From Highlands to Corn Fields
My vagabond nature draws me to the moving elements of the voyage. Something about driving, roadside eateries, even gas stations. The energy of moving, the excitement of the change.
Leaving Lincoln, NH, I set the GPS for Bradford, a charming small town on the other side of the border. To get there I crossed an equally charming bridge, and here I was in the state of Vermont. My image of Vermont was of a Johnny Apple Seed state, very quaint with lots of apples and trees changing colors. It was described to me as one of the nicest places in the U.S., but I did not get any tips about what to see there and where to go.
When in Maine, I tried to find some couch-surfing opportunities in the state, but that wans’t an easy task. Half the folks advertising did not mention where they were located on the map… The few who did, were all located in Hyde Park and Morristown. Both places sounded neat (I never heard of either before), so I tried, but got no responses. Giving up, I just drove over aiming in the direction of Hyde Park, but having no specific goal in mind. [I got a response from one of them weeks later, apologizing for the late answer…]
A Different Energy
Bradford was a charming little town. People stop for you 20 meters before you even knew you were intending to cross the street. It kind of forces you to cross just to be polite…
I was the first lunch client at Colatina Exit, a nice idealistic restaurant in the town center:
“Our heartfelt gratitude to our area farmers for allowing us to shift our food choices back from industrialized agriculture to localized and organic farming. It is our belief that we deserve to eat food that nurtures our being and is grown without burden.”
I ordered a broccoli-artichoke dish, but it was mostly cheese. The atmosphere was great, especially as regular locals walked in and were greeted lovingly by the staff.
So far Vermont was very lovely and the weather was the biggest surprise. After my immersion in the White Mountains, I felt like I was back in Israel, that September was still basically summer. My body felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted. It was so hot I even turned on the A/C in the car.
The border between NH and VT was a beautiful river [the Connecticut]. Everywhere there were very large and super-dense corn fields. I thought about the genetic hybridization of corn and wondered, but the look was great. Then it was cows. I enjoyed the change from mountain to agriculture. There is something relaxing and calming about fields and grains, another kind of beautiful. I was told Vermont had a population of only 620,000 people…No wonder it is so laid-back and friendly. Also a bit boring perhaps..?
Abandoned barns, abandoned factories, cute churches, charming houses at various price levels. A girl smiled at me a real genuine smile just like that, out of the Vermont blue.
Country Roads and more Country Roads
Leaving Bradford, I started to mess up. The car’s GPS and the phone’s Google Maps gave me contradicting messages (the cellphone was not getting signal only part of the time). I was looking for a “Limehurst Lake Campground”. The name had a lake in it, and it was central, sounding good for a start. Google was constantly commanding me to take Left, but I was smart enough not to trust it, and eventually turned it off. Is there another Limehurst Campground elsewhere here or in another state?
It started raining in the afternoon, which made driving less fun. I was going through seemingly endless country roads intersecting with each other, all looking similar, crossing and crisscrossing.
At one point I searched for a place to pee. Mission impossible. The road was totally open in all directions. I drove on and on for a long time, not finding any hideout. Eventually I spotted some prickly bushes…
I finally made it to Limehurst Lake Campground. A large guy was sitting on a bench outside the office. He informed me fairly heartlessly – or so it felt after a full day’s drive – that he had no place for tents past Labor Day, unless I was willing to pay 40$ for an RV site. Tough luck, lady. To his credit, he gave me a brochure with a full list of campgrounds in central Vermont and suggested I checked out the Lazy Lions not too far away. I called them by phone and they said, no problem, ten minutes’ drive…
Lazy Lions Campground - The Place to be Lazy
Lazy Lions Campground was a much friendlier place, but scenically boring. There was nothing there, really, except for something called “Rock of the Ages”, with a huge sign advertising it on the main road. The office guy said it was some kind of quarry. My main concern right then was to find my given site, build the tent and hope for dryness. I wasn’t sure a quarry was what I came to Vermont for, but left it open. All options are “on the table”. Forecast was not favorable. The young guy at the desk was very welcoming, which was heartwarming.
Lazy Lions. What a suitable name. The most perfectly laid back scene, starting with the young office manager, who gave me 4 free quarters for the shower (one quarter gives you 4.5 minutes, a far cry from JJ CG). He brought the TV remote for the common room, but there was nothing to watch except for Trump all over the screen…
The price was decent too – 26.50$, and I was probably the only camper there. Erecting the tent was a bit tricky with the drizzle, but I managed.
My neighbors on the RV side of the gravel road appeared to be semi-permanent residents of the place. Like many others, their site were delineated with fairy lights; they had a small fountain running in the middle of their lot with gnomes perched on top of it. A big welcoming sign was inviting camper friends. The kind helpful lady showed me the bathroom. Sadly, even if they would only live there for 6 more months until their permanent home is ready, they still needed to use these pretty horrid common bathrooms…Depressing.
An almost full moon is strolling between the trees, switching off the stars one by one. Cicadas buzz. Only the bathroom is lit, and some paths that have small colored lights lining them. Magic!
White Wine and S'mores
That’s how I met the three guys. There was no water to be found in the common room. I brought my electric spoon, but there was nothing to heat. From a distance I spotted a group of guys sitting next to their motorhome by a fireplace. I decided to approach them, trusting this to be a safe place, and asked for a little water to put in my cup. They were extremely friendly and offered to prepare the tea for me in their kitchen. We chatted for a while, and once I understood they were gay and totally harmless, I collected my stuff from the lonely common room and sat around with them.
