Maine’s western border abuts New Hampshire, known as The Granite State. When pine trees meet mountain rock, it speaks to something rugged and permanent.
Granted, some men never meet a mountaintop or a swath of timber without thinking in terms of dollar signs, but so far, western Maine and New Hampshire’s White Mountains still offer natural beauty and views that are hard to beat anywhere in the East. And while development hustlers and water extractors have made their presence known, just like everywhere else, there is less blight once you get away from the tourist corridors, with plenty of opportunities to appreciate nature.
I’ve mentioned being an umpire. This is a gig that takes you wherever your assignor sends you. Since the board I’m a member of doesn’t have much of a presence in far western Maine, sometimes you’re assigned to cover places like Fryeburg, not far from having entrée into the White Mountain National Forest.
Yesterday, I made my second trip in a week to cover an 8th grade middle school game. Logistics and school budgets being what they are, many at that level opt for paying only one umpire. That means for traveling to Fryeburg, I receive a fee and a half, along with mileage. It’s likely I got picked to make two trips this year because I have a fairly flexible schedule. If you work in Portland and don’t get out of work ‘til 3:00 or even with a sympathetic boss who will let you out at 2:30, you’ll never be able to make the trip in time to get there for the 3:30 game time. Plus, rushing like a mad man is never the mindset you want to show up with, then spend 7 innings focused on being professional and capable of doing a job you’ll be proud of.
Fryeburg takes about an hour and 30 minutes from my doorstep (give or take 5 minutes, depending on the route) to Indian Acres Camp for Boys, where Molly Ockett Middle School is playing their games this spring. Apparently Fryeburg is experiencing an economic windfall of sorts, or perhaps it’s MSAD 72’s turn to receive state school funding—whatever the reason, there’s a major school expansion taking place at the middle school site on Route 302 and their former ball field is a big patch dirt and construction debris. Hence the trip to Indian Acres, a place I’d never heard of ‘til a week ago. If you know the area, or you’ve been to Fryeburg from attending their magnificent fall fair, then Indian Acres is just north of the fairgrounds on Route 5.
A week ago, our cold spring shifted and in Fryeburg, along the Saco River, it was 80 degrees, June-like baseball weather. The boys from Fryeburg and the Telstar gang battled it out and Fryeburg prevailed. Working the game by myself, I hustled my ass off, which is what you have to do when you are handling a solo assignment. Save for a tough call on what the Telstar coach thought was a hit batsman (which I couldn’t tell and ruled it a ball), I thought I did a great job. A couple of fans validated that on my way back my car’s trunk to change for the trip home.
Yesterday, it wasn’t quite as warm, but it was another comfortable spring day, albeit with dark clouds gathering ahead of late day showers in the forecast.
Last Thursday I found out the hard way that the last 10 miles of Rote 302 from Bridgton into Fryeburg was a crawl due to a mess of construction—an apparent widening and repaving project. On my return home, I opted for an alternative route looping me north into Lovell, east across Route 93 through Sweden and a series of picturesque ponds, then south on route 35 into Harrison at the head of Long Lake. From there, I shot across Gore Road into Oxford and at that point, I’m about 40 minutes from home. It’s also a route that appeals to a certain kind of back roads traveler, a club I’m proud to be a member of. Interestingly, this may have been my first time traversing these roads in my lifetime, although I recall my parents visiting the former Evergreen Valley Ski Area when my sister and I were kids. There’s a chance we traveled some of these same roads some 40 years ago.
As I mentioned earlier, I refused to let the distance to Fryeburg and back deter me from having a good time the past two weeks. Leaving sufficient travel time and another half hour to stop for a coffee and rest room stop along the route is how I usually roll on westward maneuvers.
Actually, yesterday, I worked a lunch stop at a sandwich shop in Auburn, Georgio’s that dates back to the 1950s. With an assortment of donuts and other pastries, as well as sandwiches like their signature UFO, Georgio’s Pizza & Donut Shop is definitely a throwback kind of place, if that’s your kind of thing—which I’m down with. That and a staff like the “white rapper” and the “donut lady” that make a visit something that elicits a chuckle and is free of the usual corporate-style customer service chatter. Plus, their donut case kept calling my name and I left with a blueberry-filled one.
The Yelp crowd loves to knight places as having “the best of” when it comes to things like donuts, lobster rolls and barbecue. Often, they don’t know what they’re talking about. When it comes to donuts, if the rest of Georgio’s are like the blueberry-filled one I gobbled down before reaching Mechanic Falls, then you’ll be hard-pressed finding a better donut in our fair state.
All in all, my second trip to Fryeburg was a winner. My game was a good one. Both teams should be proud of their efforts. For an 8th grade game, this one was stellar. And wouldn’t you know it—the final out occurred on a “banger” at the plate, with Fryeburg nailing a Gray-New Gloucester runner with a strong throw from short left field. The home fans were happy with my emphatic final out call.
Then it was time to make the journey back to the compound. I got home at 8:00, and got to have dinner with Miss Mary. I was tired, but satisfied with my day, time on the baseball field, and another trip to and fro to Fryeburg.