Vacation of waits


By Janice Lindsay

Janice Lindsay

Somebody said that happiness lies in the journey, not in the destination. Here’s hoping that your journey-happiness is happier than our journey-happiness in a trip we once took.

The plan for our scenic sojourn was this: Drive to Quebec Province via Jackman in northwestern Maine. Drive north along the Chaudière River. Reach the St. Lawrence. Drive east along the St. Lawrence. Turn south. Re-enter the United States through Fort Kent near the northernmost tip of Maine. Drive home.
Or, as it turned out: “Wait.”

Through Jackman, all went well. But then, Quebec and Travaux signs. Road work ahead. About every three feet.

We grew familiar with Arrêt (stop) and the ever-popular Lentement (slow) which was generally a good idea because the bumpy roads-under-repair could shake loose any kidney stones you happened to harbor.

The signs usually meant that only one lane was open. At the beginning of the open lane stood a portable traffic light. These lights were programmed to turn red whenever they sensed the approach of a car with U. S. plates.

Underneath each light, a digital clock counted the seconds until the light would turn green. So we knew how long we would have to wait and we could view the scenery, if there was any.

Then came the rains, during what would have been the most scenic part of the trip, along the northern Chaudière, then beside the St. Lawrence. There was probably some scenery out there, but we could not make it out through the rainwater whimsically mimicking waterfalls on our windows.

We guessed we were driving along the St. Lawrence when we discerned a faraway horizon that seemed to depict a gray sky meeting a shade-darker-gray water line, as we bumped from travaux to travaux.

We managed to visit two wonderful cultural museums, both of them blessed with roofs. They were the highlights of the trip. The only lights, unless you count the travaux stoplights.

All that rainy, halting driving dissolved our enthusiasm for car-time. So, a day sooner than planned, we headed south toward Fort Kent, eventually enjoying a sunny, quiet drive through gentle farmland, with the distances between travaux growing ever longer.

Finally, we approached the United States. But wait. The U. S. Customs agent was not at all sure that he wanted to let us in.

He instructed us to park and go inside the building to speak with another agent. We waited for half an hour while this agent researched my husband’s passport. A few years before, as Dick had returned from a business trip to England, Homeland Security at Logan Airport confiscated his passport. They said it had been reported stolen and possibly used in illegal activity, neither by him, I promise. But apparently now he had a record.

Finally they decided we might enter our own country. But wait. First they must search our little Nissan for whatever they were searching for. They didn’t find it.

We had planned to stop for lunch in Patten, a small town south of Fort Kent. We should not have been surprised to find that the road to Patten was closed for repairs.

The detour added an hour to our journey – there aren’t a whole lot of roads up there in northern Maine – and we skipped Patten.

We experienced a getting-lost delay in Bangor. We weren’t really lost, but we thought we were, which is almost the same thing.

As we finally, wearily, at long last, approached our journey’s end, and turned into our very own street, we should not have been surprised to be greeted by a familiar sign: “Road Work Ahead.”