It’s easy to stay in my cocoon here in York, Maine. We’ve a home of 31 years that we have made our own. I like the rhythm and flow to my day as one recently retired. Be it the life with Hannah, time with friends, volunteering at York Hospital, or working out at Coastal Fitness. But being lazy and complacent bay at the back door. From time to time, I need to leave our homestead to see what else is out there. Focused on my day to day, I can lose sight of the big picture.
By venturing out, I can learn things about myself that I didn’t even know I would learn.
To emerge from the cocoon this first Saturday of October, Hannah and I will drive two hours north to another of America’s hometowns. Fairfield, Maine. Located in Somerset County, Fairfield is in the heart of the Kennebec Valley in mid-Maine. A town of nearly 7000, it, like much of rural and suburban Maine, is 97% white.
What brings us specifically to Fairfield is the promise of a big time breakfast at the Purple Cow. A couple weeks back our friend George mentioned how the Purple Cow serves huge portions at breakfast. Ever-looking for a good deal and a good time, Hannah and I plan a road trip north.
Leaving at 5A, we drive northeast on I-95 past Portland, Augusta, and Waterville in the predawn dark. Hannah shoots this morning sunrise just before Fairfield.
Leaving the Maine Turnpike (I-95) at exit 133, we easily find the Purple Cow on our left within a half mile on Route 201, a major route from the Maine coast to Quebec.
Though 7A, we see twenty cars and trucks in the parking lot. If this many people are up this early, the Purple Cow just might be the mother lode. Entering the first of the two main dining areas, we find a plastic vinyl booth and settle in. Elderly couples, a man with the morning paper, a table of ten men, and guys soon to be four-wheeling all make the Purple Cow a happening place.
Pictures on the wall include the classic Dogs playing Poker,
and beneath them are the piles of Styrofoam containers for the inevitable Purple Cow leftovers.
Bringing decaf, our waitress is efficient, all business, and never cracks a smile. When I try to engage her, When does it get busy? she turns away dismissively as if I am slowing her down. Her big tip flies out the side window.
But then it’s time for the main event.
My pancakes fill the 12 inch plate; Hannah’s biscuits and gravy plus eggs and home fries are, in fact, two meals. Smothered in gravy, the biscuits are worth the drive themselves. Eggs over easy turns out to be three eggs and a mound of homemade home fries for just $6.99!
With twenty plus miles of country road biking ahead of us, we dig in. Just being away today gives me a new frame of reference and the chance to be creative and resourceful to make the most of our day.
Once done, we park at the primary school in town, which was once Lawrence High School. It is named for Edward J. Lawrence, a local entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist, who donated the money to build the town library and the high school.
Across the street is a town green and to the right the Lawrence Public Library. It’s 50 degrees, overcast under threatening skies, but we decide to explore Fairfield by bike anyway.
Rarely a fan of yard sales, I warm to them when we are out investigating faraway towns. Today happens to be the annual barn sale for the Fairfield Historical Society. As we pull in, it begins to rain.
The rain picks up and Hannah knows all too well that her vest and wool gloves will not be enough to ward off the cold. A bright blue/purple Columbia jacket speaks to her. It says Five dollars and that seals the deal. As we bike towards in town Lawrence High School, there is a fall chill to the rain.
The rain continues and we take refuge in the 1900 Lawrence Public Library.
I with my iPhone editing my Purple Cow pictures and Hannah reading the local paper, the Morning Sentinel, wait out the showery weather.
As the rain abates, we ask the librarian where she would recommend we bike today. Immediately, she encourages us to cross the two bridges on the Kennebec River from Fairfield to Benton and bike north on the River Road.
Once across the Kennebec River, we find ourselves in gently rolling farm country. The farm below lies between the river and the road.
Wearing my yellow fluorescent vest, I feel safe enough biking on this wide open country road to ride side by side with Hannah; I have plenty of time to see any approaching vehicles in my rearview mirror so I can slip back in line behind Hannah to ride single file.
Does anything say farm country like free kittens?
As a suburban north Jersey kid, I can only imagine how tough the farming life is. I bet these farmers aren’t riding bikes for exercise two hours from home on this fall morning.
In early October, we are in the midst of corn harvesting season. Half the fields have corn still standing tall while other fields have cornstalks cut off at the knees.
Though we see some houses that might be vacation camps, most river houses seem to be filled with the daily lives of full time residents. In the early 19th century, the Kennebec River once supplied ice for the southern United States and the West Indies. The ice was harvested by farmers idled by winter weather. The ice was cut by hand, floated to an ice house on the river bank, and stored until spring. Then, packed in sawdust, it was loaded aboard ships and transported south.
After ten miles of riverview biking, we turn back at the Pishon Ferry Baptist Church. Along the way, we pass the tarpaper house below, only guessing the one time or even current meager existence of this family.
Trailers are the affordable housing of choice up and down the river road in the Other Maine (i.e., contrasted with the often affluent coast of Maine where we live). Leaving our cocoon, we are reminded how fortunate we are.
No better way to spend a fall Saturday morning than exploring by bicycle with Hannah.
Farm folks have their fun as this farmer welcomes Halloween with a pastoral touch.
Our day in Fairfield has indeed taken us away from our enjoyable routines and our satisfying daily habits. By leaving our comfort zone, we again have added quality to our lives together. Without day-to-day distractions, we have time to reflect on our choices and think about what’s next. Being away makes me more intentional and pro-active. And that energizes me for the week ahead.