September 28, 2010


And the back of my neck tingled

It was my last morning in Portland and I had three very important things to do: make an appointment with the vet; buy my winter wardrobe and see some lighthouses.

First: the vet. Rennie had been licking himself. A lot. So much, so that I had to put on my earbuds and turn the volume up when I was in the same room with him. I figured it was just a masculine-dog thing, something that he was doing as part of his teenage boy regimen, but I happened to mention it to Sarah and she said I might consider taking him to the vet, as her dog had been doing the same thing once and although he otherwise had no symptoms, it ended up being a urinary tract infection. I called her vet and they were booked for the day, but they gave me another vet’s name and number, and I was able to get us in there for 10:30.

It was a little after 9 o’ clock when I left the house. That gave us 15 minutes to engage in a fast-tracked game of chase at an empty lot down the street from Sarah & Jake’s, then about 20 minutes to get to the Goodwill just down the street from the vet, and then another 30 minutes to pick out and try on sweaters, pants and coats. Fifty-three dollars later, I left the store with two bulging bags of stuff for layering, because as I was progressing more and more north, the days were shortening and the temperatures were dropping, and Sandy in Lake Orion had dubbed me Margaret Two Sweaters, which was a great name, but I decided Margaret Four Sweaters & an 80s Bomber Jacket had a much more practical ring to it.

Another hour and $200 later, I was leaving the vet, where the very handsome Dr. Wilson and his capable staff of caring ladies had weighed, stroked and cooed at Rennie, as well as determined that yes, indeed, he had a fair dose of bacteria in his urine and needed to go on antibiotics for about five days. By then it was nearly noon but I was determined to see this state park and set of lighthouses that Sarah & Jake had recommended I visit.

So I drove across town and crossed a bridge and took a few turns to end up at Two Lights State Park.

And then I talked to some fishermen, who said I should most definitely check out Fort Williams next, in case I was thinking of skipping that. So I did.

And then it was 1 o’ clock and omigod, I still had to eat and well, it’d be nice to get a few groceries, while I was in the land of Whole Foods, because I would be camping that evening, but I also had to drive a fair bit, if I was going to get to Deer Isle by nightfall. I had no contacts there, but nor did I have any contacts from Portland all the way to Halifax, so I was planning on taking a little time to get to Nova Scotia and because Steinbeck had written about stopping there and how otherworldly it had been, I thought that it would be a good place to use one of my two free nights.

I did not hit the road until about 3 o’ clock. Then I made an unfortunate turn onto the Maine Turnpike, thinking it was going to be more scenic than Rte. 1, because I had a momentary mind collapse and completely forgot that I had already researched Rte. 1 and had seen that it hugged the coast all the way to Canada, and in that same mental shut-down, I also was thinking that turnpikes are usually more scenic. I was thinking of parkways, though, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, and most of you probably know that turnpike is another word for toll road. Basically, it was one of those moments, where my lack of driving and/or living in the States for the last four and a half years became apparent.

Thirty minutes, $5 and one, big U-turn later, I was back on track and at the very point where I had gone astray, so that I could settle into the drive, having apparently proven to myself that I had chosen the absolutely best possible way. It also made me realize, however, that I was exactly a month into my trip and that that little detour was the worst that had happened yet.

Of course I did not make it to Deer Isle that night. I kind of knew I wouldn’t anyhow, because when I was still at Sarah & Jake’s, I had looked at their Maine guide and had seen the camping options there and it seemed that everything was inside state parks, which is pretty and all, but those set-ups have no electricity and certainly no wireless Internet and well, I know myself and I know that I am kind of a city girl and that while I like to act all rustic and tough, at the end of the day, what I really want is an incandescent light over my head and a hot shower and a flushing toilet and access to my e-mail, and I also want to be able to make a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and while boiling water on my propane stove in the dark would work, it’s just not my first choice.

So, I had figured I would stay somewhere outside Deer Park and then drive in for a day trip, before heading farther north. I didn’t even make it that far, though. While filling up at a gas station in Warren, I had looked at my phone and found some campsites near the water that were about an hour from where I was, so I called one in Belfast and one in Searsport and even though Belfast seemed a bit more scenic than Searsport, and even though the one in Belfast was a few dollars cheaper than the one in Searsport, the man who answered the phone in Searsport was so much warmer and friendlier than the other man in Belfast, so I passed right on by Belfast, casting a final, longing glance at the cute harbor town as it sat twinkling across the way in the dark, and I drove about 10 miles further until I was turning off the main road and steering down a long, dark drive, and as I saw that it was not part of a little town at all, but rather stuck by its remote self on the water, I was still doubting whether I wanted to go there or turn around and go back to Belfast, but I kept telling myself not to be such a baby, because I was pretty sure this was going to be a well-run place. And it was. It was the kind of place that had NPR piped into the bathrooms and where everything was well-marked and clean and new, and the staff was friendly, and the whole site was wooded and pretty and right on the water, and there was even a dog run.

A dark-haired woman smiled at me as I entered the office, and as she was checking me in, she asked if I had ever been to Maine before. When I said no, that it was my first time and that I was headed to Halifax but that first I wanted to stop at Deer Isle, she paused from what she was doing.

“You know that Deer Isle is not on the way to Halifax; right?”

I laughed. “Well, I guess I have to go up and over and—” I trailed off.

“It will be an hour and a half out of your way.”

“And it’s not that worth it?”

Basically, she said, I would go and remark how pretty it was and then I would have to keep right on moving. “Go there when you can spend a few days, make it your own,” she advised me.

Where to then?

Jasper Beach.

And so I took down the name and continued on my way up Rte. 1 until I got to Machias, where her husband told me to ask for directions on how to get to the beach, and that’s what I did, and the woman at the gas station where I filled up and asked for directions said that she lived in Machiasport, right by the beach, and that it was pretty and that she thought I would like it.

“I see you have a dog, too,” she said, looking out the window at Rennie, sitting in his seat. “You can let him run free. He’ll love it.”

And that’s how I was lucky enough to visit one of the most magical places I had ever been in my life.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anna Dlugosz
    Sep 28 2010

    oh my i did not realize how much i needed that moment tonight.
    it’s the shingle beaches ..the sound just overtakes all your senses.. i experienced it once in Seaford/Dover England and I regretted not being able to capture and return to it…Thank you :).. no chills but a few happy tears.

    • Sep 29 2010

      I’m so glad you got to experience it, though. I can’t imagine you ever forget it.

  2. Stephanie Cheatley
    Sep 28 2010

    The secret to your fabulous adventures might just be the secret to a fabulous life. Have a plan and when your plan is not quite right go with the warm and friendly people and they will help you find a better plan.

    • Sep 29 2010

      I love your comments. You generally sum up all of what I was trying to say (without knowing it) in a sweet little package.

  3. Martha Walker
    Sep 29 2010

    The magic comes through. Could you hear that sound while you slept in the camper? Playa Conchal, in Costa Rica, has shells that whisper the same song. Thank you, Margaret.

    • Sep 29 2010

      I did not sleep there, unfortunately. But how that would have been! You’re welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Oct 17 2010

    I’m so glad that you found it and loved the spot as much as me…your video makes me want to go and visit next week while the sun is still warm 😉

    • Oct 18 2010

      Hi, Astrig. Thank you again for the suggestion. It was one of the best I have received and taken in all my two months thus far.


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