Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Maine event

Every summer since I was five, my family has packed up most of its earthly possessions and headed into the Maine woods for a week’s vacation. My parents can pack a car within an inch of its suspension – they even brought their own microwave last time. I don’t know how they ever got my sister and me packed in there when we were kids. I’ve lived in apartments that had less stuff in them than my parents’ car on vacation. They bring enough DEET (Don’t Ever Eat This) to fill a moose trailer, which, if there is such a thing, I’d imagine looks a lot like a horse trailer.

Not to get off topic here, but DEET really is a wonderful chemical. Beyond its usefulness as a mosquito repellant, it also works quite passably as a raincoat-melter, should you need one. If you’ve ever gotten DEET on a raincoat, you’ve probably watched in fascination as the plastic material turns white and starts to melt. That really gives you an extra feeling of security when you put the stuff directly on your skin, because you know that any bug that lands on a well-slathered arm will, most likely, dissolve. Also, those of you who have applied DEET with your bare hands, forgotten about it and then wiped your mouth ten minutes later should be familiar with its usefulness as poor man’s Novocain. What great stuff.

Anyway, we took our annual Maine vacation again a couple of weeks ago. No matter how many times we go to the same place and do the same things, it never gets old, even when it rains for the first four days, trapping us all in a small cabin with nothing to do. Absolutely nothing. Here’s an actual conversation from one of those days:

Uncle Ed: I’m gonna go take a nap.
Mom: You just woke up!
Uncle Ed: I did not. I’ve been up for two hours.

But we made the most of the good weather that we did have. One night, while we were all sitting out on a dock, listening to a concert of loons calling to each other from across the lake, Mom said, “Let’s play a game. Everyone describe a loon’s call using just one word.”

I sat there, deep in thought, trying my best to come up with a good reason why this game won out over my suggestion of beer pong. We do love the loons, though, so with varying levels of enthusiasm, everyone played along. Here’s what my family came up with: “enchanting,” “mystical,” “haunting,” “mournful” and “mah mouf is numm.” (I had DEET on my lips.) Also, if anyone from Milton Bradley is reading this, Mom’s game is definitely still for sale.

I realized on this most recent trip that our Maine vacations are about more than just relaxing – they’re about connecting with oneself, rejuvenating family bonds and scaring the dickens out of large mammals.

Ordinarily, a moose will hang out by the side of the road and pose if you stop to look at it. It will just stand there, chewing, mosquitoes bouncing off its head, staring at you as if to say, “Got any DEET?”

This year, though, we came up later in the season than usual, and the couple of moose we saw took off quickly into the underbrush – we could just roll down the windows to hear branches snapping as the huge animals lumbered away.

The hypothesis my family came up with for this behavior is that this year we were visiting during rutting season. If this was the case, I certainly can’t blame the moose for being scared when we drove up – if I had the slightest inkling that a Ford Explorer wanted to mate with me, I’d take off into the forest, too.

Before he scuttles into the underbrush, you can reach Mike Todd online at


  1. I'm confused... A microwave? Really? What happened to the good outdoors? The moose were running from the microwaves. ;)

  2. Very funny stuff Mike Todd! Out of cusiosity (and being from Maine myself) where does your family go for this week of bonding?

    It sure sounds like a great time - Uncle Ed being all nappy and all!lol

  3. I've lived in Maine my whole life and can totally relate to this post. The taste of DEET is something that one will NEVER forget. Where do you visit anyway?

  4. Sounds like a wonderful vacation. Deet is so gross, I have had the unpleasant experience of tasting it as well growin up in the mid-west.

  5. Wow...imagine if the moose decided the Ford Explorer was sexy...splain that to the insurance investigator!

  6. Hey Dudes -- we go to Rangeley, in western-central Maine. Anyone ever been there? That place rocks the cabin.

    And Shan -- you're right. A moose humping an SUV is, I'd imagine, a difficult thing to explain, unless you have pictures, which would be awesome.

  7. so, I'll look for the moosehumpingthefordexplorer pic on Wednesday then? (photoshop is a magical thing... ;))

  8. Damn, man! If you wanted a microwave, you coulda just stopped by my place in Auburn--it's not that far from Rangeley.

    I've never been up camping in that area; camping's not my thing at all. But, for a big bang of beauty, I'd say Acadia is amazing!

    And, yes, as a former Vermonter and now a Maine-ah, I can totally relate to the post, too. Closest I ever got to a moose, though, was when a female ran right in front of my car--in the Hannaford parking lot! Huh?

    And here I thought I had to go back to forest to see wildlife--all I had to do was go down the street to the untamed wilderness that is the grocery store....

  9. I've been to Rangely...It is beautiful. I live on Moosehead Lake, you should venture this way some time it is also very BEAUTIFUL.

  10. Growing up I had neighbors who had some sort of family cabin in Maine. Every summer Dad and the boys would ride their bikes out there.

    I grew up in Michigan.

    That's a long frickin' way.

    There must be something about that place.

  11. i have never had the pleasure of tasting a matter of fact, i have never heard of it until now.....