There’s a new set of laws
And every police man
Comes equipped with extended claws
There’s a thousand shades of white
And a thousand shades of black
But the same rule always applies
Smile pretty, and watch your back”
You may assume we did, because I used a moose photo as the hero photo. Although I have years worth of moose photos I can use in a post. And you may assume we did, because we are really savvy about finding moose, but it’s hard. It’s been easy, or at least easier, in two places I’ve been: Alaska, and at Moosehead Lake in Maine. I’ve been to Bethel seven times but I’ve seen moose there three times. I was hopeful. The alarm went off at 4:30. We scrambled out of bed, slightly got dressed, and took two bewildered babies out of their cozy cribs and got into a dark car. Sawyer just sort of fell back asleep and Rider seemed up for adventure pretty quickly. Off we went, seeing the sun rise over the fields of Maine, making an eerie and misty backdrop. And we realized it was already fairly light out and we should have gotten up a half hour earlier. No need to worry about that anymore, as we made our way out of town and towards the wilderness.
According to the timestamp on my phone camera, it was only 23 minutes later that we struck gold. I looked out over a dawn-lit marshy area and yelled, “Bull!” Des was hopeful that I actually meant a bull cow and not a bull moose and he was also sad because he hadn’t seen the bull. No worry because Cassidy deftly put the car in reverse and we got to see this bull moose for quite a few minutes before he trotted silently off into the thick trees. I have seen bull moose before (in New Hampshire, Alaska, Moosehead Lake, and Wyoming) but never have I ever in Bethel, Maine!
We drove around for awhile after that, going off-roading on the ATV trails (which was bumpy and weird and Des hated it), until the sun came up and it was time to start the day. We went back to the cabin so I could nurse, we could get excellent breakfast takeout from Crossroads Diner, and we could pack up our stuff to check out and start the next leg of our trip: The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum. You don’t want to miss this one. It has the largest piece of Mars on earth and there’s a room at the top which has a little movie (which gave me an existential crisis, but it doesn’t take much these days), as well as a delightful employee who is just positively high on life about her job and she says it NEVER GETS OLD, even though the existential crisis video plays every 30 minutes and thousands of people come to touch pieces of Mars and the moon. Some things never get old, like moose and romantic love and touching pieces of Mars and the moon. We’re all stardust, anyway, so you have to make it count. That’s my takeaway, anyway.
Then Sawyer got fussy so I nursed him in the van while the rest finished in the museum. We decided to stroll around town to shop, looking for a candy/general store that we found out was closed that day but had a sister store in Greenwood, Maine we could later visit. Cassidy took the kids to another gem store (I think maybe three out of four) and we snacked quite a bit, never having an official lunch. The exploring was fun and Scarlet won $20 of souvenirs from me by spotting the first car with an “I Climbed Mt. Washington Sticker.” So we got some candy.
Then we got hungry and went back to Bethel to eat a picnic table meal outside of the Good Food Store. This is all within walking distance of the original bed and breakfast we stayed at, as well as a cool restaurant we spent our first New Year’s Eve at in 2007. I grew very haunted by the passage of time. 18 years. I was a very young woman the first time I visited Bethel. And in some ways, it makes sense. We were apart for two years after that. Then a year or two of getting back together, living in California, getting engaged, etc. And we have a 13-year-old. So when you think about the life we packed into the 18 years, I guess it’s rather beautiful. Haunting, but beautiful.
On the way back into Bethel, something happened. I shared about this on Facebook and I’m copying and pasting the story from there, since it’s long/not too long, and I already did the work:
From Bethel, Maine in July, 2004:
“We were ravenous after that and found a restaurant called “Mooses’ Tale Food & Ale” along the road. When we first walked in, the radio was playing Phish’s “Bouncing Around The Room” and we were both giddy at the Radio Gods for playing a Phish song. I went to use the restroom and when I came out, I found Cassidy kneeling down in the back of the restaurant. He called me over and said, “This is Tucker. He’s a floppy-eared Doberman.” Which, if you remember, I never had known existed until he had told me. Floored again, we sat down in a daze and ordered pizza and ravioli (of course) from our awesome waitress, Erin. “Walk On” by U2 then came on, which was a song I loved and wanted to hear. Then Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town” which I had just been telling him was a song that made me think of him all the time:
“I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar, yet I can’t seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me
All these changes taking place, I wish I’d seen the place
But no one’s ever taken me..
