Saturday, May 22, 2004

maine musings

When we last spoke, I was on a quest for Moose. At this point, I have decided that the whole Maine Moose thing is a clever advertising ploy. As we traveled north, we would periodically see yellow road signs depicting flattering silhouettes of Moose... "Warning: Moose Next 27 Miles!" Ever hopeful, I kept watching. In the pouring rain today, I finally saw a hulking shape as we drove past a wetland. I laboriously circled around, risking life and limb in the onslaught of Hwy 1 weekend traffic. Craning my neck with bated breath I found I had clearly located... a large, brown, wet... STUMP.

In traveling around the country I've been fortunate to see quite a bit of wildlife. American Bald Eagles in Washington State, Big Horn Sheep in Colorado, Antelope in Wyoming, Javelina in Big Bend National Park in Texas…I even spied an endangered species on a boat trip into the Everglades. The park ranger got all excited saying it was a type of mink that they had never identified in the park before. Oh well. The elusive Moose waits for another time.

In our Fried Food Frenzy I can report that our Freeport dining experience was perfect as far as location and satisfyingly picturesque view of fishing boats dotting the harbor. Ron liked his "lobstuh" just fine. I thought the shrimp was disappointingly bland, as well as the coleslaw. I kept thinking of a place we had gone in Kennebunkport, and comparing the quality of the food. In the semi-crazed way we do things from time to time, we decided to go there one more time. So away we went. What's a 50 mile trip in a driving rain, when succulent little Atlantic shrimp await?

If you just happen to be heading to Maine, try the Arundel Seafood Center, right on Highway 1 in Arundel. It is an unassuming place, not on the water, very casual, and extremely clean, which always rates high on my list of priorities. Order at the counter, and find a table in the large pine paneled room. Everything was wonderful, with light, tender batter on the fried shrimp, creamy sweet coleslaw, and flaky haddock in their special "fish fry". Not extremely low priced, but reasonable, and a huge mound of shrimp on the small platter for $8.95.

On a somber note:

I've been debating sharing this for the past couple of days. But as I said at the start, this travel journal is going to be about more than sightseeing. And I think this is important. I don't know that this made national news, but it sure got our attention here.

When we were approaching Freeport last Monday, we stopped at the Maine Travel Information Center next to I-295. It is a nice facility with oversized parking, and lots of brochures and guides for things to see in the area. We were there for about _ an hour, and then headed on to our stop for the day. The next day when we were at DeLorme, which is just across the road from the Visitor's Center, we noticed a tremendous amount of police activity, as well as three television stations set up in the parking lot of the Center. When we got home and turned on the local evening news, we were shocked to learn what had occurred.

Not more than 2 hours after we had been at the Visitor's Center, a man had been shot and killed in the parking lot. At that point, local officials had no motive or explanation of what had happened. Later though, the parts of the puzzle were starting to fit together in a plausible scenario.

The victim was apparently a very genteel, extremely proper individual, who worked as a maiter'd at an exclusive resort in the area. He was the type that really did not like inappropriate behavior or rudeness. He had pulled into the rest area in his SUV. Witnesses saw another vehicle arrive, with a couple of young men described as "scruffy looking." The scruffy guys were both seen relieving themselves in the parking lot, rather than going inside to use the facilities. The next thing witnesses saw was one of the men approaching the SUV, whereupon he pulled out a gun and abruptly shot the driver in the head. The shooter and his companion sped out of the parking lot. The speculation is that the SUV driver might have indicated some annoyance or disapproval of their behavior, and they killed him for it.

This was only the second murder in the area in 47 years, so it was even more shocking to everyone.

I seriously debated whether I should include this or not. But I realized that pretending bad things don't happen out here is really not the best path. We are traveling because we love it, pure and simple. We enjoy the change of scenery, the adventure of it, and the unique lifestyle we have constructed. It has been sobering to know that we were in the same parking lot, just a couple of hours earlier. I thought about what we would have done, had we witnessed the crass behavior of the two men. Being honest with myself, I knew in my heart of hearts that we probably would have done something, to indicate our disapproval too.

Maybe it would have been a comment between us, said just a little bit louder than necessary. Maybe it would have been a "look" thrown in their direction. Maybe it would have been a shake of the head... you know? And maybe it would have been us that had life change forever in the blink of an eye. Do I think we should all hang up the keys and stay home? No way. But I do think we all need to remember that we simply do not know who else is out there on the road with us. Take the proper precautions, use good judgment, and be aware of what is going on around you. And above all, do not engage strangers on the road in any kind of debate, argument, or other negative interaction. Trust the gift of your intuition and instincts. They've been programmed into us for thousands of years for good reason. If something is going on that clearly should not be happening, report it to the proper authorities. Don't take it upon yourself to try and "fix it".

So, with that... follow your dream to travel. Hit the road with gusto. Find the best: shrimp, campsites, breathtaking views, and time of your life. Let the sobering moments of the world be a catalyst to keep you thankful for what you have, and determined not to squander it. Be careful, but keep the joy of the journey. And don't ever use fear as an excuse to keep you from experiencing your freedoms. Peace.