A Trip of 1,754 Miles Filled With Almost as Many Lessons!

Part I of my blog of my trip to Maine ended with a few more days of adventure to go! As it turns out, the last few days were maybe even more extraordinary than the first week. After our lighthouse tour was cancelled due to strong winds, the next day my friends Larry and Barbara and I drove to Bass Island to see the lighthouse ourselves and then took the ferry to Swans Island to see another one!! I always have a plan B when original plans don’t work out!! That journey was so worth the trip! It was a gorgeous day with incredible views and we were all in awe of the beauty we were experiencing. I sat on a bench and just reflected on all the lessons I was learning on the trip, especially about how self-sufficient I was becoming alone.

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Some of the lessons I learned were about the inner workings of JOY! For example, prior to last week, I’d never heard of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) and had never been under JOY’s hood! With the help of my friend Larry, we purchased the DEF after the warning light came on and together we learned how to put it in JOY’s engine. That was a cool experience and the warning light went right out. I’m becoming so much more comfortble with troubleshooting issues that may come up in JOY.

Then last Wednesday with four more nights to go, the full wall slide in JOY stopped working, leaving me with limited living space and no access to my queen size bed. But that issue didn’t stop one ounce of the fun I was having and I simply slept on the couch. In truth, Maine was beautiful enough that I would have slept on the floor if necessary. That lesson for me was that sometimes an issue doesn’t always have to become an issue.

On Thursday morning Larry and Barbara departed Bar Harbor and headed for other adventures. I wanted to go back into Bar Harbor and do the shorewalk but needed a way to get there. I tried Uber but was told by the campground staff that they had never picked up anyone there and not to get my hopes up about going. They were right, Uber didn’t have drivers available, BUT Lyft did!!! I got into town and spent four hours walking the shorewalk, visiting the shops, eating lunch while sitting in the park overlooking the harbor and saying a few prayers in the local Episcopal Church before getting a Lyft back to the campground. Lesson learned, don’t give up on your plans just because someone else says it won’t work out.

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Friday was an extraodinary day! I moved from Bar Harbor to a family owned campground in Brooklin, Maine to meet up with Ed and Lynn, members of my church fam! Being in that campground actually changed my life. I learned that welcoming a stranger should be something we all should aspire to become proficient in and I learned that lesson from Lori, the owner of the campground. She ran out of the camp office when I drove up and hugged me as if we’d ben friends all of our lives. I’ll never forget that moment or her! Lori’s story is stunning. She and her husband Paul built Reach Knolls campground with their hands from the ground up, cutting down every tree and digging every camp site. How many people can say they actually built their dream job? It reminds me of how my dear friends Pontheolla and Paul have built Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens into a stunning B&B in Spartanburg, SC. I truly know some powerful couples!

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I’ve always loved Ed and Lynn Kneedler but in the limited time they had on Friday, they showed me everything there was to see on Deer Isle including their glorious summer home. They made me feel special as we enjoyed tea and cookies while chatting about our lives, our families and our dreams. It was an extraordinary visit. When they brought me back to the campground we sat a few minutes while I showed off JOY. Spending the afternoon with them was a true joy for me. Lesson learned, make time for friends because it’s time well spent.

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After Ed and Lynn left, it was all about spending my final evening and the next morning in the solitude of all the trees and the ocean to reflect on my 8 days in Maine before starting the trek back home Saturday morning. The trip home was beautiful. I took 11 leisurely hours to get to my destination in Wilkes Barre, PA where I spent the night in another Cracker Barrel parking lot. I encountered no traffic along the way and enjoyed the backroads and small towns. My goal was to be home by noon on Sunday morning. I exceeded that goal by 2 hours arriving home at 10am yesterday morning. I was relaxed and well-rested. After 1,754 miles I had learned many lessons about myself and about my partner JOY. I was a new person who believed that I could conquer anything!

Almost immediately that feeling of “conquering all” was put to the test. I walked into my house and immediately smelled something foul. That smell was coming from the spoiled food in my new refrigerator that was installed last week. Several other appliances hadn’t been installed because they arrived damaged. There was also no hot water and my sink was stopped up, and that was only a few of the issues. All of these things are connected to my first ever reconstruction project in my basement. I started to cry, feeling overwhelmed by what I had walked into. My neighbors came to the rescue to help me throw out the spolied food and even pulled a tick from my back that decided to follow me from Maine. I’m confident that we got the tick before it could cause me any health problems. I went to bed early so I could put the day behind me.

