Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

When you leave the area called Oxford Hills, up north of here, there's a road heading even further north that leads to some pretty wild country. It reminds me a great deal of Canada, at least the parts of Canada I've been to. Pine trees and rocks. Lakes with islands. And roads that appear to be in perpetual need of repair. The kind of place where a person could get lost.

There's something about Maine that causes me to get disoriented easily. It's all that talk about downeast. Which isn't down east at all. It's a maritime term, having to do with water, wind, stuff like that. Down East is heading up. East. I think. I'm pretty good at reading road maps. I said, 'pretty good.' And getting my bearings, direction wise, isn't a problem. But, driving the back roads here is like trying to find my way out of a maze. I usually know where I'm going, I kinda know how to get there, it's the in-between part that can get interesting. I'm learning to relax, though, knowing I will arrive someplace and from there I can take another leap into the unknown.

The other day, I decided to head out and see what the insides of Maine look like. I felt a bit like that youngster, I'm tellin' this story, who heads out to stake a claim in the wilds of the new frontier. Threw a pack across my horse's back, put my foot in the stirrup and into the wild blue yonder I went, armed only with my camera. Okay, it was just a little day trip, in my blue Nissan, but it felt kinda fun, like a mini-adventure. Johnny Horton's "North to Alaska," started running through my mind. Much better than the last song that wouldn't let go. Some maudlin thing by Bread (I believe that may be redundant), about some dern diary:  "I found her diary underneath a tree, and started reading about me..." To make a tiresome story short, turns out it wasn't about him. Anyway, here's something better, with images of the Klondike Gold Rush. Love the movie with John Wayne. Love the song. Here's Johnny Horton:  

First stop was Coos Canyon, a river much like those along Highway 61, on the north shore of Lake Superior; small waterfalls in rocky steps flowing under a rather picturesque bridge. Did I mention rocks? Lots of big rocks. It took me by surprise and was a nice way to begin.

My cell phone went into "searching for service" mode, but I stayed cool and settled into the sense of isolation. It felt good in its own way, the old way. Much of my life has been spent on back roads with nary a communication device in sight. I could do this. I  soon found myself in the middle of nowhere. And have the sign to prove it. Sometimes the sign said, "next three miles," sometimes it said, "next seven miles." You get the idea.

I passed a small lake that was still mostly ice-covered. The blue sky reflected in the ice, and the stillness, the absolute quiet, kept me there for a good while, listening to the "sound of silence." 

Next, "the long and winding road" (don't stop me, I'm apparently on a Golden Oldies bender) took me right to the top of this back country. It's referred to as Height O' Land, in these parts. I got outside and walked over to the edge to take a gander. Not too shabby.

I hung out there for awhile, at the top of the world, before I wound my way back down and into rolling hill country, right up to the old farmhouse I'd been tracking all day. As you know, I brake for old farmhouses. And this was a good one. I pulled over to the side of the road and got out to take a few pictures. Alright, more than a few. I was on a roll. Which would make a good pun in the old days, when we still took pictures with film. Anyway, you might think it looks familiar and you would be right. A photograph of it, a much better version, taken by Murad, was included in my post,  "Murad Sayen and the Gift of Light."  Ever since I saw his photo, I'd been wanting to see this farm in person. It looks like a place I could call home. When I came around the corner and topped the hill, there it was. For me, it's the roofs , the outlines formed by the houses and barns, that draw me to these aging beauties. This roof is especially nice. I've posted a photo at the top. Then, another photo of it below. And then another. And yes, I seem to have a thing for this farmhouse. As I drove away, it called me back to take its picture from the other side.

So, I was pickin' up a little bit of steam, gettin' in the groove, when I came, possibly careening, around a corner and found myself smack dab in the middle of an old mill town. Well, the remnants of it, anyway. It was there I met the coolest old ramshackle building sitting next to the river. It was quietly waiting to have its picture taken. And I happily obliged. I may have gotten carried away. It may have even started to feel like I was invading its space. It's kinda fun to view everything as alive, to feel the life that once existed inside the walls of those earlier days. It was probably a pretty busy place once upon a time. The fading turquoise window and door frames grabbed me first. I'm not sure why I find peeling paint so attractive, but I do. Especially in this color. The play of light created interesting shadows and the mottled paint around the window was, uh, appealing.

