When I initially plotted the trip, I knew it wouldn’t hold fast to the route Steinbeck took, but would instead deviate to allow for visits with family/friends and to see places of interest. I am not trying to recreate Travels with Charley but I am instead using it as a guide for my journey. With the magic of Facebook, I found that there were family/friends in many of the states I would visit and I sent them messages before I left. But on a trip with no set schedule, it has been at times hard to connect and plan visits. This was the case with Stacey (Foster) Bobrowski who I worked with at the Sag Harbor IGA and now resides in Maine. If I had checked Facebook once entering the state I would have seen she was nearly 10 minutes away from my campground and we could have made plans. Instead I missed her because, well, life doesn’t wait for an out of state visitor to drop in unannounced. Sorry Stacey, hopefully we can connect the next time I come through.
With no hope for a visit, Mabel and I started packing up to leave but not before chatting with the neighbors. It was fun to watch the kids last night squabble with each other like brothers do. The three of them, ages 12, 9, & 8 reminded me of my three boys and how they acted at that age. I could tell by looking at them that they were athletes so I guessed soccer like I always do and wasn’t disappointed. They play a variety of sports and were here to run in the Tough Mountain Race later that day. They would stay the extra day to enjoy the area and I wished them good luck before I left.
Bangor was the first of the day’s destinations with HWY 2 taking us the whole way. An old-fashioned rest stop popped up so I decided to pull off for lunch and some exercise. The stop was nestled along a river with plenty of room for Mabel to burn off energy. She wandered over to an older couple eating lunch at one of the picnic tables and they inquired about her breed. They told me they were on their way home from a family reunion in Vermont and had moved from Massachusetts 45 years ago when their kids were young. Married for 57 years, I asked their secret and she replied after a pause, “obstinate tolerance”. I liked her response, it made sense, and I could wrap my head around the implications. How often in a relationship do you have to understand your differences and just let them be? Sheri and I are on two ends of the political spectrum, a regular Carville and Matalin type household but we tolerate each other’s opinions even if we don’t agree. Are we perfect, no way, but this has worked for us over the last 27 years so why make changes. The husband owned a Western Auto but couldn’t compete with Walmart’s Sunday hours so he sold it and started working on gas appliances until retiring. They live in the house his Grandfather built which was sometime in the 1890’s. In the few minutes we spoke, I learned of their life’s history but only the abbreviated version. We tend to highlight certain aspects of our lives, I am doing it on this trip, my elevator story about Mabel and I is pretty much rote at this point. But the real living; the struggles and triumphs, the laughter and tears, the worry that accompanies so much of our lives, isn’t usually spoke of in detail. Even if that's what makes us truly who we are. The fabric of our lives is not cotton as the old commercials would want you to believe, but instead how we lived through the everyday struggles. I saw in this couple of 57 years, a whole lot of living, and I was glad for what they had together.
We continued our way and ended up in Milton for another exercise break, Mabel strutting done the small Main Street anchored by a prominent church. As we came into town, the largest structure, what looked to be an old factory, greeted us with its vacancy. Some type of urban renewal had taken place as the building sported a restaurant, but most of it looked empty. As we finished our walk and came back to Arabella, a man was standing outside his building and I asked if he would like to see the inside of the camper. He thought it was neat and we continued talking about the area. He explained that the big building had at one time been a Bass shoe factory but the company had moved on leaving a large amount of open real estate. “What you see is what you see,” he said, “the town isn’t very big and it hurt when Bass left.” He mentioned another mill, a few miles over, that will close later this year and doesn’t know what will happen to the workers. Insurance is hard to come by and it isn’t offered through his job. I got a feeling of hopelessness for him and the soon to be out of work millworkers as well as the affected towns. There didn’t seem to be a lot of options as I looked around Milton.
This is why small towns struggle; there isn’t a reason for people, especially the young, to stay. I hear about it happening in rural Minnesota and the challenge in keeping young people from leaving for the possibility of a middle-class livelihood in Minneapolis. Nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills or put a roof over your head, a well-paying job does and that’s where people will go. I am thankful for the optimism in Minneapolis, it is one reason I felt comfortable taking this trip. If I lived in one of the small towns I have seen over the last month, I probably wouldn’t have left.
In Maine, they sell lobster sandwiches at McDonalds.
Acadia and Bar Harbor are now within striking distance and I hold out hope that I will be able to camp in the park. Reality creeps in as I understand how slim a chance I have even with the exiting Ranger at the Welcome Center telling me to give it a try. We follow the signs and arrows to Acadia National Park forgoing, for the time being, a trip to Bar Harbor. The second Welcome Center is closed and I didn’t grab a map, big mistake, but set out in search of a campsite anyway. Mabel is enjoying the view, her head out the window, ears back, the wind in her hair. The park is magnificent, mountains, lakes, and fields, all offering a wonderful view.
I went into Bar Harbor with Arabella in tow, just to see what it was like. The town was packed, crosswalks were jammed and people were walking with ice cream cones while looking in store windows. It reminded me of when Sag Harbor used to be visited by a ferry of tourists. We called them locusts.
We never found Acadia’s campgrounds but did wind up at Handley’s Point, a family run campground just four miles from the park entrance. They had openings for a one-night and a two-night spots but I chose the one-nighter. In the back of my mind I was thinking of leaving for an ocean view tomorrow morning so I took the one-night spot. I was on a corner so no need for backing and it had good visibility for the camper as we were across from the bathrooms. We settled in after dinner and a walk to find sleeping comfortable as the day’s heat retreated with the night.
Grateful tonight that I live in the Minneapolis area with its vibrant optimism and endless opportunities.