In our last installment, you learned how we spent thirty-seven hours driving from central PA to Vermont, at least forty-two of which were spent careening between orange and white construction barrels (not counting the stop at Wal-Mart to buy shoes), and another twenty-five of which were spent following a rental RV. (And I say this without hyperbole.)
My sister and her family live on a dirt road, which we are told is not uncommon in their neck of the, um, woods. It’s very rural. The population of their county is around 36,000. The county in which my sister and I grew up currently has around 40,000 people. But our road was paved. And while we grew up next to dairy cows, my sister now lives next to pheasants. Yes, way. They use nets to keep the birds in:
My sister and her husband are employed by that highly-regarded institution of higher learning, Middlebury College, home of some of the finest restrooms in the whole town of Middlebury. (At least that’s what my kids tell me.) We spent Monday toodling around the town of Middlebury, which features the ever-stunning Otter Creek:
After lunch, we popped on over to the Otter Creek Brewing Company, toured the brewery, sampled the product, bought souvenirs, and became loyal lifetime devotees of the fine craft brewed beverages (talk about drinkin’ the Kool-Aid!) created by just a dozen or so good folks, right there, and only there, in Middlebury. Next, we dropped in at the Maple Landmark toy factory, where they craft fine wooden toys, including lots of train stuff and things with wheels. Saying the boys liked it a little bit would be like saying there was only a little road construction on I-81 in Pennsylvania.
A visit to Vermont that doesn’t include a scenic covered bridge is like, well, a visit to the Washington, DC region without a visit to the Mall. Yet, when my same sister visited me in July, we never left Montgomery County, Maryland. Shame on me. But my sister is not one to hold grudges. Despite my complete lapse in regional hospitality, she nevertheless made sure we got to drive across this gem of a bridge:
On Tuesday, we paid a visit to Apple Ridge Farms, where they have orchards and clydesdales and buffalo and some of the most beautifully idyllic farm-like scenery one could ever hope to enjoy. True to our redneck roots, we all piled into the bed of my brother-in-law’s pickup truck and set off on the field road to gaze at the pastures and spy us some buffalo. It was all:
Afterwards, we made quick detour to the equally idyllic campus of Middlebury College (where I hear there are many fine liberal arts courses of study, excellent professors, an unparalleled library, and some of the finest restrooms), then headed north. Of course, by then, word was out about how much I love RVs and especially enjoy following them, so THIS is what we followed practically the whole way up the road:
Our destination? (After McDonalds, I mean?) The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on scenic Lake Champlain in lovely Burlington, Vermont (New England’s West Coast!). What a cool place to spend an afternoon. If you’re ever in Burlington, you should go there, and maybe your kid can stick his head inside a fish tank like mine did:
After a few hours, with the kids (and adults) in various stages of meltdown, it was time to go. We bid a reluctant adieu to Burlington and promised to come back and visit (maybe even without kids!). On the drive home, we saw some more stunning scenery, such as:
Actually, I exaggerate. The drive between Burlington and Middlebury does hold some truly gorgeous views of Lake Champlain, and of the Adirondacks to the west and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east. This is simply to make light of a recurring theme of our trip. But not an overriding one… for there is just too much nice scenery in Vermont to let hundreds of miles a weensy little bit of road construction be the only thing you remember.
If you are still reading this, then I should tell you that this will be on the test we enjoyed a dinner of grilled sausages and batter-fried garden-fresh zucchini, then spent the evening trying to tire out the kids so us grown-ups could watch preseason football pass out go to sleep.
Our alarm went off early Wednesday morning. We bolted out of bed, threw our stuff (and our children) into the car and began the three-day zillion-mile never-ending drive back to Maryland. Curt was a champion and never complained even after what felt like FIFTY stops we had to make for a certain, semi-potty-trained three-year-old who shall remain nameless. (AHEM.) Ten hours later, I’m sure my sister had erased all traces of our visit, and we were back home, diligently unpacking our bags having drinks with the neighbors.
And that, my friends, is How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Or at least part of the last month of summer, anyway.