When I tell people that I grew up in Woolwich and they ask, “where’s that,” simply saying “off Route 1” is usually enough. It’s about the only major road in Maine where you stand a chance of getting “there from here,” as long as wherever you’re going is along the coast.
Much of Lincoln County, too, is “off Route 1.” You can travel through Wiscasset, Edgecomb, Newcastle, Damariscotta, Nobleboro, and Waldoboro in less than 20 miles, according to Google Maps on my iPhone.
It might take a half hour, clipping along between 40 and 60 mph, creating a somewhat blurred impression of the Midcoast.
Rock ledges and river ways form the backdrop for wild blueberry sellers under pop-up canopies, tucked off the road where you can park safely and pick up a quart without risking your life opening the driver’s side door on the shoulder.
Route 1 stores sell everything from garden novelties to fine antiques. You can buy a used — or new — car, swing on a ropes course, rent a kayak, stock up on T-shirts (or batik dresses), and stop to eat anything from a lobster roll to a five-course meal with plenty of ice cream options just up ahead for dessert.
But this is Route 1 anywhere.
What truly distinguishes our Midcoast stretch of highway is the hour (or more) that it might take to drive all of 18 miles.
If you live off Route 1, or drive the area frequently, you know traffic, road construction, and a “Speed Racer”-like gauntlet of obstacles (caused, mainly, by other drivers) can really slow you down. Like way down.
It’s all coming back to me now. No one had to tell me to plan for these Route 1 realities when I accepted the position as editor of The Lincoln County News. These delays are mapped into my driving DNA, along with every single not-so-shortcut through Cowshit Corner in Newcastle, and again on Mountain Road in Woolwich. After all, this is where I learned to drive my father’s old Chevy truck, a stick shift no less, when I was 14.
I’d say I could find my way along Route 1 blindfolded and not hit a single orange cone or run over any flaggers, but that would be a boast I would never want to prove. Also, it’s not true. I don’t miss a pothole on the best of drives down the worst of roads.
Besides, inching along Route 1 stop-and-go style allows my mind to wander off the road. I imagine what it would be like to pull over and discover all the history, good food, nature trails, and “Only-In-(Fill in the blanks)” each small town offers.
Like I’ve never been here before.
I know some of these special details. I have a personal list of favorite farm stands, bakeries, walks in the woods and watering holes. Everyone does.
I also know that Jefferson is not Alna, and Alna is not Whitefield and Whitefield is not Dresden and Dresden … why yes, it is in Lincoln County, though it borders much more of Sagadahoc’s Merrymeeting Bay.
South Bristol has its own zip code. So do New Harbor, Bremen, and Round Pond, too.
But much of what I know about Lincoln County is through my windshield, headlights pointed either down Memory Lane to places I went with my grandmother, or searching for the turn I’m supposed to take in about a mile or so.
I know some things about my new editorial beat. But you know so much more. I hope you will let me know what’s special to you about where you live and work in Lincoln County. I don’t want to miss a thing. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll be sure to pull off the road to learn more.