Travels With Lucy: Maine Event


January 12, 2018:

We'd made the right decision by bailing out on Syracuse yesterday and driving late into the night to get to Boston. That road-stop McDonald's dinner was paying off; on the TV in the Motel 6 that morning, the news showed footage of a hellacious winter storm battering Syracuse, while it was still about twelve degrees Celsius here in Framingham.

We'd stayed ahead of the storm, but it was coming. Today's agenda would see us drive north through Maine to the Canadian border. I hoped to make some detours into the wilderness to find trains, but if the weather turned awful, that wasn't happening.

With no time for breakfast, we ate the last of last night's McDonald's in the truck on the way past Boston toward Portland. This was a dumb idea and I regretted it immediately, and still do to this day.

At time of writing (late April), those stale, day-old McNuggets and fries are the last fast food I've eaten, and I hope by the time you're reading this, I can still say the same.

Talk about going out with a bang.

In any case, we pulled off of the Interstate in Portland for a few grey, rainy shots of the Pan-Am Railways yard, which featured another Canadian expatriate in Guilford Rail Systems paint, another first for me.

The temperature was dropping; it was about five degrees celsius now, and I could sense winter nipping at our heels, so we continued north to another Pan-Am stronghold in Waterville, Maine, where I shot a rare high-hooded GP40 of Norfolk and Western lineage trundling about the yard.

My real goal for the day, as far as foaming was concerned, was to get to Brownville Junction, deep in the middle of nowhere, Maine, where Canadian Pacific trains between Montreal and Saint John, New Brunswick, would interchange with traffic heading south to Boston.

So we ducked off of the Interstate shortly after Waterville and drove a pleasant, meandering path through a number of the kind of small, northern Maine towns that Stephen King made famous. By now, the temperature had dipped below freezing.

The sun was already starting to set by the time we made Brownville Junction, and we found plenty of railcars in the yard, but after exploring the town, couldn't find any locomotives or angles to shoot.

There was a westbound pulling out, but from looking at the map there were no roads on which to chase it, so with reluctance we gave up on the junction and continued east after a pee and frolic break in the snow.

Our goal now was the Interstate, and after that, the border crossing and a motel in Fredericton. And we drove through endless miles of forest in the last light of day, the tracks appearing now and then beside us through the trees, but my mind resigned to a consolation prize of a hot dinner and a cold beer by that point.

And then we came out of a clearing and saw a train rumbling past in the opposite direction, and you know I immediately swung the truck around, stood on the gas and drove back to pace it, searching for a spot to pull over and shoot.

I've never been happier for my Tacoma's off-road capabilities; the path I chose was steep and snowy, and the Taco handled it perfectly. My hiking boots, on the other hand, were a different story.

I parked the truck at a stand of trees about twenty yards from the tracks and slogged through thigh-high snow as the noise of the train came ever closer. Turned out the snow obscured a frozen creek, and I had two frigid soakers by the time I reached the right of way, just as the headlights appeared around the corner.

I set up, shot and prayed, as a New Brunswick Southern train led by SD40 6315 blasted through the snow past me with interchange traffic headed back toward Brownville Junction.

All things considered I was pretty happy with how the shot came out.

Now it was really time to get moving; we still had plenty of ground to cover, the storm had caught up to us, and my feet were wet and freezing cold.

We climbed back up to the highway and retraced our steps back to where we'd seen the train, and with the heater and the radio blasting, we kept moving, back to the Interstate and, maybe an hour later, the Canadian border.

The border crossing was perfunctory, and we were back on home turf. I changed my Taco's electronic speedometer back into KPH and we bombed it about an hour down the road into Fredericton, where a room at the Howard Johnson had our name on it.

By the time we reached Freddy a real ice storm had hit; I nearly lost control of the truck coming down a hill in town, and the parking lot at the motel was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

I checked us in, fed Lucy, changed my socks and found a nearby restaurant with a pretty healthy stir fry and some local craft beer, and while Lucy napped, I let my mom know we'd made it to shelter and we would see her, at last, tomorrow afternoon.