My power-deficient, 900-pound Russian motorcycle struggled to get all three wheels out of the darkness of the valley on Route 17 in Township D. As we crested the Height of Land, downshifting into second gear, the trees to the west gave way and so did the gloom. My eyes were treated to the glory of raggedy rain clouds scattering over Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Their shredded remains raced over my head and the dying sun winked goodbye near the horizon, where everything disappears, eventually.
Timing is everything.
I’ve been busier than the average folk-singing news photographer over the past 90 days. Gigs and assignments took me from Block Island to Old Town, from Augusta politics to Bowdoinham ballet dancers. In other words, it’s summer in Maine. Everything seems to try and cram itself into the six weeks after Independence Day. I needed a break and decided to get lost on my first free weekend since June.
There was a mix-up at the campsite where I was supposed to stay on Mooselookmeguntic. I ended up stringing my tent hammock between two trees behind an inconspicuous woodshed in the dark. I ate some food and took an underdressed midnight swim in the lake to wash away the road grime. The clearing, moonless sky made the water black, save the pinpointed starry reflections.
Sinking beneath the cool water, I rubbed my hands on my face. I resurfaced to a wailing loon call coming across the water at ear level. Timing again.
I felt great after the swim and slept refreshed. I awoke early and was gone before anyone really knew I was there.
In Oquossoc, I grabbed coffee and a breakfast burrito. A group of men, in clothes indicating they were on vacation, were standing in a vertical pig pile near the newsstand. The lady at the counter told me they were waiting for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Wall Street Journal to be delivered.
I rode the Bemis Track south, under the Height of Land, and hiked up to Angel Falls. It was deserted. I heard only the rushing water for the better part of an hour before hiking back down. I got on my bike and continued south until I met a group of what must have been 40 people walking north. A man flagged me down and wanted to know how far it was to the falls.
Talk about timing.
I crisscrossed my way south and east, over dirt roads ‘til I got to my friend Sputnik’s secret, Oxford County camping spot. I can’t say much more about it, being secret and all, but it’s on a tranquil pond and a few more pals showed up to make it a great time.
I left Sunday morning and headed back to Portland. I arrived just as my wife was finishing a top-to-bottom house cleaning. God bless her and my weekend streak of impeccable timing.
Back Road Wanderer
I’m a back road wanderer, a helmet-wearing ponderer
Making tracks for only God knows where
Handlebars in my hands, I don’t really have a plan
I just wanna say I think I’ve been somewhere near there
Paved roads are fine, I take ‘em all the time
But I always hear the back roads calling me
Dust and grit in my teeth, that’s the taste of sweet relief
As rolling wheels in dirt they set me free
Backs roads they bend, they don’t ever send
You straight to where you think you wanna go
Just listen to them sing, and tell you ‘bout the things
You didn’t even know you didn’t know
Those roads got bumps, potholes and lumps
Some only steer you to dead ends
They might lead to a summer’s dream and a million shades of green
A smile, a wave and a brand new friend
Just let me go, where all of the stones
Are unfamiliar with my face
Where every single tree is still unknown to me
Life is adventure, not a race