Truck Camper Magazine announces a new CEO and takes him on his very first long-distance truck camping adventure to Maine. This is how we roll, what we do, and how we camp. Meet Cosmo.
When we started Truck Camper Magazine, it was important to me that this publication would never be our personal blog. I believed TCM should be professionally dedicated to the truck camper industry and community, not its publishers. That doesn’t mean we don’t work in our truck camping experiences, personality and humor, but those aspects will never be the focus of these electrons.
Fast forward to today and my distanced approach seems a little out of step with our, “What’s up, everybody” YouTube times. And to my shock, we often field reader emails asking us to share our personal truck camping travels. So, after a truck camping trip to Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island this past summer – and Angela’s prodding – here we go.
I’m also taking this opportunity to showcase how we save money on the road, present some affordable destinations in Maine, and generally offer tips and perspectives on the current state of truck camping. My first tip is to avoid drinking coffee while reading. I can get out of hand when allowed this much latitude.
The Balance of Work and Play
To help make sense of what follows, I need to explain our a-typical truck camping lifestyle. When Angela and I are on the road, we work on Truck Camper Magazine during the week, and then travel and explore starting about mid-day Friday. After 16-years of publishing, we are naturally disciplined to this work-play balance.
The challenge is continuously finding suitable places to work during the week with quality cellular internet or WIFI. We prefer to avoid campgrounds because they are full of distractions; neighbors talking, dogs barking, smoky campfires, and so on. Believe it or not, during the week, a large Walmart, Cabela’s or Cracker Barrel parking lot is preferable because we can park in the back of the lot far away from folks and focus.
Camping On The Cheap Tip: Free and Safe Places to Park Overnight in an RV is about how Angela and I find free places to camp. We used the published ideas several times in Maine.
As you might imagine, our work schedule slows down our travels considerably. To put that into perspective, we often go for an entire week without needing to fill our fuel tank. Between mostly staying put during the week, avoiding campgrounds as much as possible, and eating in our camper for nearly every meal, we keep our overall budget in check.
None of this feels like a sacrifice to us. It’s just how we roll. And when Friday comes around, we put our computers away, get in the truck and go have fun. Speaking of fun, I also need to introduce you to our new CEO and truck camping co-pilot, Cosmo White.
In mid-2020, we were completely heartbroken by the loss of our first CEO (Cat Executive Officer), Harley. Between everything else going on that year, it took us a while to get back to even thinking about adopting another pet. Finally, Angela went to the Humane Society and brought home the sweetest and most devious cat I’ve ever known.
Above: Our new CEO, Cosmo White
With his bent ear, white-tipped tail, and rascal personality, we somehow came up with the name Cosmo. To put the rascal description in perspective, I wanted to name him Cato (pronounced, ‘kay-toe’) from the Pink Panther series with Peter Sellers. You just never know when this otherwise sweet cat will suddenly play-attack us, or play-attack some random or imagined object. In a nutshell, Cosmo’s life is play-attack, eat, litter box, sleep, repeat. We should all follow in his paw prints.
Traveling With a Cat Tip: Cosmo is extremely curious about everything and wants to explore. As such, he often wears the above cat harness that calms him down considerably. He looks quite dapper, don’t you think?
We set out from southwest Florida in mid-May. The weather had started to do that stinkin’ hot, stinkin’ humid, late afternoon torrential thunderstorm with a 100-percent chance of stinkin’ mosquitoes routine that defines Florida’s weather for six months. Time to head north.
After visiting with our families in Maryland and Pennsylvania, we made a few stops to work and visit fellow truck campers and readers on our way to Maine. Note: If you want us to visit, you have to invite us. Just be warned that we might actually take you up on the offer.
We crossed into Maine on June 6th and made our first stop at the Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, Maine. A reader had suggested this free overnight camping spot and it didn’t disappoint. After taking your name and license plate number, you’re allowed to stay until noon the next day. We made a purchase in the store and then settled in the camper for a quiet evening.
