The peninsulas emit a siren song that draws us, with no small risk, toward the ocean. Ever since Malcolm started taking me here while we were in college, we’ve made the drive on Route 131 (turn at the Knox Mansion – Very Revolutionary), to fill our bottles from the bubbling spring at Wiley’s Corner, to wade into the Atlantic at Drift-In Beach, and see the sunset where hayfields finally yield to the St. George River. South Thomaston, Tenant’s Harbor, St. George, Port Clyde, Spruce Head. These villages have a magic, a quietness, a quality unlike most other places on earth. These days we’re there a lot, stopping at Harjula’s Dairy Bar, a delivery truck planted in the farm field on a hill above the water, for ice cream at least one evening a week. It is one of my favorite places to be right now.
They open almost every day at noon, but for my money (and it’s cash only) sunset is the only time to go. Because at sunset, which at the end of July is already noticeably, minutes earlier than it was a month ago, the horizon is streaked with pink and orange and purple, the moon sometimes appears before it is truly dark, and we shrug on sweaters over sunburnt shoulders because there is already a chill in the air. Christmas lights blink on, draped over the white truck. Violet and Mina run in and out of the pretty wooden playhouse, yellow with gray shutters, as I order their chocolate and vanilla.
The ice cream is Gifford’s, which I think has a fattiness other ice creams often lack. And the tiny bits of candy topping – those are jimmies in the local vernacular. Two kid-size portions and a double scoop of Deer Tracks, which is espresso with heath bar and fudge, and totally, amazingly delicious, set us back $9.30. The folks inside the truck are always friendly, waiting patiently while we decide if we want cups or cones. The other customers are good-natured, chatting with old neighbors or exchanging vacation anecdotes. Locals and those from away mingle easily, all is well. Getting ice cream makes everyone happy.
At Harjula’s I feel complete content. It’s the combination of an idyllic setting and the sugar, sweet childhood memories and watching my children gambol in the grass. We saw the fireworks there on the 4th of July, and though we weren’t so close as to feel them, the gathering was fantastic. It is a magnetic place. A tradition. An institution, even though it’s only 6 years old. An experience you look forward to every lonely winter and become instantly nostalgic for the second you are driving out of town. It is one of the reasons people love Maine. Because it has goodness and magic, and ice cream.
Harjula’s Dairy Bar Ice Cream is located at 391 St. George Road, South Thomaston, open every day but Monday from 12-9. The season starts at the end of June. Cash only.
Read the other stories in this series: Lulu’s.