Moscow, Lubec, Sidney, Stockholm, Sweden, Denmark, Waterford, Vienna, Rome, Belfast, Columbia, China, Lisbon, Fryeburg and even Naples.
Imagine driving at your leisure, with minimal traffic and very few people, to all these places. We just did that recently while traveling only in Maine and New Hampshire and enjoyed it immensely. In my work, I am used to traveling to all corners of the world on a regular basis. That came to a screeching halt at the end of February.
What a relaxing and enchanting experience it was. Finally getting away from being stuck at home bombarded with constant COVID-19 updates and political slandering.
We witnessed spectacular scenery and encountered wonderful people. We ate outside with a view of an old fishing trawler in a picturesque harbor. The rough table was made from weathered and unfinished 2×4’s. Littleneck clams were accompanied by a real Maine Shipyard beer and followed by a whole Maine lobster accompanied by hot melted butter, crispy french-fries and fresh coleslaw.
Driving along the tourist areas of the picture-perfect rocky and wild Maine coast, we encountered others escaping the Coronavirus of the hard-hit states, but further North, traffic turned to a trickle. South of the Canadian border is Lubec, a charming out-of-the-way harbor town with two small hotels and a pub with a true Irish barman. Nothing like the sprawling industrial city of a similar name in Germany. Sunsets here are spectacular and you wake up in the morning from the shrieks of the seagulls. The water is often covered in an eerie fog shrouding the lighthouse across the water on the Canadian side. It is reminiscent of a scene with the culprit materializing out of the mist in an old gripping black and white thriller movie. Lubec is the Easternmost point in the continental United States. During “normal” times, one can visit Roosevelt Campobello International Park just across from here in Canada, but at the time of this writing, the border is still closed.
From there we drove inland north toward the Allagash Wilderness, one of the last true wilderness lands in the United States. The State of Maine turned these lands and its 92.5-mile waterway into a State Park back in 1966. In years past we have canoed here, and it’s easy to forget you are still in the United States and not in wild adventure lands in some far corner of the world. The route we took this time remained outside the park but still turned into some endless dirt roads. The GPS gave up and at one point we ended back up where we started while a wild fox stared at us curiously.
This is part of the largest county in Maine, Aroostook, with close to 7000 square miles. Forest and lakes count for 89%. The population continues to decline and the latest figures from the 2018 list just over 67,000 inhabitants. The small roads meander along lakes, one more scenic than the other with only the distinctive forlorn sounds of the loon making one wonder what is coming up next.
A much-needed feeling of peace and contentment descended upon us in this wonderful nature. Instead of our usual upset about getting lost, it seemed to just make for more fun and adventure.
There was a grand total of only 82 COVID cases at the time of this writing in Aroostook County! People in such tiny sleepy towns of Stockholm and New Sweden have Swedish names dating back to the grandparents and great grandparents emigrating from the old country. Close to the Canadian border and the province of Quebec, people’s first language is a derivative of French instead of English that is hard to comprehend although my understanding of that language is certainly above average.
Further south and to the western part of Maine are the mountains and its major ski resorts, and if you want to blow some steam getting off the small roads for a while you can join I-95. This major East Coast Corridor initiates at the Canadian border in Houlton, Maine. Here, however, there is no comparison to I-95 south further south. We had long views of the four lanes stretching out ahead of us over the hills without a vehicle in sight.
With a speed limit of 75 miles an hour, the empty road invites a faster pace. Leading through the endless woods the only warning signs and flashing lights are for Moose as these huge animals seem to cross the road at will. There is a spectacular viewpoint of Maine’s highest peak at 5,269 ft, Mount Katahdin. The famous Appalachian Trail, beginning in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, ends here after the strenuous 2,189-mile hike.
We left the highway again in our search for the picturesque byways with even less traffic and slowly made our way through the towns of Naples on another spectacular lake, Vienna, Rome and China towards the White Mountains covering the border between Maine and into beautiful New Hampshire.
Our luck held with the gorgeous weather. These days must have been the perfect choice for Fall colors. The bright reds, yellows combined with evergreens, brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies looked surreal. The photos you see are what we saw and are not in any way photoshopped.
Hotel space on our trip was abundant as few people were traveling and reduced pricing was offered. Gas prices were often under two dollars a gallon and went as low as $1.77. In general, cleaning and disinfecting were taken seriously everywhere and we felt quite comfortable. Widely published travel restrictions were in place in the states we traveled. It was not difficult to follow the rules with multiple COVID-19 tests and one quarantine period in northern Maine.
Despite some scary media stories and our Florida license plate, we were never stopped. On the contrary, people seemed to be more welcoming, relaxed and even friendlier than before the epidemic.
“Thank you for coming,” was often heard. At one stop for gas further south, we were suddenly and unexpectedly parked between a group of eight police cars while the officers were meeting for lunch. Their only interest was an animated chorus of questions about our travels, some jokes and wishing us a good journey.
During our time away, we were always able to keep in contact with our office and clients. Working remotely, having become a new norm rather than an exception, has enabled us to take care of our limited business with internet availability practically everywhere.
For a short time, our journey caused us almost to forget the present economic difficulties we are facing in our travel business in the 35+ years we have operated our business with our base on Marco Island. The United States of America has so much beauty to offer in almost every corner of the country. We have always sought out exploring far–flung and out of the way adventures, but the present pandemic making such pursuits impossible has allowed us to enjoy and appreciate a beautiful corner of our own country. If the time and opportunity arise, but you cannot go as far north as we went, just get in the car and go for a couple of days close to home on one of many scenic and interesting back roads of Florida.
Ewout Rijk de Vries and his wife Jill have owned and operated America Travel Arrangements on Marco Island for over 35 years.