The People You Meet

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor, ME — No one tells you that you have sunscreen that’s not rubbed in when you travel alone.  I pulled into the Bar Harbor, Maine KOA with a smear down the side of my chest.  When you travel alone, you try to do what you can to appear competent, unless you aren’t which is when you implore the spirit of generosity from strangers and ask for advice, directions, someone to make decisions for you.  The woman behind the desk has already let me drive around to look at open sites and tells me which one to pick anyway.

“Are you alone?”  This is the second time I’ve been in the office by myself yet she looks at me like I must be a little wonky.  When I tell her yes, she picks up on my enthusiasm and seems to see the adventure of a solo trip.  She offers enthusiastic advice about Bar Harbor restaurants and Acadia National Park as she checks me into the $20 site she chose.

Out of mandatory courtesy, two old men escort you to your campsite in a golf cart, even if you just drove the circle to pick out where you want to camp.  I follow the golf cart with two men who pointed out the site I chose and refused to pull forward so that I could back in.  I thanked them – it was to be a forward night.

Laundry was my first priority but I put my precious quarters in the wrong slots and paid an extra 45 minutes for someone’s dryer.   I walked to the office to see about getting the quarters back.  The manager was called to come unlock the change drawer.  Another man drove me the 50 yards back to the laundry and confided to me that he was actually a volunteer who thought his stint in Maine couldn’t be over soon enough.  He was a retired mechanic – Mercedes and Porche – who didn’t really like old cars.

While he’s retrieving my quarters, the manager tells me that the laundry belongs to bloodworm hunters who live at the campground for the summer, making a living by digging these biting tidal worms.  He looks at me suspiciously when I mixed water with some travel soap sheets to hydrate them, as if I’m stranger than someone who digs worms for a living.  Lone woman from Washington who now is doing something odd with a cup of water, I heard him thinking.

Walking back, I noticed a Honda CRV next to my site and a blond woman setting up camp alone.  The license plates looked familiar but I told myself she must have a partner coming soon.  Darkness falls and she’s still alone.  I walk past her site.

“Knock, knock.”

She says hello.

“Are you from Washington?” I ask.

“Yes!  Where are you from?”

“From Washington!  Are you alone?”

“Yep, I’m on a roadtrip.”

“You’re kidding, me too!”

“That must be why they put us next to each other.”

What are the chances?  I introduce myself and it turns out she is a librarian in Ritzville, WA.  She took two weeks to drive across the United States.  People were skeptical that she could drive as far as she planned.  We both stopped at Devil’s Tower. We laugh that people are so friendly when you travel alone, shaping both of our trips by their recommendations.  We both write things down, like the KOA men who escorted us to our sites and didn’t want us backing into our spaces – bullet points to remember.  She’s leaving tomorrow; I’m bound for a tour of Acadia National Park.  We wish each other well on this grand adventure.

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