As much as I love Maine, there is one thing it doesn’t have in it.
Huey and Buster. Buster, I know, is lounging around in his penthouse at the Cat Spa, drugged out of his mind on catnip, and getting more than his fair share of playing from the staff. Huey, I’m sure, is at this moment digging into a pile of hay and wondering if I’m going to come in today and bring treats, or whether it’s going to be the better-but-more-challenging Emergency Backup Rider he usually gets when I’m away. He’s thinking that he’s not sure if it’s better to have a baby rider like myself screwing things up while riding him, but he gets a soft and easy workout, or to have the better rider who doesn’t screw things up but makes him do more difficult stuff. And he is not being sure.
I am, however, missing him like the dickens. It’s easier to not miss Buster, because 1) he sleeps squarely on my feet or knees, and is functionally a 14 pound jelly-filled furry bowling ball when he does, which is less than comfortable for me, and 2) I know quite well that he’s going to blame me soundly for his wild week of wining and dining, and be a right proper little brat when I get home. Huey doesn’t usually make messes for me, he just spends my money like it’s water. I’d rather have my money spent like water than wake up every morning with a backache because I’ve been sleeping with a bowling ball.
Anyway, I started down this road because I woke up this morning, and could hear Huey’s voice in my mind saying This is being a very good birthday!! And it is!
We had a few difficulties yesterday, me and Roy. They arose during a fabulous two-hour cruise that we took along the coast, wherein we saw more seals on Seal Rocks than I’ve ever seen there before, and a huge osprey nest right up close and the ospreys were at home. And the morning cloud cover pulled off right at the very time I wanted it to the most, so I could take pictures of a nearby lighthouse. And the weather was spanking perfect, just the right temperature, and no humidity. And a good coffeeshop has opened up this year right on the waterfront. And the bar on the cruise boat started dishing up Bloody Marys, two for eight bucks, and they were loaded with horseradish, just like I like them.
So, you say, where are these difficulties?
The boat picked up a few handfuls of people on the usual quay, and then motored across the harbor to make an unusual stop, where it picked up what seemed to be a couple hundred septuagenarians and octogenarians on a tour. I could tell at once that many of these individuals were members of our Tribe, and doubly-lucky for Roy, they were Homies of a sort. Every last one of them from Long Island. Or, as they say there, “Longiiiiiiland.” There are few things Roy loves more than a big mess of Old Folks From The Home Country. He likes to bond with them. And, regrettably, during the course of bonding with a pair of ancient women with improbably red hair and flashy clothes, he rounded up my age to the next year. And when I pointed out that he had done so, he shrugged and said “It’s less than a day.”
A day is a day. 15 years and 364 days is not the same thing as 16 years. That would be 15 years and 365 days, or even 366 if it’s a Leap Year. Not that I am playing around with those numbers, but I don’t see the point in broadcasting that here. Especially not after I said “WHAT? I AM NOT [rounded up age]. My birthday is not until TOMORROW.” It was good for a laugh from the old ladies, who either have long outgrown that perspective but remember it, or perhaps it is a perspective you never outgrow. No way to tell, and I wasn’t going to ask.
It did net me a Consolation Prize of an early birthday present: a golf shirt with a golfing Mickey Mouse, made from a truly royal purple, and out of technical fabric. And in perfect timing, too, because we had a 5:00PM tee-time at the Links on the adjacent peninsula.
One thing I love about New England roads in the summer is their…nomadic…character. While you do see ordinary smallish cars carrying ordinary people about their ordinary business, you see almost quite as many Motorized Camels humping along with the entire household goods, or at least, a selection of them. It’s one thing if you’re going to Boston, but if you’re in a position to drive to Boston, you certainly aren’t going to be doing so for pleasure, not at this time of the year, you aren’t. No. There are much better places to be than Boston, in late summer. Cape Cod. Martha’s Vineyard. Nantucket. The North Coast. The Adirondacks. The Catskills. The Berkshires. The entire coast of Maine. The lakes of Maine. The Green Mountains. The White Mountains. The Pioneer Valley, where I live.
