When life gives you detours, make memories

I made my annual trek to Aroostook County, Maine, last month to attend Washburn August Fest, which is a weekend of activities that brings locals and people ‘from away’ together to gobble doughboys.

My classmate, Jane, and I searched for cronies.

After watching the parade, connecting with family and friends, and splattering mustard on my blouse while munching a red hot dog, I was primed for a trip to the cemetery to visit the departed. My sister, Noreen, and my young niece, Ashlyn, piled into the car and we introduced Ashlyn to our loved ones who dot the landscape of Fairview Cemetery: Mum, Dad, sister Linda, nephew Danny, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Our cousin, Bonnie, and her husband, Paul, invited us to Madawaska Lake, where they have a cottage, so I steered the car toward New Sweden, scoffing at the idea of using a GPS. How could we get lost when these roads left a permanent imprint during our formative years?

Things were going fantastic until we approached a detour. And this detour was not for wimps since there were no orange signs with reassuring arrows guiding us around the construction. Instead, there was a notice that went something like this: ‘Turn around now because you can’t get there from here.’

Photo courtesy Pixabay edits by author

Noreen said, “We’ll have to go by way of the Tupper Road.”

We drove by Dad’s farm where we picked potatoes, my friend Enola’s family home, where I experienced the Swedish tradition of afternoon coffee and cookies, and stumbled upon the house on the hill where Liana, my best friend, taught me how to eat buckwheat pancakes. In case you don’t know, when feeding a family of fifteen, you eat the first one with butter and the second one with syrup because maple syrup doesn’t grow on trees.

Liana’s house where she lived with twelve siblings

We came to an intersection and had to make a choice: go the longer route we knew would take us to our destination, or go the uncharted route that Noreen assured me was ‘in the right direction.’

We took the road less traveled.

Signs of civilization became scarce as we forged ahead, and I strained to hear the banjo duel from ‘Deliverance’ playing on the radio. But that was impossible. No radio or cell phone signals could penetrate this dense forest. As we drilled deeper into the backwoods, I saw shadows among the trees that resembled flying monkeys, and a Stephen King short story emerged from the underbrush.

I glanced at my gas gauge and said, “I wish I’d filled the tank. We haven’t got much leeway to get lost before we’ll be hitchhiking. And AAA won’t come out here even if I could call them. Or if I had a membership.”

My laughter at this imagined scenario was hollow, with a smidgeon of hysteria punctuating this repeated dialogue.

“Does anything look familiar to you?”

“No, but I’m sure we are going in the right direction.”

Finally, with enough gas in the tank to motor us to Madawaska Lake, we came to the main road. I turned right, and Noreen said, “If we come to a greenhouse, you’re going the wrong way.

My bumbling sense of direction led us to a greenhouse. But I recognized the name of “Down to Earth Gardens and Greenhouse” as the place a high school friend, Kristine Bondeson, owns and was thrilled to see her come walking toward us saying, “Can I help you?

She burst into a smile and insisted we have a tour of her backyard, extending an invitation for coffee that we declined so we’d arrive at the lake before that awkward time known as the dinner hour. But we had a lovely visit drinking in the beauty of her gardens and greenery, took a selfie, and met her black and white cat, Peek-a-boo.

From left to right: Me, Noreen, Kristine, and Ashlyn. Peek-a-boo didn’t want to associate with us.

Our detour and wrong turn led us on a ride filled with surprises and intrigue, retrieved precious memories, and made new ones. Oh, and getting lost in the process was okay because we were always going in the right direction.

When is the last time you ventured into unknown territory, driving without a GPS? Did you see flying monkeys or meet a shy cat? 


©2017, Stevens. All rights reserved.

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42 thoughts on “When life gives you detours, make memories

  1. Hi Molly, I love to read your writings and this one did not disappoint! It put a smile on my face and I could just see those flying monkeys! Thank you so much for linking your experience up at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. Pinned and shared!

      • Hi MOLLY
        Just a note to say hello and wish you luck and laugher on your book. I liked your blog about our home town week end………it brings back good memories of our long Friendship. I read all your blogs. I ordered your book this week.
        Even though we all have gone in different directions in life we all have baby boomers ideals and see the humor through your eyes. You force us to see ourselves and to find comfort and humor in our lives…….
        Many thanks to you and keep the humor coming. Humor is the only way we will survive in one piece.
        Love you,

        • So wonderful to see your comment, Jane. You are a treasure indeed and I am so glad we reconnected right where we left off after so many years of only catching up once/year through a Christmas card. I believe you are 100% correct that humor can get us through the worst of times. So happy you are getting the book. You must text me a photo of you with Boomer on the Ledge when you get it! Love you.XO

  2. I’m so glad you didn’t run out of petro – that would have really killed the whole “trip down memory lane” vibe! And nice to know that it all worked out in the end 🙂

  3. This is so much fun! I hate getting lost by myself. But getting lost with friends becomes a fun and happy adventure. Which you obviously had here! The pictures are so delightful/ I feel I was lost with you. ?

  4. What an adventure! At least you got to your destination without running out of gas. I’ve got a lousy sense of direction, but I work on it. I don’t I think I’ve used GPS more than a handful of times; I try to plot my course on a paper (okay, electronic) map and writing directions on a note. I still found myself wandering around the UW-Madison campus for an hour trying to find my way to a writing conference venue. Luckily it was the night before this first day (and yes, I did find my route–eventually ?)

    • GPS has changed my life, Julie. I used to constantly get lost. Now when I don’t rely on GPS I use google maps on my phone but in this case, there was no phone service and I had not gotten the GPS set up for the trip. I kept meaning to fill the gas tank but knew I had enough for our destination. As long as I didn’t take a…..detour! I can relate to your story of wandering around for a hour looking for your writing conference. That is totally what I would do!

