Maybe it only seemed like we were going around in circles when we got to Caribou that snowy February day. Out of nowhere appeared the Caribou Public Library. We drove right by it and then we were on a one way street. After a quick stop at a dollar store to buy some reading glasses, we circled around town again and parked in front of the library. It was 9:30 a.m. and the library didn’t open until 10:00 a.m.
Stay or go? The snow was falling at a steady pace. Even though there was no Carnegie Library in Fort Kent, how could we drive this far north without saying we’d been there? Navigating our way around and out of Caribou, we headed north on Route 1.
In less than forty minutes, we were driving along the Saint John River and looking over into Canada. Twenty minutes later, we passed a tractor and then we were the lone motorists on the road. It was like a scene from Dr. Zhivago and if I hadn’t known I was listening to CIEL-FM on the radio from Riviere-du-Loup, PQ, I might very well have confused Justin Bieber’s voice for a balalaika. Madawaska passed in a blur of snow.
“Why aren’t they plowing,” Handy asked.
It was almost lunchtime and the sign for “Dolly’s” rose like a Frenchville apparition on our left. There were cars and snowmobiles parked in the lot and the signs of life were encouraging. With only 1 review on Yelp, it seems Dolly’s is not a food hipster destination; why is that? The food was good, the service was fantastic, and they served ployes, those crepe-like pancakes made with buckwheat four. When you’re in the Saint John River Valley, you eat ployes, not crepes.
Fortified by lunch and the good folk at Dolly’s, we headed to Fort Kent, so we could say we’d been there. It was snowing so hard we didn’t get out of the car at “America’s First Mile” and just kept driving to the Bouchard Country Store on Route 161. The Bouchards have farmed in this area for several generations and most recently, they’ve been growing and milling buckwheat flour. Their local gluten-free product makes beautiful brownies, cakes, muffins, and even pizza crust.
After we tarried at the farm, it was time to head back to Caribou. In spite of the weather, the library was open when we got there and librarian Lisa Neal Shaw gave us a tour of the building, including the basement. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style with a $10,000 Carnegie grant in 1910, a full addition was added in 1964 which included a civil defense bunker. Librarian Neal Shaw said it was rumored the bunker included an underground tunnel to the old post office in town, but the tunnel has never been found. Now, the bunker is an archive and the Aroostook County Genealogical Society meets here monthly.
In next week’s final installment of a wintry trip to Aroostook County, we make a mad dash to six Carnegie libraries in six hours.