Snow days!

Enjoying Vermont
Ready for some snow fun!

It’s official — we are in love with Vermont!!!  We love visiting Pam & Stan, our friends with the beautiful home on top of a mountain where the views are serenely spectacular!  We love their friends whom we’ve gotten to know through various functions including dinner parties, kayaking afternoons on the town lake, a turkey supper at the Pomfert Town Hall, a pancake breakfast at the Barnard Town Hall, stunning home tours and friendly cocktail parties.  We love Vermont’s scenic byways, back roads, barns, bridges, general stores, old churches and town halls.  We love the healthy lifestyle the people who live there embrace.  We love the liberal politics.  We love the locally-sourced, farm-to-table approach to food.  We love the ‘buy local’ approach to buying other products.  We love maple everything.  We simply love it all…!

Old Barnard barn
Beautiful old barn in Barnard
Skating pond in Barnard
Skating on the lake in Barnard
The serenity of Vermont
Wintertime atop the mountain

This was our first wintertime visit to Butler Mountain and while we were disappointed we didn’t get dumped on like most of the east coast did with Winter Storm Jonas, there was enough snow for us to get out and play in this magical white wonderland.  And in addition to the we’ve-come-to-expect-it great meals cooked in and eaten out (it must be all that organic food!) and Stan’s famous Stantinis (think: cosmopolitans on steroids), we also enjoyed a spaghetti supper at the Barnard Town Hall to benefit the Barnard Volunteer Fire Department and First Responders, cocktails and conversation at Dana & Linda’s (can’t remember the last time we were at a party until 1 o’clock in the morning!), hikes in the snow, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and a fabulous afternoon making and eating pizzas in Doug & Geraldine’s new outdoor pizza kitchen [that Doug made with wood from the trees on their property] followed up with Eric’s fruit tarts also baked in the wood-burning pizza oven.  Some of us skied, most of us imbibed on a little something, the dogs ran around, everyone enjoyed themselves… it was a quintessential wonderfully-awesome winter day in the great state of Vermont!

Here are some little photo sets of our adventures in Vermont.  If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in an album.  To close the album, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.

Barnard General Store


Pam & Laura’s snow hike to a Sugar House on a friend’s property — it is in places like this that maple syrup gets made


Spaghetti Supper at the Barnard Town Hall sponsored by the Barnard Volunteer Fire Department and First Responders with proceeds going towards a new department station


Stan & Fred checking out the snowmobile trails


Doug & Geraldine’s pizza party 


Afternoon cross-country skiing


Snow hike to Luce’s Lookout on the Appalachian Trail

If it weren’t for the accidental friendship we developed with two nice strangers along the tow path of the Delaware River a year-and-a-half ago, Vermont would be just another checked-off state on our list.  But gratefully it’s so much more than that to us now!  Thanks to the loving kindness of Pam and Stan and their oh-so-very generous hospitality, the spirit of Vermont has now permeated our hearts and souls.  Their friends have become our friends and we are forever grateful to all of them for making our winter trip to their state such a special, special one!  From the bottoms of our hearts, we thank all of you!  Until next time….

Welcome to Vermont!

January 21st — After a very early morning that began with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call, and a long day of flying from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to Burlington, we finally arrived at our destination in northern Vermont.  As we approached the airport in our little regional jet, we were treated with views of the quiet serenity of Lake Champlain and the snowy beauty of the Green Mountains on a clear, crisp Thursday evening.  Our dear friends Pam and Stan met us at the airport with big smiles and even bigger hugs and so now we begin several days of wintertime fun with them.

Sweet Pammy pulled out all the stops, and the champagne cork, too, and while the boys drove in the front seat, we girls began our catch-up over a bottle of champagne.  The last time we saw them was back in November in Santa Fe [see So Long, Santa Fe post] when they flew out to New Mexico and joined us for a week of exploring the Southwest.  We’re now all in the Northeast together awaiting the snowstorms that are heading this way!

