A late autumn was apparent as I drove through the US/Canadian Border crossing, leaves were a gentle green transitioning slowly to pumpkin orange. The waiting was almost over as I soon found out when the first freeze of the season came on September 28, 2017. The heater on the van didn’t work and due to my lack of skill, cunning and alertness, I did not pack a wool blanket!
I spent two days in Bangor, Maine, a nifty little town surrounded by several small colleges, walking trails, local museums and breweries.
” ‘merica, little lady, that’s what happening tonite” I heard as a Maine country boy with a green/yellow John Deere cap on his head passed me on the street on his way to a country/western concert. Honestly, I was not prepared for the transition from the ’50s throwback lifestyle of the Canadian Atlantic Provinces to American flags on buildings and cars and barn doors.
For 5,000 miles, I had been traveling with a knife propping the stereo system up and keeping it in its container after it had been knocked loose on the Trans Labrador Highway. It no longer worked, but Google maps came through along with hardcopy maps. But, have to say, they weren’t really needed since there weren’t a plethora of roads in Southern Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia! Another reason why I stayed in Bangor for an extra day!
I had heard so much about Acadia National Park from so many people, Mabel, now content with oil change, pavement, clean windows, purred down the highway. Our first stop was a KOA campground which was sheer living hell for me. RVs stacked like containers waiting for pickup at a loading dock, one stacked after another, side by side with a lawn chair and a string of light yellow ducks along the awnings, complimented with tiny wooden signs informing passer-byes that “The Wilsons say ‘ Mornin’ “. Where was that isolated beach? Oh around 500 miles back north, Lisa, so let it go. In the morning, I found Seawall Campground, park campground which was wonderful and restored my faith again in why I traveled in a camper van. Trees and grass surrounded the individual sites, no generators allowed after 8:00pm, silence was golden! Five days of re-entry into the US was a much needed respite, not to mention, lobster rolls, grilled scallops, lobster cheese omelets ……
….and there were three. I by-passed several walking trails and points-of-interest because there were sooo many people visiting the National Park to see the fall colors. As I looked out the windows at people descending from greyhound-type busses, all I could think of “This would cement someone’s belief in birth control!” The park was beautiful though, the way it interwove around small towns and homesteads and yet, still kept all the natural beauty in tact. The shores were spectacular although Alice had to be kept on a leash at all times because she would chase the sea gulls and birds down to the Florida keys, given the chance.
The Seawall Campground gate literally closed behind us for the season and I drove to Camden, Maine following back roads and Maine 1. Beautiful restored and well-maintained houses and gardens surrounded a sailboat filled harbored. Tourist shops lined the streets advertising the State’s products or services: Mainly Lobster, Stylin’ Maine Manes, Maine Trusses(!), Chow-Maine, Maine’s Man Shoppe — do you want me to keep going here? Got it? ok…we kept going also but not before touring the neighborhoods some.
On we drove to Bath, Maine voted one of America’s Most Livable Towns, which I could understand. With a friendly population of 8,000, a city park, a waterfront and the Mighty Kennebec River close by, Alice and I walked the streets, visited the various shops with dog water bowls by the doors, and I ate at a small patio restaurant.
“Lived here all my life,” the 80+ year-old woman told me. “He’s from Kentucky though.”
“Yes, I met Katherine up here and just never left” her husband chimed in.
“I suppose you go to Portland for things you can’t get here?” I asked.
“What can’t we get? We have the grocery store, a hardware store and an auto shop. We also have a few doctors too.”
That sums up small town living.
After spending the nite at a campground outside of Freeport, Maine, the home of LL BEAN, I pulled into the town and parked and stared at LL Bean Village. LL Bean stores, individual ones for each section of the catalog — HOME, CAMPING, SPORTS and CLOTHING — each one had its own building with its signature boot displayed were the focus of the town. There were fifty or so other outlet stores along the main street.
And, here I am in Portland, Maine at the tire store, after spending two nights at the Cabella Store’s parking lot. Camping spots along this road trip have been construction sites, parks, Walmart, rest stops, ferry maintenance spots, in front of a police station, next to a Chevrolet Dealer area by the van section, city parks, fair grounds, some field, beaches, boat launch areas by rivers, visitor centers, KOA campground, 1 private campground and 1 driveway. Mabel has served Alice and I well.