The following morning we worked for a few hours at Kittery Trading Post before heading up the road to a Hannaford grocery store to work more and pick up a few items. That night we stayed at a Walmart in Falmouth, Maine. We really did stay in Falmouth. I swear!
Then, we stayed at the free RV parking lot in Freeport, Maine (shown above). This spot had been recommended by an untold number of readers and it was as advertised; easy to find, free, and an easy walk to L.L. Bean and the very touristy town of Freeport.
After work, we enjoyed stretching our legs and exploring the town. That’s when we discovered this fantastic L.L. Bean, “Bootmobile” thing. Look closely and you’ll notice the Ford F-Series under the stitched leather and untied laces. I have no idea why they made this, but I want one.
On Friday, June 10th, we closed our computers and drove to Brunswick, Maine and promptly couldn’t find anywhere to park. What lots were available were small, tightly segmented, and often reserved. After reminiscing about Falmouth, we parked at the downtown Hannaford. This Maine grocery store chain was quickly becoming our Maine parking respite and food source.
With Cosmo properly ventilated and comfortable in the camper, we walked into town. Angela and I both love antique and thrift stores and immediately found one. In the basement, I retrieved two LP records and brought them to the counter for purchase.
Above: This was almost the moment of my expiration
When the total flashed across the screen, I panicked. I knew we were experiencing record inflation, but I had no idea it was this bad. The tax alone would have me sleeping in the truck for the rest of the trip. How could a couple of used LPs have gotten this expensive? After a few nervous laughs, the ladies fixed the total and we were on our way.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of Brunswick was mostly retail. We might go out of our way to hit an antique mall or thrift store, but aren’t otherwise into shops and restaurants. That’s not our scene. We’re looking for the wonders of nature, the lessons of history, and the interesting things recommended by our readers, locals and visitors centers.
Above: Our first real glimpse of coastal Maine at Bailey Island
Which is why we made a B-line for Lands End on Bailey Island. Located at the tip of a thin and winding island-peninsula south of Brunswick and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Lands End was the first quintessential Maine coastline we had seen.
Even better, there was ample parking in a large dirt lot across the street. This lot was once marked as a free overnight camping location on iOverlander, but has since been removed. We found a, “No Overnight Camping” sign posted, a troubling occurrence that repeated itself several times during the trip.
After walking the rocks and taking in the views, Angela bought a half-dozen postcards in the Lands End Gift Shop and thanked them for the RV parking. We try to make a purchase at locations like this, especially if there’s a clear commercial business attached. Money, gratitude and good behavior may be our only chance at keeping RV access open.
On the way to Lands End Gift Shop we passed Johnston Field Preserve and Mackerel Cove, a picturesque cove and fishing village that happens to have a small public parking area.
Important Maine Tip: When you see something interesting with an open parking spot in coastal Maine, immediately park. You will drive past dozens of interesting things with nowhere to pull in. Even if you had a small car, most of the interesting spots have nowhere to stop. This is perhaps our number one complaint about coastal Maine. Parking is tough.
A few feet from our rig was a sign that read, “Indicates shark sighting in this area”. As it turns out, this is no idle warning. Two years ago, a 63 year-old woman from New York City was killed here by a great white shark. This was the first fatal shark attack recorded in Maine history.
After the initial shock and horror, my personal takeaway is two-fold. First, pay more attention to warning signs as there may be a grave reason they’ve been posted. And second, you just never know.
On the beach in front of the shark sign was this fishing boat – “Little Holly” – sitting oddly on her side as if sunbathing. Due to the remarkable tides in this area of the world, we would see many more boats on dry land as we headed north.
That evening we would have stayed at the New Brunswick Walmart but the AllStays app said it was discouraged. Instead, Angela found the nearby Topsham Fairgrounds had a campground for $30 a night. It offered water and electricity and had enough empty campsites to host a truck camper rally. I don’t think many people know this campground exists.
Apps We Use: iOverlander, Campendium, and All Stays are wonderful not just for recommended places to stay, but also for the comments people who have stayed in these places provide. We also use GasBuddy to find the lowest-priced fuel stations.
