Sunday, October 18, 2009

Item From the Past: New England Ramble

October 18, 1989

I set out early and headed north on Vermont 100, which turned into a valley road of exceptional charm. A lot of the color was already gone, but the remaining reds and yellows went well with the browns and grays in the background. Fog clung to the slopes and bushes like cotton. I arrived in Waterbury just after noon and after lunch went to the nearby Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory and took the tour -- essentially a slide show of the process, bragging about how socially conscious the company is, and an overlook of the ice cream-making room, which isn't really that large. Free samples after that, and I bought a milkshake ("reverse chocolate").

Later in the afternoon, I drove to Montpelier down I-89, one of the best-looking stretches of Interstate I’ve ever seen, hilly and colorful. The capital of Vermont is a small place, as if the capitol were flung into the sky and happened to land in this spot, so that a town had to be built around it. I’m sure there are actual historical reasons for its location, but I like my idea better than looking up those reasons. Spent some time in the elegant capitol (state house, it’s called, like in Massachusetts) and the attached museum.

Found the hostel before dark and was given an empty room filled with six or seven folding beds, though I remained the only occupant. In summer, things are probably more crowded. The place was cluttered, so it reminded me of home. The fat, bearded, goofy proprietor didn't remind me of home. For a while I was in the common room with a few of the other lodgers, and the proprietor would come in periodically and make lewd comments about the movie on TV, Gorillas in the Mist, and then laugh at himself. "So you're watching Gorillas in My Pants?" was one of the cleaner ones. Cost of the room, plus the low-grade entertainment, $10.

October 19

Left early without a word. Spent a few minutes in a graveyard along US 2 down the hill from the hostel. Mostly 19th-century graves, very austere. It was cold, so I moved on into New Hampshire. Drove into nice views of the Presidential Range.

At the foot of Mt. Washington, I looked into taking the cog railway up to the top. They wanted $32. No. So I drove away and along a little road and came to Jefferson Notch, elevation 3009 feet. Ice crystals hung from the trees. I got out of the car, walked around, then ate lunch.

October 20

Long driving day into Maine, through driving rain sometimes. It was pouring in Gorham, NH, when I had breakfast at McDonald's, just ahead of a busload of French Canadians.

"A bus is coming," said one of the McDonald's workers to another one.

"Hear that?" the second one said, calling back to the food prep area. "There's a bus on the way!"

"A bus of what?" asked yet another worker behind the counter, a gawky teen. [Actually, they probably were all teens.]

"A bus of people!" the first one said, and most of the workers laughed, but not the guy who'd asked.

It was indeed a bus of people -- elderly Québécois on tour, it seemed. I finished my sausage egg biscuit, read the Manchester Union-Leader and listened to their familiar yet unfamiliar tongue.

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