Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Maine offered up a lovely morning of floating white puffy clouds and long stretches of road bounded by purple lupine wildflowers. Immediately we returned to our game of Stars and Eagles, with Vienna reminding me that I should forgo playing while driving. It's true: darting my eyes to the left and right, trying to peer around corners and through trees toward distant buildings, can't be good for my concentration. Of course we were well in the habit of trying to distract each other from catching ornaments, me asking Jenny to hand me a pen or Vienna trying to lure our attention away from the landscape in her own clever ways. Still, as Jenny's boss reminded me (via Jenny's recollection), I should be careful; I'm carrying precious cargo. So I'd frequently promise to stop playing, and really try to do so. But every once and a while I'd have to sneak a peak in search of -- There It Is! Our first Star and Eagle Combo! A red door with a star topped by an eagle! I kicked up the asphalt while slamming the breaks and pulling off to the side. Jenny and Vienna praised my victory and I got out to snap some pix.

As I stepped closer to the door, planning actually to knock and announce why I was photographing the house (in the hurly thrill of victory I'd abandoned my usual reserve) a guy came out, a curious look on his face as we stood across from each other on his porch. A moment of explanation followed and he smiled, "Oh yeah. My son and I play the same game, only we look for flags." And as I referred to my triumphant victory over my family members Jenny and Vienna waved and smiled at us. It was a sweet and silly moment. Later on, my loved ones were gracious enough to offer my prize, the addition of Suns to our game of Eagles and Stars. Having seen plenty of sun ornaments on this trip, it seemed a fair addition to a process, kind of like when Lucky Charms adds more marshmallow shapes to their cereal.

Reaching the Maine coast at last we searched even more in earnest for great lobster rolls. I won't detail our suffering at trying to find Bagaduce Lunch amid a tangle of poorly signed and inconsistently mapped state roads that seemed to lead every direction but the town of Brooksville. Just know that when we finally spotted the roadside stand and the line of folks queuing for their lunches the three of us were thoroughly frustrated. Even so we had to try a meal. Jenny selected a crab salad while I opted for a traditional lobster roll and a side of hot deep fried onion strings, and we dug into our lunch on a picnic table next to the water. Even in my minor funk I had to admit that this was even better than the rolls from Larochelle's and Empire we sampled yesterday. It was better, yes, but not as amazing as I'd hoped.

By afternoon the white clouds gave way to driving rain as we headed south along the coast. Traffic along Highway 1 was backed up as town after town presented stoplights and congested pedestrian walkways. I'd looked forward to driving this classic tourist road but was now longing for the interstate, or at least to be one of those chipper folks ambling through a town rather than trying to drive through it. By about four o'clock we'd all pretty much had it, even thinking we'd ignore Moody's Diner and just aim for our lodging further ahead. The rain had subsided a bit though and we figured we'd take a brief break at the diner anyway. Stepping inside we felt the age of the place in ghost-fonts of the past, in tighter booth seating to accommodate an entirely different average American frame, and in comfort food that has satisfied folks for decades. Jenny and Vienna decided to make a meal at Moody's while I ordered a four-berry pie, some decaf, and a can of Moxie (with a cup filled to the brim with ice to offset the soda's otherwise ugly aftertaste). Things looked up quickly when I forked into that pie, which fairly gushed with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries (I think). The sweetness, the tartness, and the golden brown thin perfection of crust! Oh yes, this is good stuff.

Returning to the road under a storm of rain that returned with more fervor we all felt much better. The highway seemed to loosen up a bit and Wiscasset seemed close enough to try one more lobster roll stop. Gradually the clouds parted and blue sky poured itself toward the ocean and wildflowers. And then we spotted a long line of cars trudging across the bridge. Not again! Heck, having heard about the popularity of our next stop, Red's Eats, I wondered if the queue was for our dinner. Eventually we crossed the water and found parking near the roadside stand with a view of the bridge we just traversed. Once more I got in line, this time with low expectations. Having had three lobster rolls in Maine thus far I was hoping for a pretty good meal, but nothing all that stunning. And then I got this roll plumped with more than a full lobster's worth of meat. The toasted butter bread was covered with warm chunked goodness, no mayo or other gimmicks to hold this roll together. A cup of drawn butter and a lemon sat on the side of the tin-foiled feast. Could it taste as good as it looked? I'm no connoisseur, but this was the best lobster I ever had.

Our next step was the cheerfully glowing sign of the Maine Idyll Motor Court, a set of cabins nestled in the woods since the 1930s with rocking chairs, logs for fire, original poems posted on the walls. Jenny and I have longed to return to this place since we first visited a few years back. Vienna enjoyed the wireless and time to chat with her boyfriend while Jenny and I played with our new camera, shooting the Idyll's gorgeous sign under the stars. A rough day ended perfectly with a quiet cabin in the woods.

All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.