EASTPORT — Three of the happiest women at Eastport’s New Year’s Eve celebration flew 15 hours across the country, from Seattle, Wash., for a special moment they couldn’t share on the West Coast.
They didn’t come to Maine for the dropping of the giant sardine.
They didn’t come for the dropping of the big red maple leaf.
And although they were ecstatic and enjoyed their first Maine lobsters with gusto, it wasn’t crustaceans that they came for.
They wanted to see the sun rise on 2011 in the easternmost city in the country. At 6:58 a.m. Saturday, Molly Gibson, 63, Susie McCourt, 70, and Donna Jensen, 69, gathered on the deck of their Motel East room and watched the sun come up over Head Harbour Passage at the mouth of Passamaquoddy Bay.
It was a brief event — over in just 17 minutes — because low cloud cover allowed only a quick peek of the sun before it was swallowed up. But it wasn’t without beauty — orange rays reflected off the sea and shot out from beneath the hanging clouds.
“There it is,” Jensen said.
“This is what we came for,” McCourt added.
“It is so beautiful and makes you feel so insignificant,” Gibson said.
This traveling trio now has seen the easternmost, southernmost, westernmost and northernmost corners of the country.
Two of the women — Gibson and McCourt — are sisters, and they have been friends with Jensen for 44 years. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that they began traveling.
“We really hadn’t been anywhere before that,” Jensen said, but quickly added, “Oh well, we’d been to Reno. We like to gamble.”
A search for Jensen’s gold-prospecting relatives in Alaska started them off. They went to Barrow — as far north in the U.S. as one can get. From there it was Key West in the south and Maui in the west. Along the way they flew in a bush plane that landed on the Main Street in Candle, Alaska, swam with dolphins, participated in the Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest and spent a night in a yurt waiting to see the northern lights. “It was 30 below zero and we never saw the lights,” Donna said with a laugh.
“That’s the best part of our trips,” Gibson said. “We have no expectations. We are just three old ladies who saw life getting shorter every day.’’
Gibson said the trio have lost parents and husbands over the past several years, two have retired, and one day they looked around and asked themselves what they were waiting for.
“There comes a time in your life when you just have to go, before it gets too late,” McCourt said.
From Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning, the three enjoyed Eastport. They had their first Maine lobster dinner at the Happy Crab restaurant. “You have made us believers,” Jensen said as the trio attempted to open their lobsters. “We had a lobster in Seattle and it was $80.’’
When the Happy Crab learned the women wanted lobster, which was not on its menu, the staff went to the local grocery store and bought and prepared full dinners. It was this kind of hospitality that took the women by surprise.
“Everyone has been so helpful and friendly,” Jensen said.
“It is so nice to come to a place where people are still real,” McCourt added.
When asked where they will go next, McCourt said, “We don’t know. We didn’t have a plan when we planned this. But, we wouldn’t hesitate to come back to Maine.”
And that gambling habit the women admitted to? Apparently Lady Luck is one of their traveling companions.
Instead of a $162 speeding ticket in Pleasant Point, they were given a warning. They won $100 on a Maine instant lottery scratch ticket. Then, when the winner was pulled in a raffle for a free stay in an oceanside suite at The Commons, Molly Gibson’s name was on the ticket.
“We also bought a Megabucks ticket,” Gibson said. “We’ll let you know if we win.”