08 Sep RV Diary: A Month Camping in Maine & The Early Effects of RV Life
When most of the weddings that brought us to New England for the summer were canceled, we decided to stick with the plan and give ourselves the same amount of time to explore our homeland. COVID was our other great motivator to spend this time in the northeast because the infection rates have generally been lower around here.
We just wrapped up four full months in New England and are now slowly—cautiously—moving south. I can’t believe it’s already been one-third of a year since we left Austin and moved on wheels, proof that 2020 has blown the construct of time to smithereens.
We greatly enjoyed the time spent with our families in Vermont and Massachusetts, our first big stint in Wolfeboro New Hampshire, and our month touring the great state of Maine.
Our Summer Month RV Camping in Maine
A Week in Kennebunkport
We started at Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport with the Fothergills; this is the area where my family has vacationed every summer since before I was born. Then we split off to spend a couple of nights just outside of Portland and enjoy that fabulous city at a safe distance before continuing north to Camden Hills State Park.
Four Days in Camden Hills State Park
So many people recommended Camden to us. Some told us they remember loving Camden even more than Acadia, which is a bold statement we chose not to ignore. The town of Camden is cute without trying too hard (the Girl or Guy Next Door of Maine’s tourist towns?) and our stay in the state park was glorious. We practically had a field to ourselves, and the hike up to Mount Battie began steps from our campsite.
We were presented with sparkling stars and a plump full moon during those nights in Camden, making for memorable campfires. Aidan’s blueberry pancakes at Marriner’s Restaurant also mustn’t be forgotten.
Five Days in Acadia National Park
We eagerly continued climbing to Acadia National Park, a park we’d both been curious about since we were teenagers. It’s a place so many New Englanders fantasize about and never get to because of the distance, but if you break it up with a stop like Camden, it’s really not so bad.
The campground we originally booked within the park canceled on us because of COVID and we were so lucky to find Bass Harbor Campground as a replacement. The sites at Bass Harbor are spacious, we had lovely neighbors, and the tent area was like a little fairy camp at night—silhouettes roaring happily around their fires at sites dripping in twinkle lights.
From the campground, it was only a mile walk to see the famous Bass Harbor Lighthouse sunset. We breezed in while dozens of cars scrambled to find parking. Suckers! Worth it either way:
After catching our first Acadia sunset, we tucked in early in preparation for a day that will likely go down as one of our most epic travel days, ever. Our alarms were set for 3:30 AM.
When we kissed a groggy Grizzly goodbye and got into our car at 4:00, there were already a few others pulling out on the same adventure. It was a 40-minute (night) drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain where we snagged a parking spot in the small lot. We could already see a glimpse of the magic from our car: jet black silhouettes of all shapes and sizes moving against a blazing sky.
We found a great spot for the view, immediately appreciating the many layers we were wearing, clinked our coffee mugs, and settled in for the show. Together with the hundreds of other people who made their way up in the hour to follow, we were the first in the U.S. to see the sunrise that day.
We’re so glad we arrived in time for first light, arguably the best part:
Despite a few rowdy college kids (I sound so old), it was refreshing to be up on that peak with hundreds of people who were there to sit in silence, snap the occasional photo, and appreciate this natural wonder.
If you ever visit Acadia and don’t get your butt out of bed for this, you’re leaving the best bite of food on the plate.
The added benefit of catching the Cadillac sunrise is being out and ready to have a day at 6 am. People were lined up at the one coffee shop open at that hour in Bar Harbor while we continued to explore the main loop road and its many wonders with almost no one around.
Highlights of the day were the Beehive Trail, followed by an ocean plunge and picnic lunch on Sand Beach.
The next day we did a big hike and headed into Bar Harbor, an absolute gem of a town. We window shopped and feasted on… Mexican food—we’d both been craving it desperately and couldn’t consume any more lobster by this point—followed by freaky-delicious Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream.
We also followed through on two pro food tips from friends while in Acadia: visiting the pie lady of Island Bound Treats before she sold out at 1:00 (shout out Henry and Sherelle), and experiencing Beal’s Lobster Pier (you know what’s up, Polly!). Photos communicate the value in these recommendations better than words:
Two Weeks in Mount Blue State Park—Just Kidding, A Week in Oxford Maine
After a truly perfect five days in Acadia, we drove six hours through interior Maine to a state park Aidan found online called Mount Blue. Just a nice state park on a lake, a place to relax and work uninterrupted for a couple of weeks. Except, when we got there, we realized we’d be breaking up right away (pardon the pun).
