Anything I’ve ever seen about Maine on TV, in a magazine, or on the internet made me want to go there. Maine has everything I’ve ever loved! Ocean and beaches, mountains and forests, more lakes and ponds than is fair for one state to have all to itself, and loads of wildlife! So this year I finally took my opportunity to head north on a nine day vacation in beautiful Maine!!
I think we can all agree that Maine has the “It” factor, right? Whether you’ve been there in person or not, we’ve all seen bits and pieces. The picturesque lake with the mountain as its backdrop…the lush forest…the ocean serving up lobster a-plenty…all of that can be found in Maine. It is simply breathtaking.
This is the reason I chose to visit Maine for my birthday. I wanted to see all the pretty things!! And without a doubt, it delivered 100%. It was gorgeous no matter where I went or where I looked.
I found that Maine isn’t just another pretty face though. Oh, contraire mon frére! I also noticed things I wasn’t expecting that really made an impression on me. So much so that I wanted to share my thoughts on here.
Maine has a tag line that reads, ‘Maine: The Way Life Should Be’. When I first came across it I thought it was pretty spunky. How sweet that they’re proud of their state! But I have to tell you, after spending some time there I must admit I quite agree they’re doing some things right! There were so many things, outside of the beautiful scenery I loved about Maine. I’m telling you, I think they have it figured out!
I. Loved. Driving. In. Maine. For so many reasons! The speed limits seemed to be a lot slower than I’m accustomed to driving (or possibly I blatantly ignore them on the regular) – on average 35 – 55 MPH on most roads except the interstate. This speed normally makes my skin itch and you would find me pushing 10 miles over that limit on any other day. However, from a chronic speed limit violator who never thought these words would pass her lips…it didn’t bother me one little bit in Maine. (Did I really just say that??!!?) Primarily, I’m sure, due to the fact I was busy enjoying the scenery. Because it’s gorgeous!!
I found the best “side effect” of a slower speed is the local wildlife has a longer life span! Maine has exponentially less roadkill than my home state. I don’t know if animals dart in front of vehicles more often down south, or if perhaps our drivers make a special effort to aim at them for sport. Whatever the reason, I was perfectly pleased when I noticed this difference because dead animals make my soul sad.
Another driving plus – almost no tailgating!! What?!? The 35 – 55 MPH speed zones change as you approach and exit town areas. You’ll not believe this…. When the speed limit dropped, drivers slowed down! Ninety-eight percent of the time any car behind me kept at least two car lengths between our vehicles. And I was driving the speed limit!!
Also! There was an accident on the interstate one rainy day. A lighted billboard sign was posted a mile or more before I got there to let commuters know an accident was ahead. When I got to the traffic jam I got over into the left lane which was the only one open at the time. Do you know how many cars drove all the way to the barrier so they could force their way in line because their life is significantly more important than everyone else’s who are waiting their turn? Zero. Zee-ro. My heart grew three sizes that day.
Aside from general manners, I loved that Maine has incorporated mini “passing zones” in their roadways. When you come to certain crossroads you’ll notice a temporary 2nd lane added that allows other motorists to bypass a stopped car without interruption to the flow of traffic. This is nothing short of genius, people!
In addition, all the roads in Maine have massive paved shoulders so if there isn’t an available passing zone, commuters are able to conveniently slide on over to the shoulder and bypass you there. This startled me the first time, but the next time I knew what was up and didn’t even blink an eye.
Two thumbs up, five gold stars, and a flying comet on the traffic, Maine!! I am a fan.
I drove from Portland to Wilton, Maine on the second day of my trip. The next morning after some consideration I said to a friend who made the trip with me, “Do you remember seeing billboards on the interstate?” They weren’t quite sure. This to say, it wasn’t something that immediately jumped out at me but sure enough when I traveled the interstate again later in the week, not a single billboard. Nothing but the road, grass, and trees.
Also, there wasn’t an exit every mile filled with fast food restaurants. In fact, you had to really make an effort to find one of those! The small town feel that permeates the entire state makes my heart happy. Loads of local businesses and restaurants that truly had me yearning to live a simpler life.