  5. It sucks getting lost but at least this turned out well and safe! Sometimes GPS does not work in certain areas, and our reliance on our phones now for that borders on the ridiculous. I wonder if I can still buy a Thomas Guide on eBay?

    • I have not heard of the Tomas Guide but in Maine we have relied on the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer but alas I have stopped carrying it with me. When there is no phone service suddenly that crutch betrays me and I am truly without recourse. And GPS is not 100% since too. I must find my dog eared Gazetteer and throw it in the trunk for future travel!

  6. The last time I ventured into unknown territory was about 25 years ago – before cell phones and GPS. I dread getting lost, although it happens often enough when I’m the passenger. Tomorrow I have to drive my daughter to a musical event about 100 miles away. I’ve been looking at maps and scoping out directions for three days. I have one more task to complete tonight and that is updating my Garmin.

    • I get really nervous driving somewhere I’ve never been before so I can relate to your careful preparation. When I’m a passenger I suddenly become an expert navigator, offering unsolicited advice to not only the driver but the GPS, doubting its accuracy. Unfortunately my son has inherited this disorder too. I’ve decided to name it: Direction Bravado Syndrome. Hope your trip went well!

  7. I was almost a blend of excited and hurt when I saw your picture, like you went to Orlando and didn’t tell me!! 😉 That’s the Road Closed sign at Animal Kingdom on the safari ride…I just rode past it this past Saturday.

    • OMG, I love Animal Kingdom and the Safari ride! I didn’t remember that sign though. What fun that you’ve just been there. I’m overdue for a dose of Disney and I’m so happy the hurricane spared it from damage. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I’m glad you were only a little lost. And it sounds like “fun” lost with adventures along the way. When I get lost, the experience triggers hot flashes. Not nearly as entertaining. 😀 😀

  9. Loved doing an Aroostook County “ride-along” with you in this post. Jane and I had sleepovers on her farm and roomed together our first year in nursing school in Lewiston. So much has changed in Washburn since I lived there — I saw someone carrying a 12 pack of beer out of the store on Main Street!!!! Those August Washburn days are still lovely and a fun way to see folks I had not seen in many years. Pauline Doody was my host and street fair companion when I last visited in 2011 and we ate red hot dogs at her parent’s for lunch with her family and neighbors. Wonderful memories of my years in Aroostook County. Thanks for the “recall” through your writing!!

    • Thanks for coming along on the tour of The County, Amy. I had not remembered you and Jane were roomies in nursing school. I wish you could have joined us at August Fest. We didn’t see many classmates but we had a great visit. And the red hot dog was delicious!

  10. “Maple syrup doesn’t grow on trees”

    “It does so!”

    “Does not.”

    “Does so.”

    “Does not.”

    “It does not grown ON trees, it grows IN trees.”



    “There is no way I am going to admit that you were right.”

    • At first I wrote that maple syrup grows in trees, not on trees. And then I knew I was not giving my readers enough credit and shortened it to the phrase that has rendered me the victor in this argument. I love your comment! It made my day.

  11. Hi, Molly.
    I have a terrible sense of direction–I blame it on the fact that I grew up in California so always knew whether I was headed towards ocean or mountains. With neither nearby, now that I live in the Midwest, I can’t navigate out of a shoebox.
    I’d say the best “getting lost” experience I’ve had was when my husband and I went for a four-mile run while on vacation in Austin, TX. A scheduled race was in progress downtown by the river. We ran along the river and on our way back had to detour so many times we ended up running seven miles instead of four and joining the racers for a mile or two because we couldn’t figure out how to get off the course. Though it was a much longer run than I’d ever choose to do on a vacation, we had a great time and saw a lot more of Austin on foot than we expected!
    I really enjoyed reading about your adventures. Seeing the faces of friends and meeting a new cat feel like joyous ways to spend a meander through the places of your youth.

    • That is quite a detour you took in Austin, Angela! I would be a bit put off by a four mile run, let along one that morphed into seven miles! But it does sound like an adventure for sure. If I stay in a hotel for a week it takes until about day five for me to turn in the right direction toward the elevator. That’s how bad my sense of direction is! So we are definitely in the same league. Thanks for coming along on my ride through my childhood places.

  12. I used to visit a friend in Raleigh, NC on a regular basis, often enough that I knew the way “back way” to the interstate without relying on the GPS — so I thought. After one visit, I started on my way home, expertly navigated my way through the various neighborhoods and cut-throughs, and finally came upon the ramp to get on the highway. I merged and started cruising at 70 mph. It only took me 40 minutes to realize I was traveling on the eastbound, rather than westbound, lanes. Landmarks are a wonderful thing.

    • Yikes! That would definitely be something I would do. I tried to find the parking lot at Back Bay in Portland without a GPS because I ‘knew the way’ and wandered around for 45 minutes all around the periphery. By the time I found the parking lot I had to go to the bathroom so I headed back to my hotel room without taking a step on my planned walk around the bay. I saw a lot of neighborhoods I hadn’t seen for years, though.

    • Thank you so much, Dave. I love that you noticed that phrase because it was one of my favorites in the essay. I love reaching the writing trifecta without a GPS. It’s about the only destination I’ll ever reach without its aid. 🙂

  13. I must admit, that although I laughed along with you while reading this post, I had a mounting sense of panic. I am afraid I am not very good at finding the humor in being lost. My new best friend in that situation is Siri. And sometimes I don’t even trust her.?

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