A Quarter of My Life

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My husband and I have been fans of Lord Huron for quite some time. When we lived in Cleveland and found out their tour was bringing them to town we set reminders for ourselves to buy tickets the minute they were on sale. Then we moved to New Hampshire about a week before the show, giving up our tickets to people I barely knew. A few weeks later they were going to be in Portsmouth performing a free outdoor concert at Prescott Park. The night of the show an intense storm rolled through the area. It poured buckets. Lightning and thunder. The whole bit. We didn’t see them that night either since the show was canceled on account of dangerous weather.

And so we found ourselves driving to Portland, Maine one night back in July. Another chance to see Lord Huron! Another outdoor concert, too, but this time it wasn’t free. We bought tickets, booked a hotel, and watched the weather reports all week. The night of the show we reveled in our good luck. The weather was nothing short of spectacular. As was the show itself.

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Lord Huron sings about the places where I grew up. I literally just did the math and even I’m surprised to learn that I’ve lived a quarter of my life on the Great Lakes – first Huron, then Superior, then Erie. In between I spent holidays and summers with my mother’s family near Lake Michigan. A few years ago my husband and I spent a couple of nights in Buffalo, New York, and made a point to drive to the Lake Ontario shoreline. She was my last lake to visit, a final check on the Great Lakes bucket list. On the way home to Cleveland we talked about me getting a Great Lakes tattoo for my next birthday. I never did.

My birthday is coming up and I have yet to shake the idea. Clearly those lakes mean a great deal to me. I have yet to shake them, too, I guess.

Daytrip: Grocery Store

Someone recently said to me, “I love how you go on so many adventures!” And I wondered to myself, “Are those really adventures? Are they adventurous enough to be called adventures? Am adventurous enough to actually go on adventures?”

The answer is YES. I’m not looking to scale Mount Everest. I’m not preparing a continental trek along the Appalachian Trail. I mean, I haven’t even visited Boston yet. But sometimes when I wake up and I realize the weather is only going to be good for another two months, three months tops, I am motivated to leave my house and drive due north for nearly two hours with no other purpose in mind but to find a new grocery store and reward myself with Starbucks.

That’s what I did one morning. I had a grocery list a mile long, and I couldn’t fathom going to the same grocery store that I always go to, again. And because I reward myself with a Starbucks latte after nearly every grocery run, I couldn’t fathom going to the same Starbucks that I always go to, again.

So the kiddo and I decided to drive to Conway, New Hampshire. It’s a town we’d never been to before. We saw mountains we’d never seen before and order from a Starbucks we’d never ordered from before. The trek up north led us to venture into Fryeburg, Maine, just over the state line, back into New Hampshire, and around the entirety of Lake Winnipesaukee. We visited the towns of Tamworth and Meredith, where I found the famous Archie statue (yes, from the Archie comics!). We stopped for a short hike around Chocorua Lake. We trespassed onto farm property in rural Maine, found a Ben & Jerry’s back in New Hampshire, and finally hit up a grocery store. We drove past the iconic Weirs Beach sign on our way home, seven hours after we’d left the house.

I get antsy. I love my house and I love my little town, but I’m realizing how holed up I’ll be in a few short months when winter sets in. And I am starting to believe that I had always relied on our next cross-country move as my source of adventure. Well, we’re not moving anymore. We are here. And that just makes it harder for me not to be there, wherever there is.

So I take daytrips. I drive aimlessly and stop to look at the scenery. I go to Maine. I go to the mountains. I go to Vermont. I find a lake and I stare at it. My family often comes with me on these road trips. We visit famous indie bookshops. We buy local cheese. We drink local beer (well, Matt does). And we marvel at how beautiful it is here and say we need to do this more often. 

And with that, here’s a photographic record of my day out getting groceries and Starbucks.

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Winter & Brunswick, Maine

I decided to board an Amtrak train to Brunswick, Maine. This was months ago, just when New England seemed to be at the peak of an already long and cold winter. There was an opportunity to tour one of the most elite colleges in the country. We’d heard things about this place: the campus is small but charming, the food is phenomenal, there’s an Arctic museum on the grounds. And because we all seemed to be suffering from cabin fever, we booked a hotel across the street from the school and called it our Winter 2019 Family Vacation.

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Matt decided to drive to Brunswick where he would meet us at the station while Elle and I hopped on board the northbound Downeaster express. The route took us through Old Orchard Beach, Portland, alongside the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, and along the coast. From our huge windows we saw Ferris wheels, frozen rivers, and the ocean. It spit us out right in the center of downtown Brunswick. Admittedly, Brunswick is small. And it was cold. Not Brunswick’s fault. But the town’s smallness was much appreciated by those of us traveling on foot. Not so far to go to get to where you’re going.

The college tour was cold, of course. Led by a sophomore government major in a miniskirt. She’s from Montana and therefore immune to winters. And I, while not even close to being immune to winters, am starting to find all things beautiful in these icy cold climates. I dream of visiting Newfoundland and consider risking seasickness in order to seek out puffin colonies on the North Atlantic coast. Iceberg spotting from Twilingate. Sighting auroras from the shores of the Labrador Sea. Eating a proper Scotch egg made by a Nova Scotian. These kinds of things.

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Yet the closest I’ve been to any of these places is Brunswick. Our feet were frozen and raw from the walk around town. I got to touch a narwhal tusk. We ate delicious food.

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Back in 2016 Malcolm Gladwell trashed Bowdoin College for spending more money on their dining services (they consistently rank #1 in best college food) than on providing financial aid packages for low-income students. It’s an unfair assessment on how Bowdoin spends their endowment and generates funding for its stellar dining options. And would you know we opted not to eat at the college. Why? Because we’re a bunch of idiots and we just wanted to go home after a long, cold day on campus. Tired, cold idiots. Nobody thinks rationally when they’re tired and cold.

The good news is Elle graduated an entire year early, so the chances that we’ll get to take another tour around Bowdoin are good.  I’m totally going to eat on campus and I’m totally only taking another tour during the non-winter months.

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We drove home together the very next day. The Amtrak train ride to Brunswick was a practice run of sorts. We’d just recently found out my brother was getting married in Orlando in April. My husband wasn’t sure he’d be able to go, conflicting schedules and all. And I certainly wasn’t going to drive from New England to Central Florida without him. Flying? Out of the question.

That’s next…