The Maine Winter Romp - Top 10 Reasons To Stay in A Motel
By Jeffrey B. Aronson
The Maine Winter Romp took place again in February. Enthusiast Bruce Fowler organizes this annual event from his home in the Unity, ME, region. Once a region renown as America's poultry-raising center, Unity is now the home of an environmental education college, small farms and rural businesses, and a great "share the land" ethos. As in years past, the event proved quite entertaining albeit chilly and snowy.
In earlier incarnations of the Romp, most attendees chose to winter camp in rudimentary cabins or in their tents. The thrill wore down quickly for all but the most dedicated This year's event provide the top ten great reasons to enjoy motel living
Reason #1 - Running Water and Flush Toilets
While arguments can be made [somewhat unsuccessfully] for winter camping, melting vast quantities of snow sullied by defecating animals and inhabited by unthinkable bacteria made me yearn for running water. While arguments can be made that real men don't fear marking their territory while standing, squatting in snow is another thing altogether. A flush toilet, located in a warmed-up room, provides genuine relief while permitting you to read the Rovers North News in comfort.
Reason # 2 - The Welcome
Instead of camping alone, this year's event featured an "Event Motel." Bruce Fowler chose a Holiday Inn, complete with heat, bathrooms, a bar, pool, and a marquee sign that read "Welcome Land Rovers." That's so much nicer than just a mound of snow covering a hovel in the ground.
Reason #3 - The View
The Holiday Inn in Waterville, ME, is only a 20 minute drive from Unity, the home base of the Maine Winter Romp. It's rare that beautiful vistas in Maine include parking lots but that was not the case this February weekend. From my room I could view dozens of Series Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Discoverys and Defenders, most bristling with off road gear and covered with snow, ice and mud. Rarely has the beauty of New England shone so brightly.
Reason #4 - Dry Boots
53 Land Rovers from eight states and three Canadian provinces attended the event. The drivers alone would account for 106 feet, most of them wet. Given the number of additional enthusiasts - friends, spouses, significant others and children - who seemed to be everywhere, over 200 pairs of sopping wet boots required drying by the end of the first day.
The wet boots reveal one of northern New England's dirty secrets. Connecting all the rocky coast, sandy beaches, stunning hills and mountains are vast stretches of bogs. Poke below the surface of many forests and fields and you'll find the kinds of swamps, marsh or soft clay beloved by moose everywhere. Given the number of Rovers on the trails, it didn't take long to break through the surface ice and snow and find the inner muck below.
Muck means water, too, and if you're like me, you found water in the floorboards of your Rover - even when you thought you had good door seals on your II-A. When you're near the rear of the convoy, you'll find yourself in water more often as the ground gives way under the weight of many Rovers. Murphy's Law dictates that your boots will become wet near the beginning of any trail. Thus your feet will be wet for much of the afternoon. Motel rooms have blazing heaters that can dry off boots and socks overnight without any problems.
Reason # 5 - Warmth
This year the temperature stayed reasonable for a New England winter's day; we enjoyed sunny, cold days during the three day event. Once the sun went down, the temperature quickly dropped and reminded you that spring is a long time off. The lower temperatures also made the snowy surface very slick as any moisture turned to ice. With the memories of the 2001 Winter Romp and its -10 degree F temperatures firmly implanted in the mind, we dressed warmly for this year's event.
You left previous year's events quite chilled because all the vehicles followed each other in one long convoy. Given the conditions, you could be on the trails for many, many hours. This year, Bruce Fowler wisely broke up the group into four convoys, led by Francois Kirouac, Chris Comar, John Cranfield, and Bruce himself. One trail followed power lines up and down hills, others dumped you into streams following snowmobile trails, and a fourth followed the railbed of an old narrow gauge railroad line. All four trails included barely frozen swamps and marshes. This is also a heavily wooded area; the trees blocked the wind so much of the snow had built up all season. Snowmobile clubs had kept parts of the trails tamped down but you didn't have to venture far -say for a bathroom break - to find deep snow.
Our off road days started after breakfast and continued until dusk. This year we ended up at a series of cabins along the Sebasticook River. There we also found a couple of dozen snowmobilers who welcomed us warmly and offered us the use of their blazing campfires. On Saturday, sunset was the first opportunity for all the off roaders to meet together since breakfast. For warmth, some turned to hot soup, coffee or tea; others turned to the freely offered beer and wine. I enjoyed the warmth of the campfire and augmented it with the warmth of the room. .
Reason #6 - Conviviality
Waterville, Maine, is a college town and regional center, but the arrival of a couple of hundred extra people, particularly hungry off-roaders, taxed the local restaurants. By the time a group had arrived at the aptly-named Freedom Café, the list of "what we've run out of" exceeded the items on the menu. Nevertheless, the food and company were both terrific. Catching up with off-road enthusiasts from Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Quebec and Nova Scotia made for a delightful dinner.
A motel with a bar [!] further added to the conviviality factor and added the states of Vermont and New Hampshire to the list above.
Reason #7 - Hot Showers
Despite all the water underneath the surface, many of us in living in northern New England suffer from minimal water delivery systems. Rarely have I rented a house anywhere in rural Maine or Vermont with a powerful shower. Adding to the challenge is the high costs of fuel oil and electricity; even if I were blessed with a high water pressure, I'd be reluctant to take long hot showers for reasons of frugality.
Ah, but when you take a motel room in a real town with a municipal water system, you can enjoy a nice long, hard shower. Since the heating costs are included in the room charge, you can perform several more songs, and all their verses from your favorite musical repertoire, without guilt.
The hot shower also helps overcome the impact of the wet boots [see #4].
Reason #8 - Free Soap and Shampoo
Invariably riding around off road in a Land Rover will get you and your clothes dirty. There's no escaping the mud, oil, grease and gasoline stains that result from actually getting out of your vehicle. Even putting your hand near the tow strap, or loosening the shackle bolt, results in guaranteed grime on your clothing or your body. Lots of free soap and shampoo will leave your clothes clean [see boot drying above] and your body shiny.
Reason # 9 - Enclosed Shop Space
Should you need to repair or clean a part from your car, why risk frostbite when you can work from the comfort of your room? Remove the part[s] from your car and enjoy the warmth in your new quarters. This Holiday Inn featured a table in the room that served as a handy workbench and several towels that could double as shop cloths. Cups and ice buckets provide useful storage areas so you don't lose small parts. Need to pressure wash something? The shower was quite handy and large, so you could fit sizeable components inside. In room telephones offer free connections to toll free numbers in case you need the experts at Rovers North.
Reason #10 - Recovery
Repeated winching of cable to extricate vehicles, such as we had to do when crossing the first stream and climbing up an icy snowbank, demands that the battery be recharged [a good alternator helps here], the cable be rewound smoothly and tightly, and that various components be cleaned and re-adjusted for the next day.
Repeated winching-in of vast quantities of appetizers, bar snacks, dinner entrees, and drinks also demands re-charging time of the body. You need to freshen up, relax after the exhilaration and/or fright of the day, and clean and adjust your components. Otherwise, you won=t be ready for the enormous Sunday breakfast at the legendary Big G's diner. That's where the entire group gathers every Sunday morning to examine each other's Land Rovers, swap fibs about our off road feats and enjoy the company of the remarkable people - of all ages and gender - who show up annually. Refreshed this way, you'll be ready for next year's Maine Winter Romp, too.
Copyright 2005, Jeffrey B. Aronson and Rovers North
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."