When we arrived, we were informed by the campground host that there would be an antique fair in that same field the very next morning. We couldn’t believe our luck and went to bed like kids on Christmas Eve. When we awoke the field was full of vendors and displays full of antique furniture, paintings, and all matters of vintage collectibles. None of it was on our must-own list, but we greatly enjoyed the presentation. Too bad it wasn’t a record show or radio swap meet. We might still be there.
Our next stop was the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, another highly-recommended Maine destination from our readers. After a number of frustrating parking situations, we were thrilled to see well-marked dedicated RV parking with plenty of space. Thank you, Maine Maritime Museum.
The main building houses an overview of Maine’s maritime history, economy, and culture. The paintings and models of wooden sailing vessels and Navy battleships were exceptional.
The six-foot model of the USS de Haven, a Sumner-class destroyer, stopped me in my tracks. This 1:192 scale ship was made by one man; Wolfgang Wurm. When you see the insane level of detail in real life, you understand the sublime level of artistry on display. I also wondered just how big my bathtub would need to be for this beast.
Other areas of this highly recommended museum include multiple preserved buildings from the Percy & Small shipyard, an operational blacksmith shop, a working boat shop, and the original shipyard owner’s home. Make sure you have the better part of a day to see everything.
Outside was a scale sculpture representing the schooner Wyoming; the largest wooden ship ever built in North America. If you love photography as much as I do, there’s a treasure trove of subjects throughout this museum.
When you purchase your tickets ($18 per adult, $16.50 for seniors) you have the choice to add a boat tour of the Kennebec River, its lighthouses, and a view of the Navy vessels under construction at the adjacent Bath Iron Works. With the museum entry, the fee for the one-hour cruise was $38 per adult. This was a relatively inexpensive way to get out on the water, a no-brainer for us.
The Bath Iron Works is an assembly line of Navy ship building. In addition to the ships nearing completion, you can see various ship sections under construction in the yard. We were there on a Saturday so there wasn’t much activity.
The same could not be said of Angela’s hair during the windy cruise. It was so fun to get out on the water on that cool June day and take it all in. Experiences like this are why we love traveling and truck camping so much. There’s nothing like a little wind in your hair, right Angela? I might be sleeping outside after this publishes.
That evening we went to the Boothbay Craft Brewery, Taphouse and RV campground in Boothbay. Now I know I said we don’t like campgrounds, but this one is special for two reasons. First, it’s the only craft brewery and campground we know of. And second, it’s owned and operated by fellow truck camper; Riley Mitchell and his family.
Even better, they have one dry camping site dedicated to the Harvest Hosts program. We’ve been members of Harvest Hosts since 2015 when we met the Founders, Kim and Don Greene, also fellow truck campers. Since that chance meeting seven years ago we’ve been to at least a hundred Harvest Hosts locations (probably more) throughout the United States and Canada.
Huge Tip: We love and highly recommend Harvest Hosts.
Above: There’s a bit of fun and whimsy about the Boothbay Craft Brewery
Other than reserving our site through Harvest Hosts, we did not tell Riley about our visit. When we pulled in, Riley approached our rig with a big welcoming smile, and then did a double take. We were just as excited to meet him and take in a patio dinner and craft beer.
Their restaurant had wood-fired pizza and soft pretzel bites – two of my all-time favorite food items. I also had the “Lawnmobeer”. All of it was delicious and the prices were more than fair. Stick me with a fork. I’m done. Thank you, Riley, family and crew! We hope to make your annual truck camper rally someday.
On our way out, we asked Riley about the nearby Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens ($22 per adult, $18 for seniors and veterans). We’ve had good luck and bad with botanical gardens over the years, but Riley didn’t hesitate. “It’s definitely worth it,” he said. We had met two Eagle Cap owners in the campground who echoed Riley’s sentiment, and a good truck camping friend, Cheryl White, had also recommended it. Okay, let’s do this.
