Vermonsters

As I drove up the rural onramp to get up on I-91, I knew that something wasn’t right. The notion that car just didn’t seem as peppy as it should be floated through the back of my head but the alarm bells were hardly going off. I was driving an elderly, but good and solid Subaru Legacy up to a cousin’s wedding in the northern reaches of Vermont. The drive was going to be a long one and I had already done a lot of driving the day before. I was okay with that, though. I didn’t mind the drive. Then the power really started to fail. Hmmmm. This was starting to not feel right at all.

“Holy crap!”

My eyes popped as I looked in the rear view mirror and I realized that the giant grey cloud that was rapidly filling the onramp was coming from me. Not good! Alarm bells! Bad! I pulled off the highway having not quite made it out of the merge lane and shut the car off. Three things were in my favor here. One was the fact that I was following my parent’s car and they had noticed the smoke screen that I was laying down behind me. My father, ever an astute individual, figured that I was not trying to screen the fleet from marauding u-boats and that perhaps, I might need a lift. The remaining two aces in the hole that I had were my a cell phone and a AAA card.

As soon as we had made the call, we transferred my stuff to their car and then waited on the side of the highway for the tow truck. Moment’s like that are always interesting to me. I didn’t expect to have a lot of time to chat with my parents that morning and especially not sitting on the scrubby grass next to cars whipping by at eighty mils per hour. As we cleaned out the Subaru, we talked about how different this sort of thing used to be and what it meant.

Not so very long ago, a break down like this would have meant a lot of different leg work. If I was alone, I would now be walking down the road to the village about six or eight miles back. I would be looking for a pay phone and then trying to explain where the driver could find both me and my car. Having gone through this in cell-free, years gone by, it made this situation look like cake. Not fun, to be sure, but hardly high drama either. The tow guy came around twenty minutes later but had sadly, left his personality in his other coveralls. An older man, round and mustachioed in a striped cap, it looked for all the world like having your car moved my a grumpy Mario. I wondered if Luigi was back at the shop working on Princess Peach’s Fiat. A few grunts from our Nintendo-esque tow truck driver and we were on our way again, packed in tight for a two and a half hour drive.

Vermont is a beautiful place. Action Girl hails from there and I have both spent a lot of time driving through it and briefly living there my self. It’s those amazing mountains. The Green Mountains are not like mountains you find in other places. They aren’t even like the mountains of New Hampshire, where I grew up. They are their own thing. If bare of vegetation, they would stick up like the teeth of an enormous granite, saw blade. Any one looking at them would immediately forgo any notion of hiking over the long ridges and precipitous cliffs. That’s how they would appear. In actuality, they are green. They are in fact, very, very green. Not only do the forests of Vermont seem to go forever, but it’s the fact that they are mostly hardwood forests that makes the autumns here so spectacular. The soil, though poor for large scale farming, is perfect for maple and oak trees. Pines, though abundant as well, are relegated to the edges of rock formations too ambitious for their slow growing, leafy brethren. Together, they turn the landscape into a softened spectacle, reminiscent of rumpled sheets on a bed freshly mugged.

As we climbed through the state along its highway spine, I waited with anticipation for views that I knew were en route. Deep river valleys speckled with towns opened up beside us. A cluster of old homes crowded close to the high white steeple of the village church marked the place where farmers had settled and toiled for hundreds of years. It made me want to move back, nestle into the soil and never leave again.

Eventually, we got off the highway and took the smaller roads that by necessity, wound deep into the dark valleys, following closely the path of the rivers and streams. In much of the state, a five mile trip “as the crow flies” means a fifteen mile trip, winding along the bits of the landscape that are actually passible to anything terrestrial. It’s a beautiful way to travel, but slow. You’ve got to be patient.

The wedding went off with out any undue drama. The bride was beautiful, my cousin looked calm and the backdrop for the out door event was a lush mountain range and a mirror smooth mill pond. You could literally not have painted a prettier picture. I mean that. As the party moved inside and we met folks from far away, we got to answer some questions about New England.

“Was it so green because of excessive rain?”, asked a couple from California. “No.” We replied. “It’s supposed to be like that.”
“How bad are the winters?”, asked another woman from Maryland. “Oh, it can get pretty spectacular. Especially in the valleys where the snow can really pile up and is shaded from the sun. It’ll be several feet deep come spring.”

It’s with a real sense of pride that I call my self a New Englander. Living here is not an easy thing a lot of the time, but to my mind, it can’t be beat either. Years ago, when describing the oppressively humid summers and the bone chilling winters to a young man in Germany, his immediate reaction and next question was, “Why do you live there?” To be honest, I don’t have a good answer to that. The extremes of the seasons are breathtaking and require a lot of work, but I do love it here, Mario look alike tow truck drivers and all.

