It started when I could eat only two mayo-and-relish dogs at my beloved Flo’s. The Cape Neddick, Maine, hot dog shanty is one of my favorite restaurants on Earth, a yearly pilgrimage that heralds the beginning of our weeklong northern vacation. Normally, I suck down three, easy. Plus a bag of chips. Not this time.
I tried to rationalize it. Were the dogs bigger this year? The mayo richer?
We continued north along Route 1 to our destination: charming Kennebunkport. Every year, we stay at the Lodge on the Cove, a modernized motor lodge with niceties like a heated outdoor pool with live music, cornhole, and s’mores for the kids at night. It’s part of the Resort Collection, which also runs swankier properties like Hidden Pond and The Grand Hotel. With kids, the Lodge is more our speed.
Speaking of speed: Before reaching the hotel 20 minutes away, I had to pull over to go to the bathroom. Urgently. My husband looked annoyed. He wanted to get to that heated pool. The only body of water that interested me was a toilet. We stopped at a ramshackle roadside convenience store with buoys and fish nets on the walls. I reached into the cooler and pulled out a Diet Coke so I wouldn’t look like a complete grifter. Buying something would be the polite move, right? But the kindly woman behind the cash register didn’t consider me an opportunistic interloper; she just waved me toward the back with a jolly smile. Maine.
Fast-forward to dinner. It was a balmy 80-something degrees, yet I slapped my husband’s hand away as he cranked the AC and shivered. When we arrived at Mabel’s Lobster Claw, one of our staple restaurants, I was dismayed to be seated on the porch — normally prime real estate. I pulled my sweat shirt close as our dining companions hoisted blueberry cocktails in the balmy breeze. And no Lobster Savannah, a creamy crustacean frothing forth with scallops, shrimp, Newburg sauce, and cheese, either. Not this year; not for me. I could barely choke down a cup of clam chowder.
That night, I tested the Lodge’s plumbing no fewer than a dozen times, even though I’d had a mere cup of water to drink. My husband and kids snored.
I tried to ignore my woes during lunch in Kittery at Bob’s Clam Hut, a roadside stand where tourists and locals fuel up on fried clams and onion rings before doing battle at the nearby outlet malls. (I even spied a notable Boston chef taking photos of the menu.) My family savored plump scallops and French fries; I sipped a Diet Coke and tried not to vomit into a bush. But when I found myself lining up for the toilet for the fourth time, wedged behind a family of six who brought their lobster rolls into the bathroom with them, well, I knew I had to fish or cut bait.
I presented myself at an urgent care clinic not far from Bob’s. I expected that I would be asked to urinate in a cup, receive antibiotics, and return to my cove-side lair.
This is not how this story ends.
A tan blonde nurse appeared with my sample.
“You have moderate blood,” she said. “It could be a UTI or a kidney stone.”
“OK, but probably a UTI?” I chirped. The kidney stone suggestion alarmed me — I’d had one before, a pain that left me writhing on the emergency room floor and projectile vomiting.
She looked at me kindly.
“Or, well, bladder cancer.”
Screech. Halt. End of vacation. I fished in my purse and swallowed an Ativan dry, the only solid substance I’d ingested all day.
“You’re scaring me,” I squeaked.
She smiled reassuringly, slipped me a prescription for a bladder relaxant, and told me to call back in a couple days for my culture. Suddenly my lower back began spasming. I hobbled out the door.
Instead of lolling on Mother’s Beach during an inky pink sunset, my family and I were crammed into our Subaru Forester inching south on I-95 toward the Winchester Hospital ER in Sunday rush-hour traffic.
“What about mini-golf?” asked my 9-year-old.
“I want the hotel!” my toddler babbled.
I curled into the fetal position and turned on my heated seat as shards of pain shot through my sides.
By 9 p.m., my lounge chair had been replaced by a gurney and my blueberry cocktail had become an IV mixture of Bactrim, fluids, and Ativan. My plush hotel sheets were now scratchy hospital-issue blankets. I was wheeled into an ultrasound chamber; the only massage I was getting involved cold gel and a wand.
Happily, I was reassured by the doctor that everything looked normal and that, really, I probably had a poorly timed UTI.
On the negative side, the antibiotics made me so violently ill that I spent the next three days in bed shivering or dry heaving into a trash can. Our beautiful hotel room sat unoccupied, filled with our vacation things, waiting for a return that would never happen. The dress I was going to wear to “Murder on the Orient Express” at the Ogunquit Playhouse idled limply on a hanger like a girl never asked to prom. My toddler’s water wings sat on the front porch, awaiting a poolside frolic that would never come. I wondered if the staff would think we’d been kidnapped. But I didn’t have the energy to call or the will to admit defeat.
Finally, come Thursday, it became clear that we were never going back. My husband took the kids up for the day to swim, play mini-golf, and collect our things. Our summer vacation was over before it began.
But the hotel was nice enough to give us a credit so that we can return in the fall — during cranberry season.