Once we arrived, we were delighted to find plenty of camper-sized parking. We were not as delighted to find, “No Pets Allowed” signs posted around the lot. Other than service dogs, evidently, no animals are permitted at the Gardens. Of course, humans are animals so that rule seems to really limit their potential.
We’re not normally rule-breakers, but Cosmo would not use their grounds as a bathroom or bark during our absence. Most importantly, the weather was comfortable in the mid-70s. We put Cosmo in the camper, opened the windows, turned on the fan, and set out. I know, we’re practically felons.
Riley, the Eagle Cap owners, and Cheryl were right. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is incredible; right up there with Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Even if you’re not a flower and garden kind of guy (I’m really not), this was well worth the stop.
Oh, and there are five enormous trolls by Thomas Dambo, a world-famous recycled-materials artist. These, “Guardians of the Seeds” are tucked away throughout the woods. You literally have to find them as you go.
The twenty to thirty-foot tall sculptures are made from untreated wood and are expected to survive for five to ten years. It’s strange to think of something so incredibly well done that’s purposefully not designed to last.
We had a blast searching for each troll and – of course – getting our pictures taken with each one.
Botanical Gardens Tips: Prepare for a good amount of walking and consider bringing water, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, and the best camera you have. The Botanical Gardens wants you to purchase your tickets online before arriving. An attendant will scan your phone to access the ticket. However, their website is confusing on the phone. I recommend that you fill out the form and pay on your tablet/computer with an email address that you can access on your phone. Finally, if you don’t want to walk all of it or get tired, they have shuttles that go around the park.
I borrowed a Nikon D750 and Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens for this trip (thank you, Nicole). This lens is ideal for sharp close-ups of flowers and the like. For a photography geek like me, the Botanical Gardens and this particular Nikon and lens was heaven on a stick. See a few of my resulting shots above.
After the Botanical Gardens, we drove straight through Boothbay, and kept going, and going, and going. This was not exactly our intention but there was absolutely nowhere to park in town and then nowhere to turn around for several miles. No pull-offs. No parking lots. Nothing. We eventually turned around in a small church lot barely big enough for the process.
Riley did recommend a paid lot near the Boothbay fire station, but we were in no mood by the time we realized we should have heeded his advice. What is it with Maine and not having anywhere to park or turn around?
Our mood brightened considerably with our next stop; Pemaquid Lighthouse. Located in Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park ($3.00 per adult) in New Harbor, the lighthouse is surrounded by exposed bedrock that screams coastal Maine. Perhaps that’s why this lighthouse is found on the Maine State quarter. I am not the biggest fan of heights, but I managed to follow fearless Angela up the spiral lighthouse stairs to the top. Don’t look, Gordon. Just go.
Above: Panoramic photo, click to enlarge
This is the view from the top of the lighthouse. The Fresnel lens was gorgeous, as were the views of the Atlantic and the grounds below.
Above: Panoramic photo, click to enlarge
We lingered around the lighthouse for the better part of two hours taking in the ocean views, architecture, and fantastic Maine summer weather.
Above: The exposed bedrock juts into the Atlantic at Pemaquid Lighthouse
After the lighthouse, we checked into Pemaquid Point Campground to start our work week. We needed a dump station, fresh water, and a laundromat. Plus there weren’t any obvious free overnight parking opportunities in the area. We asked the campground office for a quiet spot, and they came through for a couple nights.
Above: Cosmo, our new CEO, is constantly “helping” us with TCM
Then, two nights and three days later we completed our work week at Wallace’s Market; self-described as the best and only convenience store in Friendship, Maine. Wallace’s is also a Boondocker’s Welcome location renowned for, “The Best Lobster Roll in Maine.”
Like seemingly all of the lobster rolls in Maine, their lobster roll was $28. Seriously there must be a state-wide conspiracy to charge $28 clams for a lobster roll. Angela and I split one and we can verify that it was indeed the best lobster roll we had in Maine. It was also the only lobster roll we had in Maine. All kidding aside, it really was excellent.