As if the champagne welcome wasn’t enough, we took the scenic route down one of Vermont’s Scenic Byways, Hwy 100, though fabulous little towns as night fell upon us — it was enchanting.  In the most idyllic hamlet of Waitsfield, Vermont, houses and barns and trees and other structures were decorated with white lighted stars — it was simply magical in the moonlight.  They chose a restaurant for us on a classic old farm property, The Lareau Farm, that operates an inn and a fabulous pizza restaurant, American Flatbread.  It features all natural pizzas baked in a primitive earthen oven.  Over a couple of glasses of wine we enjoyed the casual elegance of dining on our rustic pizzas straight out of the wood-burning oven that warms the entire restaurant.
Lareau Farm in Waitsfield Hearth

Friendships renewed, hearts warmed, and bellies full, we drove the rest of the way home to their quiet mountaintop home outside of Barnard.  Let the snowstorm begin….

Goodbye Vermont – Hello Massachusetts/Rhode Island/Connecticut

Fall Foliage Breakfast
Pam & I ready for our Fall Foliage Breakfast

Sunday, October 5 — With nighttime temperatures consistently in the 40s now, it’s time to think about heading south.  Mornings are definitely chilly in Charley until we get the furnace kicking off a little bit of heat, and, having hit peak fall color in the way north (near the Canadian border) we are now hoping to chase it south for as long as we can.  So goodbye northern New England and hello warmer coastal New England!

Pomfret turkey dinner
Turkey dinner in Pomfret to benefit the local school

Over the weekend we had another delightful visit with Pam and Stan at their home in central Vermont, and once again, they gave us a real sense of ‘home’ for which we will be forever grateful.  Fires in the fireplace, more of Stan’s cosmopolitans, a dinner party with friends on Friday night, a chili cook-off Saturday on the village green in Woodstock, turkey dinner at the Pomfret (pop. 997) Town Hall on Saturday night that brought 300 people out in spite of the rain, Fall Foliage Breakfast in Barnard (pop. 958) at the Town Hall Sunday morning that brought everyone out again – it was local Vermont homespun goodness at its very best!

Fall Foliage Breakfast at the Barnard Town Hall
Fall Foliage Breakfast at the Barnard Town Hall

We will spend the next three nights outside Boston where we plan to stretch our legs around Walden Pond.  And nearby is Minute Man National Historical Park where ‘the shot heard ’round the world’ was fired and the Revolutionary War was begun.  I’ll post about these two places in the coming couple of days and we will keep moving south now for a while, but with all of our new friends’ help, we said goodbye to Vermont in fine style this past weekend.

Thank you, once again, Pam and Stan, for your most gracious hospitality.  We look forward to seeing you on the road early next year!  xo

A Week in The Northeast Kingdom

Moose River Campground  in St Johnsbury, VT
Pretty campsite in St Johnsbury – gateway to the NEK

Sept 26-Oct 3 — We have spent this past week up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone; we hadn’t either.  But once we were made aware of this beautiful part of the region, we added the destination to our itinerary and detoured up here – ahhh flexibility!  Getting a bit road weary from moving so much, we decided to book an entire week stay in St. Johnsbury, and lucky that we did as this is our prettiest camp setting yet.  Surely the stunning fall color has a lot to do with our liking this place, but also right behind our site (hard to see in the photo) is the Moose River which provided wonderfully relaxing babbling sounds – made for great outside reading by day and wonderful sleeping at night!

Our drive through the Green Mountains in northern VT

The NEK, as it’s referred to up here, is named in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die – A Traveler’s Life List.  Heralded as ‘fall foliage nirvana’ this place features Kodak moments at virtually every turn.  As we drove up here from Maine through the Green Mountains and saw fall’s palette of red, orange, yellow and gold cloak the hills, we commented that it was as if we had landed in Oz.  An odd reaction, we both started laughing as the scenery was just so spectacular; it’s truly otherworldly!

Topping our activities list is Ansel Adams Fred taking pictures, of course.  :)  But through fortuitous timing on our part, we have also been able to attend some of the local town festivals.  Billed as the “Annual Fall Foliage Festival” which is run by the NEK Chamber of Commerce and this year runs from Sept 27-Oct 5, each of these one-church villages has a day where they bring a piece of ‘Old Vermont’ to oft-parochial locals and visitors like us who are up here to see the fall color.  They feature local crafts, parades, band concerts, hymn sings, church suppers, pie and ice cream socials, bake sales, historical tours – the list goes on.  And all of these activities are backdropped by the most vibrant colors you have ever seen!

