Ultimately we got everything packed, including Polliwog, who was dragged protesting from underneath the guest room bed and stuffed into her detested cat carrier. (We aren't really the sort of people who can't leave town without their pet; she is dying of cancer and now has to have a pill every day, so the choice was to take her with us or put her in the kennel, and this seemed the kinder choice. It's not clear she agrees, however, having seen little of Vermont but the undersides of beds.)
The first wildlife we spotted on our trip were three deer munching on a lawn a few blocks from our house.
Then it was on up the NJ turnpike, where we saw a blimp landing at a small airport south of Newark and, shortly before we got to Garbage State Park, spotted a wonderful new billboard: "Same day hernia operations; phone 1-800-HERNIAS".
We stopped at IBM Research's stunning building in Hawthorne to meet the Ryall's for lunch. (I kept wondering why nobody seemed to mind the fact that the mirrored ceiling tiles in the spectacular lobby visibly vibrated.) We had a nice visit with the Ryall's, mostly talking about their trip to Denmark for SEAS next week and ours to Australia for ASG next February.
As we drove further north in New York State, we were struck by the number of broken and bent trees in the woods along the road, apparently the result of last winter's heavy snows.
All afternoon, we played tag with the remnants of Hurricane Gilbert, barely getting rained on ourselves, but continually driving through areas that appeared to have just been rained on. We finally caught up with Gilbert's downpour just when Lee had predicted we would--when we were ready to unload the car in Bennington.
We got to Bennington around 5, checked into our motel, and went off to our favorite Bennington bookstore, leaving Polly behind under the bed. Having ransacked our house the previous evening trying to find our Vermont geology book (things have really gotten out of hand), we were relieved to be able to get another copy. The rest of the evening was devoted to reading and to a scrumptious dinner in the old train station, with warm chocolate walnut pie a la mode for dessert.
Having neglected to bring along any of the delightful catnip mousies Sandra makes for Polliwog, we had a considerable struggle luring her out from under the bed, but we finally succeeded with muttered curses all around, and headed on north.
As we headed north, we got into some blue sky and some signs of real fall foliage (our trip is a bit early this year, but we needed a vacation now).
We stopped in Manchester, to visit the used bookstore, where we were very good and decided not to buy the first edition Connecticut Yankee, though we didn't leave empty-handed. Sign on the closed side door of the bookstore:
.ce NO EXIT .ce Sartre
Lunch was in a restaurant in the center of Manchester that had the most amazing '30s juke box imaginable--all rotating colored lights and rising bubbles.
The lovliest place we passed through was one of Vermont's many "gulfs", which are very narrow canyons cut by sparkling streams. They are very damp, so the woods are full of ferns and mosses, with the occasional lacy waterfall. We stopped to inspect a particularly well made beaver damn built in a narrow gap between the roadway and the canyon wall.
Then one more bookstore stop, in Waitsfield, where we got a really interesting book about the Australian Outback (and enough others to cause the man problems with his new computer system).
We drove along giggling over a book about Burma-Shave signs I hadn't been able to resist buying:
SHE KISSED / THE HAIRBRUSH / BY MISTAKE / SHE THOUGHT IT WAS / HER HUSBAND JAKE / BURMA-SHAVEEarly in the evening, we reached Stowe and got settled into a nice townhouse overlooking Mount Mansfield. With the door to the back balcony open, we can hear Notch Brook, as it flows down from Smuggler's Notch. A good Swiss dinner in town, with Matterhorn Sundaes for dessert.
REMEMBER THIS / IF YOU'D / BE SPARED / TRAINS DON'T WHISTLE / BECAUSE THEY'RE SCARED / BURMA-SHAVE
WITH GLAMOUR GIRLS / YOU'LL NEVER CLICK / BEWHISKERED / LIKE A / BOLSHEVIK / BURMA-SHAVE
AT INTERSECTIONS / LOOK BOTH WAYS / A HARP SOUNDS NICE / BUT IT'S / HARD TO PLAY / BURMA-SHAVE
I USE IT TOO / THE BALD MAN SAID / IT KEEPS MY FACE / JUST LIKE / MY HEAD / BURMA-SHAVE
In the evening, we drove under moonlit clouds to Burlington to meet Sandra's plane from Philly. When we got back to Stowe, the first thing Sandra did was unpack the new mousie she had made for Polliwog--lavendar gingham with white eyelet ears and peach button eyes. It was very well received; in fact, it persuaded Polly to stop living under the bed.
