Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bennington, Vermont

Today we drove west to the town of Bennington. One of the first city settlements in the state, Bennington sits in the southwestern corner of the state nestled amongst the Green Mountains. There are plenty of outdoor activities in the area, but we just wanted to see some of the old city.
Henry Bridge

We started out with the covered bridges. There are 5 bridges in Bennington County, as well as a Covered Bridge Museum, but we only went to the 3 closest to the historic district. Although covered bridges come in many different styles, these three were all built in the Town Lattice style. All three also span the Wallomsac River. As you look at the photos, they are going to look very similar, almost like looking at the same bridge. The Henry Bridge was named for the land owner who built his home across the street from the bridge. The Henry House is now a Bed and Breakfast.
Bennington College Dining Hall and Commons
Dorms at Bennington College

On the opposite side of highway 67 from the bridges is Bennington College. Since it was so close we decided to walk around there. We had no prior knowledge of Bennington College, but we felt like it would be an old campus because the city is old. Boy, were we wrong. However, it is beautiful and very small.
Sacred Heart Church

The Monument commemorating the Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington was next. About this time of year in 1777 the “Green Mountain Boys” of Vermont helped to defeat a superior British force. Today the towering 300 foot stone monument can be seen from all over the city. From here we walked about 4 blocks down Monument Ave admiring the old homes from the late 1700s and early 1800s. This little walk brought us to The Old First Church and it’s cemetery where Robert Frost is buried. The church, built in the early 1800s in the Georgian Federal style, cost less than $8,000 to construct.
Old First Church

We wanted to see a little bit of downtown so we found a parking place and walked around for about an hour. This part of town is very accessible to tourists. There are several public parking lots which are free as well as free parking along the streets. We enjoyed the architecture, window shopping, and sculptures along the sidewalk. Like the cows, moose, and guitars or other cities, Bennington is decorated with sculptures of everyday folks doing everyday things. Most of them are so good they almost look alive. My favorite was the couple peering through the binoculars on the lawn in front of the funeral home—looking for the promised land, I guess.

We found a coffee shop, grabbed a cup to go, and headed home having enjoyed another fine Vermont town.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Maple syrup, covered bridges, dairy farms, cheese, fall foliage, small villages, lots and lots of snow. These can all describe Vermont. But other words come to mind, as well—laid back, environmentally friendly, rugged, outdoorsy, liberal thinking. It seems to be a place that is genuine, without pretense. The people are hard-working, some living entirely off the land. There are even a few communities of people working a farm together. A few years back we would have called that type arrangement a commune, but that doesn’t seem to be the word used today.

Vermont is colorful and I don’t just mean the fall leaves. Perhaps it is the long, harsh winters that make Vermonters want to liven things up a bit. Buildings are often painted vibrant colors and yards are landscaped with flowering shrubs, annuals, and perennials. Vermonters seem to know they have a jewel and want to preserve and share it with the outside world. Bridges, churches, historic buildings, and sometimes even entire towns like Grafton—all are preserved.

Vermont is not about high mountains or great vistas but rather it is about the people. Perhaps that is why we enjoy it so much. I’ve put up a few pictures that I hope captures a bit of the taste of Vermont. It is a special place—one that I would like to get to know a little better.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lazy, Stay At Home Day

This day didn’t turn out exactly like we had planned. This being Friday before the holiday weekend, we were required to move to a different campsite. That was because we failed to make a reservation far enough in advance of the holiday to have a full-hookup site. We were lucky to get a site at all for this weekend, even 2 months ago. We have known all along we would have to move. That is no big deal and it was part of our plan. Then we were going to the grocery and after lunch to one of the state parks in the area to do a little hiking.