What a fascinating bunch! One darker-looking guy, very outspoken, another sitting with a lap dog in a sling on his chest, the third with a very high chirpy voice and a super -friendly attitude. They offered me wine and gave recommendations about places to eat in the state. They suggested some restaurants in Montpellier, the big “city” here, in particular a place affiliated with a chef school. I was given directions how to get there, where to go and what to eat, but eventually I forgot it all… Alas, I’m sure it would have been great.
However, while in New York State, I did heed their recommendation to go to a town in the Adirondacks, called Lake Placid, that had Olympic facilities from past winter games. And it had been a great choice. Otherwise, they had no recommendations. They said everything was really boring. As to the Lazy Lions Campground they said they came here regularly because this was the most boring campground in Vermont: “There’s nothing to do here”, and that’s what they liked about it. Everybody rolled out laughing.
They drank wine, not beer, mostly white. When I mentioned my connection to New Mexico, the darker one said: “I’ve just been there yesterday”. I said: “I thought you guys were from NH, next door ”. He answered: ”I’m a pilot, I fly to Albuquerque”. First I was sure he was hoodwinking me – what would a major airline pilot do in a God-forsaken campground in Vermont? But then he showed pictures of lightning storms filmed in clouds underneath the plane, and other pictures that confirmed his pilothood.
All his life he had a dog. I asked who took care of his dog when he was flying. He pointed at “his wife” over the other side of the table. That guy runs a restaurant in NH, and “the girl” works in a hotel. “That’s why you are all food experts”, I understood. I talked about my cheese dish at Bradford. They rolled laughing holding their stomachs. In general I succeeded to get them laughing, a feat I do not usually accomplish with straight guys, and that felt nice.
Conversation veered to lesbians. They said Vermont is full of them and they all drive Subarus nicknamed Lesbarus… To my question what on earth is a Lesbaru (I told them I used to have a Subaru too), they said the company makes them especially for lesbians; they spend half their lives in the car, everything is packed. I told them, if so I might be a lesbian myslef, look at my car. They laughed heartily.
The next thing on the agenda was an American dessert made in the fire from Graham biscuits, with chocolate and marshmallows squashed between them. It is called S’mores and they were shocked I lived as long as I did in America and didn’t know about it. Well… I lived in New Mexico, getting thoroughly acquainted with burritos and fajitas… So now I learned about s’mores.
It sounded pretty horrid to me, since I hate marshmallows, but the atmosphere was so nice and I wanted to be a part of everything and not be “heavy”, so I tried. The three were busy around a big metal cauldron hanging from a tripod with pink plastic chairs around it. “The wife” was putting the skewered s’mores into the fire, the others were eating them. It wasn’t too bad, I could deal with it, but still – standard American cuisine and me, not a grand match…
Apparently even gay married couples are divided politically. One of them was pro Trump: “Don’t talk to me about Hillary or Obama”. The other was for Hillary. The third was also a Trumpist. I made them all laugh by dividing the table in half politically, but I also declared – no politics here. They were very easy-going, and the subject was dropped. Such a nice and unexpected social scene…That’s what traveling, and almost only traveling, can do. People are relaxed, willing to talk and share – their food, their stories and their easy laughter – and some of the everyday stresses lift up for a while.
14.9.16, morning, Lazy Lions Campground:
It’s going to rain. I’m dismantling the tent.
Despite the rain I decided to check out the regional “attraction”, that is the quarry. Parking instructions led me to the back of the impressive building, as the front park was dedicated to the staff. I knew by now what that place was about. The guys last night showed me an Internet site with interesting pictures of unusual tombstones produced on this site:
A storm was building up, so I carried my umbrella, walking stick and backpack, planning to walk the qaurry despite it all. A man I met on the parking lot said it would be smarter to see the indoors exhibit instead. The quarries, he explained, were an entangled mess of trails, and the best way to access them and see something was with an organized tour.
It was approximately 8 in the morning, and I decided to just get an idea and move on. The tours were scheduled for 10 o’clock, so I unpacked and went indoors. The ominous “Forever” sign as you walk in made me wonder if coming to this place was not totally incidental, a reminder of the trip to end of trips…
Inside, a Perspex sheet divided the observer on the second floor from the big hall where the work was carried on. Still some noise penetrated. The intense buzz of work was in the air. The workers seemed highly professional and skilled.
Again, Vermont so far was unlike any other place I visited. I opened myself to be surprised.
“Woman, Know Thyself” - Route 89 to Burlington
I’m always impressed with locals who drive in intense weather conditions as if nothing at all is happening. The drive to Burlington was a case in point. As long as things were more or less level, I could deal with the rain, even the downpour, but when things started sloping downhill, I got much stressed. Knowing myself, I looked for somewhere to pull over. Luckily, there was a truck stop on the right side of the highway in the middle of this intense descent.
The rest spot was populated with huge trucks and RVs, but I still found a small space. Twenty minutes or so later, with the rain subsiding, I drove on. If the goal was to prove I could do anything just like everybody or better, I clearly lost, but if the goal was to get safely to my destination, if a bit later, mission was accomplished successfully.
Though horrible for driving, the storm was a feast for the eyes. Clouds gathering, sheets of water hanging from the sky:
I chose my next destination with a spur of intuition. What a great choice: The Isles of Lake Champlain.