Once I started paying more attention, I also noticed the radio stations seemed to have fewer advertisements and it’s also possible even those ads were for a larger percentage of local businesses as opposed to the larger box stores. (I didn’t do an official scientific study on this, which is why I use the term “seemed to have”.)
Rebuild – Reuse – Recycle
Something I saw lots of in Maine were recycling bins. Most trash cans had a recycling bin sitting next to it for bottles and such. The owners of our cabin even had a second trash can specifically for bottles. After a bit of research I found out this is because in 1978 Maine created a “Bottle Bill” which is a recycling program for glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers.
From the state government web site:
How it works:
Under Maine’s beverage container redemption program, manufacturers, distributors or sellers of bottled/canned beverages begin the process collecting the appropriate deposit fee (five cents or fifteen cents) for every beverage container subject to this program which is sold in the State. Beverage retailers pass this cost onto the consumer at time of purchase by charging that deposit fee. This deposit encourages consumers to return their containers to a redemption center to reclaim their deposit. The initiators of deposit (or those working on their behalf) collect the containers from the redemption center and pay them for the deposit fee which the redemption center has already paid to the customer, plus a ‘per container’ handling fee, and recycle the collected containers.
Maine wasn’t the first state to approve such a bill, but it was a solid member of the cool kids who were recycling when recycling wasn’t cool and this puts them light years ahead of the rest of us, I’m afraid.
And so ends my history lesson for the day, my friends.
But I’m paying almost $2 for a soda pop at my local rippy mart and I’m wondering why is 5 or 15¢ of that already not my deposit fee to encourage recycling?? We could totally do it, Alabama! I saw a few redemption centers while there. They ain’t fancy.
Another something I didn’t see a lot of in Maine was new construction. What I did see were lots of old farm houses that had been rebuilt. First of all, I’m so head over heels in love with old farm houses and antiques and old buildings I could marry them! (Shout out for throwing back all the way to elementary school)
All over the state, there are massive farm homes (I guess are close to 100 years old), looking over a gorgeous field. Heaven. I love that instead of leveling a home and building new, or tearing down trees for new neighborhoods, they work to preserve what is already there and bring it back to life.
Maine had a laid-back kind of feel to it, from my experience. There was a certain old-fashioned, hometown vibe that I adored, an ease in personalities, and a low-key friendliness that I felt there. It was largely casual (and I’m all about some casual) with what I felt to be a live and let live sort of atmosphere.
My friend and I shared several conversations with people we met while there. Everyone I encountered seemed very willingly conversational, as in they weren’t just speaking to answer your question and hurry along. It’s possible they actually enjoyed talking!! At the ferry dock I overheard people chatting who went to high school together. And on the ferry while touring the islands the people who hopped on an off would chat with each other like neighbors.
In fact, I think the best example I can give is this… I deal with social anxiety – not severe enough to keep me in the house, but enough to make me avoid certain social situations. Possibly as a collective result of many of the things I list above from the vibe to the traffic, by the end of the week I told the friend with me that I could feel some of that anxiety was gone. Just *poof*! all unexpected like!!
There was a level of common courtesy and basic trust there I haven’t experienced in years. I pulled up to a gas station once with old-timey pumps (the ones you swing the arm and can’t pay at the pump). When I ran inside to pay before pumping my gas the guy informed me I pumped gas first, then paid. It took me a few seconds to stop looking dumbfounded. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to pay first!!! What if I drive off?!?!
On the ferry a basket of cargo would be dropped at each stop. Anything from groceries to beach chairs to boxed deliveries would be inside this giant metal basket. As people walked off the boat they would grab whatever they brought with them. However, at several of the islands I noticed not everything had been claimed. No one was around and our boat was pulling away. There was no attendant to guard people’s things!! Like you could just trust that people wouldn’t take something that wasn’t theirs!! I mean…insane, right?!?!?
Before leaving when I would tell people where I was heading I got a lot of, “What’s in Maine??” reactions. I wondered if they knew something I didn’t. It would’ve broken my heart a little if I’d gotten there and been disappointed. I shouldn’t have worried about that though. They were the ones with something to learn.
What’s in Maine? Everything. Everything is in Maine.