Our new Vermont friends, Pam and Stan, joined us for the Burke festival – hover your cursor over the below photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through a few photos of our fun together in Burke:

As we drove through these quaint NEK towns, we wondered what keeps their economic engines going.  Harsh winters and sheer isolation seemly keep development further south, and with the exception of the Fall Festival, it would seem tourism, too.  We’ve enjoyed moseying through used bookstores in search of classic old literary gems, and finding none, we pick up a few ‘to-reads’ just to support the bookstore.  Our country driving took us past tidy farms dotting the remote Vermont countryside – so picturesque!  We delighted in the homemade goodness found in local diners – Miss Lyndonville’s Diner in Lyndonville was the bomb; the vegetable of the day was turnips – you don’t see that in downtown Chicago restaurants!  [I ordered a ham steak with raisin sauce and thought of you, Mom; my meal here was right up your alley!]  When in Vermont… we also visited the Maple Grove Farms of Vermont sugar house; the largest packer of pure maple sugar in the U.S. and the largest producer of maple candies in the world.  There we got a lesson in the different grades of maple syrup and tasted them all plus the candies – yummy!  Of course we left with some, too.  We also thoroughly enjoyed a lovely fall hike up Burke Mountain; meandering through beech and maple and elm trees at the peak of their color – ahh, the flame of fall foliage….

Our photos don’t begin to do this justice, but here’s a peak (no pun intended!) of how we saw Vermont in all of its splendor:

Quilt of color in the NEK
Fall’s quilt of color on the mountain
Hiking trail at Burke  Mountain
The trail that invited us to hike up Burke Mountain (elev. 3,200′)
Fall oranges
The oranges of fall along our trail – before it got steep!
Deep red maples
Deep reds of the maples
Green to yellow leaves
Sugar maples turning green to yellow
Yellow leaves on brown
Yellow maples on brown
Green to mauve
Basswood leaves turning from green to mauve

Heaven in Vermont

Charley's home in Vermont
Charley’s digs atop Stan & Pam’s mountain in Vermont

We’ve just spent the last six days experiencing a slice of heaven in one of the states we were really looking forward to visiting – Vermont.  It was everything we had dreamed of for the last four years as we’ve been planning for our two-year road trip adventure, and then it was infinitely more!  The primary reasons are our new friends, Pam and Stan.  We met them a couple of weeks ago in Pennsylvania and they graciously invited us to come stay with them when we visited Vermont.  Such a generous offer was too good to pass up, and so ten days after meeting them we showed up on the top of their mountain, parked Charley and gave him some power to keep the refrigerator running for several days, then moved into their exquisite post and beam home where they immediately welcomed us and took us in.

Enjoying Stan's cosmos & hoping not to get Stan Flu in the morning!
Enjoying Stan’s cosmos and hoping not to have “Stan Flu” in the morning!

Over the next several days we enjoyed cocktails and meals together – both cooking in and dining out.  They shared their incredible mountain with us as we hiked on their trails and they showed us the area where they snowmobile and snowshoe in the wintertime… such incredible views – we can only imagine them in a blanket of white!

On Labor Day they took us kayaking on Silver Lake in their quaint little village of Barnard.

Hover your cursor over the photo, below, and click on the arrows to see a few pics of our kayaking fun on Labor Day:

When they went to work, we visited the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and the Billings Farm and Museum – see my M-B-R NHP post.  At their recommendation, we also visited the Simon Pearce glass factory and had a lovely lunch overlooking the Ottauquechee River.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour
At Ben & Jerry’s – a Vermont icon

We left them for two days when we drove to Burlington, VT; stopping by the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury for a tour and a sample.  While a bit campy, we just had to visit as it’s such a Vermont icon.

While we enjoyed an overnight in a hotel room that was three times as big as our living space in Charley (television!, a king size bed!!, a huge bathroom!!!) Stan & Pam babysat Charley for us.  [Boy did checking into a hotel seem foreign to us – and to think we both were in hotels nearly weekly for a lot of our working days!]  We thoroughly enjoyed strolling down the pedestrian mall that is Church Street in charming Burlington.  Lake Champlain is beautiful – our hotel was across the street from this enormous lake that separates upstate New York from northern Vermont, and we spent some time reading in a park overlooking it.

