Site 31 Palmyra Golf Course and Campground, Palmyra Maine
“I thought that was a suitcase you were towing,” our neighbor, two sites down says as we climb out of the car and begin going about our set up procedures. I hear Erin laugh and say; “We call it Marshmellow.” And then the normal conversation ensues, so cute, I’ve never seen anything like that before, you all fit in there? Our friendly neighbors offer us wood for our campfire but due to the late hour and because it took us four and a half hours to get here rather than three and a half Google first predicted it would take, all we have the energy for is to set up camp make a simple dinner and climb into bed.
We’ve come to this friendly campground just off Route Two in the middle of Maine as a stopover on our way to Cobscook Bay State Park. After a week of dry camping (no electrical or water hookups at a campground) and a week of mountain biking, we need a little downtime, more provisions and a place to wash our aromatic clothes. With laundry facilities, a pool for the boys to swim in, and hook-ups, this is pure luxury. I wonder if we should have found a campground like this for the next leg of the trip? Privately run campgrounds can be hit or miss. They can be like this one–large well-spaced sites, clean restrooms and grounds, and rules that are respected. Or the sites can be shoehorned together, the property messy, and large lights illuminating the grounds at all hours. Erin assures me we’ve made the right choice.
The morning dawn is overcast and cool, and it is nice to sit at the picnic table with a hot cup of coffee and write. An older couple out for their morning walk glance over at Marshmellow.
“If you put a hitch on one of those bikes you could tow that thing,” the husband says to me. We chat for a bit; he is a retired elevator installer and his brother lives in Milton, a town about an hour north of our home. It is a small world.
After breakfast, I get ten dollars’ worth of quarters and start the laundry. I sit out on a bench overlooking the grounds and watch the boys play shuffleboard. I call my mom to fill her in on our journey and she asks if there are just acres of pine trees as she remembers from her trips to Maine as a child. There are, I tell her.
“We used to make up poems to entertain ourselves on the drive and my poem was ‘Trees trees is all I sees.’ I still remember that one because trees were all we saw for miles and miles.”
I send a text of the boys playing shuffleboard to my friend Steve in Montana, another stay-at-home-dad, and the folks we were supposed to be camping with this weekend. “Live it up,” he tells me.
“Oh, I am”, by doing our laundry.
“I’m vacuuming,” he replies. “We still rock. Lesser men wouldn’t think of doing laundry on a Saturday, much less any day”.
It’s true, I think, and then settle back and watch the boys, now splashing around in the pool.
That evening I wander over to Mr. & Mrs. UPS’s (the husband is a driver for UPS) site to take them up on the wood offer and ask if there is a good place to get a local pizza. As I walk over someone asks me if I am Mr. Marshmellow, “I am,” I say. Mr. UPS tells me to take all the wood that I would like and the box of random woodworking scraps he has for kindling. He also invites us over for fried dough, which is Pillsbury pizza dough that you wrap around a stick and roast over hot coals. “We have some,” I say, and go onto explain that we learned about the dough on our last trip to Maine, only those folks called them doughboys and stuffed them with call kinds of chocolates. Mr. UPS offers us his powder sugar and cinnamon and sugar to use along with the wood. Then he goes a step further and invites us over to their campsite to roast our treats. Another neighbor goes off to her camper to get us a menu for the Palmyra Country Store so that we can order a pizza. The pizza is excellent, and it is nice not to have any dishes to wash. Not that I’ve been washing dishes on this trip; that role seems to have fallen to Erin, which is a switch, as I normally do them when we are home.
What-ifs and questions swirl in my mind. Should I be accepting these things from people we do not know? I don’t want to be rude and refusing these kind gestures goes against every fiber of my being. I settle with putting the two shakers on the picnic table and washing my hands. But it does not end there. Later when I go back over to return the menu and ask the best way to roast these treats, they offer me an adult beverage–that’s is easy to say no to as I no longer drink. They also give us larger sticks and their spray butter, and their pizza cutter. The sticks are extras and you can’t have fried dough without butter. The pizza cutter makes cutting the dough easier. They accompany me back to our campsite to give us instructions and we make small talk as the boys stuff marshmallows and chocolate into the doughboys. Oddly, though, we never ask for names. Perhaps it is just not important. What is important is the sense of community that has been established in the last twenty-four hours and Erin and my renewed sense that there are still kind people in the world despite what the news and the talking heads would have you believe. We can learn a lot from Mr. & Mrs. UPS about genuine and unabashed kindness.
That night as we lie in bed I am still worried we messed up and the fear of COVID is threatening to consume my thoughts. I whisper as much to Erin. She assures me that given that we were outside at a safe distance we will be ok. She would know; this blog was originally called Smart Men Mary Doctors.
The next day as we are packing up continue our journey I stop what I am doing.
“We should have said it’s not a suitcase it’s a backpack,” I say to Erin. I am always quick with a witty retort.