a short driving vacation. I chose Prince Edward Island as our final destination, and we decided to take two days going up, two days there, and two days going down. My parents said they’d join us for the trip, so on Tuesday they drove up from New York; we ate at Picco in the South End (great pizzas and good ice cream, just a short walk down Tremont Street) and went to bed planning for an early morning departure.
After finally getting on the road at 9:00, our first stop Wednesday morning was a couple hours north, up 93 and 95 to the Desert of Maine, a glacial-silt deposit in Freeport, Maine, that began appearing about a hundred years ago. At its height there were 200 acres of sand, but lately lichen has been leading a natural reforestation effort: the “desert” is down to a mere 50 acres of sand, and who knows whether any will be left in another hundred years. Interestingly, my parents remembered visiting here sometime in the 1960s, when it was much more desert-y and much less forest-y. Their earlier visit led to several jokes with the tour guide, an older man who started working here in 1961. “I thought I remembered you!” my father called from the back of the tram. The tram ride through the desert was nice, and it was an impressive place to see. The bathrooms, however, were so frightening I almost didn’t make it inside (really it was just Robert pushing me in the back toward the “her’s” room that got me there): first of all, there were two women speaking loudly in such broad Maine accents that I didn’t understand a thing; then there was quite a bit of water on the floor (sand I could have coped with!), so much so that I had to roll up my jeans to ankle-length; and then ultimately it was the “When power fails, please do not flush toilet” signs, repeated in three or four places in the bathroom, that got to me. “When” power fails? Where are we? Does the power fail often? Oh right, we’re in a desert—I forgot.
Lunch was an excellent assortment of lobster rolls, scallop rolls, fried clams, and onion hearts—which Robert doused with sugar, when trying to apply salt. Before lunch, though, Robert had just pulled into an end spot in the parking lot when a man appeared right next to the car. “Good parking job,” he said (being a New Yorker, I assumed he meant it sarcastically—being a Maine-er, he seemed to be sincere). We were confused. He kept talking to us, thanking Robert for—and complimenting him on—taking that difficult-to-get-into spot. He asked us if we’d eaten there before, and thankfully we could honestly say yes, in order to get rid of him all the sooner. Lunch was good, and the breezy weather and bright sun combined to form the perfect day to eat outside, but the micro-managing of the parking lot was a little bit off-putting.
From the lobster roll place it was just a few minutes down the road to L.L. Bean, where my parents had some specific things in mind to try on. Robert and I ambled around, looking at things as possibilities for his grandmother, trying to find gecko and dolphin lunchboxes (they had geckos and sharks, but sadly no dolphins), and trying out chairs and tents. At 2:30 we hit the road again, heading north into “downeast” Maine.
We’d chosen Bangor as our first overnight, roughly halfway between Boston and Prince Edward Island. The Super 8 motel got good reviews online, and at $66 for a room with breakfast and wireless (senior citizens get an additional 10% discount), it was a good deal. The rooms were large, clean, and not at all shabby inside; the beds were comfortable enough; the air conditioning was good; and the hot water and water pressure were excellent. We checked in and then drove around beautiful downtown Bangor, admiring the big Victorian houses and yards—which reminded us of Saratoga Springs—and the tree-lined streets. A Dairy Queen at the edge of town beckoned for a quick late-afternoon stop (Robert and I got our signature blizzard, here called a Pecan Cluster), and then we all went back to the hotel and took naps. Dinner was at 7:30 at Thistle’s, which kept coming up as the best restaurant in Bangor. The menu was a mix of Spanish/Argentinean, Italian, and classic New England. We had empanadas and crab cakes as appetizers, and lobster pie, salmon with blue cheese, pesto shrimp pasta, and paella for dinner. Everything was very good: my pasta should have been a little more al dente, and the vegetables that accompanied three of our dishes were identical and rather bland, but it was still a very nice meal. After dinner, with internet access, cable TV, and a Bravo “Top Chef” marathon, Robert was very happy settling in for the night back at the hotel.
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Created: 8/28/07. Last Modified: 8/28/07.