Breakfast at the Penny Cluse Cafe
Breakfast at the Penny Cluse Cafe

We ate lunch, dinner and breakfast at some nice restaurants in Burlington, including finally, the Penny Cluse Cafe.  I’ve heard about this place for years from Daddy & Joan – it’s their neighbor’s daughter’s place, and it happens to be the #2 restaurant in all of Burlington according to Trip Advisor!  We had a delicious breakfast there before visiting the Shelburne Museum a few miles away in – you guessed it – Shelburne, VT.  In a word, it was incredible!  A bit of what we saw while there – the steamboat, Ticonderoga, that once ferried people across Lake Champlain; a round barn; an old-time carousel; a lighthouse; a working blacksmith shop and printshop; Monets and Manets and Cassatts and Degas and Remingtons; and collections of collections acquired by Electra Havemeyer Webb in the early 1900s.  It’s really a must-experience for anyone in the Burlington area – but plan on two days here to really enjoy it all.  Our four hours allowed us to scratch the surface of most of the exhibits and buildings but there was so much more to see – for another visit….

Hover your cursor over the photo below, and click on the arrows to check out our photos from the incredible Shelburne Museum:


Dinner with Stan & Pam
Enjoying dinner with Pam & Stan
Cheers to Pam & Laura
Pam & Laura – new sisters!

We can’t come up with enough superlatives to describe how kind Stan and Pam were to us, and we look forward to returning their most-amazing hospitality someday when we’re settled down in a home of our own back in Wisconsin.  We look forward to Pam coming to spend some time on the road with us and Charley (we’re sure we can talk Stan into it, too).  And we pledge to come back to join them atop their mountain when it’s covered in a peaceful blanket of snow.

Thanks, Pam and Stan – you two are the best and we are happy to now consider you family.  xo

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP and Billings Farm and Museum

M-B-R house
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller House

This park wasn’t even on our radar screen two weeks ago, but new friends Stan & Pam told us they had a National Park near their home, and since we were going to be in the neighborhood we decided to check it out.  Just outside of Woodstock, Vermont, this park epitomizes what the National Park system is all about – land stewardship and responsibility to future generations for land conservation.

The M-B-R home that we toured had a succession of notable owners dedicated to the environmental movement.  George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882) was an early advocate of conservation.  He saw first-hand the terrible deforestation that had stripped Vermont mountains bald and left severe erosion and flooding behind.  He penned his observations in what was one of the founding texts of the environmental movement, Man and Nature (1864), which carefully analyzes the human impact on nature, and eloquently pleads for responsible land stewardship.

Beautiful Billings Farm
Billings Farm and Museum

Next came Fredrick Billings (1823-1890), a conservationist and pioneer in reforestation and scientific farm management.  He made his fortune as an attorney in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush, and upon returning to his native Vermont, found barren hills and silted rivers.  Aiming to return his hillsides to ‘glow with glorious autumn foliage’ once more, he developed one of the nation’s first programs of scientific forest management.  He also set out to build a farm that would serve future generations as a model of wise stewardship.  What is now known as the Billings Farm and Museum is the result of Billings, his wife and daughters, and his great-grand-daughter (Mary French)’s efforts.  Today it operates in partnership with the adjacent M-B-R National Historical Park and has two parts:  the working farm which featuring Jersey cows, chickens, sheep, horses (including two big Belgian Draft horses for hay and sleigh rides); and a fabulous museum that depicts Vermont agricultural and rural life.

In 1934, two families with a strong commitment to conservation were brought together by the marriage of Laurance S. Rockefeller and Mary French; grand-daughter of Frederick Billings.  The Rockefeller family had already generously created or enhanced more than 20 national parks, and Laurance inherited his family’s love for the land.  He would become a trusted adviser to five U.S. presidents and help to make outdoor recreation and conservation an essential part of the national agenda.  Upon their deaths, Laurance and Mary Rockefeller established the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park as a gift to the American people.

Hover your cursor over the photo and click on the arrows to scroll through some photos of M-B-R NHP and the Billings Farm and Museum: