A night at an auto park

Thursday, 30 September 2010 09:11 AM Written by 

FARMINGTON, ME. -- Still at McDonald's 

Nice to find a McDonald's. Nice to find a McDonald's open at 5:15. I tried to make it to the  Lancaster Motor Inn in Lancaster, N.H., last night -- honest -- but I couldn't keep my eyes open. Driving in a snaking tunnel of pine trees at 60 mph for three hours will do that.DSC_2025

Maine is even emptier at night, if that's possible. The distance between Millinocket -- the lumber mill town where the Pelletier family of "American Loggers" fame lives and runs a new restaurant that surprised me with an amazingly good spinach salad -- and the next big town, Milo, is 39 miles. I encountered 12 cars in 45 minutes.

Steinbeck said in "Travels With Charley" that he camped behind or beneath or beside a bridge somewhere in the middle of Maine's vast nowhereness. I was not so lucky. For an hour I looked for a  "camping" turnout or rest stop where I could crash for the night but found none.

Then I saw a poorly lighted used car dealership out in the country on US Route 2 maybe 10 miles east of here. I stopped. I backed onto the grass next to a pickup truck. With the nose of my RAV pointed at the road just like the other cars, I hung up my blackout curtains and went to sleep.

Impersonating a used car worked. My RAV4, despite its cargo top, blended in perfectly with the 30 or 40 other vehicles. The random trucks and cars that roared by in the night took no notice. I didn't take a photo of the crime scene because I would have had to use a flash. I didn't want to push my luck.

Now it's on to Concord, Vt., which is 120 miles west of here. I want to see the spot along the Connecticut River where Steinbeck slept in his camper in the parking lot of a "ghost" motel that was opened all night but had no one at the desk to rent him a room. I also want to be in Concord when Scott Simon of NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday" calls to find out if I'm safe to be interviewed by public radio.


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