My site on Mount Desert Narrows Camping Resort is pretty. I have a view of the inlet and the bridge to Mount Desert Island. It’s pricey, though. The campground charges $80 per night for its best site. Sherry and Tom, a charming, friendly couple, are my next-door neighbors. They’ve been on the road in a 30-foot motor home since January, when they sold their marketing company. They traveled all over the Far East for their business, but now they’re enjoying America via RV. Tom shows me an international RV signal, an index finger pointed upward. This means “Hey, you forgot to lower your TV antenna.” Tom says he’s left four or five antennas in the trees. I show him a similar Sigma Chi finger signal. It means “Hey, there’s a naked Pi Phi in the lounge.”
I also spend time with Karen and Howard, who are “work campers.” It sounds like a Nazi scheme (“Arbeit macht frei!”), but these are full-time RVers who barter their labor for a free campsite and a minimum wage. They both work 28 hours a week (Karen in the store, Howard doing physical work). Karen also has an impressive stuffed-animal collection.
I bicycle the 21-mile roundtrip into Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. The latter is pretty but a tourist trap. I bought a one-scoop ice-cream cone, gave the guy a $5 bill, and stuck my palm out for change. He put a nickel in it. I waited for the rest. There was no rest. Bar Harbor: home of the $4.95 ice-cream cone.
The campground manager is a full-timer. Her husband recently died, and she and I are the only single travelers. RVing is a “couples thing,” she says. Couples may be heterosexual, gay or lesbian, brothers or sisters, whatever, but they still travel in twos.
The Land of the Fee
From Maine I take Route 1, the long scenic route down the coast, to Barrington, New Hampshire, slightly northwest of Portsmouth. I stay at Barrington Shores, a family-style campground on a tiny lake. It is one of my least favorite camps. There are kids of all ages, but the adolescents and preadolescents look as if they would have been happier hanging out at the mall. They slouch about in small groups, looking sullen.
A group of RVers from Londonderry, New Hampshire, invite me to their campfire. John, their leader, admits that many of the kids would have rather stayed home. RVing is big when the children are young, but the rig is often put in mothballs when the kids hit middle school. Couples put the motor home back into service when the children have left for college and elsewhere. Most of the empty nesters are tent campers who have grown old, have various aches and pains, and don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. The Londonderry RVers complain that the campgrounds are nickel-and-diming them. The nightly charges, they say, are only the beginning. Then it is often $5 extra for each child, $5 for each bicycle, etc. The RVIA tells me that the average RV campground charges $20 per night, but I have yet to find any place that cheap.
A Journey Back in Time
Dry camping in various friends’ driveways and pastures for four days, I meander southwest through New Hampshire and Massachusetts to the Saugerties/Woodstock KOA (Kampgrounds of America) in New York. Wayne, the manager, says he bought the Saugerties campground in 2006. I meet him when he yells to prevent me from backing the Roadtrek into a tree.