I started the month of July camped out in a vacant executive office, the “AP Training Lounge” I dubbed it, counting the days as I trained my replacements. Now on the first of August I find myself camped out at a campground in Maine, what an unorthodox month it has been.
The office bathroom was a lot closer than those at the campground and the frequent trips have helped me meet my steps quota. Today would be no different but I figured a shower was also in order. Mabel doesn’t say much about hygiene but I notice she keeps more of a distance the longer I go without running under the shower head. Early morning finds me trudging across the field, towel, shower shoes, and quarters, (yes quarters for the shower) in my hand so I can take my fair share of the camp’s hot water. As I pass the corner camper I notice the older gentleman I spoke with last night sitting outside, lost in his cup of coffee. A nice family; he, his wife who warned me about paying for the shower, and their son-in-law took up the two spots as they do each year. A farmer from Caribou and easy with conversation I spoke with them the night before learning about the farm’s current state and the story behind the wicked cool (yeah, I used wicked in a sentence, maybe been up here too long) 1972 Chevy camper that was passed to the son-in-law. This morning, as I passed and saw him sitting by his camper, I realized yet again that we all get old and at one time we were all young. This man was me, probably 30 years ago, looking at 50 and thinking what lies ahead? I do it now, each day on the trip. Those 30 years will creep up fast and I am hoping for him and myself that the best part of the day won’t be sipping coffee as the sun rises. Thankfully our mind evolves over this time, if it didn’t we would go crazy with our inabilities, and maybe it’s okay to sit and savor a morning cup, happy that the sunrise will warm our face. I continued to my shower, slightly melancholy, hoping that I don’t have to start drinking coffee to be happy. I have had, maybe a cup and a half my entire life, but coffee ice cream, that’s a different story.
Being the seasoned Hamptonite I am, which provides me insight the normal vacationer doesn’t possess, I figured early morning would be the best time to tour the mean streets of Bar Harbor. I wasn’t wrong. Mabel and I braved the road construction sans the camper and jostled our way to the Bar Harbor exit, quickly commanding a parking spot in the tonier section of town. Few people were milling about, no day trippers, self-centered pedestrians, or gawking window shoppers, just those enjoying the morning quiet. We headed towards the waterfront, the smell of breakfast floating on the heavy air and looked at the boats, speaking with a couple that had just started their vacation. A few lobster boats were moving around but other than that, the harbor was empty of activity. We took a path around the harbor, read the information signs which provided direction in English and French and took pictures. Seeing enough of downtown, Mabel pulling on the leash to lead me back to the car and eventually the campground to pack up and start our day.
When we came back last night from watching the sunset, two large RV’s, the concert bus type, had taken their place in the two open spots closest to mine. Sitting in front, on two Harley’s, were the owners and I complimented one on his white motorcycle as I passed. It turns out he speaks only French which I don’t, failing to learn any with our exchange daughter Gen. So, I turned to humor from the 1980’s hit Better off Dead, telling him I know a little French; “French Fries, or French Dressing”. This caused his female companion to chuckle and me scoring with the power of humor. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it.
We backtracked to Ellsworth picking up Hwy 1 to the day’s destination of Houlton on the Eastern border. The names on the map are starting to match the names from Travels with Charley and I am driving on the same roads as Steinbeck did almost 60 years ago. It’s weird to think we are seeing the same sights, but I know a lot can change in 60 years and most of the houses seem newer. The roads Steinbeck traveled were more desolate than now and the Fall weather only helped pronounce this barrenness as he sped through in his camper. Not much excitement on this part of the route, not close enough to the coast for its views and the road is reminiscent of the Hampton Bays pine barrens. We traveled through Machias and stopped at the Quoddy Head State Park to see the lighthouse. Striped like a candy cane, it has been an active light since 1858, its figure popping through the trees as we approach. I was lucky and found a way to swing the camper around, no backing needed. We walked around the light, took some pictures, and pranked the sister of two boys I spoke with earlier by telling her Mabel is part fox. It’s really not hard to convince people of this. If I had a dollar for every time someone said she looks like a fox the trip would be paid for. The funny part is I agree with them, and would believe it if someone told me she was.
Next stop is Lubec Maine, the eastern most town in the USA, the first to see the sun rise and set if my earth science skills don’t escape me. The town looks like it was on the short end of a bar fight with forlorn buildings more at home on the set of the Robin Williams Popeye movie. But there is something about this town that grabs hold of me, maybe it’s the toughness needed to live here. I would love to be walking Main Street in the middle of January, snow swirling on the icy sea wind and the home’s dim lights a warm beacon from the winter frigidness. A great way to test the fancy gear REI sells. Call me crazy but I just might do it.
As we travel up the border I am convinced we are a “nation of stuff” and most of that stuff is displayed in the front yard. Steinbeck mentioned antique stores holding old treasures that were long discarded. I am seeing yards full of metal, machines, rubble, and clutter, long ago discarded stuff that appeals only to a select buyer. These yards beat the decrepit farms I saw in the Midwest, there was at least a pattern to their collections. Here the lawn is covered, no pathway, so one must step high to reach the desired item. How far can one take the right to live as they wish? I think, pretty far in some cases here in Maine. These types of houses aren’t the norm, but they stick in my memory more than the nice, neat, picket fenced homes.
Wild blueberries are big business in these parts of Maine, with many signs popping up on the road announcing their availability or the ability to “Pick Your Own”. I passed a giant blueberry building, a retail establishment bigger than a house and devoted to the sale of all things blueberry. It came up too quick to stop and I am sure there would have been a car on my tail. It makes me wonder how many blueberry plants there are in this neck of the woods. I remember, when living on Mount Misery, it took quite an effort for just a handful of wild blueberries. The plants here must be superior.
I spotted another T@G camper today around Calais, it passed quickly so no tribal wave from either of us. As I drive North, the road is littered with failed businesses, long vacant, their signs still announcing the retailer’s intentions. Looking deeper, these are broken dreams; the proprietor’s hope and optimism slowly bleeding until the “Out of Business” sign was hung in the window. Now the buildings sit quietly, varying states of disrepair, with paint peeling and left with a sense of sadness.
I reach Houlton and choose a family run camp just North of town. My spot is nice, an open and grassy section with few neighbors and plenty of space for Mabel to run. The park is creepily quiet (see random horror movie post) and is the perfect setting for a slasher movie. Somehow, I manage to drop the hot pans from the toaster oven and burn my thumb and big toe, what a combination. I don’t find burn cream in the first aid kit I built so I Let It Go as Elsa from Frozen sang. We hit the sack and are out before zombies or horror film characters can knock on the camper door.