Of course Maine isn’t going to let my wife and me go south without a winter fight. I expected a line of neighbors throwing snowballs at our car as we left; instead, we woke up to a storm in the process of  dumping 6 to 12 inches on top of the foot we got two days ago. We weren’t going to let it stop us. (Photos by Tom Sadowski)
Of course Maine isn’t going to let my wife and me go south without a winter fight. I expected a line of neighbors throwing snowballs at our car as we left; instead, we woke up to a storm in the process of dumping 6 to 12 inches on top of the foot we got two days ago. We weren’t going to let it stop us. (Photos by Tom Sadowski)
Day 1, Saturday, January 31, 2015

Off on a glorious road trip to find Maine's lost party heritage. . . . No, just kidding. Of course Maine isn't going to let my wife and me go south without a winter fight. I expected a line of neighbors throwing snowballs at our car as we left; instead, we woke up to a storm in the process of dumping 6 to 12 inches on top of the foot we got two days ago. We weren't going to let it stop us.

OK, it stopped us. I managed to get the car four and a half feet before the tires spun out as the bottom of the car dragged on the snow. No problem. I plowed out the entire driveway and then drove the car an additional 35 feet before sliding hard up against the berm left by the plow.

Visibility was down to a couple hundred feet; we made the decision while standing in the swirling snow to delay departure a day so we could clear snow and double-check to make sure that our buildings are ready. This has nothing to do with the storm raging around us.

Decided to shut the water off in our commercial building; in the process of turning a valve I broke the pipe and completely soaked myself and the room before I managed to stop the flow. Nothing out of the ordinary for a Maine winter; we'll just put that on the list of things to fix when we get back, along with the pipe that burst in the house last Wednesday.

When a number of people told me that the road trip was not off to an auspicious start, I had to go and look up "auspicious." It's one of those vaguely defined words stored in the part of the brain reserved for vaguely defined words. When it's applied personally, however, it's time to look it up so that you know if and how badly you've been insulted. It was the same story in high school, when I was dumped by a girlfriend for "doting" on her too much and later by a boss who told me that I lacked "tact." You never forget the meaning of a word when you look it up under those circumstances.

All that said, I'll have to agree that the first day of our road trip was not very auspicious. One could even describe it as ominous: swirling snow, stuck cars, broken pipes and doting, tactless boyfriends, indeed.

It's 15 hours after our scheduled time of departure and we are still at home.

Day 2, Sunday, February 1, 2015

Off on a glorious road trip to find Maine's lost party heritage. This time for sure. It's 8 degrees at 9:41 a.m. when we set the odometer at zero and head south.

The day can't be sunnier. At 2.3 miles out, we turn around to get what we forgot and to check what needs to be checked. It's no big deal, this happens on every trip. Sometimes we just can't remember if we arranged for someone to take care of the dog or if he is still sleeping on his bed under the piano.

10:01 a.m. and we are off on a glorious road trip to find Maine's lost party heritage. This time for sure.

Someone suggested that our expedition to find what happened to Maine's party heritage is just a cheap excuse to engage in southern travel during the month of February. You can't imagine how much that wounds us. To prevent us from straying too far south, I have tied a snow shovel onto the top of the car. If anyone should say, "Hey mister, what's that thing tied to the top of your car?" we will know to immediately turn north until we come to our senses.

Checking the weather, we receive a winter storm warning. It seems that we are heading to New York from the north while an angry storm is heading to New York from the west. The storm plans to do one of the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises up the Hudson River before heading north to Maine, dumping 6 to 12 inches of snow all the way. We realize that we must get past New York before the storm hits around 7 p.m. The race is on.
We are not the pedal-to-the-metal people who get into the car and then boast that they made it from Maine to Florida in six and a half hours. We are pretty much the opposite. We stop for everything. Sometimes we stop for coffee so that we can stop for a bathroom break not far down the road. We often bypass the Interstate highways, so we end up stopping for a lot of red lights. We stop for rest areas and diners, pie and ice cream, historical markers and roadside attractions. We stop for lighthouses, unusual construction sites, sinkholes, observatories, the northern lights and we certainly stop for retail stores the way an avid bird watcher might stop to witness a Wilson Snipe . . . oh, and we stop for that too. Yes, we are the couple that once took three days to drive from Boston to Maine.

Without stopping to enjoy the trip, there is little to do in the car but drive. We don't know many camp songs, so we try bickering, but we are no good at it. We practice and, after a few hours, we get the hang of it, so we make a note to learn more camp songs.

Crossing the George Washington bridge, we are disappointed to find there are no lane closures in place. Of course we didn't check out the northbound side.

Made it just past New York to Maplewood, N.J., where our good friends have graciously offered to put us up for the night if we stop bickering. But after checking the weather, it becomes obvious that we are not yet far enough south. We thank our hosts for dinner, get back in the car and head for southern New Jersey to stay with relatives. We listen to the Super Bowl on the radio. Luckily, we both root for the Patriots. Chased by snow flurries half the way there, we avoid the bulk of the storm, which increased in intensity when it found out the Circle Line doesn't offer the Harbor Lights Cruise this time of year. Never mind that the storm had a lot of cash riding on the Seahawks.

With only 4 minutes left in the game we arrive at Sicklerville, N.J., safe from the inbound storm. We are ushered inside in front of a TV to witness only the highest-grade mistakes made in football. Taunting text messages from our Seattle relatives come to a sudden stop. All is well in New England where football fans really want to party but, of course, we will delay all that until the storm passes.

Day 3, Monday, February 2, 2015

Got an e-mail from fellow townsman Reed Mathews to let me know the neighbors threw a big Mardi Gras-themed Super Bowl party at my house yesterday just to let me know the party scene in Maine isn't completely dead. Everyone, however, had to be "gettin' on home" before 7:30 p.m., so there wasn't any damage to report.

Staying with actual relatives always complicates a visit. I planned to leave for Virginia by noon, so we got off at 4:15 p.m. After all, there was shopping to be done and a few intermediate-level bickering lessons to be had.

There is not much daylight this time of the year when you hit the road in the late afternoon, so there is not much to look at. We did find ourselves in the land of $1.85 gas and the Wawa convenience store. The store is so commonplace here that grown men can utter the sounds "Wawa" and not be embarrassed or give it a second thought.

As the evening temperatures hit 40 degrees around Baltimore, we note that all of the snow from around the snow shovel on the car roof has disappeared.

Arrived at sister's place in Virginia at 8:15 p.m. I made it very clear that I had to get busy and submit these road-trip notes before deadline, so they broke out the wine and everybody stayed up talking almost until midnight. Tomorrow they plan to round up more relatives and keep us here an extra night. We will stay, but only to study their partying techniques, as they may give us clues to Maine's lost party heritage.

Next week: The quest continues.