Shun-Piking in Vermont, I Came to the End of the Line

Storm damage closed Rte 5 in Barnet, Vermont.
Storm damage closed Rte 5 in Barnet, Vermont.

I will never forget the time my mother rhapsodized to me in the 1970s about a drive she and my dad took through the New Jersey Meadowlands, en route to New York City. What stood out and what amazed her then was how lovely that dreadful scenery looked to her with Beethoven playing through their friend’s new 8-track stereo, and how it had convinced her to install such a player in our next station wagon. The music they listened to transformed even the worst part of the drive on the Turnpike.  It was all beautiful with the music playing in the car. In the car? Amazing back then.

Today I drove all the way up through Vermont to Montreal, and I listened to my music on the iPhone throughout the journey. But for me I didn’t have to get away from Jersey-ugly scenery, instead I enjoyed the vistas and old barns that line this bucolic route.  At one point I got off the highway to ‘shun-pike’ a favorite habit of mine that is named for those colonial settlers who chose to avoid the turnpikes so they could avoid the tolls. Route 5 just north of Barnet tempted me, and I soon came to a ‘road closed’ sign. Route  5 closed?  No way!  So I drove on, only to find that a mile down the road the pavement had entirely given way to a flood, and an excavator was busy shoveling dirt to put the road back together.

A little ways down as I made my turnaround heading south instead of north, I came upon what looked like someone’s private freight train. A forlorn set of train cars on a siding, on a track that veered in right next to a house.  Six or so decrepit cars, one with a crane, a few freight cars, and flattop cars, and even a dilapidated caboose. Funny!

I took 91 instead of 89, and it wasn’t until Derby right about 2 miles from the border did I realize that to get to Montreal, you gotta go on I-89.  This gave me the chance to experience Vermont east to west, and I drove by big dairy farms, through sad little towns like East Berkshire and Samsonville on my way back toward the right interstate. Once I got into Canada, I noticed how flat the country was, and how every silo had the same writing on the top…a Quebecois surname with ‘Ferme’ just before it.

I met up with the group of journalists at a small restaurant in Montreal’s bustling St. Denis neighborhood, and right away I felt at home, comfortable getting to know the group of six other journalists and two hosts who would be with me for the next four days.  I feel right at home here, in this comfy Hotel de Institut.  Sometimes there’s nothing better than a hotel room for four days and nothing but adventure lined up in front of you.