From “Dog Days in Fort Kent,” by Elizabeth Peavey, in our February 1998 issue.
Photograph by Tonee Harbert
As I approach the fringes of town, I spy a sign proclaiming the terminus of Route 1, near the bridge spanning the St. John River over to Canada. Across the street, the Rock’s Diner parking lot is filled with trucks, and on the back of each is affixed a cab with portholes, through which are thrust the heads of huskies and sundry other canine breeds, making the vehicles look like trophy walls on wheels.
Inside, the diner is abuzz. Sledders and mushers (snowmobilers and sled-dog racers, respectively) in great boots slog over the wet floor, which is periodically and pointlessly mopped up. On one wall is the same DeLorme map from my office — except this one is folded so that nothing south of Millinocket shows.
In front of each unit at the motel, set back behind the diner upon a rise, is parked a sled-dog truck. Hay, scat, and kibble litter the frozen lot, where mushers tend to their dogs and visit with each other. In my tidy, pine-paneled room, I find a postcard of Rock’s Motel, circa 1970. (I am guessing by the clunky sandals worn by the woman sitting on the edge of the bed with her two children atop an orange crushed-velour bedspread.) I look at the postcard, then my room. With the exception of bedding choices, it seems not much has changed at Rock’s for some time.
The Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race is still a big to-do in Fort Kent (although these years, it’s held the first weekend in March). Rock’s Diner still fills up with mushers and race fans, as does the motel (now called the Northern Door Inn), although Rock himself passed away in 2008, at age 86.