Country Roads, Take Me Home! Part I

After not being back in my home state of Vermont for 5 years and never having taken the kids on a trip longer than 5 days we decided to do both in May.  My brother and his wife had just had their first child and my parents were already going and asked if we’d like to come along.  I’m so glad we did.  Most days the weather was perfect, the food was good (and local!), and the family time was much overdue. It was the kind of vacation you pack so much in and yet never get to do it all; here’s a little play-by-play wrap up.

Thursday May 17- leave Troy at 10am for Buffalo, NY.  Pit stops at my parents, a road stop outside of Cleveland (lunch), Erie, PA welcome center and finally Buffalo.  We stayed that night at the Lord Amherst hotel (a place that was clean, but hasn’t changed a bit since 1976) and ate dinner at the Lake Effect Diner, featured on Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.  Their grilled mac & cheese was yum and my mom had the most amazing Chicken Cordon Blu with their own smoked ham. Being in the area brought back memories of traveling from Ohio to VT in college/grad school when I would stop and catch up with friends in Buffalo; hope to do that again some trip.

Friday May 18- take a trip to Niagara Falls & riding the Maid of the Mist.  My husband had never visited Niagara Falls and we decided this would be a way to break up the drive.  Even though we did not have passports for the kids and had to stay on the American side of the falls, it was a great little day trip.  Well, except for the part where my husband lost his cell phone and we discovered we had forgotten to pack our camera battery charger.  The phone was found and we called family back in Ohio to mail the charger.  If you can get past all the touristy-kitchy stuff at Niagara Falls it is really lovely.  There is a riverside park that winds around with lots of green lots and places to sit.  And the Maid of the Mist ride is a classic.  It’s been in operation for over 100 years.  After spending the morning at the falls we headed back to the car to Amsterdam, NY to view my brother in his wrestling show.  My little bro has been working with In Your Face Wrestling for the last few years and touring as “Vigo, the Force from the North.”  Although it was not your typical family reunion site, it was a blast.  Nothing like seeing my sweet little girl yelling out “Hit Him!” among a few wrestling fans.  My favorite part?  Holding my new little nephew for the first time.   We also grabbed dinner at a fantastic little pizza place in Amsterdam.  Let me tell you, Amsterdam, NY is one of those towns that has seen its day pass.  We had no idea where to get some food, but walked into this hole in the wall pizza place and it was bright, clean, and the pizza was delicious.  As we were picking up our pizza, an employee pulled out the most beautiful buttery, oozing cheese, calzone I’ve ever seen.  Check out Riverside Pizza if you are ever traveling through!

Saturday May 19 – after a very loud night in a hotel in Albany, NY (our room was next to the vending area and around 3am we were woken up by an arguing couple) we made our way to Vermont.  Finally!  “Look, kids!  Those are REAL mountains.”  We had no agenda except to make it to our hotel/condo by dinner so we meandered our way to Bennington, VT.  I knew we must be in VT, not from the lovely views or earthy people, but how my husband starts commenting on all of the great planning & urban design features of towns (look at that sign-post/wow, that’s a great parking lay-out).  As planning geeks we have our own separate collection of “urban design photos” on each vacation.  I fear for my children. We made a stop at the Bennington Monument, an obelisk much like the Washington Monument that commemorates the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War.  As we arrived folks were cleaning up from a 5K race that included racing to the top of the monument!  After our monument trip we made our way to the Walloomsac Farmers Market.  This was a lovely little farmers market in a little park next to a little creek (the Walloomsac?).  We were about to leave when my daughter spied these two little girls “selling” their drawings for ten cents next to their parents coffee roasting booth.  She wanted to see if the girls wanted to trade one of her pictures for one of theirs.  That started off a really nice conversation and about an hour long visit as my husband bought some fresh bread and cookies from the Russian Baker, we made our PB & J in the park with my kid played with the girls.  When my daughter and their youngest were chatting I asked what grade she was in.  She said “I don’t go to school, I’m homeschooled.”  So Gwen replied “Me, too.”  Then the little girl said “I’ve never been to school.”  Gwen: “Me Too!”  Instant friends. On our way out we grabbed some of their delicious coffee for the road-check them out at Lucy Jo’s Coffee.  I can’t wait to order their Wada-Wada-Hooka Blend.

After leaving Bennington, we took the scenic roads through Ludlow, VT (think Okemo Ski Resort) and across to Brownsville, VT.  This part of our trip was marked by observing all the damage Hurricane Irene wrought last August.  In the southern and middle parts of the state there are new bridges, temporary bridges, new rocks to prevent erosion all along the creeks and rivers.  It was humbling to see how much was damaged and how much had been repaired in less than a year.  It was also the first time my husband and kids observed fly fishing.  Vermont is a great place to go fly fishing and there is something very serene about watching folks calmly wading in to the rock filled waters with their long lines.  For me, this part of the trip was like letting a breath of air out.  Ohio is my home now, but being back in the Vermont Mountains, that’s my roots.  Our condo was tucked away in the Mt. Ascutney Ski Resort, or should I say the defunct Mt. Ascutney Ski Resort.  I never knew this could happen in VT!  About four years ago, the owner bankrupted the ski resort and it has been boarded up ever since.  Holiday Inn Resorts bought the main hotel, the condos, and the fitness center and reopened those parts last fall, but it was strange to see half of the area closed down and the base lodge boarded up.  That said, it was a really nice place to stay.  We had a 2 bed/2 bath condo with my parents.  We brought a little charcoal grill, but had access to a full kitchen for meals.  Since the condo part hadn’t been used in years, there was a lot of stuff missing or not working, but the staff was great!  The fitness area had a playground for kids and an indoor/outdoor pool.  My kids were in heaven.  A lot of sharing was going on to conserve resources, like the main maintenance guy was also the personal trainer for the gym, but I liked that it wasn’t so formal and stuffy.

Stay Tuned…more coming up (like trips to Woodstock, Rutland, Hampton Beach, NH, the top of Mt. Ascutney, Burlington & Brandon).

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