OK folks, the photo above should tell it all. We’re in politically-correct, gluten-free, all-organic, sustainably-produced, fair-traded, all-natural, ultra-liberal……..VERMONT. This is the land of crusty New Englanders like Bernie Sanders, Subarus driven by hirsute women at least 20 mph under the speed limit, local farmers markets with prices that put even Whole Foods’ to shame, homeless people from NY who summer here, and a business climate evocative of the love Palestinians have for new Israeli West Bank settlements.
Of course it is also the land of the verdant Green Mountains, glorious 100 mile long Lake Champlain, charming country villages, exquisite back roads, picturesque farmsteads, nonexistent crime, wonderful hiking, fine museums (funded by “down-country” benefactors), fine colonial architecture, and people who mind their own business. We settle in at the prim, Lone Pine Campground in Colchester http://www.lonepinecampsites.com just north of Burlington, and conveniently just microseconds from the roar of traffic on I-89. Oh well, at least we’re just minutes away from Susy’s son Bill, his wife Kerry, and the grandkids Jack and Finn.
Our campsite at Lone Pine is nice despite the proximity to the interstate. It never ceases to amaze me when confronted by the variety and character of RVs. One next to us even has a retractable side porch so the owners never even have to set foot on the grass!
Another feature of our site is the evening fire truck rides put on by the hosts where all the kids either pile on the antique fire truck for rides around the campground, sirens included. Great fun as are the two pools that are thronged by the kids from dawn till night. Our grandkids, Jack and Finn enjoy the pools as well, and we join them for lazy days at their own club pool at the Burlington Tennis Club, a terrific place to while away lazy summer days and beat the heat. Unfortunately, our days here are marred with frequent thunderstorms and rain squalls interspersed with glorious periods of sun and clouds. The frequent rain keeps the local rivers high and muddy, effectively blanking us out f any local stream fishing.
Nearby Lake Champlain however, is a different story and we all pile aboard a boat at the Burlington downtown pier for a great evening dinner cruise along the shore south to Shelburne, around the nearby islands and culminating with a fantastic sunset as the sun slips behind the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains to the west.
Susy and also manage to get in a few rounds of golf at the wonderful Williston Golf Club nearby (www.willistongolfclub.com)… At 88 years, the course is one of the oldest in Vermont, and has been owned/run by the same family for over four generations. The course is a classic mountain course, with fairways following the contours of the hills and through stands of great pines planted by the owners many years ago, It’s a treat to play here, with far off vistas of the Camel’s Hump and Green Mountains and only one or two homes or other structures to impede the views. Plus with lots of elevation changes the course is a refreshing change from our mostly flat Lowcountry courses near home.
Another day I drive over to Lake Placid in New York to golf with Jerry Bottcher, an old friend who with his wife Linda run a motel/restaurant/fly shop complex called The Hungry Trout (www.thehungrytrout.com) perched on the banks of the nearby Ausable River right in the high peaks area of the Adirondack Mountains. We play the Lake Placid Club Course, a terrific mountain track high above Lake Placid and with sweeping mountain views (www.thelakeplacidclub.com). It’s good to hook up with Jerry again and revisit an area where I spent so much time as a young man learning to fly fish for trout in the nearby Ausable and other blue-ribbon trout rivers.
Back in Vermont on Independence Day we all head to nearby Richmond, VT for a traditional, small-town July 4th parade. What a treat, with great pastries from a local bakery, all sorts of decorated fire engines from nearby communities, floats, a road race, antique cars and tractors, brass bands and all sorts of other wonderful paraders costumed to the hilt and reminding us of the kind of fun and community/family spirit that still exists in the right places in America. The slide show below does not do the parade justice, and the throngs of families lining the parade route revel in a great show enjoyed by all.
One night Susy and I are treated to dinner by the kids at the wonderful Bearded Frog Restaurant just down the road in Shelburne Village (www.beardedfrog.com)… Great food, service, and ambiance of the place make for a fine evening.
Burlington, VT offers a fine selection of restaurants ranging from exquisite Thai food, brewpubs featuring many local craft beers, a fine French Bistro (www.leunigsbistro.com) and many others offering foods prepared using locally sourced vegetables, breads and meats. We visit the Burlington downtown farmer’s market one Sunday, and graze our way through all sorts of delectable goodies. One standout is the craft gin made locally by Caledonia Spirits. Two forms of their wonderful Barr Hill Gin are made, one clear with intense botanical flavor, and the other darker and a little rounder from being aged in bourbon barrels (www.caledoniaspirits.com). With all the locavore foods/spirits available we could easily do some serious belt stretching without trying. Thank God for family back yard barbeques to keep us in line.
One of our favorite things to do here is attending evening baseball games at Centennial Field, home of the Burlington Lake Monsters, a Single A affiliate of the Oakland A’s. This is always fun, family centered, professional baseball played in a classic small field where the game is up close and personal. Centennial Park is one of the oldest baseball stadiums in continuous use in professional baseball, having started in 1906. We love the venue, the baseball is good, the food is at its junky best, the beer cold, and it’s a great way to spend a summer evening.
Another wonderful and unique attraction is the Shelburne Museum (www.shelburnemuseum.org) which showcases a superb collection of American folk art, architecture, and Americana. I haven’t visited here since I was al young child, and it is great to wander the grounds and take in the vast collections of everything from weathervanes to the restored 220 foot long Steamboat Ticonderoga. With over 150,000 artifacts, 38 buildings, and 25 early buildings moved here and restored, the place is a treasure trove of all things America. Their new art museum had a retrospective of early American modernist paintings from O’Keefe to Rockwell, as well as a fine show of early furniture. The museum was founded and endowed by Electra Havemyer Webb, wife of an 19th century industrialist and an avid collector of early American arts and crafts. The place is a real jewel and the restored buildings dating back to the 17th century convey a unique impression of how life was lived in the early days of our great country.
One of the unique things about Vermont is the fact that so many examples of fine early American homes lie scattered over its many small villages and towns. Spending more than a few days here just driving around and exploring reveals so much early architecture well preserved and still in use. For those who have never spent time here, prowling leisurely around Woodstock, Grafton, Shaftsbury, and other fine Vermont villages offers an enthralling perspective of all that is uniquely American. We were blessed to have been able to live here in nearby New Hampshire for so many years and have come to love the area, its intimate places, its glorious summers, its spectacular fall foliage (second week of October), and its quirky people.
Winter however, is great for a day, and on this note we bid our emotional good-byes to Bill, Kerry, Jack and Finn, stock up at Costco, and begin our trek west the next morning through a raging thunderstorm! It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for a month, but we’re ready for a change of scenery.