What I hate about Aroostook County

I’ve professed my undying love for this rural pocket of pine coned heaven HERE and that’s not likely to be the last thing I have to say about my long-standing love affair with the Crown of Maine.  This slice of back country heaven is my home and as long as I’m able to carve out a good life for my family here at the 46° latitude mark, I’ll never make home anywhere else.  But, as with anything in life, there are some things I don’t love about Aroostook County.  In fact, there are some things I hate.

First and foremost, I hate The Dead of Winter.  And before I get all predictable as I complain about the cold and the snow, let me ask you one question: is it cold enough for ya?  The Dead of Winter, which, according to me, comes to life during the last two weeks of January and the first two weeks of February.  It’s fast approaching as I type and it’s not just cold.  The Dead of Winter goes far beyond any illustration the word cold could provide.  Cold describes how we feel as we grope in the dark for our robes and bunny slippers on the way to the coffee machine.  Cold describes the first nine minutes of water streaming out of the shower head, as we patiently wait for hot water’s wakening comfort.  Cold is how our stiff fingers feel as we frugally twist the thermostat dial from 58° up to 64°, just to take winter’s night chill out of the air.  Cold describes things going on inside the Northern Maine home.  As far as outside is concerned, when it’s the Dead of Winter, we don’t send our kids to school without several layers of thermal underwear, Smart Wool, down jackets, ski masks, two pair of their favorite homemade mittens, a heated water bottle tucked in the bottom of their snow pants and a blanket thrown over their head just to keep the wind chill away.  And if you are brave enough to endure the outside air with an uncovered head, the first breath of air can take itself away as quickly as you tried to inhale it inwards.  It immediately condenses in your lungs as you cough it out and try the alternate approach of breathing through your nose instead, which will only result in instantaneously frozen snot that pulls and yanks on the little hairs inside your nose.  So breathing outside during Northern Maine’s Dead of Winter is like playing a real life game of “Would You Rather?” isn’t it?  Would you rather a) cough up burning steam or b) have your nose hairs yanked out by a web of snotty icicles?  Discuss.

There’s also the issue of leather seats, which are fantastic in theory, because who doesn’t want heated leather seats?!  The only problem is how long it takes those little heating coils to warm up the leather before it’s no longer cold enough to give you those dreaded hemorrhoids your mother warned you about.  The hot shower that was barely able to wake your cold butt up is rendered useless after you’ve commuted to work or school on frozen leather seats.  And by the time you finally reach your destination, the seat warmer has effectively started to produce enough warmth to penetrate the stiffly frozen leather but it doesn’t matter because you have to get out of your car and walk through the Dead of Winter anyway.  So, forgive us salty Northern Mainers for being extra crochety this time of year, but we essentially spend four consecutive weeks with our asses frozen solid up here and I think we deserve a little wiggle room for that.  I was just reading somewhere on Facebook about how it had dropped to the mid 60’s in Florida and that it was positively unbearable.  I would like to find that person and sit on them with my frozen butt.

There’s one other thing I hate about Northern Maine: loaded logging trucks.


Just typing that phrase gave rise to a lump of anxiety in the back of my throat.  It’s not that I have qualms with the logging industry or the hard working drivers of those trucks, but when I find myself directly behind or in front of a flatbed 18-wheeled semi, fully loaded and piled high with strong Maine pine trees and supported only with what looks like metal beams shoved into small metal belt loops, I get a little freaked out.  Actually, that previous sentence might be in the running for my understatement of the year (granted we’re less than two weeks into the New Year, but for now it’s in the lead).  I get a lot freaked out.  My husband was once on the receiving end of my histrionics the first time he unknowingly pulled up less than two car lengths behind a loaded logging truck at red light and was clearly unprepared for the series of events that followed.  I wish I could control myself but I can’t stop the mental images of large pine tree logs careening off in all directions from parading in my twisted mind.  It’s a worst-case scenario, I know this, but I just don’t think we need to be taking our chances.  Which is why I promptly started clawing him in the right arm and hyperventilating in between jumbled half sentences about why he needed to immediately put our truck into reverse and remove us all from an eminently bone crushing death.  Meanwhile, the kids are in the back seat all “Mum, Dude, chill.”  But I can’t.  I’ve always been irrationally afraid of loaded logging trucks as far back as I can remember.  And although I’ve given it lots of thought, but I’m pretty certain there haven’t been any traumatic childhood experiences involving loaded logging trucks.  I’m sure there would be scars.  Even now, the six year old will taunt me with baby-voiced warnings from the back seat whenever a logging truck is within a visual mile: “You’d better pull over so you don’t freak out Mama.”  And I know my 15 year old closely assesses my driving skills when a logging truck approaches us from the opposite direction, as if I might possibly become incapacitated with nervousness and he might have to grab the wheel.  He’d enjoy that.  In fact, I think they all enjoy my logging truck neurosis a little too much.  The last time we ended up beside one at a red light, despite my best efforts to slow down, change lanes, speed past it and pull an illegal U-turn, I swear I heard my 13 year old daughter whisper “Did that log just move?” in my ear.  She sweetly insists she only asked me for ice cream but I’m not convinced.  I keep my eye on her and I secretly hope my name comes up often during her adult therapy sessions.

It’s January and being in the dregs of winter apparently brings out the worst in me.  But other than a really cold butt and a genuine fear of being crushed to death by tumbling logs, I pretty much love it here.

Renée Chalou

About Renée Chalou

Renée Chalou lives and raises her family in Presque Isle, where she owns a fitness center, LiveWell United. Her oldest son is in his second year at UMO, her daughter plans to attend UMPI in the spring and her youngest son is an active, happy 11 year old in 6th grade. From her life experiences as a homeschooling parent, blending a family, and transforming herself from an overweight, side-line mother to a competitive athlete mother and fitness leader in her community, she writes about what she knows: living life well even when it's not perfect. She writes about finding and clinging to the good even when it would be easy to focus on the bad, no matter what challenges life brings. Life in Northern Maine is wonderful, full of adventures and sub-zero temperatures. It's not for everybody and nobody claims it's easy. But it's a good life, it's hers and she'd like to share some of it with you.