Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The real end of the line

I vacationed after my girls were off and gone, and had no problem “roughing” it, but didn’t want to deal for one minute with mom’s campers.  Dad taught me to back one neatly into a camping space, surrounded by adjacent male campers watching “the girl”, and I was damn good at it.  I didn’t want to be caught in the act of actually setting one up; I couldn’t.  And I had no heart for mom’s favorite vacation chore, unpacking and laying out all those boxes of essentials.  Teddy Roosevelt exploring the Amazon probably carried less on his twenty pack mules.

Driving home from work one night I saw a little house on wheels.  A Dodge Transvan in a driveway, with a For Sale sign.  I bought it.  We got several years hard use of it before we lost interest and sent it on to a new home.  It had captain and co-pilot seats, a table that seated four and a sofa that seated a whole lot of kids in a row.  No safety belts, of course.  After the seating area there was an ice box, a propane stove, a sink and storage cabinets.  Only children stood upright in the center aisle, adults bent over.  There was a step down area at the back to stand upright and use the stove or the sink. The table and the sofa converted to sleep four at night.

One of the last years both my girls were home Mom’s annual vacation with full complement of grandkids was to New England.  She and I drove, via ferry across Lake Champlain for her to have her ferry fix, and spent two weeks in a circuit of New England.  I loved the country and had to go back.  I also came to the resolve never to own a pop up camper unless I had plenty of grandkids to set it up and tear it down.  When I saw that little house on wheels I knew it had to be.

Jan and I took it on one of its first trips, back to New England.  No ferry, as mom was not along.  Jan and I both were deep in photography and went looking for the flora and fauna, the landscapes, the sunrises and sunsets.  We found out how early the sun rises on the east coast and how much before that one must set out to see it happen over the ocean.  We never made a sunrise.

We travelled the eastern side on the way up to Moosehead Lake in Maine.  I wonder if you can still get a lobster out of a pot along the road for dinner every night?  We set out one morning to get a campsite at Acacia National Park.  When we got to the entrance there was a several car line, and a Ranger.  We pulled up and learned that as one car came out, another was allowed in for camping.  We were three or four cars back from the turn into the park, so what the heck.  The Ranger went up and down the line, explaining the routine.  When we were the next car to turn right into the park road, the Ranger moved us all onto a service road at right angles to the road we were on.  Across from the road into the park.  As more cars came, he directed them to the end of line on the service road.  Jan and I were first in line, we’d been there an hour or so and no one had left recently.  We could also see a dozen cars before the gate, across the road.

The Ranger came up, leaned in the driver’s window and said, “Listen, I need to go chase some deer out of an orchard.  I’m putting you in charge of sending people to the real end of the line.”  Jan said to do that she needed to be official, and asked for his hat.  “No, no, not the hat.  I’ll give you my gun.”  It would have been worth it for the hat, but not for the gun.  We went back on down the road to a campground we’d passed. I remember we pounded chicken breasts flat on a rock, with a rock, to have chicken cordon bleu for dinner that night.  It was also a long walk to the bath house, uphill.  Mom probably had tools for the former, and I know she carried a portable toilet in her camper.

We took that trip in mid August, as I knew winter in New England begins September 1st.  We were in the Green Mountain Range on the way home, in a nice state campground.  Very early in the morning there was loud knocking on the door.  “Girls, girls.  I want you to get up and get on the road right now.  Big storm coming in and in an hour you won’t get over the pass.”  That ranger was right; we hit it as really bad rain not long after we got into New York.  I recall we stayed at Buttermilk Falls that night, which was a trickle over the cliff when we pulled in and a torrent when we left the next morning.

Not my last trip to New England, but memorable.


  1. I'm enjoying your stories but wish I had play list of characters.

  2. Sounds great!!! I love that part of the country!!!

  3. Oh, I love your adventures! thank you for sharing them!