Despite reading online that there’s cell service in this park, we couldn’t catch a single bar. Anywhere. Nor was there WiFi. It was impressive to see how many people, including families with teenagers, were happily camping there regardless. We would have loved to, but we have jobs. Exhausted and frustrated after six hours on the road and with no backup plan, we walked over to the ranger’s station and used—for the first time in many, many years—a payphone. I called my dad at home around 9 pm and was very lucky he answered this call from “THE STATE OF MAINE.” We required his services to find a campground we could drive to first thing in the morning, with cell service, in time to start working by 9 am.
He accepted the mission. As soon as we found service on the road in the morning, I had a text from Dad about Two Lakes Camping Area in Oxford, Maine. We drove an hour and a half to get there, to find the office closed. A maintenance man spotted me looking panicked, went to find the owner, and she let me inside. There was one site left for the week and she let us book it.
Oxford is a place we never would have visited or known about without the Mount Blue snafu. The campground had a dog-friendly pond, a rare gem that earns five stars from Grizzly. They even hosted a socially distant rock concert one night that we jammed to from our site. We discovered some nice little local spots like Norway Brewing Company.
Yes, the middle of Maine is full of towns named after European countries and cities. Near Oxford, Oslo, and Norway, you’ll find Paris and Rome not far away!
Favorite Signs Spotted in Maine:
“Chow Maine” – unclear whether this is your classic American Chinese fare or has a Maine twist. Whoopie pie rangoon, anyone?
“Ice Cream Academy and World Class Lobster Rolls” – unclear how one enrolls in the academy… it must be exclusive.
Hard-To-Miss Signs in Maine
Interior Maine is a different world from the charming coast. We saw a LOT of Trump signs driving through Maine. Trump signs on boats, Trump signs on trailers, Trump signs larger than the houses they decorated. We didn’t see a single Biden sign in Maine, or New Hampshire, or really anywhere we’ve been so far.
On our way to Oxford, we saw another sign I’ll never forget: an old movie marquee leaning in someone’s driveway—one of those with the big arrow and stars that illuminate. It read:
IN NEED OF KIDNEY
SAND AND GRAVEL FOR SALE
These drives are a big part of what’s making RV life impactful. We’re no longer just driving to a vacation destination (or the office, or the grocery store) and back. We’re always leaving a new place, for a new place, with no idea what we’ll see in between.
We have a much better understanding of New England now, of the parts we didn’t see in our upbringings. We also didn’t meet a single person in those four months who wasn’t helpful and kind, even if a little gruff in true northerner fashion. Now that we’re in New York, it’s a different story. 😉
The Early Effects of RV Life
For starters, we’ve been eating more kid foods: s’mores, tomato soup, grilled cheese… all the best kinds. Yes, we’re getting our veggies in. We actually enjoy cooking more now; it’s fun to cook outside and our outdoor skillet/grill combo rocks!
We both feel, at least so far, like we’re living with greater presence and intention. I have felt a lot more relaxed, due in large part to my career switch from full time to consulting—a transition Aidan is making now, too!
We are more communicative with each other, a requirement to enjoy this lifestyle. We set up camp together, break down camp together, coordinate our work schedules to maximize daylight hours for exploring, and are much more thoughtful about the dog—keeping a close eye on him so he doesn’t terrorize campground neighbors and giving him more exercise because he’s in a confined space most of the day.
We’ve actually been very social so far (safely) because we’ve been near our families. This will continue through the fall; we’ll be staying with or near a few different friends and family members along our route. And we’ve met some lovely campground neighbors.
After getting good at hosting visitors in Austin and Ireland, it feels really nice to flip the script and ask for travel recommendations, which is proving a great way to learn more about the people we love. We’re excited to continue spending time with people we haven’t seen in a long time, and to experience stretches of solitude. There’s definitely some sick irony in this wish when so many people are resenting isolation right now, but let’s be honest: It’s a strange time no matter who you are or what you want. It feels like the perfect time to be living this way.