Our change of plan really got started several days ago. Gene was doing something and bent over or twisted in the wrong way to cause his back to start hurting. He has been stretching and walking and trying to be careful until it is back to normal. This morning, however, with all the bending and twisting associated with hitching up and unhitching, his back truly and earnestly went out. He was coming up the steps into the Montana with the air compressor in his hand when the spasm occurred. He immediately dropped the air compressor and stretched out on the floor to ease his back. He did literally drop the air compressor. I guess it’s a good thing he didn’t drop it on his toe or the cat. He wouldn’t have had to put more air in the rear truck tires if Mike at the Ford dealership hadn’t deflated the tires so much. Gene took the truck in for regular service yesterday afternoon which included rotating the tires. He explained to Mike that he needed 75 lb of pressure in the back tires because we haul 14,000 lb of house in the truck bed. I guess Mike didn’t think that was necessary. Anyway, Type A personality that Gene is, he always checks the tire pressure before hitching up. Thus, the whole deal with the air compressor. After we got moved to the new site he was bringing the compressor inside for recharging because the tires were so low they had depleted the compressor battery. I guess you’d say our day didn’t get off to a good start.

Gene stretched and then he walked while I finished getting things back in order after our move. I went to the grocery in order to have lunch then I stayed at home the rest of the day. I love being at home and I love just piddling around the house. While I piddled I noticed the campers around me. They are pulling in, putting fun lights on their awnings, and sitting in their lawn chairs. They are apparently happy and content to just be sitting and reading or talking to their spouse or neighbors. This is almost like my grandparents sitting on the front porch, waving to the folks who passed down the road, and talking about how well the garden is doing. How refreshing.

I enjoyed my day and I enjoyed the people around me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Grafton, Vermont

We were in Vermont a couple years ago, but I had forgotten just how pretty it is.
A porch rooster

As is our practice when visiting a location for the first time, we pick up a hand full of brochures then try to select what we want to see and/or do. Monday, when we stopped at a Vermont Information Center to have lunch and stretch (that’s another thing about not driving on the interstate—I miss the rest areas. They are so convenient and easy to get in and out of.) we picked up a brochure for the village of Grafton. On the front, it proclaims Grafton to be “one of America’s top ten most beautiful destinations.” That proclamation is not by the Grafton Chamber of Commerce, but by USA Weekend, whoever they are. Anyway, that statement caught our eye and we put Grafton on the list of things to see.
Alexander-Davis house

It is indeed a pretty, little community. I might not go as far as to say “one of the top ten in America.” However, this is not leaf season and folks in these parts put on their best duds and spruce up when the leaves turn. Maybe it will rank as a top ten in a few more weeks. Top ten pretty or not, it was still very much worth the visit.
The old fire station is now a gift shop
The Old Tavern is still and inn

The thing that makes Grafton unique is that everything here is old. There are no new structures. Most of the buildings have been restored so it looks like it might have looked way back when. The brochure we picked up had a map of town and a brief description of several of the buildings. We found a place to park the truck (in the white church parking lot) and set out on foot. The Historical Society operates a small museum. We were the only visitors there at the time, so once again got a personal tour. This is getting to be a habit I like. Bet this won’t happen in New York City.
The Brick Church
The white church

There were two churches in town—the white church and the brick church. They were about a half a block apart. The sign in front of the brick church read “Grafton Church”. Obviously, it was Christian, but had no denominational affiliation indicated. We couldn’t get very close because they were serving lunch in the “chapel” next door and it seemed like all the town folks were there for lunch. The sign out front just said “Lunch Today” so I don’t know if it is a regularly scheduled event or if this was a special occasion. It was the place to be, apparently. At the white church, the sign read “Baptist Church”. Our brochure gave us this history. The brick church was built in 1833 for the Congregational Church and the white church was built in 1858. The Congregationalists and the Baptists combined forces in 1972 and meet in the brick church during the summer and in the white church the rest of the year. By the way, the brochure refers to these buildings as the Brick Church and the White Church.
Town Hall and Post Office

We had our picnic, of course, and on our way out of town stopped by the Grafton Village Cheese Company. We sampled the 2, 3, and 4-year olds, but decided to purchase the 4-year old. I did not like the sage flavored cheese at all.
We liked the fan over the door

Grafton is a pretty Vermont village and we enjoyed our visit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vermont Country Store

We went for a short drive north today to see a little bit of southern Vermont. We drove US highway 5 which parallels the Connecticut River. I guess this would be considered the foothills of the Green Mountains. It is the beautiful rolling countryside they call the Connecticut River Valley.