After work on our second day, we took the rig down to the water to see the boats and lobstermen. Once again, we were greeted by Maine’s narrow streets and no parking. When we finally did spot a possible parking site, we were practically chased out by an animated local. When the Friendship resident calmed down, we asked her where we could park. “Go to the cemetery,” she said. Okay, we will.
Despite the Friendship notice warning, “No overnight trailers, no unregistered trailers,” and, “Violators will be towed” we were undeterred. Cosmo in the camper. Windows open. Fan on, and go.
At the end of a short pier, we got another glimpse of quintessential Maine; lobstermen in their lobster shacks, lobster traps stacked high and wide, and staggered rows of moored lobster boats. The vibe wasn’t exactly inviting, so we didn’t stick around. A few choice clicks of the Nikon, and back to Wallace’s we went.
With the arrival of the weekend, we traveled to the Rockland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockland. This was not exactly the relaxing stroll I was hoping for after a work week. Imagine a 4,000-foot (1,200-meter) treacherous granite rock hike against a persistent and cold – no, frigid – wind.
Honestly, the picture doesn’t begin to do this tedious trek justice. The craggy rocks are awkwardly angled and spaced as to require your full attention to avoid certain death – or at least a bad scrape – all the while the wind is ripping through your ill-informed attire and, “I’m fine, really” attitude. At least they could sell you a hot coffee and tasty donut to survive the forced march back, but no. When you finally get there, the lighthouse is buttoned up solid. As I turned around at the far end of the breakwater, I realized this could answer the question, “Whatever happened to Truck Camper Magazine?”
This could be it.
Obviously, we survived.
Back in our truck, Angela punched in Camden, Maine. I had been to Camden twice in my early years and it remained as it was from memory; a small and historic coastal Maine town wrapped around a picturesque harbor.
Forty years later there was absolutely nowhere for anything bigger than an SUV to park, and even that would have been challenging with the volume of cars and people. From an RVer’s perspective, this was Boothbay all over again – but worse.
All was not lost as we entered Camden Hills State Park, ascended to Mount Battie, and found just enough room to park at the top. Shown above, Mount Battie overlooks Camden and brought back memories of being in this very spot with my parents all those years ago.
I’m sure many of you have had these amazing – and somewhat mind-bending – experiences of visiting a place you haven’t been since you were a child. It was exactly the same, and completely different. As am I.
Camden Hills Tip: The hill up to the top is quite steep, but very doable with a truck camper. The entrance fee is $6 for adults and $4 for Maine residents. It is $2 for non-resident seniors and $1 for children ages 5 to 11. Children under 5 and Maine residents 65 and over are admitted for free.
Next on the agenda was Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory. If you’re afraid of heights or tight spaces you might want to skip this one. Anyone with claustrophobia may not enjoy the 400-foot elevator ride up. Anyone with acrophobia could be freaked out by the floor-to-ceiling windows at the top. Here we go again, Gordon. Don’t look.
How do two people and a cat live in that tiny box?
After making our descent, we visited the adjacent Fort Knox. Not the US Bullion Depository in Kentucky, the Fort Knox in Prospect, Maine. Both are named after the same Major General Henry Knox. One Knox. Two forts.
This Fort Knox was well worth the stop if you’re into US history and military architecture. It’s also full of fascinating opportunities for photographers. Angela and I found several tucked-away rooms and spaces to explore and capture.
Unlike some forts, you have nearly full rein over the entire Fort Knox premises. I suspect this is the opposite of what you would experience at the Kentucky franchise.
Ft Knox/Penobscot Narrows Bridge Tip: They provide a two-for-one admission for Ft Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory; $7 for Maine residents and $9 for everyone else. For seniors, it’s $2.50 and $5.50 respectively. There is ample parking in both locations for RVs.
Our final stop of the day was the Big Chicken Barn Books store in Ellsworth, Maine. As advertised, this is a huge old chicken barn with gobs of glorious parking. We pulled in, walked up to the entrance, and saw that they were closing in fifteen minutes. Time to do a quick check for LP records. Go!
