Former Gov. Angus King’s advice for planning a major six-month road trip around the country in a recreational vehicle you’ve barely driven with two young children aboard?

“Don’t plan,” King said Friday while unveiling his new book, “Governor’s Travels.” It chronicles the trip that he, his wife, Mary Herman, and their two children took right after King finished his second term as governor in January 2003.

The book’s subtitle is: “How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up a Bus and Found America.”

King’s advice — which he said left the family open to many unexpected highlights — along with a chronicle of the journey, several essays and 360 photos from the trip are in the book, which was published this month by Down East Books.

Friday evening, he presented a travelogue for about 100 people at the Portland Public Library, accompanied by dozens of slides. He later autographed copies of the book.

The King family started the trip just 15 hours after his successor, Gov. John E. Baldacci, was sworn in. The family — King, Herman, Ben (12 at the time) and Molly (9 at the time) headed south to Williamsburg, Va., where King had pre-positioned the new recreational vehicle at his wife’s suggestion.

Herman didn’t want to get caught in a Maine snowstorm while her husband — who hadn’t driven for eight years — learned how to pilot the bus. Of course, they hit a freak Virginia snowstorm just after starting out.

King shared some highlights of the trip, such as beautiful vistas in the Southwest, and some unexpected delights, such as a zydeco music breakfast in Louisiana. As for the “no planning” advice, he said many of those moments resulted from asking locals about places where they liked to go and then following their recommendations.

There were plenty of humorous moments, too, like the town in Arizona where someone had gone through and painted over the “PAR” in the “NO PARKING” signs to make them say: “NO KING.”

King posed for a picture with one of the signs and said, “The only thing I could think of was, ‘Thank God nobody in Maine had thought of that.’“

King said he was recognized only a few times, mostly by other Mainers on vacation who saw through the thick white beard he grew. In RV parks, King said, he introduced himself as “a retired state employee.”

The trip was chronicled on a website, The site was originally intended as a way for King’s daughter, Molly, to keep in touch with her classmates back in Maine. But after National Public Radio asked King to contribute some reflections along the way — and offered to pay half the cost of the gas — it gained a wider following. The site is still available online.

King said he decided to write the book after several people suggested he do so, since he still had a journal of the trip in the form of the website. He said the book was fun to pull together, and he hoped it would inspire others to take on a similar adventure.

King said he and Herman have another trip in the works: They “plan” to leave after dropping Molly off at college in the fall of 2012.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]