Governor’s Travels: How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up A Bus and Found America
Down East Books
The best thing about Angus King’s new book is the layout. The design department at Down East deserves an award for the sleek style, flowing text and well-placed images that make Governor’s Travels — with its unwieldy subtitle, How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up A Bus and Found America — so pleasing to look at. But even excellent graphic design can’t hide the fact the ex-governor’s cross-country voyage in a 40-foot RV was friggin’ boring.
I’m not sure what’s most irritating about the 160 pages chronicling King’s non-exciting tale of a not-so-rollicking road trip that began the day he left office in January 2003. Is it the author’s constant, self-congratulatory pun-making? Or his incessant use of parenthesis? Or that the narrative is about as interesting as watching someone drive an RV? (Or grow a beard?)
I wasn’t expecting The Odyssey or On The Road or even Blue Highways, but I wanted some authentic American flavor or perspective. Instead we get photos taken through RV windows and King’s shout-outs to the various mechanics, tour guides and barbers across the nation who made this trip, which took place nine years ago, so uneventful.
There are four pages devoted to the breaking and repair of the motor home’s passenger-side mirror after King drove into the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. The tale is somarific enough to put a speed freak to sleep. Even more yawn-inducing is the full-page account of how the man who was once Maine’s highest elected official discovered why his satellite TV was malfunctioning: he’d neglected to read the instructions until they reached Texas.
There are a handful of mildly interesting insights into King’s private world. The fella loves national parks, but opposes one for Maine. The leader of the Pine Tree State never really appreciated trees until he saw a redwood. King would love to own a Humvee. And he has a huge bladder that allows him to drive long distances without stopping to take a leak — much to the chagrin of his family, who were cursed with normal-sized bladders.
In San Diego, the whole gang visited a gallery showing an exhibit devoted to Dadaism. When his 12-year-old son summarily discounted Duchamp’s response to the atrocities of World War I, King saw a teachable moment and agreed, declaring that Dada was “not art.” After a spontaneous visit to Las Vegas, King boasts, “We may be the first people to spend an entire evening in Vegas without losing a dime.” Beneath a photo of a casino named Whiskey Pete’s, King writes this caption: “Can anybody seriously argue that we should want this in Maine?”
King does want to gamble on wind power. In California, he saw an “amazing” sight. Windmills. Lots of ’em. “We couldn’t count them all, but there seemed at least a thousand, all silently turning against the blue of the sky. They looked cool … In fact, after returning to Maine, I got into the windpower business.”
A word of warning to Maine communities being courted by King and his windy associates. When you are near spinning turbines, they ain’t so quiet. Perhaps King didn’t hear ’em because he was at the helm of a huge diesel-slurping RV with the A/C roaring and the radio blasting oldies.
“Long before now, I should have mentioned one of our best discoveries of this trip — XM Satellite Radio. For $9.95 a month, we got a 100-plus
— Crash Barry