By the time I woke up this morning, I was done with the tears. I did laundry in cold water, got up as much dust from the renovation project as I could and then started to prioritize the issues in the house. I had to connect with GE, my contractor and the folks who handle my electrical, heating and cooling issues. Now that it’s midday I’m mostly back on track. I’m troubleshooting JOY’s issue with the slide out by watching videos from the manufacturer. I brought food to put in JOY’s fridge until mine is fixed, and I am showering in her too. I’ve scheduled several appointments to get all of the issues fixed and my fingers are crossed that it won’t add to much more to my already over-budget project. In spite of the issues I came home to, my trip to Maine was a phenomenal experience which included more than 26 hours of driving alone! I sang thousands of songs I had downloaded to my phone from my CD collection and I watched the amazing scenes along country roads in silence with a big smile on my face. I was so impressed by all of the friendly Maine people who waved at me as I drove through their towns! My greatest lesson learned on this trip was that Tim and I were right to choose to see as much of this country as possible, and that putting Maine on our bucket list was the best addition of all time!! I’m sorry the trip is over, but I’m stronger, I’m at peace and I’m ready for whatever the next few busy weeks will bring!

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A Journey of 800 Miles Begins With a Single Step!

When I woke up at 4am on May 16th, a paralizing fear washed over me. It was time to execute my plan of getting on the road and heading to Bar Harbor, Maine in my RV JOY to meet my friends Larry and Barbara on May 17th. But I laid in bed for almost 10 minutes too afraid to move. What was I thinking that I could drive to Maine by myself, including an overnight stay on the road in a strange place?? This was never going to work I thought to myself! Thankfully, I got out of bed at 4:12am and took a step. And the rest as they say is history….

The trip isn’t over, but it has already been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done so far in my life… Camping in Maine was next on the bucket list that Tim and I started in 2014. I wanted to do it just as we had planned, spending one of Tim’s birthdays just as the season was turning from Spring to Summer but there was that doubt in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

The trip up to Maine was amazing! It covered Interstates, highways, toll roads, and country roads and included four stops for gas. The question I was asked most was “are you traveling by yourself?” followed closely by “Is that YOUR RV?” During the drive, two warning lights came on on my dashboard indicating an issue with my Mercedes Benz engine. Surprisingly, I didn’t panic at all, but pulled over and consulted the manual as indicated. It wasn’t anything serious and resolving it could wait until I arrived in Maine. I was really encouraged by the fact that I didn’t panic.

My overnight stay was at a Cracker Barrel, which encourages RVers to have dinner with them and then stay overnight in their parking lot that includes really big spaces for RVs. Even that part of the plan worked to perfection. I arrived at my previously chosen location of Londonderry, New Hampshire and had my favorite dinner of four vegetables including their famous sweet potato casserole. I spoke with the manager as required who was thrilled that I’d be spending the night in the parking lot. I had a great night and after almost 11 hours on the road, I slept like log.

I rolled into Bar Harbor Maine on Friday the 17th around lunch time feeling as if I had accomplished a great feat! I think having driven almost 800 miles alone for the first time probably is a big feat. I got out of JOY and set her up quickly and easily. I then explored my surroundings. The water was everywhere around me, and I could see it from every one of JOY’s windows.

Though it was cold, I went outside to walk around. The wind was blowing and I could swear I heard Tim’s booming voice say “you did it babe!”. Tears started to roll down my cheeks, yet I simultaneously started to jump around like I tend to do. I had conquered my fear and was ready for adventure. My friends Larry and Barbara arrived soon after and we headed into town for dinner. We all had burgers and fries and caught up on all of the things we’d missed in each other’s lives since our camping trip last year to the Great Smoky Mountains. On Tim’s birthday on the 19th I was somewhat sad, but also very proud that I’d accomplished our goal. I wore his favorite color orange for him that day and we had a big celebration for him at dinner. I know he was with me in spirit.

In addition to our sightseeing jaunts that have included long hikes, we’ve talked a lot about Tim and about Erin, Larry and Barb’s daughter who died in 2010 from ALS. Erin’s 45th birthday would have been on the 20th, one day after Tim’s so we celebrated her too of course.

I’m having an extraordinary time here in Maine and still have a few more days left to enjoy! The things we’ve seen thus far in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park have been surreal for me. There are multi-colored rocks and granite structures, huge boulders, planks along a hiking trail, amazing trees and plants, and stunning mountain and coastline views.

And to think, I would have missed it all had I not overcome my fear on the morning of May 16th and taken that first step out of bed. Sometimes all it takes to be successful is to take that first step!! I’ve definitely learned that life is too short to be afraid!