Traffic Jams in The County

While we zig zagged The County looking for property, more than once there were obstructions on the road. The one pictured above was right off the main street in Presque Isle. Kind of hilarious as that is rarely something encountered in rural Clark County WA. Here in rural Maine it was daily. Who ever was driving would attempt to let people pass if he could, but these machines were MASSIVE. Most of the time they took up two or three lanes. Traffic would often be blocked in both directions. These things have to move from field to field and the public roadway is the only way to get it done.

We stayed in Bangor’s HoJo for only three days and then got a room at the Crown Park Inn located on the east side of Caribou.

Crown Park Inn, Caribou ME

The people were very nice and they hooked us up with a suite that was tantamount to a small apartment. The price was right as well.

The only downsides were that it was old and there was a faint mustiness, but they also had construction going on. Remodeling was in progress all over, but still we were happy to have it.

We ended up going to another hotel after a few days, one where we had stayed on our recon trip from May of this year. The Aroostook Hospitality Inn.

Aroostook Hospitality Inn

We stayed at their Washburn location which is only five miles from the main drag in Presque Isle. They have another one up in Van Buren, very close to the Canadian border.

The owner Steve Dobson was a nice old guy and proved to be very helpful, more so than anyone else. He asked,”If you don’t mind me asking, why are you driving two vehicles?” We told him that we had sold my house and moved all of our stuff from WA state into storage in Bangor. We wanted to live in the area and that we loved it here.

He seemed to sigh for a second and then got on his computer. He said,”If you contact the chamber of commerce, they can give you a list of all the registered landlords in the area who might have something to rent. But I can print out that list for you right now.” We were thrilled! He then proceeded to go through the list with us commenting on what he thought of each one. “Yeah, these are good people here. Oh, this one here is a scammer. And this one is ok, but I don’t know them that well.”, and on and on he went.

He warned us about he moose and retold a story about hitting a moose with his truck and nearly killed him. He had hit a total of five moose in his lifetime. The last time the sheer mass of his truck was the only thing that kept the poor moose from crushing him in the cab. The top of the engine had sheered off the block and the hood had crinkled up like an accordion bellow, stopping the body of the moose from squishing him like a bug. We thanked him for the warning and were on our way.

Now, most people that know me are familiar with my ability to talk for hours without stopping, but I’m not a charmer. So we pulled into the Burger King parking lot in Presque Isle. I sat in my truck and Steph started making calls from her car. She sounds nicer than me and knows how to not piss people off.

While she called the dozens of people from the list, I sat and observed the town. There was an older couple selling something from their cargo van to passersby or people who stopped. Turned out to be BBQ. They had a trick setup that when they were done just folded in on itself and you could barely see the smoker and rack that held their canopy. I watched them break it down and put it all away. They moved slowly and deliberately, but in a way that bespoke the hundreds of times they had done it before. I wondered if Steph and I could be so lucky. I started daydreaming about raising, smoking and eating pigs.

My vision came into focus again and my mind back to reality when a guy walked very closely in front of the truck. His broad hat, plain blue button down shirt, and long beard with no mustache made it obvious he was an Amish guy. He had a canvas shopping bag folded under his arm and he gave me a glance on his way to the Marden’s that shared BK’s parking lot. Marden’s is like a Bi-Mart or other discount retailer, with closeouts and constantly changing product lines.

As if on cue, an Amish buggy went by on the main road and two women were driving it. I’m somewhat familiar with the Amish, like most people nowadays. However, they aren’t a site you see in the Portland, OR metro area. I thought how cool it was. These people are here believing what they want to believe and no one is giving them crap for it. At least not from what I heard. In The County, the Amish are a big part of the area and run several construction and manufacturing businesses, as well as farms of course.

One such business is Sturdi-Bilt. They make sheds, camps and other out buildings for very reasonable prices. They have a facebook page, but no website otherwise. I visited them on my own, but they were closed that day. They build them to order and have a few buildings on hand, but none of the bigger ones we were interested in. Still, what I saw was impressive and when we finally got land, we were going to definitely talk to them.

Anyways, Steph was finally done and the results were not thrilling. Most people didn’t take cats, would rent to you without a job, or simply didn’t have anything available. Our choices were limited.

We went to a couple of addresses and one was very nice but they were unsure about renting to two unemployed out of state people. I offered to prepay for an entire year up front, but we never heard back from them. Another place was in downtown Presque Isle, but it was moldy smelling and hadn’t been remodeled since the 1960’s. The landlord was a river guide during the summer and was leaving for a kayak trip the next day. We could fill out an app, but he was going to be gone a week. All I saw was another $700 down the drain to a hotel. All on a maybe. I don’t like maybe’s.

What if we just bought a crappy house outright and fixed it up? We got a hold of a guy that had a few houses in the $20K to $30K range. Yes, you can buy a house for that cheap, but as we found out, most of them would have made Bob Vila sweat without even stepping inside.

We drove around a whole day looking at four houses. One in Van Buren, one in Fort Kent, another outside Limestone and one more who’s town escapes my memory. Each was a disaster. They all had weird smells, mold, uneven floors, apparent foundation issues, and the list goes on. One had busted out windows and was partially gutted. It was very demoralizing.

After the last house, we drove away (still in two vehicles) and the first feelings of real frustration started to creep into my heart. I’m handy and intelligent enough to figure things out, but I’m not a master carpenter. I didn’t come to Maine to fight a battle with a house the rest of my life. We came here to homestead and farm.

We’re flying down the road, it had started to rain and it felt a lot like WA state. That’s when we saw the moose on the side of the road. At first I thought it was a big deer but as we got close it became clear that it was much larger than any deer. It had no antlers, so it was a female or cow, and it was calmly eating grass out of the ditch next to the two lane road. We slowed way up, Stephanie in front and me behind in the truck. I tried to get a pic but there were cars behind and I didn’t want to get rear ended. When my truck went by it got a bit spooked and jumped up to the edge of the woods only 20 feet away. The people behind me slowed way down, stopped I think. But we kept going, cursing myself for not having my GoPro setup and running. At least we didn’t hit it.

We drove back to the hotel. A very demoralizing day top off with a bit of terror and awe.