We found ourselves at The Vermont Country Store in Rockingham. It was a wonderful place. There was a large section of clothing—lots of warm stuff for the long, cold winters. There was a huge section of toys for the young and those who want to be young. All kinds of toys and games were in stock, modern things as well as toys and games our parents might have played. There were books, body lotions, and boots along side wood burning stoves and enamel cookware. There were fun things, too. One of Gene’s favorites was the duck tape bandages. There were candles and kitchen gadgets. There was one large room of food items—chutney, jam, pickled green beans. This was my favorite place—it was where all the samples were. I tasted cheeses, preserves, lobster bisque dip and something hotter than anything I have ever put in my mouth. And what country store worth anything doesn’t have a boat load of candy. There was everything from liquorices and the old fashioned rock candy to chocolate covered gummy bears. Just fabulous.

Also on the property was a grist mill. It was not open at the time we were there, but it is a small museum. There was also a covered bridge. Usually, bridges will have a name and there was none that I could find. It made me wonder if it was the genuine article or not. It did look old and there were numbers and letters on the ends of the beams inside which made me think it had been moved there from somewhere else and reassembled. It was neat anyway.
Sipping Green Mountain coffee on a glider

We had a great day. This is just the kind of thing we like to do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Brattleboro, Vermont

We acquainted ourselves with the town of Brattleboro this afternoon. The walking tour consisted of a walk along the city’s Main Street from the Connecticut River to the old town green—a distance of about 8 blocks. That short tour was packed with no less than 25 historical buildings and churches.
Connecticut River

It was a walking tour that bombarded our senses. We started our walk on the Connecticut River bridge. Our perspective there was of water and trees. You could almost forget there was a town at all. Within a few yards of the bridge we crossed the railroad tracks. Up the hill a few yards past the tracks is Main Street. In an earlier age, the merchants along Main Street received their goods from suppliers by way of the river and rail.
Main Street from Connecticut River Bridge

On Main Street, we felt we were alternately in the late 1800s and the 1960s. The historical buildings had been restored at some time in the past, but long enough ago for them to again look worn out. Many buildings are no longer what they used to be. One of the most interesting was the Methodist Church which is now the Hotel Pharmacy. The church was built in 1880 in the Victorian Gothic style. The building is now occupied by the Hotel Pharmacy. There was never a hotel here, but the pharmacy, which used to be in the Brooks Hotel down the street, kept it’s name when it relocated to the church. It was in this area that many shop windows displayed clothing reminiscent of the 1960. We saw several peace signs, flowing clothing, and lots of flower stencils.
Main Street

The Old Fire Station is now McNeil’s Pub. In the photo, the cupola on top was where the fire alarm was housed. The ground floor window was the doorway and I can just imagine horses pulling a fire wagon out of there. The high school until the early 1950s is now the Municipal Building and the All Souls Unitarian Church is now simply “the Church”--a performing arts theater.
Old Fire Station
All Souls Unitarian Church

About midway along Main Street, is a small park. About 10 years ago a welcome mural was painted on the side of the building showing the historic town of Brattleboro. However, it is so weathered now that you can hardly see it.

This may not be Brattleboro’s claim to fame, but we found it just one of those things we are glad we didn’t miss. The current Post Office was built in 1916, but in 1847 Brattleboro was the site of the first gummed postage stamp issued in the US. Most of these stamps were destroyed when the federal government started printing postage.
Hotel Pharmacy
Stained Glass window inside the Hotel Pharmacy

Gene’s favorite part along our walk was the Latchis Hotel and theater. Built in 1936, the Hotel is still a hotel and the Theater is still a theater. We wanted to see the Art Deco style inside so we asked the desk clerk at the hotel if we could look around. The theater was closed, but he showed us a door to get into the theater lobby. The lights were turned off so I didn’t even try for a picture, but it was truly special, especially what appeared to be the original ticket stub thingy (I don’t know what it’s official name is). We had stepped right back into the 1930s.
The old high school is now the municipal center

There is much more of Brattleboro to be explored. We’ll see what else we can find on another day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Detour to Vermont

We left the Adirondacks and Lake Placid area this morning. Our next stop in New York is “the city”. However, one of the main reasons we want to go there is to visit with Gene’s nephews. Their schedules are pretty hectic so the best we could do was a couple weeks from now. When we started looking around for a campground within commuter train range of Manhattan, they were all full for the Labor Day weekend. So we find ourselves this evening on the far eastern side of Vermont in the town of Brattleboro.

