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Lost Keys

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Boothbay Harbor, Maine

It’s happened before. An end to a wonderful down-easter weekend of soft-shell lobsters, overflowing plates of steamers and the sound of crashing waves and seagulls. Then, a simple but aggravating twist in our well-planned family weekend changed our path. It started when I couldn’t find the keys to the cottage we rented. It sat on the waters edge in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, a place where’d I’d spent many hours as a kid exploring the rocky shores. Now we had a wrinkle in our weekend. It was Sunday morning, the cars were already packed and it was time to go. My brother and his wife, Steve and Gail, helped Elaine and I search every square inch of the cottage; flipping over sofa cushions, rummaging through the trash and searching the grass outside. Nothing. I then walked down to a couple small cafés we’d visited and asked if anyone had found some keys. Still nothing. It was time to call the owner and let her know the bad news. We first said goodbye to Steve and Gail as they pulled out of the driveway and then I dialed the number.

When we rent a private home, we feel much more responsible when things go wrong. If something breaks, I fix it. If something needs an extra bit of cleaning, I clean it. If there’s a washer and dryer, we’ll through the sheets and towels in and get them washing. It’s part of our travel philosophy and I take pride in it. Leave your place in better condition than when you found it. But lost keys are a difficult problem to fix, aside from changing all the locks in the house. I reluctantly put myself at the mercy of the homeowner at the other end of the phone line.

Pam said, “No problem Joe, that set didn’t work very well at all, I’ve been needing to find a different hardware store to make some more copies.”

“But there was a set of car keys on the ring.”

“Oh, we sold that car a long time ago, don’t worry about it.”

What a relief, we were now free to head out on the next leg of our annual adventure. Our plans this year are to visit some Camino friends in New Brunswick for a few days, and then we’re off to explore our first country on the Asian continent, Turkey. We were nervous; we’d heard how wonderful Turkey is but we were also worried about the possible hazards. The nature of our modern media can’t help but have an impact on our more primitive instincts for survival. The recent acts of terrorism in the region are exactly that, a psychological impact on the masses… on us. The medias job it to report it… and our job is to accept it or reject it. We choose to reject it and to push back with love and faith. We know we’ll be welcomed in this new land, as we’ve always been on our journeys.

As my telephone conversation with the owner continued, she told me she was on her sailboat with her husband, anchored out in one of the many beautiful inlets on the Maine coast.

I reply, “We’re sailors, too!”

One conversation lead to another and I’m soon talking with her husband about how to start the outboard motor on their wooden skiff they have tied up at the dock in front of the cottage. He tells me: “Take her out into the harbor, have fun and explore.”

What luck! Ten minutes later Elaine and I have forgotten all about our lost keys and packed car as we motored in and out of the small rocky coves.  Places I’d explored ages ago as a child. We navigated around the partially submerged rocks, the multitude of anchored sailboats and beds of sea kelp undulating on the small surface waves that worked their way in from the Atlantic.

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Our Dingy for a Day

Over the purr of the little outboard, Elaine calls back to me. “Joe, look, there’s the Lobster Wharf. Let’s go get some more lobster!”

“You’re an animal!” I reply as I turn the bow toward the floating docks piled high with lobster traps and fishing nets.

Lobster and steamers has been the mainstay of our weekend. It started 15 minutes after we parked our car in Boothbay on Friday afternoon. I killed the boat engine and coasted the remaining ten feet. When we bumped into the dock, Elaine grabbed the painter and tied us up. I called over to a lobsterman loading traps onto his boat.

“Is the restaurant open yet?”

I couldn’t understand a single word he’d said in response. It was then that I realized I’d lost a lot of my ability to understand the strong Maine accent that many of the locals have. I thanked him and we climbed up the wooden ramp to the Lobster Warf restaurant. At the top of the ramp was a young, 20-something employee cleaning the traditional red-checkered, plastic table clothes covering the picnic tables lining the “working” lobster wharf.

“What time do you open?”

The young man replied in a strong accent but I did understand him.

“At 11:30, fifteen minutes from now. Feel free to have a seat.”

I had to ask, “That’s an interesting accent. You don’t sound like a down-easter.”

“I’m just working here during summer break from college, I’m from Istanbul.”

I had a moment of confusion; did he really say what I thought he said?

“What? Where?”

“Turkey. I live in Turkey, in Istanbul.”

I looked at Elaine. She was smiling at me. Another one of our amazing journeys had just begun.

We sat down with “Sahin” (pronounced Sah-heen) and all started talking at one.

Sahin will be heading back to Turkey in a week to start his new semester. We explained that we’d be there soon afterwards. We swapped contact information and offered to hire him as our guide when we arrive in Istanbul a week later.

By keeping our minds and our options open, interesting things always happen. An hour and a half later, with out tummies full of “lobstah and steamahs” we were heading northeast to the Canadian Maritime Provinces. There’s an option on our GPS that allows us to choose the type of route to take. We entered Pat and Lynn’s address on the east coast of New Brunswick and checked the box: Avoid the Highways

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Here’s a map of our first week on the road.

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