As I drove through the day, I saw a variety of social landscapes, shall we say. Have you ever read the novel, The Beans of Egypt, Maine, by Carolyn Chute?  I believe I may have passed their place. I started thinking about poverty and the so-called  "under-privileged."  What an ill-fitting way to describe those who eke out a hardscrabble existence, with no privileges whatsoever. It's a way of life that settles in for some and finding a way out becomes difficult, if not impossible. I don't like to use those words, because I like to think anything is possible. And, I truly believe it is. But then, I've never gotten trapped by life choices, nor by life circumstances. At least, not for long. Some folks do. I had to wander about the person who had inhabited this dwelling. Maine winters can be tough. Definitely a scaled down version of a summer place. But, man, did I love the colors and the car. What a first-class photo opp. Well, it would have been, given the right time of day, the right light, but what the heck, I shot them anyway.

Later in the afternoon, I landed in Farmington, a small, picturesque college town. I've always loved the vibe of college towns, that youthful energy that moves down the sidewalks and fills the halls of academia. It seems like yesterday that I walked out of my house, just off Beltrami Avenue in Bemidji, headed down the sidewalk to the college three blocks away, saying to myself,  'These years will go by fast. Make 'em count.'  That was back in  1972. May I repeat that for anyone younger who might be reading this? These years will go by fast. Make 'em count. And not just the years, but the days out of which they're made.

There was the usual library. Except in this case, it wasn't usual. Someone had the good sense to create new architectural elements to compliment the old. It worked beautifully. I have to show you a few photos to do it justice. Well, as much justice as I can, given the time of day and a pocket camera. I may have gotten a tad carried away. I love libraries. Variations on turquoise seems to be another theme here.

The bell tower of a church is a photographic cliche, but I include it anyway. I love the variety of designs in the wood, a little bit of Queen Anne, a little bit of gingerbread. There's something about how they reach toward the sky that I still find, well, uh, inspiring, that makes me want to stand under them and just look up.

I walked a portion of the main street, ducked into Dunkin' Donuts for a too-late-in-the-afternoon iced coffee and then hit the road again. I had driven a loop through some interesting country and was back on Highway 95, heading for Old Orchard Beach and home. The freeways and turnpikes might take us where we need to go, but it's on those back roads where life is really happening. Another good day behind the wheel.

P.S. The next morning I got down to the beach in time to witness this. So beautiful, it almost broke my heart.

Here are the Beatles:


  1. WOW!!! What a fun adventure and luv'd listening to "North to Alaska" at the very beginning...great fun!

  2. This is all so beautiful. Loved the farm house.

  3. I never even considered visiting just might change my mind. What a beautiful country we live in. Your photos are both familiar and new to me. Maine seems to have much in common with rural Eastern Oregon...I think that old trailer and rusted car are just down the road from me. I enjoyed reading your post.

  4. What a journey! Forgot all about that Bread song. Used to love that! I already downloaded it.

    All the photos are great, but that last one of the sunrise is spectacular! Wow. What camera are you using?

    Thanks for sharing your trip!

  5. Thank you, TM and Kristy, for reading and sharing your thoughts with me.

    #1 Nana, so glad you dropped by. It gave me a chance to read your blog. I Love to car dance, too, singing along to the radio.

    Gail, I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I have a Canon Power Shot A590, which is really just a pocket camera. That sunrise photo, like all my sunrise photos, was untouched. Just as you see it. Almost unbelievable, to experience those colors just as they appear in the photos.

  6. Hey, it's still Canon! That's what I shoot with. I have seen some unbelievable photos on Flickr from people who use a Canon Power Shot. I've actually thought about getting one for times I don't want to lug around the heavy SLR.

  7. It does suit my purposes, but someday, I might have to spring for something else. I miss the weight, the feel of a 35mm in my hands. But, I love shooting with abandon and then being able to delete : )

  8. A fun road trip, which I miss and should do again by myself so I can wander, reminisce, and relax.

  9. Great read. Great. I never tire of reading your stories. Road trips ..hmm how often is it that the person who returns is different from the one who first set foot out the door?

    1. Thank you so much, Ray. I can't tell you how much this means to me ...