..My god it’s been so long, never dreamed you’d return
But now here you are, and here I am”
Shaking our heads, we wrote Erin a note on our receipt before we left and I still have the customer copy in which she wrote us a note back. The restaurant with its song magic and Floppy-eared Doberman definitely propelled us to our next destination – staying along a stretch of road that Tom and Marcey had just said that moose were seen earlier that day.”
So the story of 2022. We were driving through Bethel into Greenwood yesterday and saw a business called Tucker’s Dog House with a floppy eared Doberman on the logo. I just had to know. I reached out to the business by email with my story, and Erin herself wrote back today. She was our server all those years ago! And Tucker was her dear dog. She, too, believes in the magic of the universe if you’re open to it and when Tucker passed away in 2011, she named her thriving dream business after him. She now enjoys a hardworking and super chill life full of dogs.
I enjoy a hardworking and not super chill life full of dogs and kids.
The Magical End.”
That’s whoa, right? After my moonrock-induced existential crisis, and wrapping my head around how much older I was compared to my first Bethel trip, this was HARD. It shouldn’t have been. This story is, quite simply, indicative of the magic and psychic energy I believe in, as well as the Radio Gods. And yet, the thought that Tucker had lived out his life and died during the passage of time between the first and current visits to Bethel kind of wrecked me. After our lunch (which was good food, as the market is named), we stopped at a roadside pie and cookie stand, picked up incredible cookies, and then checked into our wilderness cabin. I was in high mulling mode, so it was nice to sort of just tune out, eat cookies, watch the road go by, and explore our Airbnb. It was such a nice and magical place but I felt disconnected as well – I felt old and out of place and also like I was in the middle of SUCH magic but couldn’t feel it; would I ever feel it again?
This new cabin was right along the wilderness. We drove around to find moose and we found a beautiful waterfall trail to hike. We didn’t make it to the very tip top, but we made good strides, both of us babywearing and Scarlet/Des leading the way. I loved how many people smiled at me carrying my baby. I talk a lot about playing a younger woman’s game having babies now, and about how it’s possible to miss having small children, while also having small children. The fact of the matter is that I have two babies right now, and I prefer to enjoy that for what it is, rather than dwell on my lack of being 28. Sometimes you just have to be where you are, and sit in it.
After the gorgeous hike, we thought about maybe going back the next day to do the entire thing. We decided to make our way into town to try a pizzeria that a friend of a friend owns. It’s called The Pie Hole and the owner’s name is Tamara as well. The pizza was AWESOME, the ice cream was AWESOME, and the weather was AWESOME too. We pretty much closed out the night there, sitting at our own table, and overlooking the mini golf course. Then it was time to go back out moosing! We made a pact that if we saw more moose, we would maybe sleep in the next morning and not do the 4:00am thing. This was all still the same day and the babies were troopers. So we went along our stretch of road, into an off-roading adventure, and saw the back of a cow moose walking into the woods. We also saw a ton of bunnies. Des would get so nervous on these back roads, because they’re so bumpy and isolated, and there’s also the risk of moose or ATV crashes. Luckily, we were fine. We saw some stretches of road we had visited a few times in the past, right near the Maine/New Hampshire border. There are also some pretty epic mountain, lake, and windmill views. We decided that we were pretty far out there, and we’d email our friend who had once taken us off-roading (me, 8 months pregnant with Scarlet) and we had seen several moose and had stopped at a weird little sporting goods store. We wanted directions to that, but in the meantime, we still had the potential to see moose on the way back.
