As I have mentioned or at least implied a couple of times in previous posts this has been a very expensive month for us, what with family gatherings, a wedding, a birthday, paying for half the new tire on serenity and four new tires on the tracker. Accordingly, after we finished our ten day stay at Poland Spring, we looked at our options for cutting the costs back for the rest of the month. This meant parking lot camping or Passport America rates all the way, and to kick things off we headed straight for the Auburn Walmart 13 miles away.
Though we have “parking lot camped,” usually under stealth conditions, several times while we nursed The Big Kahuna along in 2015, this was our very first Walmart overnight experience. A number of big chain stores allow overnight RV campers: Sams, Costco, Home Depot, Cabelas, and most casinos included. With Walmart, it varies by store: usually the supercenters allow it and the neighborhood versions don’t, but it’s best to call and check. We needed to stock up on food and supplies anyway, so we pulled in, spotted two big rig semis and one small RV, parked in their vicinity, and then called for overnight permission. They must get asked quite often because the main switchboard person knew the answer to this esoteric question without having to consult with a manager: yes, just park in the far corner.
So there we were, Saturday night and parked in the shared lot between a Lowes and a Walmart. I know to the non-RVer this sounds not merely unglamourous, but hideous. Not at all! Keep in mind, we have every convenience of home in our rig. We leveled Serenity with our hydraulic system, put out the most unobtrusive of our three slides, restocked our groceries at the conveniently located discount store nearby, set up the Honda generator for basic electrical needs, cooked dinner on our stove top, and settled in for the evening.
We noticed that we were at the very edge of the free Walmart and Lowes WiFi signal, and as night approached and the crowds thinned out, I did a bit of experimenting in the parking lot, enough to realize that the normally “so crowded it is unusable” connections from both stores had become rapidly more functional, if only we were a little closer. Though neither store had closed yet the lots were nearly empty, so I took a chance, pulled in the levels and slide, and crept Serenity closer, a lot closer, to the big stores. We were still positioned out of the prime parking real estate, sort of at the far right edge of one and left edge of the other, but it was close enough that we could get a solid WiFi signal from either antenna inside the RV. One more home convenience that also allowed us to save on our ever strained Verizon data plan.
The next morning we moved back out to the parking hinterlands before making full preparations to get underway, lingering long enough that our very short drive to our next destination would put us there around check in time. Blueberry Pond Campground in Pownal was only 18 miles southeast. They were one of the top reviewed Passport-America parks in the region, though they only allowed the discount rate Sunday through Thursday and for a maximum of three days, two of the more common PA restrictions.
But what a fantastic campground! Similar in some ways to Poland Spring, it is located in the woods with extensive greenery all around and spacious, tree-covered sites. It also has very similar amenities, including a pool and free WiFi. The energetic camp owner and his fiance try to make for a sense of community among the temporary residents, running a themed dinner event for all every two weeks and providing frequent bonfires near in the common seating area.
We loved this place and the serenity it provided. Our first night fell on Father’s Day (now you know exactly how far behind we are on this blog,) so I drove out to a local general store to grab a few local craft brews. Baxter Brewing Company produces a fine assortment, I particularly liked the Throwawya IPA and the Pamola Session Ale, whereas Rosemarie preferred the Summer Swelter Ale. Regardless, they made made for delicious drinking at the first night’s bonfire.
Our last full day we dove the 4.5 miles into Freeport to visit the L.L. Bean outlet, and spent money we shouldn’t have on admittedly phenomenal deals. We also sampled all the options at Maine Distilling Company’s free tasting room downstairs from the outlet. They produce a range or spirits, including vodkas, gins, rums, whiskeys and a few difficult to categorize options. Returning home to promptly pull out a few more items on our “ready to sell” list so I could prep Craigslist and eBay ads in the coming days to compensate for these latest expenses.
The last night while at the campfire one of the other RVers mentioned the great pizza they had eaten at the nearby North Pownal General Store. Not feeling up to cooking, I called in an order 30 minutes before they closed and headed the ten minute drive to pick it up. As I was the last customer of the evening, the gave me another pizza, the one in the warmer for individual slices, free. And while this was a bit thicker crusted than Rosemarie’s New York style preference, it was big, delicious, and piled with toppings. A big thanks to the generous and outgoing owners, who provided not only that night’s dinner, but about half a dozen additional meals for me while Rosemarie flew down to Florida two days later.
Both of our Maine campgrounds have been fantastic. We really feel fortunate that our research sources pointed us to such great places. Comparing them: Poland Spring is much larger and has the wonderful chain of lakes and boating opportunities. Blueberry Pond has a much greater sense of the personal involvement of the owners with the campers. Both had beautiful sites and properties with the right balance between nature and amenities. We shall see how the remaining stops in Maine play out, but if we ever get back to this state, I suspect we will be staying at both properties again.