In Maine, Respite-Seeking Tourists Bake

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The coast of Maine is a popular destination for people who want ocean breezes and a break from the sweltering summer heat of the big city. But this week, Maine felt very much like Boston, New York, Chicago and countless other metro areas, baking their way through the great heat wave of 2011.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: Tourists have long headed to Maine for a guaranteed escape from intense summer heat. But Maine was sucked into the heat wave that's been broiling large parts of the country with record-breaking temperatures hitting triple digits in some places. Maine Public Radio's Jay Field reports from Belfast on the midcoast that tourists just could not find the relief they were counting on.

JAY FIELD: Main Street in Belfast runs downhill. Red brick buildings from the 1800s line the gentle slope to Penobscot Bay. It's the great natural air conditioner that always keeps summer temperatures just about perfect with its cool breezes. Except this week, of course, when someone forgot to tell tourists and locals alike that the A/C was busted.

SALLY MILLIGAN: I'm Sally Milligan and I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

FIELD: Milligan, who's poking around downtown Belfast, has been staying with friends who have a place on a lake nearby. When you sat down to make your plans for this year's trip, did you say to yourself, I'm excited to go to Maine 'cause it's going to be as hot as Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

MILLIGAN: Well, we we're actually watching the weather map and hoping the hot air would drop down to where we live and not be up here. But it's been hot.

FIELD: Do you feel, in any way, cheated?

MILLIGAN: Oh, never, never. 'Cause they're on a lake and we listen to the loons at night, even though we're sweating to death.

DICK HANDEL: We came up here because it's a very relaxing, comfortable place. That was the plan. We didn't anticipate the heat dome, as they're calling it.

FIELD: Dick Handel is up from Portland - Connecticut, not Maine - with his wife Sandra.

What have you been doing to escape the heat dome?

HANDEL: Well, we're lucky. We found Castine, Maine.

FIELD: One day, facing 90-degree heat, Handel and his wife beat it over to Castine, a quaint village, a quick jaunt across Penobscot Bay from Belfast.

HANDEL: It was actually 67 degrees up in Castine.

FIELD: Speaking of the bay, it's usually too cold for long swims, but that didn't stop the Handels.

HANDEL: You don't want to spend too much time in it, although my wife actually was out in the water longer than I was the other day.

FIELD: That must've felt really good.

SANDRA HANDEL: It felt wonderful. It was very refreshing. And I stayed in it probably an hour. It really wasn't that cold.

FIELD: That's a level of courage many tourists don't display. Many hit the lakes or ponds. But New Yorker Lou Veneziano says that didn't help much either.

LOU VENEZIANO: You go out of the water for five minutes and have to hop back in. It was brutal.

FIELD: But relief is on its way. Weather forecasters are predicting a pleasant week in Maine with temperatures in the mid-70s. For NPR News, I'm Jay Field in Belfast, Maine.

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