The thing to know about all of those destinations is that they involve, or can and do involve, truly vast quantities of specialized gear.
And people take it with them when they go.
This leads to, at the very simplest and most commonplace point, the family sedan with two bikes hanging on the trunk-mount bike rack, or an ancient four-door with bikes that cost three times what the car did mounted on the roof-rack (minus the front tires, which are stored in the backseat).
And, at the most ornate and complicated end of the spectrum, you have the family I saw on the way up here, driving an RV with three bikes mounted on the front of the hood, towing a sport ute that had more bikes on the back, and a canoe and a kayak on the roof rack.
And you do have every configuration in between, bikes, canoes, kayaks, three-wheelers, four-wheelers, campers, roof pods, canvas wrapped bundles tied anywhere that provides an attachment point. And, of course, dogs. I think there may be some kind of requirement to have dogs in New England. The more, the bigger, the hairier, the better. I think the only thing that has let me out of having dogs is having a horse. The pressure is incredible. And New Englanders take their dogs absolutely everywhere. Kind of like the French do, only bigger and hairier. For the love of pete, yesterday, our cruise boat passed a large yacht moored in the harbor, and even the yacht had dogs, and a couple of dirt bikes mounted on the back.
Anyway, this year, Roy and I decided to dispense with the bikes, because – with the very narrow, very windy, very hilly coastal roads that have no, read it: NO, shoulders whatsoever, it’s just too much like playing Russian Roulette when you go out on a bicycle.
No, this year, our Specialized Sporting Goods of choice to haul along on vacation were our golf clubs. This was Roy’s idea, by the way. I’d be happy renting various watercraft and hiking. But he’s been in New England longer than I have, and he’s clearly caught the regional need to take along the bulkiest special-use sporting goods possible. And two full sets of golf clubs, plus bags, plus shoes, certainly count. I, myself, am starting small. I mostly feel the need to fill up the car with skis. I’m having to work my way up to other stuff, like multiple kayaks, or a canoe that is twice as long as the car.
So here we are, with our clubs, looking for some links, and found them on the nearby peninsula. I must say, it was the nicest golf outing I’ve ever had. The weather, as I said, was perfect, and the course itself was much easier than our usual one. There were water hazards on only two of the nine holes, not seven of nine like there are at home. The fairways were wide, and not – for the most part – lined with impenetrable forested thickets and swamps. They were longer than usual, to make up for it. But we got there at five, only had to let one other party play through, and scrambled our way to finishing nine holes in just under two hours, and lost only five balls. A record, for us. And we were treated, on the drive home, to a brilliantly colorful sunset of nuclear proportions. I mean, I did not know that colors like that existed in Nature. It looked like there was a terrifyingly toxic chemical reaction taking place inside the clouds. Pink was the least of it. Thank heavens I did not have my camera, or there would have been a wreck.
I finished off the day with a grilled lobster served with drawn butter that had fennel seeds in it. Grill + lobster + fennel + butter = heaven.
Now I’m facing the question of what to do with today. Roy had made it clear that I am Queen Of All I Survey…and one of the collateral benefits of making the trip out to the links yesterday is that we passed the equestrian bookstore. I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “there is no way that there is an entire store full of Horse Books stowed away in the coastal Maine woods. It must be that “equestrian” is someone’s name. Or a word they thought was cool.”
But no. Thirty seconds on the internet reveals that there is in fact an entire store full of Horse Books stowed away in the coastal Maine woods. And it’s on the way to lunch. Bwahahahah…Things like this make my decisions so much easier. Fabulous hike. Letting Huey spend some more of my money like water, on books, from a distance. Fresh fried fish for lunch. Ice cream for dessert. Reading my new Horse Book(s) as I gaze out over the ocean. Watching the sunset with a microbrew. Five-star food at an Inn in town for dessert.
I could die happy at the end of this. Or, probably, at any point while it’s going on.