And we did! We saw a mother and a baby! They crossed a few times in front of our car and then the mother just stopped and looked at us. I opened the window and told her, “I have a baby too!” Des was beyond tired at this point, because we had been up since 4:30am and it was now 9:00pm. He kept saying that the mother and baby moose were named “Glory and Eric” and he knew them in a past life. He was joking, I think? We were all giggling and happy with our four moose. We made the decision to sleep in the next morning, and I stayed up a little late looking for Google proof (which I eventually found) of a printed map a hotel had once given me called, “The Magical Moose-tery Tour” for finding moose in that area. Also, the next door neighbors of our rental (or fellow renters) kept lighting up fireworks outside Scarlet and Des’ bunk bed room window and they were not run of the mill fireworks. They lit up the sky! We were so hopeful that they’d do it again the next night (July 4th) but sadly, they didn’t. It was an exciting private show, though, and then we all fell asleep until at leadt 9:00am the next morning. We had breakfast at Crossroads Diner again, but this time ate at the restaurant, outside. It was absolutely delicious.
We went “home” to decide what to do. Cassidy wasn’t feeling great so we could do the waterfall hike again, and really go to the top of it, or we could try to find this New Hampshire sporting goods store we remembered about. Our friend emailed us where to find it and remembered that we had gone there to see the stuffed white moose, and get ice cream. Well we went and it had expanded. It was huge and overwhelming. It was a food market, souvenir shop, candy store, ice cream shop, hunting store, sporting store, and more. We were the only(ish) people with masks on, which was fine, since I’m used to that. I had an embarrassing experience I shouldn’t even tell you about because I don’t talk about politics here, but I have to spill. I have liked some political candidates over the years, and I have hated some. The thing is, I’ll never lead with hate.
Why spread hate in this world even more? We grow flowers and hang rainbows in our garden, for sheesh’s sake. ANYWAY, this nice couple was looking at a shirt and laughing and from a distance, I saw that it said, “Know Your Parasites” and had photos of different kinds of ticks. Lone Star Tick. Deer Tick. Dog Tick. And it said, “Luna Tick” and had a drawing. Well I hate ticks and love tick jokes and honestly just thought it was like a drawing of a tick dressed like a clown. I didn’t know! So I laughed and said, “Oh, that is good. That is funny. So good!” And the couple looked at me and laughed and said, “Isn’t it great?” And we all smiled at each other and loved life. Then they walked away and I got closer and.. it was a drawing of Biden under “Luna Tick.” OMG. I didn’t know. I’m not enamored with him but he is part of my political party. I got so flustered and overwhelmed that New Hampshire had accidentally turned me into one of their own that I found Cassidy and said, “WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE NOW.” I told everyone that story in the car and they all laughed at me. I mean, it is funny. And also, not funny. This country..
After that, we made our way back to Maine, and to our cabin, and for dinner. We decided to go back to the place we went to that very first night – Sunday River Brewing Company. It was a little sour because Cassidy didn’t feel well, I was still experiencing political culture shock, and that wasn’t helped by a woman congratulating me on my four handsome sons. Scarlet laughed it off. She’s so feminine but I guess they don’t see a lot of short hair on girls there? I’m still having trouble with not having another daughter, although I am getting better about it! That said, we were a little sour, but went back out moose-seeking along our favorite roads and saw two more moose that night, along where we saw the mother and baby (ahem, Glory and Eric) the previous night. One of the moose may have been a bull. It was pretty dark and we couldn’t tell. It was still such a thrill and after having seen six moose, we decided to sleep in again for the next morning. That way we could get another Crossroads Diner breakfast and then make our way out of town with a stop, of course, at the New Hampshire border to get fireworks. Of course.
And that’s it! Thanks for sticking around. Highlights were seeing six moose, feeling the magic, having great weather, eating roadside cookies, being together, and more. Lowlights were existential crises, Cassidy not feeling well, culture shock, and more. Let’s lead with love, though. It’s weird to travel with a giant hole inside of you. I guess we always do, but mine was so red and raw and fresh. I’ve traveled with worse and I’ve traveled with better, but you can’t beat the company, the love, the open road, and the spirit of adventure. And that, my friends, is a wrap!
This post title is dedicated to the song that came on Cassidy’s music league playlist THE MINUTE we crossed over from Massachusetts into Vermont. And the playlist was on random so we thought that was pretty darn cool. Radio Gods activate their powers when asked.