Given the inclement conditions I had purchased a plastic cape to prevent getting drowned out again. It was akin to wearing a damp plastic bag, the Gore-Tex version was not yet available, I stepped out into the oppressive drizzle wearing it, hoping it didn’t rip as it flapped about. Not having the time or the inclination to follow the tourist route on the ferry, I headed for the Pierre Laporte Bridge across the St. Lawrence River. This bridge was named after the local politician who was kidnapped and killed by the Front de libération du Québec back in 1970. Highway 73, later becoming the 173 Route du Président-Kennedy, heads straight down to the USA and the State of Maine. I crossed back into the States at the tiny Armstrong border post, just went straight through after flashing my passport. Everyone was too wet to care. A good long lift to Waterville, then the lifts got shorter and rarer: who wants to pick up a drowned rat?
I was so grateful for lifts that I remember nothing about them. I was heading for Topsham in Maine to meet some more friends I had met in Morocco, my 21st Birthday had been spent with them and together we had managed to locate a bottle of wine in Essaouira, not so easy back then. David was a tall, rangy guy, quietly spoken, but looking halfway between Jim Morrison and a hippy Jesus. He was a carpenter at the time, there was a relaxed aura around him. Régine, his partner, was from Nantes in France, and had an excitable, bubbly personality, alway finding something artistic to enthuse about. Together they were chalk and cheese and in love.
Found myself on the way out of Augusta on Water Street. As the day closed in I realised I might not make it, the only address I had for my friends was the name of a school. No lifts presented themselves, even though I was avoiding the main highway to get local lifts. Suddenly, further down the road, there was a screeching of tyres. Oh, what now? A Chevrolet pick-up truck had stopped and now it was reversing back up the road, someone was yelling out of the window. It was another great moment of synchronicity on my trip: it was my friends who had seen me but they couldn’t believe their eyes; the last time they had seen me had been five months ago and five thousand miles away. I had not even been looking, I hardly recognised them, it was unbelievable.
Excitedly I squeezed into the cab, luck was my lady that night. David and Régine told me they had moved from Topsham and there would have been no forwarding address for them, since the school was closed for the summer. Now they were living in Bowdoinham, just a bit further down the road, and of course I could stay. They could not believe the events leading to our reunion either, they had been delayed, they never came this way, they didn’t think it was me, it couldn’t be, so why stop?
Still overcome by the random nature of our encounter, we parked up by the side of a very quiet rural road in front of a small homely house, all wooden inside. Dogs welcomed us. There was an air of celebration, as we gabbled away about the events since we had last seen each other. I had to tell them my travelling companion Roy had caught a bad case of hepatitis while in Morocco, I had come out unscathed and finally recovered the money from my stolen Travellers Cheques. They had come back to the States, a difficult decision for Régine to leave France and family, and were now living out the rural idyll in this backwater.