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.
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.’
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.
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.
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?