I have seen many spectacular stretches of highway in my travels around Maine, but my heart belongs to Route 3. And, no, I’m not talking about the much-lauded loop around Mount Desert Island, which serves up natural beauty in staggering proportions. “My” Route 3 is the western leg that starts in Augusta and intersects with Route 15 in Orland, a drive my family does a half-dozen or so times each year. Part of my affinity for this road has to do with where we’re headed when we’re on it: our camp in Deer Isle or my mother-in-law’s house in Surry. Route 3 and I have also been through rough times together and emerged more strongly bonded as a result.
When Mark and I first drove this route with our colicky first son, we stopped every half-hour from the Hannaford in China to the Irving station in Bucksport (which, on the bright side, has a water view) in a fruitless effort to assuage his wailing. On another trip, I rode with a pillow wrapped around my ears to muffle the cries of our younger son (who, lucky us, also hated the car as an infant) and pleaded with Mark to pull over at a Belfast motel for the night. (Ever frugal, he insisted we push through.) There were many times when I sat wedged between car seats, my arm draped awkwardly around our agitated little son (because sometimes that worked) and harrowing moments at the traffic lights in Augusta, when Mark pumped the brakes in an attempt to prevent a sleeping child from stirring (which usually didn’t work). Reflecting on these experiences in our rearview, I feel a deep sense of gratitude, and loyalty, to the roads that have delivered us, however rattled, to our destinations.
From a road-tripper’s standpoint, there’s also plenty to appreciate about Route 3. We love to load up on produce at Bahner Farm’s roadside stand in Belmont and stop for lobster rolls at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast, a town (pictured) that is also home to Perry’s Nut House, a curio and fudge shop with — what else? — a massive wooden squirrel stationed outside. Up the road is an ice cream parlor that has changed names several times but maintains its intriguingly apostrophized subheading, Th’Ice Cream Barn. And on your right as you head east out of Belfast, you’ll spot a classic Maine gag: long poles with mailboxes on top labeled “Air Mail” and “Bills.” Farther along in Searsport, there’s a store that sells spiral staircases exclusively and Bait’s Motel — a play on the horror film Bates Motel one presumes — as well as gorgeous antique homes and inns lining the waterfront.
We’ve been enjoying this ride in relative peace for a few years now. And yet: I still catch Mark tapping the brakes when we hit those Augusta stoplights.
What’s your favorite Maine route? Is it quirky or quintessentially beautiful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Cover Photo Submitted By Ericreed