JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We spent an exciting weekend in northern Maine, visiting the Maine School for Science andMathematics, which Youngest hopes to attend.
MSSM is in Limestone, the location of the former Loring Air Force Base. How far north is it? Further north than Quebec. Further north than Bismark, ND. Further north than Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
|Photo: Kevin Bennett, Bangor Daily News|
We left at Portland at 9:30am for a five to six hour trip, on a day when the forecast was light snow in the morning, clearing before noon. The forecast was wrong. We arrived in Presque Isle at 6:30pm. Traveling across the snow-and-ice covered I-95, we averaged 35-40 mph, except for the hour we spent going 0mph after we spun out of control and wedged ourselves backwards in the heavy snow bank along the median. We (and the car) are all okay, but poor Ross, who drove the WHOLE time, now seems to be suffering from a kind of PTSD. When we got up Monday morning to make the trip to Caribou and Limestone, he got kind of pasty and started
breathing heavily as soon as we hit the road.
This is, as near as I can tell, the essence of Aroostook County, the largest county east of the Mississippi, with a land mass bigger than all of southern New England: the hotel clerk who took my reservation said they were hurting because there was "no snow." At the truck stop in Houlton where we gassed up and got coffee, the owner said the drive north from there was smooth - the roads were clear and they hadn't been plowing because there was "no snow."
|Photo by Martin Brown|
We drove from Houlton to Presque Isle on a road entirely covered with snow, while snow fell from the sky, and when we got here, there was at least six inches of snow on the ground. That's "no snow" in the County. We had gotten the message by our second day, so when the helpful and chatty hotel clerk warned us the road (singular) from Presque Isle to Caribou was "a little slippery," we figured correctly that meant it was pretty much glare ice.
We had gone up over three degrees of latitude from our home, and as we drove due east to Limestone, the morning sun was far to the south. We recently watched THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW to get ourselves whipped up during the Polar Vortex, but as near as I can tell, people in this part of Maine wouldn't actually notice a difference if a new ice age hit.
I told Ross I usually think of myself as a rugged northern kind of gal, but this place makes me feel like a tourist from North Carolina. He said from this point on, he's going to tell people we live in the southern latitudes.
We're all back home now, safe and sound, with Youngest studying hard for the SAT this Saturday. If she gets into the highly-competitive school, we'll be making a lot more trips to Caribou. It may be time to look into four-wheel-drive - and some down coats for all of us!