Epic Road Trip – Part One: Maine

A little piece of Nova Scotia

A little piece of Nova Scotia

When I told some of my coworkers at the day job that I was going on a quick 5-day vacation to Halifax, Nova Scotia and that I would be driving the whole way up and back, a few of them said I was crazy. Their first question was, “How long of a drive is that?” The second question was, of course, “Why on earth would you want to do that?”

The answer to the first question, as it turns out, is roughly 17 hours. I added a couple by playing “Ooo, I wonder if this is a shortcut” and losing three times—twice in Connecticut and once in New Brunswick. As far as why? Simple: I love long car trips.

The joy of a long car trip for me is that it enables me to see a lot of stuff. I really wish that I could take pictures with my eyes alone to share what exactly I saw with everyone. There are so many interesting things in this country and in Canada! Just looking at the landscape change subtly from a Mid-Atlantic temperate environment to what I can only describe in my uneducated way as not quite the Arctic tundra but getting kind of close was really interesting. I more or less went from rolling, fertile hills and deciduous trees to rocks and pine trees as far as the eye can see.

But I’ll get to all that later. Today, let’s talk about Maine.

I love Maine! I really do. I’ve been there once before for the space of, like, a day and a half. There’s something about the atmosphere of Maine, something about its feel. The only way I can think to describe it is that if you’re going to live in Maine you have to be a little tough and a lot independent. It has that vibe to it.

Maine on the drive back - not quite so nice

Maine on the drive back – not quite so nice

I was reading recently that as recently as the early 20th century, there were still parts of the backwoods of Maine that were more or less unexplored. That’s pretty cool when you think about it! Here we were as a nation, looking west and exploring out to the Rockies and the Pacific, but way back here on the east coast a big chunk of land was relatively unknown.

You can definitely feel that driving through the middle of Maine today. I think I drove through or around the three major cities of Maine—Portland, Augusta, and Bangor—on my way to Canada. They really aren’t that big, at least not to someone from Philadelphia. At the same time, each of those cities has their own unique feeling of age and importance. As I looked out my window at Bangor I had a strong Victorian feel about it. It’s as if the history is still there in the hills and trees. The vibe of the city was definitely old, but in the good way!

As soon as you drove through each of these cities, you were back in the middle of nowhere again. But not the boring, monotonous middle of nowhere (no offense, but that was New Brunswick). Maine’s middle of nowhere felt alive. The forests had a lot of energy and life in them. No, I don’t mean esoteric “energy”, although you could argue that too. I’m talking about the fact that I fully expected to see a moose or a bear come charging out of the trees and into the road at any second.

I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t see any moose, actually. There are signs warning people about moose crossing all along the road. I hope I’ll see my moose someday. But I digress.

Maine is cool because even driving through it at 65 miles an hour you have a sense that people there are willing to go the extra mile. Literally. I followed a FedEx van from Bangor all the way out to I don’t even know where we were, but it took about an hour to get there. One little FedEx van. And he didn’t even stop to deliver anything else along the way. He just zipped all the way out to that one place to deliver the package. Nice!

A view of Halifax from inside the Citadel (a Victorian fort that is pretty amazing)

A view of Halifax from inside the Citadel (a Victorian fort that is pretty amazing)

Okay, I’ll tell you a little something else that is jumping ahead of my story of vacation a little. I think that next time I do something like this I won’t go all the way up into Canada, I’ll just zip out to Bar Harbor. That’s where I went last time I was in Maine, and even though that was just for one night, I kind of loved it. A lot. And I had the most amazing blueberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

So that’s my story of Maine. Tomorrow I’ll continue with my take on New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Was Halifax worth the two-day drive?