Gov. Angus King has been steering the state through economic ups and downs for eight years. Now, he’s looking out for high gas prices and low bridges as he gets behind the wheel of his new land yacht.
The day after Maine’s independent governor finishes his second term and hands the Blaine House keys to Democrat John Baldacci, King will be outta here with the wife and children for a cross-country trip in a new recreational vehicle.
King, who has barely had a chance to drive a car since he took office, can’t wait for the odyssey to begin.
He’s been talking about it for a couple of years and finally has his RV packed and ready for what’s planned as a 51/2-month trip.
“The RV is really a rolling hotel room,” said King, who at 58 is in the age category that’s helped propel RV sales to new heights in recent years. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
King, his wife Mary Herman and their children Ben and Molly, won’t be launching their RV trip from Maine. After buying the vehicle from a dealership in Sabattus, the family packed it and King says he “very quietly” drove it to Williamsburg, Va., a little before the Nov. 5 election.
It’s now in an RV park in Virginia, the state where King grew up and his mother still lives.
The family decided to start the trip in Virginia because Maine’s winter weather can make driving tricky for regular motorists, much less someone driving what amounts to a 40-foot bus.
King already has pored over the maps.
“We’re basically going to do the perimeter of the country, down the East Coast, across the panhandle of Florida, Louisiana and Texas, [and spend] a lot of time in the Southwest,” King said. “Then up the West Coast to Glacier National Park and Seattle, maybe Alaska if we have time, then back across to Maine.”
King said he and his wife would home-school their children during the journey, which he described as a series of one-week trips strung together.
Once they arrive at a destination, King and his family will find an RV park, plug in and stay for four or five days.
King said the trip will provide a much-needed breather after an intense and exhausting eight years as the state’s chief executive, but it also will have other benefits.
“Number one, it will hopefully be a great lifetime memory for the kids. But secondarily, I’ve come to realize that it’s going to be important for me, because it will be engaging without being politics,” the outgoing governor said.
King imagines watching his successor being sworn in Jan. 8 and then waking up the following morning with no job, then picking up the newspaper and reading about Maine’s new government taking hold.
“I’ll go nuts,” said King.
By setting out on his road trip, “I’ll be thoroughly engaged.” Instead of budget numbers or health care or taxes, he’ll be focusing on the tow bar for the Honda minivan he’ll haul behind the silver-green Newmar Dutchstar. Or low bridges.
King said he’s already become so fixated on low overhangs along the highways that he got a book listing all of the bridge heights.
“When you’re twelve-feet-six, you suddenly pay more attention to those things than you did when you were in a station wagon,” he said with a laugh.
On a serious note, King said the trip also would serve to get him far away from the public stage as Baldacci establishes his administration and takes control.
“I don’t want to be the man who came to dinner and never went home,” King said. “I think it’s not a bad idea to get away once your successor gets settled in. I don’t want reporters calling and saying, ‘What do you think of the governor’s budget?”‘
Looking beyond his trip, King has made it clear he has no plans to run for political office, although he expects to participate in some public issues like a proposal by two Indian tribes to build a casino in the state.
Beyond that, “I’m not kidding and I’m not being coy. I have no idea,” King said.