November is a no good kind of month. I’m speaking of the brown-blowing-leaves weather here, but more so the creeping sense of dread of what’s to come, the Thanksgiving holiday excepted. It’s tempting to just shut the door after Halloween and not open it again until there’s some white stuff on the ground to pretty everything up and go skiing in. In the meantime, stay in town, light a fire, bake something fattening.
But then you’d miss out on days like the one I had last week, when I put the dog in the car and drove down to Bailey Island. You could see from the tightening of the landscape’s edges that winter’s cold clarity was coming, but at the moment it was 61 degrees, the skies were clear and those brown leaves were a particularly attractive hue of brown, like a good suede jacket.
All summer long my sister had been telling me I needed to go and pick up a sandwich to enjoy in a beautiful place and I’d never gotten around to it. But bolstering myself against the winter months means enjoying every second of being outside in sweater weather, so off I went to the Bailey Island General Store.
I felt like an outsider but I loved the atmosphere immediately – one side is a small grocery store, with everything from cans of Spam to bottles of Ravenswood Zinfandel on the shelves (emergency rations), the other side a simple cafe with a few tables and the smell of coffee in the air. The special of the day was a meatloaf sandwich with potato salad and a pickle for $7.95 and when I saw it go by me to one of the half dozen or so other customers, I was tempted. But my sister had recommended the “Giant Stairs Reuben,” so I ordered that and decided my beautiful place for the day would be the Giant Stairs, which are less than a mile away.
You can tell the Bailey Island General Store, or BIGS as it seems to be known, is a local place. Most of the people in there were workmen on lunch breaks, although one who asked for “the world famous meatloaf” was a fair weather resident who had stayed on to enjoy the fall. I got a fancy rootbeer from the cooler and eavesdropped as he discussed “skedadaddling” in a few weeks. My sandwich was ready in about six minutes and came with a bag of chips. With the rootbeer, it cost me $10.97.
I took my picnic up the road to the Giant Stairs, enjoying for about the hundredth time in my life how this totally cool rock formation is discreetly incorporated into island life. There’s barely a sign, about three parking spots (in front of the tiny All Saints by the Sea church, open in July and August only) and a walking path to the stairs that is lined with poison ivy. Signs tell you that, but no one has eradicated the stuff. Welcoming but not falling all over itself to make you feel that way.
How was my sandwich? Still warm, the meat lean and flavorful, the balance of Russian dressing and kraut and cheese just right. It felt like the best Reuben I’d had in a long time, but maybe that was because I ate it looking out to sea, remembering summer and preparing for winter in the best possible way.
2124 Harpswell Islands Road, Bailey Island | 207-833-2400 | www.facebook.com
HOURS: Open 7 days, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
WAIT: About 5 minutes
PARKING: Plenty right out front
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes