I have to say I envied Jason and Ginny their adventures along Route 1.
- By: Paul Doiron
When we decided to devote an issue of Down East to Route 1 in Maine, we quickly found ourselves confronted with all sorts of practical problems. The road — from Fort Kent to Kittery — is 527 miles long (not counting all the offshoots of 1A). Unless you’re planning on creating a roadside encyclopedia, you have to narrow the focus; there’s simply no way to talk about all aspects of life along a highway that’s longer than Massachusetts and New York state combined. (Yes, it’s actually shorter to drive from Boston to Buffalo than from the Saint John to the Piscataqua along Route 1).
We decided that guidebooks had already done an exhaustive job of mapping out the highway’s tourist attractions; shops, inns, and restaurants. But very few people, since the late photographer Berenice Abbott, had attempted to capture the many subcultures of Route 1. If you start on the Canadian border, as we did, and drive south, you pass not just through changing landscapes — from potato fields to pine forests to blueberry barrens to rocky coasts, salt marshes, and beaches — you also pass through a graduated series of Maine communities that have different ways of living but also different ways of looking at the world. So instead of creating yet another travel guide, we decided that we would focus on telling the stories of the people who live and work along the state’s most famous road.
Next we had to find a photographer who could devote weeks to the project. Jason P. Smith logged hundreds of hours and miles searching for the images that tell the untold stories of Route 1. In his pictures you’ll encounter not just proud farmers, but also purple-haired hula dancers.
Finally, we needed an extraordinary journalist who was willing to set out on the assignment of a lifetime. We found her in our own offices. Down East Senior Writer Virginia M. Wright has authored many of the magazine’s best “place pieces”; her gift for capturing the essence of a community — whether it’s Mount Vernon or Madawaska — has earned her some of the top awards in regional magazine writing. Ginny drove the entire length of Route 1 over the course of ten days on a true journey of discovery.
I have to say I envied Jason and Ginny their adventures. But looking at the pictures Jason took and the stories Ginny told, I feel in a way like I was riding shotgun with them the whole time. I hope you will, too.
- By: Paul Doiron