Oyster records. Toothpick records. One-of-a-kind festivals. Maine has it all

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Maine is the place to find natural beauty, moose and a town claiming to be the “Center of the Known Universe.”

Around here, we know how to toss back giant oysters, navigate Devil’s Elbows and celebrate our “Chickens.”

Yes, that’s capital Chickens, in quotes, but actual chickens, too.

It’s just how we roll.

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The Sun Journal’s third annual Who Knew??? Summer Road Trip Quiz is chock-full of Maine trivia and trivia-inspired trips itching to be had.

So go. Explore. Soak it in, and add to Maine’s greatness.

1. Maine is the only place in the world to find:

1) The rare Jacquardian Moose, which exhibits a subtle floral pattern on its flanks at birth.

2) The original manuscript for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, in the Maine State Museum (on display once a year).

3) A three-day, 30-mile high-intensity stand-up paddleboarding race where you may or may not paddle your a . . . er, arms off.

2. Last September, the winner of the Maine State Oyster Eating Championships ate how many jumbo oysters in 15 minutes?

1) 234

2) 56

3) 152

3. Fifty-nine years after famously patenting the ear muff, what other invention did Chester Greenwood receive a patent for?

1) A metal rake with “a plurality of resilient metal teeth.”

2) A roller skate with three wheels “aligned such as a triangle,” for handling sharp curves.

3) A ghost detecting trap, “beaver-lined, costing less than 5 dollars.”

4. What town in Maine has a neighborhood with the highest rate of occupied homes without indoor plumbing?

1) Lubec

2) York

3) Gray

5. “Invenium viam aut Facium” (“Find a way or make one”) was arctic explorer Admiral Robert E. Peary’s:

1) Personal motto.

2) Dog’s name (called Veni for short).

3) Title of his unpublished autobiography, rejected by three different publishers when he refused to include the translation on the cover.

6. Strong is the former “Toothpick Capital of the World.”

1) True.

2) False.

7. The University of Maine houses a collection of 7,796 hooked rugs donated by an alum.

1) True.

2) False.

8. The town of Leeds has . . . 

1) A plaque at the town office remembering Mike and Oogie, two roosters who made it into Ripley’s Believe It or Not for very unrooster-like antics. 

2) A French-speaking kids’ summer camp founded by Dominican friars from Lewiston in 1938.

3) More cows than people.

9. At the Maine Seaweed Festival later this month, you’ll find:

1) A seaweed-inspired interpretive dance.

2) The debut of a new flavor of kelp ice cream.

3) The only place in the entire country having a seaweed festival.

10. This Maine town is, according to itself, the “Center of the Known Universe”: 

1) Bar Harbor

2) Bethel

3) Bucksport 

ANSWERS

1. Maine is the only place in the world for?

3) The Lobster SUP CUP, a three-day, 30-mile paddleboard race over ocean and lakes. (SUP stands for stand-up paddleboarding, fyi.)

Now go: To Rockport, like, now! The third annual Lobster SUP CUP is running this weekend, Aug. 7-9. Organizer Thor Emory said Rockport Harbor is the best place to watch racers coming and going. He claims it’s the only multi-day, distance race like it in the world, and hasn’t had anyone dispute that claim yet.

That makes it good enough for us.

Last year, 68 people turned out from all over the country and Canada to paddle their buns off.

“The lead paddlers are in amazing shape and can go fast for a long period of time,” said Emory. “Other people, they’ve been doing it long enough that they can just keep going. For a 12-mile race, anything from under 2 hours to 5.5 hours is kind of the spread.”

2. How many oysters did the oyster champ eat?

3) 152! According to a story that originally appeared in the Castine Patriot, the winner, Josh “Chicken” Carter of Blue Hill, beat his closest competitor by 27 oysters. Josh, we salute you for intestinal fortitude and an incredible nickname.

Now go: To Castine! Because you have to see this spectacle for yourself.

Paul Brouillard, the owner of Dennett’s Wharf restaurant, the event’s host, said he’ll hold the next championship this September.

Last year, he had more than 100 would-be contenders and narrowed the pack to 25, who scarfed away after a little shellfish-themed entertainment.

“We have a little parade ahead of it that’s led by the transgender bivalves and a couple of same-sex clams  and a couple bartenders in drag,” said Brouillard.

Man. Sounds like a party.

3. Chester Greenwood’s invention?

1) A metal rake, patent no. 2,066,036. Greenwood had many, many inventions in his lifetime, including a wood-boring machine in 1914 and a kettle in 1929, according to Martin Wallace, patents and trademarks librarian at the University of Maine’s Fogler Library.

Now go: To Farmington! Lovely to visit any time of year, but mark your calendar for Dec. 5 and you can celebrate the annual Chester Greenwood Day. Watch the big parade. Wear ear muffs, of course. Rake something, ceremonially. Just generally live it up.