The next morning as I took my hangover out for a walk, I just kept looking up at the Green Mountains. In the distance, I could listen to birds in the trees, watch the wind move along the hills and over the next ridge, just make out the report of someone sighting in a rifle, possibly getting ready for deer season. On the way back to my folks house and my car problem du jour, we stopped at a little diner called the Wayside, where I had enjoyed many a greasy breakfast when I called this place home. It was just as I remembered it and the pancakes came with real maple syrup, naturally. It was fantastic.

I really do love Vermont and New Hampshire and I miss them terribly sometimes. I’ve lived on the coast of Maine for over a decade now and I honestly don’t see us leaving. Where we are fits up mighty well, though mountains do call to me still. I know they do for Action Girl as well and some day, I think we’ll have to get a little cabin up there. It would be nice to have a place to call our own. We could go there in the summer and swat mosquitos and black fly, chop wood until our the sweat gets in our eyes and come winter, try to shovel out and not freeze to death.

I know part of my heart is still up there in those high valleys, because all that actually sounds like a good time to me. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that we ever left. I’ll have to go back soon anyway. I’ve got to see what Luigi’s done with my car’s head gasket and if they accept payment in 1up’s or or floating gold coins.

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4 Responses

  1. It looks gorgeous. I really need to rent a car that works some day and drive around with my camera. Not in winter. That’s why the US has Florida, you know. For peops like you. So that we don’t find you congealed under a pile of snow one day.

    Eh, I’d say desiccated rather than congealed. I’ve seen it before, but not with a human, thank God. Not pretty, either way. As for Florida… meaning no disrespect to any Floridians out there, but if you are sending me to anywhere other than the Keys, thank you ever so much for offer, but I think I’ll just sit here in the snowbank and chew on an icicle. If I’m heading anywhere warm for the winter months, It’s got to have hills at the very least. Mountains are better.

    As for driving through New England, if you’ve never done it, then you really need to. We all have a special place in our heart for the place we are from, (with the possible exception of Newark) but I think that Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have a beauty that is unparalleled. I may leave from time to time, but I always come back here.
    -TP

  2. Oh and really sorry I’m confusing you ;-(

    Just a few more days of fun and I’ll be back as me!

    You are the cheese! (with an h). Ross is the Nathalie, (with a planet).
    -TP

  3. That was you with the contrail! (If I’d known and wasn’t doing 80 I would’ve stopped! just kidding–about the being there, not about the stopping.) Good thing it didn’t happen the opening day of hunting season, I have a feeling ol’ Luigi might’ve had plans that didn’t include towing your Subaru.

    If it was this coming weekend I might’ve been there, tho. I was thinking about spending the long weekend with family in Stowe. I have a black sweatshirt from there with brightly colored Fall leaves that is at least older than Scout if not older than my marriage. It’s hard to make that trek with little ones, which is why I ended up not going through with it this year. Maybe next.

    I have to agree with nathaliewithanh, I much prefer sand and sun to snow and ice…and you can’t tell me you won’t break down at some point and take Short Stack and Lulu Belle to Orlando to visit the big rodent and his homies, even though it’s well north of the keys! I’m behind you on the tv and whatnot, pal, but that would just be un-American! Un-civilized even! We took Scout when he was seven when we were trying-to-get, but didn’t-know-we-were, pregnant with Lil’bug. One of the best times ever!

    Oh, I’m actually looking forward to that, though I detest the city of Orlando with a passion seldom seen by the public. I had to go there several times for business and I can’t believe how geared that place is to simply syphon your bank account dry. A one week stay in norther Switzerland was cheaper then that last trip to Orlando. When we go, I’ll grit my teeth and just wait to see the look on my kids faces. That will make it worth while. Then I go knock over a bank to cover the taxi ride home and dinner out.
    -TP

  4. Nicely written story.

    It’s true how much things have changed when it comes to breakdowns nowadays.

    I crashed my car out in the middle of the desert 3000 miles from home, about 10 years ago. Thank goodness for road side assistance insurance. My car was a write-off (also a Subaru and I bent the frame after rolling it three times) but my insurance covered the car and the roadside assistance insurance covered two aeroplane flights, hotel accommodation in the middle and a limo from the airport to home. I hate to think what the situation would’ve been like few decades ago.

    As an Australian, I’m totally over our stinking hot humid summers and, after living in North America for 9 years I’m so over living in the snow. I’m glad it doesn’t snow here in Sydney over winter. As a matter of fact, our winters are so mild that you’d just laugh if were here over winter when an Aussie complained about the cold.

    Heh, It’s all relative! I have a friend who moved here from North Dakota and just laughs at our winters. You never see her in anything heavier than a sweater and she is well known for going out to get the mail bare foot in the snow. Blows my mind. I also got to see a poor exchange student from Puerto Rico live (just barely) through his first real winter in New England. I have rarely felt so bad for someone so obviously miserable.
    -TP

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