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Life with Liz: Meandering up the coast

And now, the conclusion of “what I did on my summer vacation.” The final leg of our journey involved a day long meander up the coast and across the middle of Maine to Moosehead Lake.

We broke up the drive with a stop at LL Bean. Can you really go to Maine and not go to LL Bean?

I lost G for a half-hour to the fly-fishing section. E was enthralled with the yoga/Jazzercise class that was happening on their mall. Duncan even made a few new friends as he waited patiently for us outside.

With our legs stretched and a brand-new pair or two of Bean boots being shipped back home for free, we set off to our next stop: Orono, Maine, home of the University of Maine, and the legendary Pat’s Pizza.

My dad attended UMaine, and one long weekend during my college years in Boston, he came up and we took a ride up to Orono, got out of the car long enough to take a picture with his old dorm and the Black Bear statue and then grabbed a pie at Pat’s.

My dad swore the interior hadn’t changed a whit since his coed days. We ran into a small problem as we tried to navigate through the streets of the quaint little town. It’s pretty tough to angle park with a boat in tow. We found a small side street where we were able to park next to some construction vehicles and the kids and I hit up Pat’s while the Wonderful Husband took Duncan for a walk.

As Pat’s was still take out only, we ordered our pies, and a few glass bottles of Coke, which were a novelty for the kids, and they insisted on keeping them.

I’m pretty sure they’re still rolling around in the back seat somewhere. We took advantage of the glorious weather and ate our pizza standing around the boat. I don’t know if it was the atmosphere or the nostalgia, but we all agreed that Pat’s had some of the best pizza we’d ever had. It didn’t hurt that they had full slices of bacon on the “all meat” pizza.

We finally turned off the major highways and onto some pretty rural roads. The kids started to count moose antlers on the sides of garages as we went by, and before long, we were coming over the hill and miles and miles of sparkling blue water stretched out in front of us. Home for the next nine days. It was just beautiful. The only requirement I’d had was indoor plumbing, and the WH managed to find a three-bedroom cabin with two full bathrooms. It was glorious.

We also invited our longtime vacation buddies to join us and even though it had been three years since we’d last vacationed together, it was like we’d seen them the day before.

For the next few days, we did whatever we wanted. I napped and read on the deck, or on the small beach. G and our friend’s son escaped to fish every minute that they could.

A found a stash of books by Maine’s own, Stephen King, and rediscovered some classic tales of horror. E finally got to use her paddle board and got to be quite proficient at it. Duncan was out of his mind with not one but two new dog friends.

Evenings were full of lively conversation, guitar playing, lots of good food, and more than one cold beverage. After a year of being together under the same roof, it was exactly the change of pace we needed to go in our separate directions and have a change of scenery.

One afternoon, “the girls” took a trip into town and puttered around the shops. We stumbled across an old drugstore that had a legitimate soda fountain still operating.

The same store had a small shelf full of penny candy, complete with small brown bags. Although Swedish fish now go for 3 cents apiece, it was still such a fun blast from the past.

As we sipped our root beer floats, we walked past the geology store and admired the hundreds of geodes, and the antique store, which sported quite a collection of taxidermy.

The only obligations we had all week were one chartered fishing expedition, which yielded one small fish, and one nice dinner “out.” Even though the little town was clearly suffering from a labor shortage in the serving industry, we didn’t mind it at all as longer wait times allowed us to chill out and have more great conversation.

Toward the end of the week our friends headed home a few days early, and we enjoyed another few days of solitude, and a few family drives to see Mount Kineo and to look for moose. The WH and G continued to search out remote fishing spots, while A, E, and I all found new books to dive into in the used book shop in town. While none of us were terribly thrilled to be packing up on Sunday morning, we all agreed that our vacation this year had been exactly what we all needed.

We had to do all in one day, as the boys were due at Boy Scout Camp for an extended stay. True to form, the ride home, was yet another adventure.

While we didn’t follow a storm like we did on the way up, we kept running into sudden small downpours.

A “quick” detour to grab some lunch ended up sticking us in traffic for almost an hour. And, about halfway through New York, something started going wrong with the brakes, later determined to be a cracked caliper. It was a gradual reminder that the chaos of real life was just around the corner.

I was smart enough to give myself an additional day of “vacation” to unpack and regroup and get ready to reenter reality. By Tuesday, vacation was a distant memory, but at least it was good one.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.