4. No flush for you?

3) Gray! According to the U.S. Census, the Gray CDP (census designated place, a small snapshot within the town) has 295 occupied housing units, 38 of which lack full indoor plumbing.

Now go: To Gray! Go for the outdoor loos, stay for the Maine Wildlife Park. Choose from regular weekend events (sing with Rick Charette, meet the cast of Animal Planet’s “North Woods Law”) or mingle with the animals. There are cougars, moose and bears who also, well, you know.

5. Admiral Peary and “Invenium viam aut Facium”?

1) His personal motto, according to the Friends of Perry’s Eagle Island, the famous explorer’s summer home 20 minutes off the coast of Harpswell. 

Now go: How are those sea legs feeling? Sail yourself to Eagle Island or take one of several charters to check out his picturesque property and the home he built in 1904. In just the last year, the National Park Service designated it a national historic landmark. It’s open in the summer from June 15 through Labor Day and features a free audio tour recorded by Peary’s grandson. (State park fees apply.)

6. Was Strong the toothpick capital?

1) So true. According to a 2003 Associated Press story, the Forster plant once made 15.6 million toothpicks a day. For more on the tiny toothpick’s big history, check out the American Enterprise Institute’s “The Glorious Toothpick.”

Now go: Feel like a road trip through some beautiful country? Cap off a drive to Strong with a picnic or a swim at Strong Public Beach on Porter Lake (off Beach Road) or drop your canoe into the Sandy River at the Devil’s Elbow on Route 4 and paddle down to Farmington through some Class II rapids.

C’mon, it’s called Devil’s Elbow. You know you want to check it out.

7. Is UMaine home to 7,796 hooked rugs?

2) False, but the Page Farm and Home Museum, located on campus and depicting life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, probably has a hooked rug or three.

Now go: To Orono where there are loads of other collections to behold! UMaine’s Fogler Library houses 6,000 rare books and 315 manuscript collections (including the papers of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and C.C. Little, the founder of Jackson Lab). Materials are accessible with at least a week’s notice.

8. Found in Leeds?

2) A French-speaking kids’ summer camp. The website for camp Tekakwitha (as run through Google translator) describes it as “a French holiday camp in Maine in the United States, nestled at the edge of a vast wilderness lake.” It’s even accredited by the Association of Quebec Camps.

(Bonus facts: Mike and Oogie, very real roosters, were from neighboring North Turner and did such things as sit on their owner’s shoulders while he played cards. And, according to the Ag Census, all of Androscoggin County had 5,769 cows at last count, so everyone walking on two legs definitely has the numerical upper-hand.)

Now go: To Leeds! Let’s leave the summer camp kids alone — they’ve got all kinds of summering and kid-being to do — and instead, let’s go on a historic hike.

Turns out Leeds is also home to what may be Maine’s only peace monument, according to Richard Fochtmann at the Leeds Historical Society. Park on North Road and follow the short Monument Hill Trail to the granite obelisk with the words “Peace Was Sure Then” around its base, erected by the Howard brothers in 1895, 30 years after the end of the American Civil War.

“Most of the monuments that went up about the Civil War were about the soldiers who fought in it,” said Fochtmann. “This was not to the fallen; this was to the peace that came after.”

9. In store at the Maine Seaweed Festival?

We played a salty trick there: It’s all three! A seaweed dance by a Middlebury College professor, new kelp ice cream and the novelty of attending the only such festival in the U.S. 

Now go:  To where the seaweed roams! The second annual Maine Seaweed Festival will take place on Aug. 29 in South Portland at Southern Maine Community College. Festival founder Hillary Krapf said last year 1,500 people came out and she’s expecting a bigger crowd this year as the festival grows in food offerings, workshops and live demos.

The festival is about raising awareness of “our vibrant macro algae industry here,” Krapf said. “We also want our community to understand that they have access to these valuable nutrients and this beautiful, sustainable natural resource right in our back yard.”

(She was inspired by Kelpfest in Laguna Beach, Calif., which celebrates the restoration of local kelp forests; similar, but not quite the same as ours in Maine.)

10. The “Center of the Known Universe”?

3) Bucksport. Obviously. In 2013, the town announced plans to inscribe that phrase on its Waterfront Walkway, according to a story in the Bangor Daily News. (It basically began as a somewhat-joking reference to Bucksport’s proximity to other job centers and then development officials decided, “hey, why not?” and ran with the phrase.)

In just the last month, Bucksport has nearly finished the project, according to a clerk in the town office. The area has benches, more signs are coming and it’s a beautiful spot to view Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, she said.

Now go: To Prospect (right across the river from Bucksport)! For $5 per adult at the Fort Knox Historic Site, you can explore the old fort (bring a lantern for the cool, dark corridors) and then take a 40-story elevator ride to the top of the Penobscot Narrows Observatory where you may feel, while looking down, on top of the world, if not the universe.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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