It’s mud season in rural Maine.
I know this because, despite being a New Jersey native, I’m spending most of April in one of my favorite states.
I can do this because I quit my job and now my life is filled with rampant lawlessness.
When I arrived in rural Maine, intending to volunteer on a friend’s farm sanctuary for two weeks, I didn’t immediately realize my cell signal had given out. A half hour earlier.
I diligently followed my friend’s instructions to “look for the next driveway after the sanctuary’s entrance,” where my cabin was located. Instead I saw train tracks and a sign that read, “Pavement ends.”
Being from what you might call a New York City suburb, I interpreted that to mean, “TURN YOUR CAKE ASS AROUND, JERSEY.” I did so happily, heading back towards the sanctuary’s driveway instead.
“Mud season” wasn’t just a cute saying. My non-all wheel drive sedan squealed for mercy as I attempted to haul her up the hill.
“Oh my GAWD are you f*@#&$ kidding me?” I imagined her saying. “I am sooooo going to need a pedicure after this.”
I had gotten AAA before the trip, though, and felt
cavalier mildly confident. (Until later, when I realized I wouldn’t have even been able to call AAA if I HAD gotten stuck.)
Once I made it to the sanctuary, the owner looked confused. I explained that I couldn’t find the cabin. Apparently I was supposed to charge past the “Pavement ends” warning and go another mile or so to “the next driveway.” I felt silly explaining that in Jersey terms, “the next driveway” is usually measured in feet. Sometimes inches. I kept quiet and accepted her gracious offer to lead me there – something I knew she didn’t have time for.
Running a farm sanctuary is No. Joke.
“Thank you so much. Just a warning that I’m going to keep a safe distance from you going downhill.”
She smiled knowingly, casting a glance at my mud-spattered pansy car.
We soon reached the small cabin, which was clean and well lit, warm from gas heat and equipped with the basics. Except internet. Which, I quickly began to realize, was going to throw a wrench into this whoooole plan. I checked my phone; still no service whatsoever.
“This mayyyy be a problem,” I said, feeling the panic start to rise in my throat, the extent of my remote location settling in.
Let me just text… No.
Let me just look up the nearest… No.
Let me just check the weather for tomorrow and… No.
I waited until she left to execute what would come to be the first of many, many strategies to try to make the next couple of weeks work out.
I’m just going to drive towards a town, and see when my service picks up. I didn’t even bother unpacking, just loaded Uncle Jesse (the dog) back in the car. As I made the first turn, my stomach flip-flopped, trying to memorize my surroundings. Holy god I miss Google maps. The sun would set in less than an hour, so after just a few minutes, I decided to give up and turn around in a church parking lot. The last thing I wanted to do was make the situation worse by getting lost.
As I did a U-turn, I noticed the church’s sign.
I decided to go back to the sanctuary -walking from the bottom of the driveway this time- and borrow someone’s phone to let my family know I had arrived safely. A volunteer was sorting vegetables and happy to offer her phone, so after I successfully texted Babs (mom), I helped sort produce for the next couple of hours, chatting and feeding Uncle Jesse stray bits of cauliflower.
Thankfully, my phone still worked as a flashlight, and we made it back to the car and our cabin. It was pitch black. As I unpacked the car, I caught a glimpse of the stars twinkling brightly – the way they only could when not overpowered by street lamps and cramped houses. I stood still, and for the first time in hours, took a deep breath.
Maybe this will all work out…
I finished unpacking, popped some potatoes in the little oven for Uncle Jesse, and cracked open a bottle of wine, deciding to make the most of my off-grid night. I’d sort out my phone issues in the morning.
Fast forward two days, and my phone -even with a new, more expensive carrier- still wasn’t working. Nor were my pseudo, DSW-purchased “muck boots,” which I managed to puncture by repeatedly tripping on a sharp rock while cleaning the rabbit houses.
Every two minutes, I thought of some reason I needed to use my phone, or get online. Upcoming bills I had to pay, friends with momentous events I had planned to check in on,
ASMR videos on YouTube I needed to watch, travel plans I’d yet to make…
Shame washed over me in endless, sickening waves. I am so fu@*#^% soft. Here I thought, with my tiny living and frugal spending, I’d become so flexible! So strong! So adaptable! But 48 hours without a phone broke me, and after Sunday’s full work day, I fled back to my comfort zone, checking into a pet-friendly motel 90 minutes south, in one of my favorite parts of Maine.
“Does the dial go all the way up to ‘donkey’?” I asked Darla when I stopped by the next day to do laundry.
How would you fare if you were unexpectedly off-grid?