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Homeless By Choice?

August 15, 2017 - The last real stop today was Bangor, Maine. I did manage another quick one a few miles north, but I had already shifted into "find a camping area" mode. My mind just wasn't into much else but finding quiet shelter and a night of sleep. A completely organized person would visit the last memorial well before dark and dedicate at least a couple of hours for searching and setting up. I'm not that disciplined. 

I figured there likely was a number of commercial campgrounds along US-2 as it wandered along the Penobscot River toward Lincoln. I was wrong. 

 

I reached and passed through Milford with a sense of urgency. The evening shadows were developing and it was time for deer and moose to begin the nightly foraging habits that take them across the highways of the northwoods. I know this. I also know that the faster I go the more likely it is that any encounter with a 200 pound forest rat is likely fatal. But the desire to find a place to camp, any place, kept pushing my good sense away. I was reaching speeds well above 70 miles per hour when the first doe crossed from right to left only forty yards ahead of me and Mr. Burgess. 

A mile later I was gack at 70 when the second deer went bounding across the highway. It wasn't any closer to me than the first, but I realized it had sprung from shadows that just were not going to allow me any early notice of a third animal. I had to find a place to pitch my tent, even if it was in a farm field or a strangers yard. I may be stubborn, disorganized, and frequently lost, but I'm not completely stupid. 

Within another mile I saw another of the many public boat ramps located along US-2. The property was deserted and there were no signs that prohibited overnight occupancy. It was time to accept the risk of a trespassing ticket and get off the road. That in itself was a good excuse if an eager state trooper or conservation officer came along. 

I couldn't put the bike on the center stand, and the ground was a bit soft, so I brought out a puck to put under the side stand. Once I got the machine steady I look over toward the ramp and was surprised to see a man standing there, looking at me curiously. 

"Oh, oh," I thought, this guy probably lives in the house across the road and is going to tell me to move along or he calls the cops.  A moment later I was asking the stranger if camping was allowed here. The response got my attention.

"Well, I don't know. I've been here three days now and nobody has bothered me yet."  He spoke in a soft tone, obviously not wanting his voice to carry beyond the two of us.

"Uh, are you camping here?" I asked. 

"Sure! That's my tent right over there in the reeds." 

I turned to look where he was pointing and it took a second to located his well hidden campsite. Had he not pointed it out to me I would not have noticed anything other than trees, reeds, and a natural riverbank. A few more words passed between us and I understood him to be homeless. Trying, with some success, to enjoy a warm stretch of summer weather. 

I got back to the task of unpacking my gear. There may have been another ten minutes of decent light to get my worn umbrella tent up before a light would be necessary. Before walking back to his tent the kid without any real home asked me, "Hey, if the cops DO come to roust you - please don't give me up." I agreed and that seemed to satisfy him. But it didn't make me feel safe to have him ask the question. Have I turned into a Snowflake? Damn, I hope not. 

I hadn't been on the inflatable matress more than a few minutes before drifting into a deep sleep. The  noise of log trucks working along US-2, just 20 yards away, woke me at dawn. Tearing down my campsite only takes a short time and I'm heading north toward LIncoln by 6:30. The deer are probably moving back into their daytime thickets, but at least I have a better chance of spotting them now. 

This year I have been riding along both coasts, through the heartland states, and the vast western and prairie states. Every day I have seen a number of men and women that are living in tents, out of their cars, and one or two that had gained some permanence in wooded hobo camps. I spent the night in a quiet roadside area by choice. I know that the homeless guy is technically there by choice, but by definition that means he has options, and I'm not sure his options are tangible. 

 

 

 

 

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