A blue tongue of sky lolled through cloud as the ATV whined along the pine-scented trail between Ellsworth and Machias. I was on vacation, and feeling poetic.

We'd left our two dogs in the care of Maureen's 26-year-old son, a nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Brian was staying in our house while we were away — fortunately, the days we were away, he was not scheduled to work.

This was the second or third time we'd done an overnight trip on the Downeast Sunrise Trail, our favorite ATV ride. We'd had the usual glitches that seem to attend the start a trip of any length for us. They included the discovery that Brian had put our tie-downs in the bed of his truck the last time he unloaded his ATV and ours from the trailer, and left them there. He lives in Vasalboro. So off we went to Waldoboro to buy new tie-downs.

Returning, we found that the tire on the little luggage trailer we use with the ATV for overnights was low. That tire has an awkwardly placed stem, making it frustratingly hard to inflate. We tried with the tire inflator we have at home, but without success. Then it turned out that we didn't have a pin to hold the trailer, once attached to the ATV, in the folded-up position — the only position in which the ATV and luggage trailer together fit on our car trailer. We borrowed one from another piece of equipment.

Finally, we had the ATV and luggage trailer on the car trailer and tied down. Everything we needed was in the car. Off we went. We arrived in the parking lot in Ellsworth about 2:30 p.m., with a 60-mile ride to Machias ahead of us. We unloaded the ATV and off we sped, but not before discovering that one of the four tie-downs we had bought that morning was defective — that is, it broke as we were trying to take it off the ATV. We ended up cutting that one and another that was positioned so that we couldn't undo it.

The first day was really the only one we had that wasn't unremittingly broiling. There was some breeze, and we caught a few cool currents along the way. It was sunny, and, despite the heat, beautiful. We had brought lunch, which we ate along the way. When we reached the Schoodic Bog, we paused to check out the osprey nest there, and were rewarded with the sight of three birds in it.

About 30 miles down the trail, we started to hear a jingling sound from behind us. We stopped, I checked to make sure the luggage trailer was still properly attached, which it was. Off we went again, but the jingling was still there. Maureen stopped the ATV again and got off. She noticed that the luggage trailer's tire was now quite flat.

We took the large canvas bag that contained our two overnight bags off the luggage trailer and attached it to the flat front of our machine, then folded up the trailer behind us and went on. But now, the air was forced up and over the big bag on the front, buffeting Maureen's glasses from side to side uncomfortably. She rode a good bit of the last half of the trip to Machias standing up. I think the nuisance of having that wind in her face caused her to speed up so that we made Machias in a total of about three hours — a good clip for an ATV ride.

The next day's first task was to get two new tie-downs, which we were able to do at an auto parts store up the road from our motel. Then we had to go get the tire on the luggage trailer either fixed or replaced. Maureen found someone not too far away who could do it, but we'd have to ride a mile or so on Route 1 — where ATVs are not supposed to go — to get there. With no other way to get the tire fixed, we had to chance it.

We got there with no mishap, and without being apprehended by the law. The garage owner said he thought he could find another tire of the right size and install it, and he'd call us to let us know if he was successful.

We left the tire with him and headed back to the Sunrise Trail. The day was in the 90s and humid — so hot, even the breeze from riding didn't cool us off. We rode for a ways along the tidal Machias River, which was scenic, if it provided no relief from the heat. At one point, we saw a bird we'd never encountered before. With large brown wings, and the beak of a wading bird, it rose up over the trees as we followed it for a ways. We surprised another one that was sitting at the side of the trail later on. It turned out to be an American bittern.

We got almost to the reversing falls in Pembroke — although we didn't know at the time how close we were — about 20 miles down the trail, before the heat made us decide to turn around. It felt great to get back to our air-conditioned motel room for a rest before we went to collect the tire, for which Gary the garage man had found a replacement. He got the new tire installed, lubed up the mechanism that allows the tire to revolve, rather like a shopping cart wheel, as it turns, and we headed back to the motel. We stopped at a gas station near where we were staying and while we were filling the ATV, a Maine warden pulled up next to us and asked to see our registration. Maureen pointed out the sticker, which, it transpired, was not where it should have been for maximum visibility.

The warden was very nice, just mentioning in passing that that stretch of Route 1 we were just on was not legal for ATVs. We explained about the tire, and he let it go. We breathed a sigh of relief.

Besides the fun of riding — any day on an ATV is better than any day at work — we enjoyed several meals at the famous Helen's Restaurant, including a piece of Helen's delectable strawberry pie.

And then there were the birds — we never knew what kind — who swirled in flocks over the river, skimming the surface of the water for insects, wheeling in unison, the white of their breasts flashing silver when the sun caught them, and then abruptly disappearing when they turned away from the light. It was breathtaking. It left us feeling blessed to have seen it.

The trip back was about as hot as the previous two days had been. We did stop again to check on the ospreys, and found all three still in residence in their nest.

It was a good time away. And, of course, we were glad to get back to the dogs.