I did something I haven’t done since my twenties: a marathon road trip. I left my home from the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia around 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and ended up in Freeport, Maine about 9:30 a.m. the next day – Sunday morning.
Of course it was no spur of the moment decision on my part – I needed to be in Owls Head, Maine by Monday morning for another two week painting workshop with watercolorist and soon-to-be-full-time-Maine-resident, David Dewey.
I originally planned to make it a three-day trip but, as usual, I had a lot of things I needed to get done before leaving Marietta and I was a bit pressed to get up there. By the time I got up to Pennsylvania, I was very sleepy so I pulled over to get a motel room. The motel was booked for the evening.
As I got further down the road and into New York State, I had racked up three or four motel rejections.
“What’s going on?” I asked the clerk at the fifth motel, “Is this normal?”
“This is the Poconos, we’re always busy this time of the year.”
I don’t know about these Northerners: Down South, we don’t like to stand in long lines, have shortages, run out of stuff, or vacation in large crowds; we have a simple market correction to supply and demand chain economics – it’s called Build More Motels, Dammit! And we don’t care if there are already enough motels – let’s simply build some more!
At each of my five stops I began filling up on coffee. I was now wide awake and even if I did happen upon an available motel room, I most likely would end up watching the Oxyclean guy on TV pulling tractor trailers with silly putty.
Another curious thing about the North is how complicated it is to get on and off exit ramps from the Interstate. New York and Connecticut are the worst. You see a sign that says, “Food and Lodging, This Exit”: as you get off the highway, things get creepily empty and you realize you are in a very rural area with signs alluding to food that have you turning several times. You finally reach the food source and it is an old boarded up farmhouse that needs serious painting with a sign on the door the reads, “Closed for Christmas Vacation.” At this point you figure you will skip the food and just get some gas. As you leave the food place parking lot, you notice a sign that reads, “Gas” with an arrow indicating a gas station 17 miles further down the road. To hell with this, you reason – and you decide to get back on the highway. You need a road map to do that and after 10 minutes of driving around you finally recognize a road that you think you might have been on earlier. If you are lucky, it will take you back to the Interstate. If not, you call your wife and tell her you have found a new business opportunity up North: a place that sells gasoline and food with well-marked signs!
On my last motel hunt on one of these curious little scavenger hunt exits, I made an eery observation: there were no streetlights and at a stop sign I looked over and saw several abandoned cars parked at the intersection; upon a second glance and with what little available light, I noticed ghostly white frozen faces behind the car windows. There were people sleeping in their cars!
With the fear of moteless zombies and several quarts of coffee in my gut, I pressed on to Maine. The good news is that the roads were entirely empty. I have never seen New England highways in such a state and it was a real joy to have the road to myself.
That afternoon, after a stop at L.L. Bean and some lunch, I eventually made it to my usual stay in Maine – The Craignair Inn. I checked in and drug my exhausted self up to a corner room on the second floor and opened the windows to let a fresh breeze in. The refreshing, salt air smelled like a bushel of fresh oysters and I collapsed on the bed. Later that night, I woke up for dinner and then retired back to my room for probably the best sleep in a long time.
Monday morning we met at David Dewey’s house and set off to Rockland for a visit to the Caldbeck Gallery where David has an impressive show of recent works. Back in Owls Head, we set up our painting gear down near the harbor. David has a friend who has a house on the water – on a sort of mini point within the harbor – that offers incredible views of a small Maine working harbor. As David did a quick demonstration painting, lobstermen in their boats with chugging diesel engines hauled in their traps.
Amy graciously allowed us to paint from her front yard which is an unlimited source for subject matter.
I set up in front of the dock and began the painting above. With only a few hours left, I got a good start. I hope to complete the painting – along with others – during this weekend between workshops.
It is great to be in Maine and I look forward to two weeks of intense painting!