Via Vermont Scenic Byways
27.09.2012 - 02.10.2012 55 °F
So today we begin a 6-day journey to visit three states we have never been to: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Yesterday we left the sweltering heat of South Louisiana bound for the crisp fall air that comes so early to the New England states.
Sure enough, the car thermometer read 45 degrees when we began our day at 7:30 AM. The sky was cloudless and the sun was bright. What a great day to drive country roads. We were zipping through the twisty roads at 40 MPH, passing one tiny town after another when the first photogenic building appeared ... an old church. To this Louisiana boy, this is a true symbol of being in New England. Drive a little further and another one ... even more impressive.
Since fall days are pretty short and our list of things to do in was pretty long, we resisted the urge to photograph a lovely white church in every town ... only the best from here on out. So what else really conjures up thoughts of the New England countryside. How about a covered bridge? Yep, a very fine example, indeed!! The Cornish-Windsor bridge over the Connecticut river connecting Windsor, VT with Cornish, NH.
This bridge was built in 1866 at a cost of $9,000. I know everyone is aware that prices are headed through the roof, but listen to this. The bridge was damaged during a 1977 flood and it was repaired for only $25,000, but by 1987 it had deteriorated to the point that it was closed to traffic. In 1989, NH spent $4.45 million to reconstruct it. As you can see it was money well spent ... worth it because it is the longest wooden covered bridge in the USA and it is the longest two-span covered bridge in the world.
So with covered bridge fever running high we drove up and down the same stretch of road so many times that the locals looked suspicious enough to consider calling the sheriff on us. Still, we could not find the other covered bridge that was supposed to be in the vicinity. Finally, we turned down Martinsville Road in Hartland because it looked like a road that might have a covered bridge. We were rewarded with the simple-but-sturdy 135-foot long Martin's Mill Covered Bridge built in 1881.
It wasn't long after we pulled back onto US-Hwy-5 that I started getting that feeling that we would not accomplish 1/100th of what we hoped to accomplish today. So in the interest of time, we hit I-91 bound for Hanover, NH, home of Ivy League school Dartmouth College. I wanted to go there and get sweatshirts for the whole family so we could tell people that we went, or were going, to school there. Wow, what a historic looking campus in an active little town in New Hampshire. A hour or so later we were back on I-91 headed for Vermont with a bag full of dull-green colored Dartmouth gear.
We spent most the rest of the daylight hours in the Woodstock/Quechee, VT area. The first stop was a quirky little place called the F.H. Clothing Company. We saw there ad in the Vermont Tourism brochure and their slogan, made in the U.S.A ... on purpose sucked me in. Many of these Vermont businesses are pretty small and the Fat Hat Clothing Company was no exception. They are located in an old schoolhouse selling a variety of very well made practical and warm clothing and hats for women.
From there we made a quick stop to see the Quechee Gorge.
As any traveler knows, with every lovely natural wonder there comes the opportunity for someone to put shopping space right where you have to park your car. Well, right there next to the gorge is the Quechee Gorge Village mall with a few pretty impressive tenants. First stop was the Cabot Cheese store. We tried them all and almost bought a bunch but since we had intentions of going to the farm we did not buy any. Also, Vermont Maple Syrup in every size and shape bottle, grade A light and dark, grade B, and so on, led to nothing but confusion. We would be going to a syrup farm and I am sure they could clear up the confusion, so we got out of that store empty-handed.
We walked into Danforth Pewter, made in Vermont as well. The pewter oil lamps are so elegant ... and expensive. I wanted one, but since I wanted cheese, vodka and syrup, too, we refrained from making a purchase at Danforth ... next time I am getting one of these little guys.
Way at the end of the mall is the Vermont Spirits Distilling Company, makers of fine vodka. Briefly, it seemed that I forgot that I was in rural Vermont, as the sophisticated young woman in the store told us why these boutique vodkas were so fine. Once again, this is a pretty small little distillery. Finally, we bought something ... 1 bottle of the Vermont White which is really SMOOTH. We concluded that the Vermont Gold was to good for us.
Guess what, we had been in the same little town for about three hours. No way were we going to make it to Cabot and Stowe. We weren't going to a cheese factory nor to a Syrup factory and a sad feeling came upon us. Well our Vermont Tourism Brochure showed that the Sugarbush Farm was right there in Quechee/Woodstock area and they make both cheese and syrup at this one farm. Well what are you waiting for, point the damn rental car in their general direction ... 10 minutes later there we are:
Keeping with the theme that Vermont Made = Major Production out of tiny facility, we walked into the cheese tasting room ... a room no bigger than the size of the average family room, with several ladies dipping blocks of cheese into brightly colored wax to protect the cheese.
In no time an energetic young woman with a vast knowledge of cheese making gave us the reader's digest version of how cheese is made and they presented a dizzying array of cheese for our tasting pleasure. Being a mild cheddar cheese only family, it sort of reminded me of our first wine tasting. The older and sharper that the cheeses are, the more it requires a refined palate. Still, I enjoyed each and every one of the cheeses that we sampled.
After the cheese sampling we moved onto syrup sampling. We tried 4 different types of Vermont Maple Syrup and they were all good. We bought a variety pack of cheese, variety pack of syrup and then went to visit the room where they make the syrup. Since syrup is made in the spring, there was nothing going on in the sugar shack.
Convinced that we could fit in one more thing today, we made the short trip to Woodstock, VT to visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Historic Park. This is a very impressive facility. We asked the park ranger what there was to do. He said that the last tour of the day had already departed and that it generally takes a half-day to visit the entire park, so we settled for taking a few pictures so y'all could see how the rich folks of a bygone era lived so good in the Vermont countryside.
Finally as the daylight dwindled and we approached the White Mountains, we got a good taste of some prime fall colors. Little did we know that it would be the first (and last) day of really wonderful weather.