We spent a month in Vermont a couple years ago, but we were up north near Montpellier. Since that time we have been wanting to see a little of southern Vermont. This is our chance. We are only a stones throw from Massachusetts and will probably get down there, as well.

I felt like we had a long hard day; Gene felt like we did okay. Now, there is a difference in perspective. You may be thinking I was sitting in the driver’s seat, but not today. We didn’t get a really early start. It was almost midnight by the time we got to bed last night after watching the Lord of the Rings movie. We couldn’t just jump out of bed to a running start. I wanted to sit in the chair and sip my coffee just one more minute. Then there was the drive. We always do a “map quest” for directions. We haven’t graduated yet to a GPS. It wouldn’t have mattered though. You just can’t get here from there. The problem is Lake Champlain. It is 12 miles across in places. There are no bridges. And there are no interstates. To get to Brattleboro from where we were in New York by interstate we would have had to go to Montreal and then taken provincial roads back to Vermont to pick up interstate or gone south somewhere in Massachusetts. Map quest put together a 168 mile route of several state and federal roads out of the Adirondack mountains south to a place we could cross Lake Champlain, over the Green Mountains, to, what I felt like it should be by the time we got here, the shores of Gilead. In reality, the roads were not that bad, certainly not as bad as some interstates we have driven on. However, when it is your house hitting the pot hole you feel every little ripple. Some of those roads were pretty narrow, some were steep in places, and curvy in the mountains. I was on the look out for every tree branch, mailbox, and welcome flag that hung out over the road. Our trip, which Map Quest promised to be a short 3 ½ hours, really lasted almost 6.

Thank you, Lord, that nothing was broken, we didn’t hit any of those cars parked on the side of the road, and we didn’t run into the back of that truck hauling a load of timber going 10 mph downhill. We arrived safely, albeit a little nerve frayed.

Tomorrow we will begin our exploration of southern Vermont.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Gene

Monday is Gene’s birthday. Since we are going to be traveling on Monday, we decided to celebrate on Sunday. He thinks he’s old. In the scheme of things, he’s really not, just a mere 58. He is only 3 months older than I am, and I don’t think I’m old at all. He has had a pretty good day, I think, and he won’t really be old until tomorrow.
Mirror Lake in Lake Placid

As is the case whenever we are moving to a new location, especially when we have been sitting for a month, there are several chores to do to prepare for moving. He started his special day by checking air pressure in tires and dumping waste water holding tanks. Next we went for our morning walk. Instead of walking around the campground, we walked about Wilmington for one last look around. By the time we got to our walk, the mountains were already shrouded in haze. Not a good morning for photos. I had promised to treat him to his mid morning coffee at Starbucks in Lake Placid. However, we had dilly dallied too much and were not ready to go to Lake Placid until after lunch. So instead of coffee, he got ice cream. As treats go, he’d rather have ice cream anyway.
Mirror Lake with Whiteface Mountain in the background

We spent a little time in Lake Placid. There was a table runner I had my eye on, but finally decided I could live without it. Gene wanted to look in the antique store. That was kinda fun. We saw several things which reminded us of our childhood. I guess that is pretty appropriate to give you a real perspective on your birthday to see stuff you used as a child with a big price tag in an antique store.

For a special birthday dinner I fixed him some heart healthy salmon and a not so heart healthy chocolate cake. The cake decorating is not what you would call “professional”—I call it a “hand made, I did this just for you” type of decorating.

The perfect finish for this special day was the 3rd episode of Lord of the Rings on TNT. Happy birthday, Gene.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Chore Day

From time to time you just have to get the work done. Today was the day. I spent my day vacuuming, dusting, doing laundry and I even ironed a few things. I try not to iron. Generally, I can get by without that little chore in the summer, but it has been so cool this past week that we wore several long sleeved shirts and blue jeans. I saw advertized on TV last night a new product by one of the fabric softener manufactures that you spray on cloths and the wrinkles just fall out. I’ll have to investigate that. Sure would be nice to get rid of the ironing board and iron.