After a few minutes enjoying the view of the mountains by moonlight from our back balcony, we all sacked out.
After stopping at the base store to buy a patch for Sandra's jacket, we went on over Smuggler's Notch to the beautiful hiking trail Lee had picked out for the day. The trail was reasonably dry, but the mountain itself was damper than most we've been on, with an amazing variety of mushrooms and mosses and ferns. We stopped on a sunny outcrop with a wonderful view of the next mountain and a lake to eat our lunch in the sunshine. When Sandra told us that the plums I'd packed in the lunches were the first she'd ever eaten, we made a point of planting the pits by the trail and hoping for plum trees some day. It was quite a strenuous hike for me, and I was about to drop by the time we got back to our car, but it was really a delight, too.
Back to Stowe for hot showers, a pause to watch the sunset (absurdly pink clouds streaked across the deep blue sky), and then dinner at the Swiss Pot, so Sandra could try a Matterhorn Sundae.
We headed north and east to get better color, and it was really lovely. We had a picnic lunch in St. Johnsbury, stopped in Lyndonville to try to get a postcard for Lyn Hadley (no luck--all the stores were closed) and then went on to Victory in the Hills, the annual fair in the two little towns of Victory and Granby, where we spent the afternoon. We watched the pony pull for a while, drank freshly pressed cider, saw a quilt exhibit, and browsed through lots of crafts exhibits, buying presents as we went. Sandra got her cocker Piqu a wonderful sheepskin hand puppet in the shape of a rabbit, which Piqu will certainly love. We also got Pat a turquoise worry stone, to go with his jade one (he needs more than one).
Back to Stowe for a good dinner and then a chance for Lee to build a fire in our fireplace as we spent the rest of the evening talking and watching the mountain.
As we drove down, the mist began to clear and we got some wonderful views, stopping every once in a while for picture taking.
Once down from the mountain, we headed straight for the Ben & Jerry's plant, where we got lots of souvenirs for ice cream loving friends, and a few samples for ourselves. I had a cone of Chocolate Cointreau Orange Fudge ice cream that was unbelieveably good.
From there, we drove west to Burlington, with Sandra busily repacking her bags along the way. First stop in Burlington was the Champlain Chocolate Company plant, where we watched them making chocolate Christmas trees and Canada geese and then bought lots of stuff, causing Sandra to have to repack even more ingeniously.
We stopped after that for a walk on the lake shore, with a beautiful view across Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks. Then north a bit to Winooski, to the old textile mill, where we raided a crafts shop and were blessedly given two stout shopping bags, so Sandra could repack again. We had lunch at a restaurant in the mill overlooking the river and falls sparkling in the sunshine. (This is the restaurant with the wonderful old brass ceiling fans run by belts.)
Finally, we were off to the Burlington International Airport, where we sat drinking lemonade and enjoying the splendid view of the mountains from Mansfield to Camels Hump. We were relieved that Sandra's row on the plane was among the first called, so that she would be able to monopolize the overhead racks. We waited to make sure they'd really let her on the plane with all that stuff, and then drove back to Stowe for a quiet evening.
It was cold and overcast as we set off south. We stopped first at the Ben & Jerry's plant to ask them to send Chris some ice cream (they can't ship the Chocolate Cointreau Orange Fudge, however; it's already tempered and would get ice crystals). We each got a cone for the road, of course; Lee tried Chunky Monkey, but I stuck with CCOF.
As we drove further south, we got into blue skies and bright sunshine and spots of very good color. We ambled along on country roads most of the day, stopping for an hour for a total pigout in a favorite bookstore in Manchester. (One thing we got was as Australian bird book--they have a zillion birds we've never seen, including a robin with a cotton-candy pink breast.)
Then on down to Bennington for the night, a good turkey dinner and one more pass at the warm chocolate walnut pie. (Can you believe that the only word I got wrong on all my spelling tests in the seventh grade was "chocolate"?)
We will be home by tomorrow evening.
Love to you all,