Skirting the shoreline of the northeastern edge of the United States, Son Number Two and I found ourselves easily distracted. For him, we cross a spattering of new states and first time visits to Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine requiring photo ops as I cruise the rental car past each “Welcome to…” state sign. For both of us, being so close to the Great White North, we felt compelled to stop for a leisurely hot chocolate and a sampling of Tim Horton’s pumpkin and maple specialties (see “Brock University” from January 2012), unknowingly our last visit while still in the control of its Canadian forefathers. Admittedly, most people frequent donut shops in the morning, but by sliding in mid afternoon, we secured a cozy spot by the fireplace and relaxed ourselves into a sugar coma.
Once we rolled back into the car and onto the road, we continued towards our final destination on Mount Desert Island, but stopped for a few choice photos near the base of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. Named for the river beneath it, the crossing above the waterway offered us the access point over the last geographical divide between us and a plate full of lobster. Noticing that travel to its observatory above the hill and tree lines was possible, we focused instead on getting across its span, still marveling at its size in the rear view mirror. What we wanted to see laid ahead of us on the stretch of road between us and Acadia National Park. The shortest distance to hot, buttered, succulent crustacean, and an equally tempting view of the ocean, carried us flatly eastward.
The Sunday after Labor Day the bulk of New England glues itself to the television in hopes of a victorious kickoff to the football season. For us, the prospect of a post-summer thinning and a local population engrossed in indoor activities gives us a clean palette to explore the partially submerged rocks hovering beneath the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. When we head back to the landlubbers side of the scenery, we again face the two towers of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge beckoning us to consider its height, not just its breadth. We acquiesce, and we have the observatory to ourselves. While lacking in maple sweetness, this private afternoon perk far exceeds the previous day’s lounge.
One of only four bridge observatories in the world, and the tallest one at that, we see the ocean we leave behind to the east, tucked just behind the top of Cadillac Mountain, upon which we stood less than twenty-four hours earlier marveling at the sunset. To the north, Mount Katahdin rises above the horizon noting the end of the Appalachian Trail, and the end of the nation. Westward and to the south, the entire rest of the United States awaits our return. Carved into the stone floor, the arrows point the way, but the brilliant sunlight hidden for most of the day by the morning’s rain clouds streaks through the glass lookout and lights our way home. The river winds through the hints of autumn in the density of trees far below us, bumping into the piers and then continuing to the sea. We depart similarly, quickly stopping at the bridge and then heading on our way.