Another trip to Maine
June 10-12, 2018

copyright Jay Ducharme 2018

Our summer wouldn't have been complete without another trip to Ogunquit, Maine. Once again we stayed at the Norseman Inn, on the beach. When we arrived late on a Sunday afternoon, we were surprised to find Ogunquit teeming with activity, with crowds of people browsing the many shops and dense traffic on the roads. We've stayed during the off-season specifically because crowds were usually light. But maybe other people were figuring that out as well. We checked into our room with its deck overlooking the soothing ocean. Seagulls were circling above us, scavenging for food. After bringing our luggage up to our room, we went out for a stroll on the beach. Although it was a bright sunny day, the air coming off the Atlantic was chilly and the water was icy. Someone had sculpted an ogre coming out of the sand, with an odd grin on its face and a bird on each of its shoulders. The impressive work of art would be washed away in a few hours with the incoming high tide.

We then strolled up Beach Street over to Main Street where there were lots of shops (and people). Along the way Karen noticed a heron standing motionless in the reeds. We watched it for a while, along with many other tourists who had stopped to take pictures. We hadn't eaten for a while and were a bit hungry so we continued on to Main Street. Karen found some tasty-looking baguettes with spinach, tomato and mozzarella at Bread & Roses. So we each got one and took it back to the Inn. We sat on the deck's lounge chairs outside our room, eating and watching the waves roll in. Then we turned in for the night.

The next morning brought another beautiful day, but a bit chillier. We had brought light jackets with us. I also wore jeans rather than shorts. We headed out for breakfast to one of our favorite local stops, Congdon's. This year they were trying something new: the parking lot area was expanded and sported food trucks for Congdon's After Dark. But we were there for breakfast (and donuts). We sat in a new expanded and enclosed patio area. Karen got eggs, home fries and toast; I got blueberry pancakes. It was all delicious. Then of course we got a dozen donuts to take with us.

After that we headed north through Biddeford and over to Saco, home of Funtown. At the final banquet during the Darien Lake leg of our Coasterfest™ trip, Karen and I claimed two tickets to Funtown. It turned out, though, that they were just for Splashtown, the waterpark portion that hadn't yet opened. So we purchased regular tickets and entered. We knew the park pretty well, and we started our day by crossing the bridge near the carousel, whose band organ was audible throughout the area and sounded great. We past the carousel and over to the Barney Oldfield Roadsters, one of the two antique car rides at Funtown, and took a brief but enjoyable trip around that section of the park. I found that area peculiar, sort of a disconnected island away from the park, and wondered why it hadn't been better integrated. Besides the carousel and andtique cars, there were two bumper boat rides, the Ferris wheel and the go-cart track. And yet there was only one way in or out (two if you count the wheelchair ramp).

We headed back onto the main midway and past the colorful dragon statues. The park was still beautifully landscaped. We stopped at the nearby Heritage Gifts shop. As usual they had lots of attractive displays of wind chimes and scuptures and jewelry. They did have a new magnet of their wooden coaster, so I made a mental note of that.

From there we walked over to the arcade at the back of the park. In the past, it housed Funtown's only pinball machine, South Park. That had been replaced by the peculiar half-sized Star Wars: Episode I pinball machine. The table itself played well but the video display showing the score and other data (an odd construct mounted under the backglass and reflecting onto the table's glass) was messed up. Even so the game was a pleasant diversion. We walked across the midway and took a trip on the other antique car ride, a slightly longer and more picturesque trip. Because of the chill in the air, we passed on the nearby Thunder Falls Log Flume even though it always gave a good ride. We just didn't feel like getting wet. Instead we walked across the Camelot Bridge to Excalibur which this year marked its 20th anniversary! Karen passed on riding it, so I queued up for the front seat. There were evidently a lot of school outings at the park, and the queue was filled with middle- and high-schoolers with identifying t-shirts. The line for the front seat was pretty long, but well worth it. So I waited it out, and after about twenty minutes I was next in line for the train, with each of its seats named for a different knight of the Round Table. The seats were a little tight (or I had gotten a little fat), but the seat belt and lap bar were comfortable. A kid sat next to me who had never ridden in the front seat before. He was a bit nervous, but I told him he had the best seat in the house.

We rolled out of the station through the portcullis, around the 90-degree left hand turn and up the lift hill. At the top of the lift there was a gentle dip before turning left and plunging down the surprisingly steep drop. We flew up into the second hill with a strong pop of airtime. Then we swung around to the right with strong lateral forces and dropped down again. After that, the track was an incomprehensible knot of dips and sharp turns. It reminded me of Fantasy Island's Silver Comet, but with less severe turns. We came flying back into the brake run. The kid next to me said, "You were right! That was fun!"

And that was pretty much it for Funtown. We did have a good time, but there really wasn't enough to do for us to make a whole day of it. Families with kids would certainly stay a lot longer.

We left the park at about noon and headed east to Old Orchard Beach. I had heard they just got a new roller coaster and I was curious about that. We parked on the street leading to the beach. There were a lot of people milling about. But the small amusement park, Palace Playland, was only open on weekends until July. Even so, there was the new coaster, Sea Viper. We walked around the back of the park and found an open gate. The coaster looked like an enjoyable ride, not much different from the old stock Zyklons common on carnival midways but with graceful swooping turns. It also featured curious LED light sticks attached to the hills, which were on. But alas, I wouldn't get a chance to ride it. We took a walk over to the pier, basically a collection of bars elevated on sticks above the ocean. And after a brief look, we got back in our car and returned to Ogunquit Beach.

Since it was nearing dinner time, we headed on foot for Karen's favorite stop, the Lobster Shack at Perkin's Cove. We followed the picturesque Marginal Way south to our destination. This year marked the Lobster Shack's 30th anniversary, and it was still as popular as ever. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait in line when we got there. Karen ordered her usual fresh lobster roll and a shrimp cocktail. Normally I would have one of their excellent veggie burgers, but instead I got a tuna roll. As usual, the food was really good.

Following Shore Road, we walked back toward the center of Ogunquit, stopping for dessert at Sweet Pea's for their amazing blueberry pie ice cream. After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling along the beach, watching tiny piping plovers skittering across the sand searching for morsels left behind by the incoming tide.

The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast at Splash, the Norseman's restaurant. Then we headed down Shore Road, following it all the way to Perkin's Cove, this time returning north along the Marginal Way. We heard the wail of an ambulance siren and a few minutes later, EMTs were hurrying along the narrow path over to an elderly woman who had collapsed a short distance from the Cove. We heard the EMTs mention that she hadn't eaten anything in a while and was a bit dehydrated. They had to take her out on a stretcher. That was the first incident we had seen on the Way in all the years we'd been walking it. That was pretty amazing, considering that perhaps a third of all the walkers we passed were seniors. Given how strenuous the walk could be on a hot day, I was surprised we hadn't seen more people collapse. But then, we usually visited only early in the season when it was cooler.

We safely arrived back on Shore Road and paid another visit to Sweet Pea's. Then we went back to the inn for the evening, sitting out on the deck reading books and listening to the waves rolling onto the beach. The next morning we reluctantly bid farewell to Ogunquit as the sun rose above the horizon. I was glad that such a relaxing getaway was relatively close to our home. This trip had become our "decompression" holiday, where we could escape our busy lives and slow down our pace, if only for a few days. It was sad to leave, but comforting to know that the healing waters of Ogunquit will still be there when we need it next year.

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