In Maine in the summer, there’s a carnival or country fair pretty much every weekend. Blank fields sprout tents like mushrooms. Rides land like flying saucers overnight.
Even in daylight, there’s something creepy about an unattended carnival.
The rides seem to be drowsing, like big cats, ready to spring to life at any moment. You get the sense that a misplaced step, a magic word, will set the whole thing in motion.
You are almost certainly being watched. The carnies go about their work quietly, but you can see them moving among the machines. At least, you hope it’s them.
On the Carousel, Lucinda found a horse that was just her size. I tried not to imagine the giant rooster coming to life. It would be angry after all those years running in circles for children.
In darkness, the carnival takes on a new life. But it’s an artificial one, called into motion by calliope music and blinking lights. It will die when they do.
The games and the rides all call to you, saying isn’t this jolly, isn’t this fun. Don’t worry, everything is fine. No need to think. You can stay here as long as you like. Stay forever. We don’t mind.
But perhaps the strangest thing about an unattended carnival, is the people you may meet there.
If we stay in one place too long, Lucinda gets restless and wants to go adventuring. So yesterday, as the sun sunk over the horizon, painting the treetops gold, we packed up and got in the car.
We drove down roads we’ve never traveled and found that treasures were hidden there. They always are, if you’re eyes are open.
First we found a little cemetery, on the sharp curve of a country road. Tucked away between the woods and fields, it crept up on us. In fact, we drove past it at first and turned back.
Many of the graves were overgrown, hidden in the treeline or overwhelmed by lillies. And the light. The light was glorious.
We kept driving, going nowhere in particular. I purposefully turned left where I would normally turn right, plunging us into the unknown.
We hadn’t gone far when I spotted a sign. It said “covered bridge 2.8 miles.” Of course we had to go.
We found the bridge laid over a bubbling stream on a dirt road. A nearby monument told us it was the Robyville Bridge, the oldest surviving example of a Long Truss system used in a Maine covered bridge. A single glance told us it was creepy.
Alongside the bridge we found simple picnic area, where we rested before moving on.
Before we left, we stopped to take a photo of a nearby barn, abandoned to the fading sun and the ravages of Maine Winters.
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There are places that punch a hole through time and leave an echoing gap where past and present face each other.
Historic Ellicott City, Maryland is one of those places.
Walking the streets there, it’s hard to remember what year it is, and who you are, and that there’s a world outside this valley.
A year ago, most of the downtown was under water. An unprecedented rainfall caused a flash flood that decimated businesses in the deep valley on the shores of the Patapsco River.
Many of those businesses have recovered, and new ones have taken the place of those that wouldn’t or couldn’t come back. Most of the city is as beautiful as ever.
Walking around with Lucinda, it was possible to forget that the world had ended and been reborn here.
But as night crept down the hill, it got easier to imagine the city underwater, mud and silt blanketing everything, cold, darkness filling buildings and cars and lungs.
I think Lucinda might have stayed there forever if I let her. She even attempted to make some friends with the locals.
But welcoming as historic Ellicot City was, we had our beds to go back to, and more adventures to look forward to in the morning.
A look through painted eyes
I’m a traveler. I’ve been across the country and around the world. But traveling with Lucinda is a whole new experience.
Usually as a tourist I’m on the lookout for the pretty and amusing, the interesting and inspiring.
I never thought to look for the bizarre and the oddly beautiful, the strange and the spooky until I found Lucinda.
Now I see it everywhere.
It was always there – ignored, waiting to be seen. Kind of like Lucinda really.
Take for example my stroll through West Warwick, Rhode Island last week. I might have focused only on the setting sun or been disgusted by the seemingly endless collection of mini-bottles discarded along the sidewalks.
But with Lucinda, I noticed this old house with it’s overgrown lawn.
And because my eyes were open I also spotted this neglected cemetery with houses all around it:
And that discovery led us down a road we might not have taken. There we found another cemetery that was much bigger and better cared for.
Where, with the markers of the dead all around her, Lucinda posed for one of my favorite pictures:
While you’re out traveling the world, keep your eyes open. And remember, to keep an eye on Lucinda.
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