Postcards from Vermont, 1988

Bennington, Vermont, Tuesday, September 20, 1988

We left early (well, early for us) this morning, following a Monday that had set new records for Mondayness. Our first challenge was to get the car loaded despite the fact that our front door was being painted. When the painters realized that we weren't going to move our car out of their way until they let us out, they were quite helpful. (I hate to disappoint those of you who voted for orange-and-black stripes or orange-and-black plaid for the doors; our neighbors settled on a muted forest green for all the doors in our building.)

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.

Stowe, Vermont, Wednesday, September 21, 1988

This morning, when Lee went out to get croissants for our breakfast, he discovered that our car had been vandalized overnight: the outside mirror and one windshield wiper were gone; the other wiper, on the driver's side, was bent almost off. He was able to get the one wiper bent back so that it would work. After several phone calls, we have decided that nobody in Vermont carries the replacement wiper arms, since, of course, they never break.

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:






Early 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.

Stowe, Vermont, Thursday, September 22, 1988

We woke this morning to find that the rain was all gone and the sky was incredibly blue. I spent the day curled up reading The Fatal Shore in anticipation of our forthcoming trip to Australia, while Lee went out exploring. In the evening we went down to Stowe for dinner and then to see A Fish Named Wanda, which was very funny.

Other images:

Stowe, Vermont, Friday, September 23, 1988

This morning, I made maple cornmeal muffins for breakfast, served with fresh Vermont applebutter (after sending Lee to town to buy some measuring cups and spoons). Then he left for another day of exploring, while I decided to take it easy again.

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.

Stowe, Vermont, Saturday, September 24, 1988

We woke to a fantastically beautiful day, with a bright blue sky--just the weather we needed to take Sandra for her first time on the Alpine slide. It was a great morning, with almost nobody else on the mountain, so we got in five completely unobstructed runs. Sandra took to it right away. She decided on her second run to go all the way down without using the brakes. She was moving fast when she got to the bottom, but we soon noticed that one sleeve of her nylon windbreaker had three good-sized holes melted into it, a sure sign of a wipe-out. She admitted to having slid down part of the track without the sled under her. Two runs later, she was again late arriving at the bottom. This time, there were holes in her other sleeve. When we got to the top of the chairlift for our last run, the guy who was helping people off looked over her tattered clothes and asked her if she was having a good time. (I consider myself to be a rather reckless Alpine slider, but I've wiped out three times in hundreds of runs, although I did it with bare arms and legs once. Incidentally, Sandra and I raced on our last run, and she won!)

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.

Stowe, Vermont, Sunday, September 25, 1988

Today was just as beautiful as yesterday. We left Polliwog asleep in the sunlight in front of the balcony doors, tummy full of leftover roast beef and one paw firmly grasping the tail of her new mousie.

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.

Stowe, Vermont, Monday, September 26, 1988

When we woke this morning, there were quite a few clouds, and the top of Mt. Mansfield was in fog, but we decided to drive to the top anyway. We first had to convince the nice man at the tollgate that we wouldn't feel cheated if there were no view; then we went on up with the road all to ourselves, except for a man in a road scraper who was smoothing out some of the bumpier turns in the dirt road. (The scraper, of course, had a "This car climbed Mt. Mansfield" bumper sticker.) The mountain top was eerily beautiful in the fog and wind, and we hiked along the ridge as far as we could without perishing from the cold, showing Sandra the bogs and windswept trees and trying to identify the little birds that flittered about. We had wanted to show her the mountain's "nose", a formation along the ridge, but the fog was too heavy to make it out even though we were standing quite close to it. Suddenly the fog lifted and Lee and I called for Sandra to turn around so she could see the nose, but it had disappeared again before she could turn around.

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.

Stowe, Vermont, Tuesday, September 27, 1988

This was another beautiful day. I spent it curled up on the sofa, reading, embroidering, and watching the mountain, while Lee went off exploring again.

Bennington, Vermont, Wednesday, September 28, 1988

This morning we had to pack up, alas! This time, however, there was no problem getting Polly out from under the bed. We used the old dish-of-Ben-&-Jerry's-next-to-the-bed trick.

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,

Melinda Varian / Office of Information Technology / Princeton University / Melinda@Princeton.EDU
28 Sep 1988