Watch out for that wrong turn in Maine when you’re outrunning a hurricane!

by DaniGirl on July 11, 2014 · 0 comments

in Ottawa to PEI 2014

It’s been a week since we left PEI. I think maybe I’m drawing out the blogging of our vacation so I can continue to relive it in real time. We haven’t really left until the blog posts are done, right?

You might remember that through a fluke of good timing our departure was conveniently scheduled for the very day Hurricane Arthur was skimming its way up the Atlantic coast toward the Maritimes. As we regretfully packed up the car and headed back across the Island to the Confederation Bridge and then across the southern boundary of New Brunswick, we kept a wary eye on the (generally benign) summer skies. Interestingly, the temperature plummeted 10C and fog rolled in as we passed through St John, and then just as abruptly burned off again as we continued on toward the border at Saint Stephen.

We’d chosen that route, as opposed to Google Map’s suggestion to cross at Houlton, Maine and zip down the I-95, because I hate to backtrack, and the idea of driving all the way back to Woodstock NB, where we had stayed our first night, and then continuing for two more hours on to Skowhegan Maine down the interstate seemed unnecessary repetition. What I didn’t account for is how desolate the highway is through Maine from Calais to Bangor – yikes! Very little cellular reception, lots of abandoned and derelict properties, and not a soul on the roads. With a hurricane pending. You can imagine our discomfort. Also, while the drive on the New Brunswick side of the border seemed a lot less, um, downtrodden, it was pretty much the same as every NB highway I’ve seen – trees, trees and more trees. No offense to my friends who live in or hail from New Brunswick, but something about the province just makes me itch to be able to get through it more quickly. Maybe that’s why the speed limit is 110 km/h?

Regardless, we made it to Bangor just as the rain started, and made it on to Skowhegan without much more ado. Of course, having arrived on Independence Day made it a bit more challenging to find an open place for dinner, but when we did stumble across the Whit’s End Bar & Grill (thank you Trip Advisor!) we found an excellent family restaurant with fantastic fried haddock. Yum!

With not much else to do, the rain becoming more insistent and a few hours to kill until bedtime, we entertained ourselves in the tiny convenience store appended to a gas station where we marveled over the selection of American candy. No, we don’t get out much. Beloved found candy for grown-ups too: a whole selection of Duck Commander wine! You find all the classiest treats in the gas bar!

Another thing I learned on this trip is that you get better service and a greater willingness to accommodate families of five travelers in smaller motels than in the big chains. The Belmont Motel was cheap, clean and more than willing to offer up a cot for an extra child into a room with two queen beds, and cheaper by half than the Best Western that would officially only accommodate four of us. Plus the owner and his cat were both charmers.

By Saturday morning, we all just wanted to be back home. The soggy remnants of Hurricane Arthur ensured a constant driving rain, although no significant winds in our neck of the woods at least, and the wet grey morning perfectly matched my mood as Tim Horton’s failed to deliver a restaurant in Skowhegan that was clearly indicated on the Timmy Me app. Luckily for everyone but me, there was a WalMart with a Dunkin Donuts directly across from the motel, so our most basic coffee needs were met and Beloved managed to collect some of his favourite American sugar bomb cereals to bring home.

The last lesson we learned on the way home is to be careful when travelling through rural Maine and following a printout of Google Maps because of the spotty cellular coverage that you don’t veer left when you were supposed to forge ahead. Although we had passed a few signs assuring us the Canadian border was less than 50 miles ahead, when we’d driven for more than an hour up and then down and then up again on twisty mountain roads and we suddenly found ourselves in Hillbilly Hills, New Hampshire instead of Canada but still with no cellular signal – well, you can imagine our dismay. This is the route we should have followed.

This is the route we actually followed, which added not the optimistic 30 minutes that Google Maps supposes, but I’m guessing at least 90 minutes to the full trip.

The good news is that our little detour was truly gorgeous – we passed Sugarloaf, the Green Mountaints and the Dixville Notch (population 12) as well as endless hunting and fishing camps, but alarmingly few gas stations and other signs of civilization. And did I mention no cellular signal? Yeah. We did see a moose, though, so that was kind of cool!

My Maine moose

Sadly, he didn’t know the way to Canada, either. Eventually, blessedly, we picked up a signal and oriented ourselves to a small border crossing at Canaan, which may have been in either New Hampshire or Vermont – by that time, I’d lost track. We pointed ourselves in that direction, figured out the most direct route, and promptly got stuck in Colebrook NH as we tried to turn on to Route 3 N, aka Main Street Colebrook, and got stuck watching their Independence Day parade, delayed by a day by Hurricane Arthur. Vexed yet AGAIN by a hurricane! So that added another good 20 – 30 minutes to the trip, but by that time all we could do was laugh. Well, Beloved and I laughed. The kids were not nearly so amused by the parade as one might have expected. Even kid nerves can be worn a little thin by excessive amounts of travel delays and mishaps, I guess.

We did eventually make it back into Canada, and were delighted by the four bars of cellular access and the wide, flat, well-populated highways of the Eastern Townships. Such amazingly gorgeous countryside that is – and all we wanted to do was zip through it as fast as the speed limit would carry us. We finally did make it home about two hours later than I’d estimated leaving the motel in Skowhagen, but we made it intact and without serious mishap.

And hey, it’s all good when it makes for good bloggy fodder, right?

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