February 4, 2003 By Government Technology
America, watch out for Maine's former governor driving a 40-foot motor home: Angus King said he has rarely been behind the wheel in eight years.
"But it's like riding a bicycle; you don't really forget it." King said during a stop in Savannah, Ga. "I've now driven the RV about 1,500 miles, so I'm starting to get the feel of it although it's still a very large vehicle when you're going around the corner."
On Jan. 9, the day after Gov. John Baldacci was sworn in as King's successor, the two-term Independent governor set out on a cross-country RV trip with his wife Mary Herman, and children Ben, 12, and Molly, 9.
"It's a different kind of stress," King said in comparing the trip to being governor.
King, who won acclaim for putting laptops in the hands of Maine's seventh graders, invites Web surfers to come along with him on the five-month trek along the perimeter of the contiguous states.
Photos, regular updates and even a floor plan of the RV are posted at his site named after his daughter, Where's Molly?
"Mary and I said, 'Here's a way we can send everybody a postcard at once,' and it was a way of keeping in touch with our friends," King said of the Web site.
But the Where's Molly site has taken on a life of its own -- with 50,000 visitors in one week -- because National Public Radio has publicized it when King phones in reports about his travels.
So far the journey has included snowy North Carolina roads and one night of shivering because the RV's furnace broke.
"Everywhere we've been has been record cold," King said. "This is your Maine training: You know how to make due. A 100-watt light bulb kept the plumbing department warm enough so the pipes didn't freeze. And also, we left our faucets dripping. That's another thing you learn in Maine on a really cold night."
Daughter Molly and son Ben are being home-schooled between tourist spots. So far they've seen the U.S. Naval Academy, visited Kill Devil Hills, N.C. (the site of the first powered flight), and surveyed the architecture of Charleston, S.C. The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and New Orleans are coming up.
King will reach Texas by the end of February, California by the end of March, Montana in May, before returning home to Maine in June. He is mapping the route for his 12 and a half foot high vehicle with the help of a truckers' digest of low overpasses.
The family stops at RV parks along the way, and pulls a minivan behind the RV to make visits into towns easier. King's land yacht includes a TV, satellite radio, sofa, bunk beds for the kids, a refrigerator, cook top and shower.
"It's a great way to travel," King said. "We're staying in places about four days at a time. It's like a series of four-day trips where you carry your hotel room around with you. The primary purpose of the trip was for the kids and the family to have this experience. But I knew that if I left office and the next day, got up in the morning and didn't have anything to do but read the paper, I'd go nuts."
"So this trip is very engaging in the same way the job was engaging, only on different subjects," he continued. "I'm working on making reservations at the RV park, making sure the furnace is working. So it's not like I don't have anything to do, it's just different."
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