Down the Road a Piece
Trip to Maine long ago
I was ten or 12 years old when my family first vacationed in Maine at the invitation of my Great Aunt Amy.
One afternoon I found a Model A Ford in our suburban Philadelphia driveway. I don’t recall meeting Great Aunt Amy that day, although I must have. Soon afterwards my father asked me if I would rather go to the zoo, where I had been pestering them to take me or to Maine.
“What’s Maine?” I asked.
My father explained “Maine” to me, and I decided Maine might be more fun than the zoo.
We packed and boarded a train for New York City. My father was a railroad employee so had obtained free passes for all of us. We changed trains in New York City, and I recall peeking out the Pullman window as we glided through Harlem. I felt sorry for all the residents, sitting on porch steps and hanging out windows in that dingy-looking place.
The next morning told a much brighter story, evergreens flying by our window. We ate breakfast at the train station in Portland, Maine, and caught our two-car train north to Maine. One car was baggage or freight, the other car, ours, was half baggage and half passenger.
A diesel switcher pulled us to Augusta, where my great aunt met us at the station. This was the early 1960s, but we rode out to my great aunt’s farm in her Model A Ford. Rocks some seven or eight inches in diameter protruded from the pavement. She said she steered by keeping the radiator cap in the center of the road, and that was the reason for what those caps. I think that was the day I learned to pray.
A dozen or so miles out on a country road (Route 135) we came to her farmhouse, an old cape held up by a six-foot stone balanced on end in the center of the basement.
We spent a week at her house, my sister and I playing tag in the hay field bordering her property, examining the old barn that leaned on poles, and enjoying swimming and visiting state parks.
We met the Twomblys, a farmer and his wife who lived across the road. We “helped” with the haying, the wagon pulled by Stephen Twombly’s chugging John Deere tractor. That was the kind of vacation one might read about in old books about visiting the country.
(During our second or third year, my father and I found Katahdin on a map. We went there, camping, during Maine’s frigid August evenings and seeing our first moose. It was that mountain, woods, and moose experience that locked me into loving the Pine Tree State.)
Back at Aunt Amy’s, each night I heard the horn of a train on the railroad a half-mile away.
The quiet was strange, and the quiet nights made me somewhat homesick. I was happy at the end of the week to board a silver passenger train at Augusta for the trip back to Pennsylvania.
That was the beginning for me, and all year I awaited our vacation in Maine. When I graduated from college, my wife and I moved immediately to Maine, where I became a minister in a small church.
Since then I’ve been a school teacher and a reporter from which I retired to my retirement job of driving a bus around Mount Desert Island and through Acadia National Park.
Our last trip to Pennsylvania was in 2000, when my mother was dying. Tourists seem astounded that we haven’t visited Pennsylvania since. I don’t explain to them how we became lost in the Pennsylvania city of Reading and barely made it home.
I just say, “I lost my map, and please don’t give me one.”
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014