Angela was far more successful in finding her favorite collectible; cat figurines of every description. She found two in Big Chicken Barn, but the real prize was discovered while paying for her felines.
With the store closing, there hadn’t been time to explore the second floor. So I asked, “Could we stay in your parking lot overnight and come back in tomorrow morning?” The owner didn’t hesitate as I paid for the kitties. “Absolutely.” Our other choice would have been the Walmart in town, but this was way better. Sometimes it pays to ask.
Free Camping Tip: If you eat at a restaurant, drink beer at a brewery, go to an event at a venue or buy something at an antique store and the place just happens to have a big parking lot, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can stay overnight. What’s the worst that can happen? As a good friend of ours says, “Make them say no”.
The next morning we visited some fellow truck camping friends. Later that afternoon they took us to the Schoodic Peninsula of Acadia National Park, a less popular section of the park that wouldn’t be overrun this time of year. Having been to the more popular parts of Acadia National Park in-season, we knew to avoid that experience at all costs.
As you can see from the picture above, even in June, the Schoodic Peninsula was cold. Okay, not below freezing cold, but rather in the mid-50s and windy. Let this be a warning. If you spend too much time in Florida, your tolerance for cold goes right out the proverbial window. Note the two shivering snowbirds in this picture.
We spent a couple of nights with our friends socializing and then worked on TCM since it was during the week. We were also waiting for a Dometic refrigerator handle to arrive. Having things break and require repair is a common part of the road. Thankfully, it was an easy fix – this time.
Above: Our campsite at Sunset Point RV Park
Earlier I explained how we avoid RV parks for a number of reasons, but here we go with another campground. A reader had recommended Sunset Point Campground in Harrington, Maine. When Angela heard they will bring cooked lobster to your camper, she had to go.
When she Googled the campground name, she found Sunset Point RV Park in Lubec. Not realizing there were two different, “Sunset Point” campgrounds within 50 miles of each other, she booked the campsite.
Planning Maine Trip Tip: We only stayed at three campgrounds for a total of five nights on our three-week trip through Maine. This required a lot of planning. Angela planned our overnight camping schedule one to two weeks in advance. Places fill up quickly in Maine, especially during peak season. It’s important that you reserve ahead for the places that need to be reserved, especially if you want to stay at National Parks, State Parks or private campgrounds. Even some of the Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome locations were booked a week or two in advance. Also, when we do not have a reservation in a campground, we always have a Plan A and a Plan B.
Above: Panoramic photo, click to enlarge
As it turns out, it was a lucky mistake. Sunset Point RV Park was fantastic. The campground was right on the water and gorgeous. Cosmo nearly lost his mind with the duck pond behind us and Angela and I loved the relaxed atmosphere.
Tanks dumped. Fresh water filled. Laundry done. Everything charged. And two more solid days of work. I don’t usually recommend campgrounds, but this one even had double rainbows.
Our last and final stop in Maine was West Quoddy Lighthouse in Quoddy Head State Park. This is where Mike Johnson took one of the all-time best Truck Camper Magazine Calendar winning contests in 2011. Mike waited until sunset and captured a stunning image with his Eagle Cap 1160. I took my sad photo at about 10:30am in the miserable fog. It’s still an amazing lighthouse, but Mike’s image puts mine to shame. Fog happens.
Above: Fuel prices were going up fast during the first part of our trip
Shortly after visiting West Quoddy Lighthouse, we filled our fuel tank and crossed into Canada at Lubec. By using the techniques described in our, “10 Ways To Beat Fuel Prices” article, this was the first time we paid more than $5.00 USD per gallon for gas. Of course, the fuel prices would be significantly higher in Canada. As I filled our tank, a Canadian across the fuel island filled up his truck and filled up several gas containers.
This photo was taken about fifteen minutes after crossing into Canada. On our way to explore Campobello Island, our summer work and play adventure was only just beginning.
Final Traveling Through Maine Tip: We have two additional articles on Maine with more suggestions about places to see and places to camp in Maine; Maine: The Bucket List and Free and Frugal Camping in Maine.