October 9, 2013

Maine vacation a mix of memories, fun

By SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — Toby and I just got back from our annual jaunt to Maine. Sunny days, high 70s and afternoon naps made for a perfect week’s vacation at Old Orchard Beach.

We’ve been staying at the Friendship Oceanfront Suites for the past 20-plus years. The last dozen years we rented their quaint cottage next to the motel, called the Sea Breeze. Our grandchildren, parents, elderly friends and acquaintances have also shared this unique place with us.

The Donovan family has owned the Friendship for decades. Last fall, they decided to demolish the old cottage because the first floor was sand-dune level with no view. Our ground-level apartment had a beautiful deck and stunning views of the beach, dune grass and the ocean beyond.

I was a bit miffed when they shared their plans. How do you tear down something that holds so many memories? Our five-hour drive through Vermont and New Hampshire held thoughts of arriving at Old Orchard and not liking the new cottage. They were dismissed when we pulled into the driveway and there stood the prettiest new cottage, complete with balconies for each floor and dynamic views of the ocean.

The only drawback was the 37 steps and four landings up to the top floor. (We had reserved the top floor last year, mindful that the steps would be many.) Funny thing, though, is that both of us noticed after three or four days, that our breathing was better and we weren’t huffing and puffing.

I wasn’t surprised when the owners, Dan and John, stopped by to see what we thought of the new cottage. I was ready with a short list of “suggestions,” like mirrors and clothing hooks in the bedrooms, to which they readily agreed. 

We make an annual trek to Fryeburg Fair, on the western side of the state. The ride to Fryeburg on Route 302 was spectacular. Colorful trees and crystal-blue lakes were a treat for the eyes. 

We make the fair yearly mostly to see the antique venues and the Half Moon Jug Band, a threesome or foursome, depending on who is available, that plays some of the funniest and most touching music. 

Troy, also known as the “Van Gogh of the banjo,” is lead singer. He writes most of the music and plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and probably a few other instruments I don’t know about. His friend since childhood, Mike, plays the drums with perfection, humor and enthusiasm. The two fit together like a lock and a key. Steve rounds out the group on the kazoo, guitar and a mix of other instruments.

Their songs, such as “Tuna Noodle Casserole,” “Run, Piggy, Run,” “Fish Bones” and my favorite, “The Cat Came Back,” will tickle your funny bone, have you clapping your hands or bring a tear to your eye. They are a local legend in Maine and fill the benches at Water Wheel Park, with standing room only.

Legendary fish chowder made by the local fire department, organic turkey dinners and hot apple crisp over vanilla ice cream made by the North Conway Congregational Church all add up to a memorable day.

Our daughter, Tracey, and her husband, Randy, joined us for a few days. Our walks on the beach have become fond memories, especially when Tracey came across a live crab, felt sorry for it, didn’t want the seagulls to eat it, gingerly picked it up and walked it back to the sea. Earlier that day, Tracey was looking for shells. One still had its occupant, which tickled Tracey’s fingers when she picked it up, causing her to “Yeek” and throw it quickly into the ocean. 

When our grandchildren turned 6, we took each one to Maine, walked the beaches, picked up sand dollars and let them try lobster (which most of them called disgusting). Evenings and rainy days we played chicken foot with dominoes and Skipbo (numbered cards) and took lazy-day naps. On the surface, these days may be called vacations, but they go deeper. They are memories to keep for a lifetime.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness. 

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at