Gene busied himself with waxing the Montana. That is an ongoing project. He just does a little bit at a time—about an hours worth. I know as time passes the decals will fade and fiberglass will begin to look weathered, but for now it shines like a new penny. He works hard to keep it that way. Of course, it may cost us a pretty penny (or an arm and a leg, as the saying goes) to have his shoulder replaced—damaged by so much rubbing.

Together we have been cleaning out the refrigerator today. We are moving Monday so I wanted to get all those little bits and dabs of leftovers eaten. We had a fairly international lunch—Chinese BBQ on a hamburger bun with tortilla chips. Dinner was a variety of chicken (a leg, thigh, and a couple wings from a rotisserie chicken from the grocery, and half of a Greek seasoned chicken breast I didn’t eat last night), some taco seasoned beef, a serving of mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. The second time around this stuff doesn’t sound too appetizing. But my mama taught me not to waste good food—something about all those starving children in third world countries. Maybe I could just mail it to them.

Tomorrow will be our last day here. We are going to Lake Placid for one last look around and to fill up on diesel fuel. I am sad to be leaving. Usually, by the end of the third week at any place, I am ready to move on. Not so here. But, alas, the Big Apple calls.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mt Van Hoevenberg

Mt Van Hoevenberg

We ventured up another mountain today. This one was a little shorter than the last one we tried to climb. The trail was a little shorter, also—only 2.2 miles one way.
A large beaver pond

There are many trails to choose from within a short distance of our campground. We chose this trail to the top of Mt. Van Hoevenberg in honor of the man who started it all. Henry Van Hoevenberg was a lover of the great outdoors and he dedicated his life to helping provide opportunities for others to enjoy nature in this area. He was the first to map out a trail to the summit of Mt. Marcy in the 1880s. That trail which bears his name is the one we hiked on our trek to the top and it is the most popular route to Marcy’s summit because it is the shortest. Van Hoevenberg was also the builder of the original Adirondack Lodge (now spelt Loj) which was destroyed by a forest fire in 1903. He also founded the Adirondack Camp and Trail Club in 1910 to provide hiking opportunities to the early visitors coming to the Lake Placid area. Although the practice of marked trails with shelters coursing through the wilderness was not the brainstorm of Van Hoevenberg, he is credited with getting it started in this area.
Gene did a little work while we were there

So today, in his honor, we climbed the mountain that bears his name. Except for the really wet stretch around the beaver pond, the trail was mostly dry and in good condition. It was a very enjoyable hike to the summit and a rock ledge provided a great lunch spot.
View from our lunch rock

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Little Whiteface Mountain

Ski Runs on Whiteface Mountain

Today we used the last activity on our “see it all” ticket. We rode the Gondola to the top of Little Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface and Little Whiteface are literally a maze of downhill ski runs with chairlifts shooting off in every direction. We climbed aboard and within minutes were deposited on top. The last little bit was pretty steep and Gene had visions of James Bond making a daring ski escape through the trees and around the gondola pylons. My vision was more along the lines of Bond crawling across the top of the gondola as it hung by a thread over the snowy slope hundreds of feet below. It was a slow day at the gondola so we had a car to ourselves. That was fun.
Ski Run map

The view from the top was dramatic. We were below the summit of Whiteface so we didn’t have the big 360 degree view, but the high peaks region still dominated the horizon. From here we were able to see the ski runs on Whiteface mountain that were out of our line of sight from that higher summit. There was a nice wooden deck with picnic tables and a fantastic view of the Lake Placid. If I had known I would have taken a picnic.
Our Ride

Also on the summit was a memorial plaque to the 10th Mountain Division. This specialized unit of the US Army was organized to with the help of the American Alpine Club and the National Ski Association to train soldiers and develop equipment for mountain warfare during World War II.
10th Mountain Division plaque

With our “see it all” ticket we were able to tour all the main Olympic venues—the museum, the ice skating rinks, the ski jumps, the downhill runs of Whiteface, and the luge and bobsled runs. It was well worth the money. We have enjoyed it all.
Whiteface and Little Whiteface