October 12-14, 2021
My mom was recently reconnected with one of her cousins in Canada during our citizenship verification process. She had mentioned wanting to visit this summer before I returned to Spain. Unfortunately, due to the Canadian border being closed and then the Spanish Consulate having my passport for a month, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. But, a few days before I returned to Spain, we made the three day trip up the coast of Maine to Van Buren (where some family lives and she spent many summers) and to Drummond, New Brunswick.
I spent many hours poured over Atlas Obscura to identify some odd sites we could visit along our way. I came up with a tentative map as a reference, and we were on our way!
After two hours of driving towards and up the coast, our first stop was the Rockland Breakwater. This is a breakwater consisting of 730,000+ tons of granite creating a nearly mile long breakwater. It was completed in 1899 with a price tag of $750,000.
As we continued over the next few hours towards the Bold Coast Highway, we stopped in Camden to see the top of Mount Battie, one of my dad’s recommendations. Of course, we also stopped at the Camden National Bank’s flagship store at my mom’s request (here’s to hoping she’s featured on their website).
At this point, we were done driving for the night and decided to find a place to stay. During peak leaf-peeping season, hotels in Camden were sold out and any that were available in the area were very pricey. We headed about a half hour in the direction of Bangor (more in-land than coastal) and settled in for the night.
We started our second day bright and early. As we left Bangor, we drove by the famous Paul Bunyan statue. We spent some time looking for the North to Freedom Underground Railroad Memorial, but we couldn’t find it.
After, we headed towards the Fort Knox State Historic Site and Penobscot Narrows Observatory. Fort Knox was established in 1844 to prevent another British invasion as a response to the vulnerability to attacks Maine saw in the American Revolution and War on 1812. It’s the first in Maine built entirely from granite with a price tag of $1 million. Considered one of the best-preserved military fortifications in the country.
The Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory is the largest bridge observatory in the world at 447’. We were able to take an elevator ride up and have beautiful views of the river and foliage.
We continued our trek along the Bold Coast Highway, which we used as a general route. We took a few different detours and didn’t follow it exactly. It was a beautiful drive and the foliage was spectacular.
Our next stop was the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, which is the easternmost point in the continental United States.
After, we walked down to the beach, which was quite chilly and difficult to walk on! Although, it was beautiful and serene.
Our next stop was continuing up the Bold Coast Highway to Campobello Island, which is technically Canadian land. Although, the Roosevelt International Park is jointly managed, the only park in the world jointly managed by two governments. This portion of the island is home to FDR’s beloved summer cottage and 2600 acres of waterfront and forests. The partnership for joint management was created after his death to honor his collaborative nature with Canada. Thankfully, we had COVID tests completed because of our plan to go to New Brunswick, but we hadn’t completed the necessary entry paperwork. After a detour to the parking lot of customs to complete that, we were on our way. It was a bit confusing driving around, but we just took some random roads, found some beaches, and walked around. It is a huge island compared to what I expected.
Our last stop before heading to Van Buren for the night was the oldest 45th parallel marker in the United States. It reads “This stone marks latitude 45° north. Halfway from the equator to the pole. 1896.”
It was pretty much along the way, and then we had around 2-3 hours before we landed in Van Buren. We split up the driving, and it was exhausting! It had been a long day of driving and was late. But, we made it! We checked into the Aroostook Inn, which was the same hotel we stayed in in 2009 when we did a family trip to Van Buren. Of course, it was under new ownership, and we enjoyed talking with the young man who relocated from California to manage it. He had a very friendly dog, too.
In the morning, my mom drove me around Van Buren showing me some significant sites from her childhood and from her family, such as where her dad grew up, where they lived when they were located there, where her aunt lived and she spent her summers. Next, we drove to visit Cousin Mona and spent a little bit of time with her.
After, we headed to the Van Buren border crossing. Expecting a simple crossing, we were in for a surprise! First, they pulled us aside and searched our car. Inside and out. Perhaps it was a random selection, but it took a long time. After nearly an hour of them going through every pocket, zipper, and item, they announced they found some remnants of cannabis ash under the armrest. That must have been two years old! They interrogated us about our cannabis habits and reminded us not to bring it into Canada or back to the US. Next, we ran into another hiccup. We didn’t have cellular data in Canada, and my mom couldn’t load her COVID test! They were suspicious why we weren’t just “bouncing off the US tower” still. We had to drive back to the US, load the results, and then drive back. It was close to two hours of this fiasco. Finally, we were on our way to cousin Elise’s! They had not seen each other in decades, and it was a lovely reunion. She took us to a church nearby where my grandmother was baptized and a cementary where my great-grandparents are buried.
With a long drive ahead of us, we began the trek back down to southern Maine. For quite a while, we were parallel to Maine but on the trans-Canada highway. There were beautiful views once again that we enjoyed. The drive back down certainly went faster than the drive to Van Buren the night before! Thanks to some tunes, podcasts, and time spent reflecting on the trip and my upcoming departure to Spain.
It was another wonderful trip to the homeland with my mom.