Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: US Route 1, mid-coast section

The mid-coast section gets more beautiful. All of those gorgeous peninsulas – Phippsburg, Arrowsic, Georgetown, Boothbay, Bristol, Friendship, St. George, Owls Head – hang tantalizingly off Route 1 like luscious fruit, inviting a bite or an afternoon. The road dips and winds, into and out of views of corn fields and tidal rivers. The towns are small and lovely: Bath has retained and improved its small-town charm (and a new bridge eliminated the horrid traffic caused by shift changes at Bath Iron Works); Wiscasset calls itself the prettiest town in Maine; Rockland is becoming Camden South; Belfast is reinventing itself for about the third or fourth time. Every time I drive north, a certain spot in Warren catches my breath, for it’s my first glimpse of the Camden Hills.

But the pressure points increase. Traffic backups are legendary where Route 1 cuts directly through towns. It can take more than an hour to get through Wiscasset on summer weekends, and one generally avoids Camden in August. Stuff springs up: there’s a particularly egregious mile south of Wiscasset, where a new supermarket, gas stations, McDonald’s, convenience store and bank, all scattered about the road like toadstools, have forced the closure of an old strip mall without, apparently, the slightest thought of re-development of that mall; where, in “an hour or a day,” for tourists too busy to discover anything for themselves, the tiny booths of Maine Heritage Village offer a review of traditional crafts and foods and occupations; where Monkey C, Monkey Do offers “Maine’s first and only high-flying adventure park and zip lines!!” How embarrassing for the prettiest village in Maine. What local zoning board allowed this?

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer
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