Maine Road Trip: Miles 214 to 333

dee1204road18

Down East

It is called Coastal Route 1 now, although the coastal views are limited to either end of these 119 miles. From Calais to Perry, Route 1 follows the St. Croix River estuary as it widens into Passamaquoddy Bay. Then the water abruptly disappears from view, but its nearness is felt in the lobster traps stacked on lawns, the fishing boats on cradles awaiting repairs, the sandy soil, the scruffy pines, and the tantalizing promise of rivers and streams that stretch eastward and disappear around a wooded bend. Towns known for wild blueberries punctuate this stretch. Cherryfield (whose name comes from the wild cherries that grow along the banks of the Narraguagus River) is the self-proclaimed Blueberry Capital of the World and home to the factories of the world’s largest blueberry growers and processors — Jasper Wyman & Son, a Maine company, and Cherryfield Foods, a Canadian company owned by Oxford Frozen Foods. It also is the gateway to the state’s largest stretches of blueberry barrens, sprawling northeast into Deblois, Columbia Falls, Epping, Centerville, and Jonesboro. The ocean reappears spectacularly in Gouldsboro, affording views of Frenchman Bay and the mountains of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.

Sitting on the Calais-Robbinston town line, the St. Croix Island International Historic Site commemorates one of the earliest European settlements in North America. In 1604, an expedition led by French explorer and merchant Pierre Du Gua de Monts settled on Saint Croix Island in Passamaquoddy Bay. Thirty-five of the seventy-nine settlers perished during the severe winter. The survivors departed the following summer and founded Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

Donnie Smith
Washington County Sheriff 
“It would take you two-and-a-half to three hours on a good day to drive the coastal route from the Hancock County line to the Aroostook County line. It’s a hike. Washington County is a big county, and there are only three officers covering it. And the coverage is only until midnight. From midnight to eight in the morning, there’s nobody covering this county. If something happens, a deputy or a trooper will get called out, of course, but we don’t have twenty-four-hour police coverage.

“It’s most daunting when you have a snowstorm — the first and last storms of the season are always the worst. You see most of these accidents on Route 1 because it’s where most of the traffic is, and it’s where people are traveling the fastest. You start hearing traffic accidents, and you know that deputies and troopers are backed up trying to cover them all. Someone could wait two or three hours before you can get
to them.”

“I was born in Calais. I left home at age seventeen and spent a year in Freeport working in a shoe factory. Then I moved to Syracuse and worked in drywall. I came back to Calais in 1972. There never was a day that I was out of the state of Maine that I didn’t think about it. So when the opportunity to come back presented itself, I took it. My goal never was to be rich. Home was the attraction that can’t be beat.” —Lewis Scribner, co-owner with wife Karen of Karen’s Diner, 439 Main Street, Calais.

Twelve granite stones on the east side of Route 1 mark the miles from Calais to the Mansion House in Robbinston (near Grace Episcopal Church and Robbinston Visitors Center). The numbered stones were installed in the late nineteenth century by the house’s second owner, James Shepherd Pike, Abraham Lincoln’s ambassador to the Hague. A racehorse enthusiast, Pike used the markers to clock his horses on his way to his law office. All of the stones are gray granite except for number six, which is red granite and believed to be a replacement for an original that was destroyed during a road construction project.

Royal Montana
Organic egg farmer and proprietor of the Cherryfield General Store, Cherryfield
“The Cherryfield General Store [above] opened on June 26, 2010. The building was built in 1865 as a boot and shoe factory. Cherryfield was a huge lumbering town in the 1800s. The First Union Trust Bank was here in Cherryfield. We had the first electricity in the state — it was called the Little Dynamo and it was in the river and it made electricity. The people coming here brought their money and their taste and their culture, and they built all these beautiful homes.

“When I bought the building, it was caving in. In fact, they were working on the road with jackhammers and I thought, ‘The whole thing is going to crumble down around me!’ It took a year to get it in the condition it’s in now. Our motto is ‘crooked building, straight deals.’

“I have a friend with mental retardation, and I wanted a place where people with mental retardation or special needs could learn retail and learn how to interact with the public — and where the public would learn how to interact with them. I also wanted a place where local artists, craftspeople, and farmers could sell their wares. On opening day, we had two people with their consignment. Now we have more than forty-five selling penny candies, wonderful baked goods, yummy pies, chocolates, homemade tablecloths, pillowcases, beauty products, birdfeeders, even hula hoops — all made in this area. Being so close to Route 1, we get a lot of traffic, and it’s been very good for getting extra money into people’s pockets.”

Helen’s Top Ten Pies
Established in 1950 by Larry and Helen Mugnai, Helen’s Restaurant in Machias is a Down East icon, famous for its pies. These are the customer favorites, according to owner Julie Barker.
Apple
Blueberry
Chocolate Cream
Choconut (aka “the pie of the Gods”)
Custard
Coconut Cream
Strawberry
Graham Cracker
Lemon Meringue
Pumpkin

Virginia M. Wright is the senior writer at Down East.

    Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to remove impersonators or personal attacks, threats, profanity, or flat-out offensive comments. By posting here, you are permitting Down East Enterprise to edit and republish your comment in all media.