We flew into Presque Isle, Maine from Bismarck, ND on Saturday evening, May 25. This was an alternate air field to Schenectady NY with more favorable weather and closer to Goose Bay, our next day’s stop. There were about 50 people assembled there to greet us, including a 3-star Marine General connected with the airport’s operator for general aviation. Previously, on May 18th, a group of other planes bound for Normandy had arrived there on a single day and the crowd turnout was estimated at 3000 in a regional population under 30,000! After a short meet and greet, we and our bags were put on a motorized trolley car and taken to Caribou, Maine about 15 minutes away. Our guide on the trolley was Kim, who gave us a rundown on the history of the region and its distinctions, among them that Caribou is the most northeastern city in the US and that the region leads the eastern US in potato production. Kim had civic duties as well, including serving as executive director of the Presque Isle Historic Society.
Kim and our driver, Craig, joined us for excellent dinners at the Northern Maine Brewing Company, which also provided ample and much appreciated Maine beers. To our surprise, Craig was also civically inclined, serving on Presque Isle City Council.
We met still another city notable after dinner, Kirk. Our trolley’s engine wouldn’t start, potentially stranding us at 10:00PM 18 miles from our hotel. Automotive affectionado , Jeff Petersen, from our D-Day group verified we had spark but the carburetor was dry. Craig got on his phone and 10 minutes later Kirk, who owns several car dealerships around town, appeared driving a limousine and drove 7 of our group to our hotel. He was followed in 5 minutes by Greg who brought gas and loaded the remaining 4 and all our luggage into his big pickup for a trip to the Northeastland Hotel. There we were greeted by a welcoming sign for D-Day crews and large refurbished rooms in this 1930’s era hotel.
Sunday morning our newly acquired Presque Isle friends returned. Greg left us use of his pickup truck for the morning if we needed (we did), Kirk came to take crew members and all our bags to the airport at 10:00 AM, and Kim appeared in an SUV to tour the rest of us around parts of Presque Isle. The local community college had created a scale model of the solar system. The earth and moon was near the hotel and Uranus was 42 miles away! Each planet is in a micro park, tended by community volunteers. Another notable landmark was the launch site of the first successful trans-Atlantic ballon flight (1978, Double Eagle II, 137 hours) marked by a mini-park with a large aluminum ballon & gondola, again constructed by their community college. On the way back to the hotel for a brief stop we picked up two gallons of coffee for our plane, then rode to the airport where our new friends stayed to say goodbye.
It’s hard to believe the hospitality we were shown in Presque Isle, Maine. Our thanks go out to these fine people and their community....and won’t be forgotten!
contributed by Gordon Hoffman