Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Beauty in Our Own Backyard!

It was the summer of 2007. I had lived in Maine my whole life. I was 30 years old and I had never been to Old Orchard Beach.
My sister Heidi had been going camping their every summer for the last five years. This year I decided that I would take a day drive and meet her and her family at the beach for the day. I invited my Mom and Dad along for the ride. My son would be going with us too.
I left my house at 5 am. My 15 month old son was happy. He loved to ride. I picked up my parents and off we went. The ride to Bangor was quick. It was the ride from there to Portland that seemed to take forever.
My Dad sat in the front seat beside me.  He bitched the whole way. He was very opinionated on my driving abilities. Apparently he had forgotten who had taught me to drive in the first place.
“Slow down!” he complained
“Speed up!” he said in the same ten minutes.
I tried to ignore his suggestions. I let it go in one ear and out the other. I nodded politely as I took in the scenery of this beautiful sunny day. There were certain spots along the way that I loved to look at form some reason. Nothing special just things I enjoyed.
I loved going over the bridges. Reading the signs and looking for that camp that I someday will own. As you are driving along the interstate crossing a bridge if you look down the river to the left, if you are heading south you will see this little round island with this camp sitting right in the middle. There isn’t much more room on the island and there is something about it that I adore. I look for it every time I travel that road, but still couldn’t tell you what town it was in.
I like to look at the farms too. I was always amazed at how many cattle there are at some of them. I always try to count but it never works out. It must cost a lot to feed all those. I wondered if they were for dairy or meat.
I always know that I am getting close to Portland when I see the little gravel pit that sits off to the right. My husband and I always talk about it whenever we go by. It looks like a great place to ride four wheelers and dirt bikes. We wish that was our land.
We were just passing through Portland when my dad started in again. I listen respectfully when what I really wanted to do was tell him to shut up!
“Look out we are up to three lanes now!”
“I see that Daddy” I said while grinning with a clenched mouth.
“Look out for that big truck, hey switch lanes, you’re going to slow you’re going too fast.”
I was to the point of being completely pissed off. I wanted out of the car. It was hot and muggy. You would have thought that it would have been my son whining on the way down there NOT my father!
My Mom was telling me what way to go. They had been there a lot. I came to this weird intersection and I could see the crystal sparkle of the dark blue water. My stomach felt kind of woozy. I figure it was because I had wanted to go there for so long and finally was getting there. Woozy due to excitement!
As we drove straight down toward the water it reminded me of Bar Harbor. There were all kinds of souvenir shops. Every third business of so was a place to eat. Pizza, French fries, dough boys and ice cream. Oh yum, not a good day to be on a diet at all.
We drove down around the fountain where my sister Heidi said that she would be. Her husband Tim jumped in with us and took us to a very close parking lot. There was a sign that said $15 for day parking. It was worth it with as much stuff as we had to carry.
We parked and all made a bathroom stop. Our parking area also had a rest room and changing rooms for the people that parked there. This is another reason why it’s worth paying to park there.
As I walked the short distance to the beach I took it all it. I looked in all the store windows and Gazed up at the huge rides that were right along the shore. Every store has sunglasses and boogie boards.
My attention left the windows and became focused on the people. There were bare feet and bathing suits everywhere, even in the stores. I laughed to myself as I thought this only happened in Miami. There were people of all different shapes and sizes just strutting their stuff up and down the sidewalks and the beach.
I enjoyed this entertainment. There was a man sitting on a bench with a huge white parrot on his head. I later got pictures of the same bird on my niece’s heads. I watch the man sitting on the ground playing the guitar. His clothes were ripped and he was very dirty. It appeared to me that he might be homeless. He has a couple old dingy backpacks beside him and some empty food packaging. His musical skills were amazing. Listening to him play made me smile. He saw this and smiled back like it had made his day.
Standing right in the sand by the famous pier was a juggler. We watched for at least 10 minutes and he never messed up once. His arms must get tired. Is this how he made his living? I really wondered. All of these entertainers had coffee cans beside them. Donations Welcome they said. Being a Maine girl I thought that only happened in New York subways, I again laughed at myself.
The sand was hot and fine. Not like the sand that I was used to. I went to Lamoine Beach at least 2 times a week in the summer. There were more rocks with barnacles and muscle shells than anything else there. I could see my sister through the crowd waving. They were all set up with a canopy and camp chairs. They get there early and stay late.
Allison and Mackenzie my nieces were already in the water. The waves were pretty high and I was very eager to join them. My mom and Dad sat under the canopy with my son Andy as he played in the sand. I took off my shorts and shirt as I had my bathing suit on underneath and headed in.  
Wow it was cold. Just the way that Maine waters should be. I knew that I had better just get in fast so that my body would numb up. So I did. I ran and dove right in. One thing I was not used to in Hancock County was the waves we didn’t have those. So as I dove in a wave came towards me taking the bottoms of my tank kini straight to my ankles. I quickly struggled to pull it up and looked at my sister embarrassed as could be. She asked what was wrong. I told her and she hadn’t seen a thing. So hopefully no one else did either.
The waves came and splashed over me. I giggled like I was 13 years old. Heidi got two boogie boards and started teaching me how to boogie. This was more fun than I think I had ever had before. It was impossible for my smile to get any bigger.  I boogied and I dumped it over. I lost my bottoms at least ten more times which is not good for a plus sized girl but intense fun of the situation outweighed the embarrassment as I saw the same thing happen to a few others. Some even lost their tops.
I got so excited and even squealed in delight as I actually rode a wave all the way into shore. I had so much fun I didn’t want to get out of the water. I was in there for 3 hours I got out once to check on my son who was happily playing and then sleeping. The time was getting late and evening was approaching. Reluctantly I headed out to get dried off and packed up.
I left Old Orchard Beach that day with a lasting impression. The atmosphere, the people and the water were all so fun spirited. I had fallen in love. The following year I took my husband, son and baby girl. We have been back every summer since then and will continue to do so. The ride home was quiet everyone was exhausted. My mom and Dad slept most of the way as did Andy. I just listened to the radio and smiled about the day.

1 comment:

  1. I had to tell my son to look over his right shoulder before getting back into the travel lane! No, I'm afraid I agree with your dad: both my kids forgot everything I taught them and now drive like maniacs--and I'm sure you do too!


    Apart from your maniac driving, everything else here is very nicely handled. Very generous to your readers--obviously you want to convey the experience and are in no hurry to finish (but at the same time you don't drag any one scene out too much.) You offer a lot, realizing that quick impressions, sharp observations, and tiny details are the real beating heart of a travel piece. (The opposite of those three things is extensive description, which is extremely hard to do well. You wisely dodge that bullet--but those quick descriptions of things seen along the road are perfect because each one is linked to your thoughts or fantasy--gravel pit, camp, etc.)

    So, this is full of stuff, well put-together, controlled, personal, funny (you know how to play that country-girl-in-the-big-city thing), all over interesting.