How I Left Politics,
Learned to Back Up a Bus,
and Found America
Review by Kathleen Walls
Author: Angus King
(former governor of Maine)
Paperback: 128 pages Publisher: Down East Books (August 16, 2011)
If you have been afflicted with that common condition known as RVitus, you could find no better guide to how to treat the condition than Governor's Travels.
Most governors upon leaving ofice begin to strive for an even higher office. Not Angus King. After serving eight years as governor, he immediately packed up a brand new 40 foot Dutch Star, his wife Mary and children Molly and Ben aged 9 and 12 respectively, and began a five-and-a-half month odyssey that circumnavigated the country. Did I mention that he had only one week's experience in driving a rented RV and never one with a tow vehicle behind it. Got to admire the man's courage. Although as a single woman, I pull a 23 foot Terry travel trailer and have had people (mostly males) ask me "You pull that all by yourself?"
I usually reply, "No my Jeep Grand Cherokee does most of the pulling."
As Governor King points out, "The back of the thing will go wherever you go– it just takes a little longer to get there." Something ever RVer learns very quickly. He also points out "You need to make wider turns." another fact of RVing that gets learned early one way or another.
He also discovers the hard way that if you don't allow enough space on the passenger side you will knock off the side view mirror. Any RVer who had tried to navigate a highway without his right mirror will sympathize with Angus as he learns this the hard way-by knocking the mirror off when passing through a toll booth on his first day driving. He demonstrates that he has the typical RVers ingenuity when he rigs a temporary fix using what he has at hand: a pen knife, a ball point pen and an extension cord. Yeah, I know any of you who drive a rig around the country are remembering one of your own mishaps when such inventiveness was necessary.
That is one reason for reading this great little book, learning what you need to do before you start a cross country trip to make the journey as smooth as possible. From considerations on what kind of rig to buy to learning how to know which roads to avoid, this is a great resource to preparing for a similar trip. His checklist alone is invaluable.
It is also a fun travelogue. The color snapshots bring the adventure very close. You experience many of America's most interesting places, some well known and some lesser but equally fun to tour. From New Orleans Vieue Carre to the McDonald Observatory high in the Davis Mountains in the Big Bend area of Texas: from the Fountain of Youth in Saint Augustine, Florida to the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico, you see the country through the eyes of not only Angus and Mary but the impressions of the adolescent children, Molly and Ben. As Angus points out, "sometimes the best stops were places we never heard of."
Most of all this is not some rich man's dream retirement. It is the kind of trip anyone who could aford a traditional vacation could emulate. So you can't afford a Dutch Star. Buy a pop-up and take off for points unknown. Maybe you can't afford to stay at an RV resort each night. Spend a few nights in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Angus King did just that and in the process shows us a wonderful way to discover America.
This book makes us aware of how varied and unique our country really is. As Angus points out, "One of the things that struck me over and over on this trip was how hard our predecessors had to work to build this country… it's easy to forget, but we stand on very broad shoulders."
Another very good reason to read this book is that it is also a journal of a family learning the give and take necessary to live together in very close quarters and come away with a new appreciation of one another. In our everyday life, family members usually have a lot of their own friends and spend a lot of time out of the family. In an RV trip cross country, the outside friends are left behind. Here "Home Schooling" takes on a new meaning when adults and children are all learning as they travel.
But perhaps the best reason to buy this book is what Angus states in his introduction. It will "make you want to go, too."
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