Traveling in the Time of COVID – Visiting Family and A Scenic Drive

The next destination we headed to was Solon, Maine to visit with my husband’s sister. I hear you asking “Where is Solon? Good question. Have you ever heard of Skowhegan, Maine? If so, Solon is north of there if you keep driving on 201 long enough and if once you have left the town behind and in the country (some would say the middle of nowhere) you would swear you were lost or at the very least going the wrong way. Trust me, you aren’t.

BTW, if you have time to stop in Skowhegan and it’s time to eat (and heck, even if it’s not time to eat!), plan for stops at one of the following local businesses:

  • Ken’s Restaurant for some of the best fried chicken anywhere.
  • The Bankery – A local bakery that was built in an old bank. Worth stopping in for fresh baked bread, pie, cookies and pastries to take along for the ride or as a hostess gift to curry favor when visiting friends/relatives who are kind enough to let you bunk with them for a night or two.
  • Giffords Ice Cream Stand – I have heard so much about this ice cream. Unfortunately, each time we have been to Skowhegan, this little stand isn’t open. Fortunately, SIL bought some home to eat with fresh baked pie. Still want a cone.
  • The Old Mill Pub – Take in the beautiful view of the dam that spans the Kennebec River. Enjoy their incredibly tasty pub menu in a cozy old building of brick & wood. They have a good selection of craft beers from around the state of Maine and some local to Skowhegan. The maple chipotle wings are to die for!

As we drive up the gravel drive to my sister-in-law’s log cabin style house, two grouse step out in front of the car. I stop to let them cross safely. We enjoy a lunch of homemade tomato basil soup and salad. It is a joy to be here enjoying the peace and quiet and to fill one’s lungs with the wonderful clean scent of the surrounding pine forest. We take a tour of the garden which supplies vegetables and fruits for meals and canning for the winter months.

My SIL whipped up a batch of pumpkin muffins as we catch up on family happenings. These muffins are made with coconut oil and about the most delicious I have ever had. Dinner is baked chicken smothered in onions and cheese with roasted veggies from the garden.

The next day, we drive up 201, also known as the Old Canada Road Scenic By-way, in search of a scenic overlook my SIL’s partner has told us about. We barely turn off the narrow lane onto another country road, when I spot a tiny Yorkie and no one around. Being the dog lover that I am and knowing that small dogs are at the bottom of the food chain in wooded Maine, I get out and scoop the dog up prepared to take it back to my SIL to see if she knows who it belongs to. Just then, a man comes out looking for his dog. Annie is safely returned to her owner.

There is a lot to see on the Old Canada Road. There’s Wyman Lake just north of Bingham, a great spot for fishing and boating. There’s an overlook where Benedict Arnold made part of this interconnected network of waterways famous during the Revolutionary War when he led a tough band of soldiers up the Kennebec and Dead rivers in flat bottom boats called bateaux, to lay siege to the French settlement at Quebec. Be on the lookout for Million Dollar Birdhouse Wall right on the side of the road near Moscow with it’s hundreds of birdhouses of many themes left by visitors. (It is called the Million Dollar Birdhouse Wall because it is said that it cost the State of Maine over $1 million dollars to build this retaining wall along the roadway that abuts the Kennebec River.)

Take the time to turn off on Moxie Pond Road for a worthwhile side trip to hike down to see Moxie Falls, especially spectacular with heavy water flow after snow melt or heavy rain or surrounded by colorful foliage in the Falls. If you are into whitewater rafting, there are places to book tours on the Kennebec River. This day, I pulled over when I saw a pond off to the side of the road near Moscow and enjoyed a few minutes taking photos of the ducks swimming there.

We drove for a long while wondering where the Attean Overlook was. Suddenly, you come up over a rise and there it is; the view literally taking your breath away. Even on a overcast day, you can see up to 10 mountains and some lakes. The mountains can be hazy and blue at times, then the sun passes over lighting up the vista. I have found out that there is a short hiking trail there which we will have to try next time. There are a few picnic tables and a building with a toilet.

We continued on to the small town of Jackman. It was moose hunting season, which is a big deal in these parts. We saw a dead moose by the side of the road before getting to Attean, obviously hit by a car (sad). In Jackman, there was a crowd gathered in a local restaurant parking lot looking at someone’s latest moose kill on a flat trailer. The only other thing found of interest in Jackman on this trip was the old railroad station, a symbol of a time long gone.

We turned onto Route 6 headed to Greenville. This is the country and forest with a few scattered houses along the way. We had originally planned to stay in Greenville for part of this trip, but the pandemic forced a change in our plans. We stopped at the golf course to see where we would have take the shuttle to go over to hike Mount Kineo. I stared at the mountain that for now I couldn’t get to. It was closed for the season. It was hard finding a place for a late lunch as a lot of places were closed. Ended up at the Dockside Inn and Tavern. Food was just ok, but the place has a really great view of Moosehead Lake.

Back at the house while waiting for our lobster dinner to finish cooking, we got a treat that many people come to Maine for – three deer came out just beyond the fence in the lower field to graze. My SIL thinks they may be grandmother, mother and a daughter. Got off a few frames before the breeze shifted carrying my scent and spooking the youngest one that ran back into the woods. Still wonderful that we got to see them. After dinner, we sat outside in the growing darkness around the firepit that warded off the night chill, admiring the stars in an area with little light pollution. We finished the evening in yummy style with peach pie (with peaches from their tree) topped with Gilford Ice Cream. It’s experiences like this that make you know why they say “Maine – The Way Life Should Be.”

About J. Matlock, Director of Fantasies

Jeanette's wanderlust started as an Air Force brat crisscrossing the US visiting almost every state. Writing has always been a part of her life. While earning a BA in Journalism from the University of Central Florida, Jeanette found photography was the perfect compliment to writing. She is always on the outlook for what she calls "Right Time, Right Place" photographs that capture a once-in-a- lifetime moment. Her adult travels have taken her to Scotland, England, France, Switzerland and all over the US and she continues to crave going to places to experience adventure, great food and lifestyles. She has written travel journals for the web site to share her experiences to guide and encourage other travelers. Her descriptive writing style makes one feel as if they are there sharing the experience. Her love of writing is based on this simple truth: "When I am writing, I know that I am doing the thing I was born to do." (Anne Sexton).
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