Friday, August 15, 2008

New England, Day 4

8:30 AM- Left the motel and drove across the Bucksport Bridge, through Verona and Bucksport, and finally stopped in Ellsworth for breakfast--blueberry pancakes! It's changed since we were here last, but that's to be expected after twenty years. The old restaurant in the railroad car is gone, but The Grasshopper Shop is still here.
10:30- Drove through Blue Hill. Saw a flock of wild turkeys eating blueberries by the roadside.
11:00- Arrived in Stonington. Dad stayed to chat with Chuck while I went for a walk in town. Got a few more postcards and took pictures, and broke down and bought a baseball cap to keep from getting sunburned. I hoped to find something not very touristy, but ended up getting one with a lobster framed by "Deer Isle, Maine", which was among the least tourist ones in the shop. Sat on the municipal pier for a bit to write my cards.
11:30- Walked back up the hill to Chuck's and went to Sand Beach to collect some pebbles and take more pictures.
The beach was divided by a forested strip of land; one side is sandy, turning to pebbles the closer you get to the water, and the other side is sandy, but surrounded by huge rocks, with the beach made up of pebbles and finely crushed shells.
While I was poking around, I found a tiny baby crab. It wasn't happy to be disturbed, so after a couple unsuccessful attempts to photograph it, I let it dig itself back into the sand.
1:45 PM- Left Stonington and dad decided to skip driving to Cherryfield in the interest of saving time. I reminded him that he's the one with deadlines, so the route he chooses should take that into account.
3:30- Stopped at another yarn shop in Hancock, ME and poked around while dad bought some fudge. Bought two skeins of Malabrigo, then got back on the road. Dad wants to get as far as Portland before we stop for the night.
8:30- Bypassed Portland and ended up in a place called Saco, which isn't too terribly far from Kennebunkport. Most of the day has been pretty decent. Drove back through Belfast and Blue Hill, drove past Ellsworth, took state highways through wooded hills and past lakes... and ended up in Saco.
Saco, it seems, is one giant used car lot with about fifteen cheap motels, a handful of nicer inns, and a bunch of gas stations thrown in. There are also about a handful of places to eat: One endless buffet next door to a sports bar with 11 televisions, each of which looked to be airing a different sporting event; the buffet seemed to have as many varieties of "cuisine", ranging from Mexican to pancakes, to peel-and-eat shrimp. Further down the road was a dilapidated Thai restaurant, and beyond that, a pseudo-1950s diner which played nothing but Janis Joplin.
First, though, the motel. We were tired, grubby, grouchy, and getting desperate to do something other than sit in the car and stare at the road. We didn't stop at the first place we came to, or even the second. The Saco Inn was probably about the fourth place we saw, and, quite honestly, we probably should have kept going.
Dad unlocked the door and flipped the light switch. The overhead fluorescent light sputtered and flickered before deigning to turn on. It only provided a dim 1/4 strength illumination.
I went into the bathroom to take a shower, only to discover there wasn't a light switch, and that the lamp over the sink was bulbless. On further examination, I discovered the switch to be outside the door; the light it controlled was also weak, and there was no fan to go with it. After putting out the bathmat, I did battle with the shower itself. The dial was in two parts: Volume, i.e. how much water comes out of the shower head, and Temperature. The floor of the shower bowed, and the soap and shampoo persisted in falling off the rack. Okay...managed to bathe without shrieking or scalding myself, got out of the shower, and found myself in a Turkish bath.
There was no fan, as I said, and no way to open the windows to let the steam out. My towel was soaked, and the bath mat equally drenched, which was mostly due to the fact that the shower curtain hopped out of the shower at the slightest provocation. Fortunately, I didn't have my clean clothes in the bathroom, or they would very likely have been thoroughly damp, too.
Now being sufficiently recovered, we took off in pursuit of food. Drove past all the aforementioned establishments, stopping first at the buffet. After going inside just long enough to ascertain exactly how endless the menu was, we turned right around and went on to the diner.
Almost as soon as we sat down I started to feel I was trapped in the Chicken Salad scene from "Five Easy Pieces". An egg salad sandwich and a glass of Pepsi. That's all I wanted.
"You can have any of the sides if you don't want fries," the waitress said.
"Could I just have the sandwich without fries or sides?" I asked.
*pause* "You can have half a sandwich with a cup of soup..." she replied.
Things continued in this vein, and probably would have gone on all night if I hadn't accepted the soup and half a sandwich.
The speakers blared a steady stream of Janis Joplin, who, as far as I know, wasn't a contemporary of Elvis... not in the strictest sense, at least. Now, I like Janis. I really do. But if I hear "Me and Bobby McGee" ever again, I may have to become a hermit.
By the time the soup and half-sandwich appeared, I was really looking forward to getting out of there. The chicken soup may well have been homemade, but probably back when Janis was singing about her Mercedes-Benz. The noodles were hard as rocks and the vegetables were cooked to the consistency of wallpaper paste. I have no idea how this was acheived, and I doubt modern science is equipped to answer the question.
The egg salad sandwich was at least as disappointing. The bread was gummy enough to patch a hole in a lobster boat, and the egg salad itself.... was crunchy. From eggshells.
The waitress came back to check up on us--Dad had an entire bowl of the insipid soup--and I was too busy chewing to be able to answer the chirpy "How is everything?"
When the girl left, I muttered, "It's so good, I'm speechless!"
Well, we're back at the inn now, trying to get things sorted out for tomorrow. Dad still wants to try to make it home all in one go--eep!--by going south through Massachussetts, then through New York and Pennsylvania.
On the plus side, the yarn shop I found more than makes up for all the rest of today's little disasters, even if it happened before we got to Saco and its awful inn!

Notes: The yarn shop in question is Shirley's Yarns and Crafts, in Hancock, ME. There's no website listed on, but the ladies who work there would probably also be delighted to help and are certainly willing to do mail orders.

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