Read any good books lately? The state is on tenterhooks awaiting the results of this week’s election and we really don’t want to think about anything else. Those results might be another four or five days coming, as the state processes Maine’s first ranked choice voting ballots. In the meantime — what?
Well, Vacationland is open for business. Signs that for months have read “OSED,” or “ANK FOR A GO D S MMER” OR “SE YO IN SPR N” now are restored to “WELCOME.” Tourists are pouring through the streets of Bar Harbor, with the usual spillage into neighboring towns and the mainland. License plate spotters are having a field day with vehicles from far and wide.
Not everyone is prepared for spring in Maine. Temperatures have been stuck at approximately March, with occasional, brief spurts toward tropical. Wool hats and socks have been brisk sellers in local shops. The hardcore are populating outdoor food and beverage patios, but others have huddled inside, hoping for a seat fireside.
There still are a few days before schools empty out their fidgety charges. Then the pace will really pick up. The sidewalks will be choked with tots wailing over dropped ice cream cones, dogs in strollers and explorers consulting cell phone GPS for that restaurant they were told was the best place for lobster. Locals can be identified as the ones zig-zagging through the crowds at warp speed, trying to get to work or the bank or the post office. They are the ones not carrying to-go coffee cups, nor are they wearing “BaHaba” T-shirts.
A sign along Route 3 reads: “A tourist in need is a friend indeed.” It’s a sweet sentiment, and we are prepared to be indulgent as the season begins, but by late August not so much. By then, a tourist in need is a tourist in need, and we are in need ourselves, of a little peace and quiet and a seat at the local watering hole or the movie theater.
Right now is a good time for a “close-cation,” not a staycation at home but a trip to a nearby town for a quick change of scenery. The center of Hancock County, meaning the corridor from Ellsworth to Mount Desert Island, has abundant opportunities for these getaways. Blue Hill has blossomed with new places to eat. Deer Isle and Stonington have lovely views, galleries galore and food both fashionable and traditional. On the way home, Pugnuts! Downtown Surry. Don’t miss it.
Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor still have their hidden gems, owned, operated and supported by locals. There is still an off-the-beaten-path feeling down there, with plenty of discovery possible. You are not led along by the hand on that peninsula; you have to poke around, but you are sure to find something to love of the edible variety if you haven’t succumbed to the delights of the Itty Bitty Diner or Chester Pike’s on the way east. If you have, you need only visit the quiet part of Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula to work up an appetite with a hike or a bike ride.
If you prefer your down time a little more down, buy a book and spend some time finding the ideal spot to read it. This could be on the porch of your very own house, along the shore on a comfy rock, a few steps off a hiking trail where there’s a breeze and a view, or in a pocket-sized park in the middle of any town in the county.
You will need coffee, of course, to settle in to the joy of being transported, informed, annoyed or provoked to laugh out loud. We have lots of bookstores, including those with secondhand books, and most of the local libraries have a shelf or two of used books for sale. You can find anything from E.B. White’s exquisite prose of the ’40s and ’50s (White lived in Brooklin for years) to the hot-off-the-presses “Return to Moose River,” a lyrical celebration of Maine’s North Woods by intrepid canoe paddler (and former newspaper editor) Earl Brechlin.
By the time the Fourth of July rolls around we will be in flat-out summer mode, so squeeze these few weeks for all the juice they will give. Remember that many of the people who will visit here this summer do not have an ocean as the backdrop of their daily lives, with all the opportunity and serenity that brings. Forgive them for bringing the habits of crowded and dangerous places with them. Take a deep breath, visualize November, and be glad we are at home in a place where so many others want to be for just a little while.