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Maple syrup, cheddar cheese, country inns, bed and breakfasts, autumn leaves, village greens, church steeples, country stores, and small villages are phrases that I will always associate with Vermont. The whole population of Vermont is under one million and even their largest city, Burlington, has a small town feeling.

We began our visit to Vermont by entering the state on US 4 after having left Glens Falls, New York. That put us in that little notch of Vermont on the western side of the state. Immediately after entering the state we headed north on Vermont Route 30 which was a narrow, hilly, two lane road around some pretty lake areas. North of Middlebury we turned onto US 7 until a  little north of town then followed the directions from our Trailer Life Campground Directory to the River's Bend Campground. This campground is beautiful but we were a little nervous when we turned off of Route 7. First of all Dog Team Road posted a weight limit of 24,000 pounds; we are heavier than that. Then when we turned on to the campground's drive, the very narrow dirt road descended down and down for about 1.5 miles and we really didn't know for sure what we were getting into. It turned out to be fine though. Although they only have water and electric sites, the park was well maintained and really very pretty. They have a dump station and will even pump you out if you don't want to move. The sites were very large and we had no trouble getting into our site. 

Middlebury turned out to be our favorite town. The little blurb on their map suggests that visitors take a walking tour "where three village greens and four churches preside over 300 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places." Middlebury is home to Middlebury College and the pretty campus is very much a part of  the town's charm. 

A few buildings on campus

Notice all of the chimneys on this building----the two-lane covered bridge in Middlebury is the only one of its kind in Vermont.

The shops in town are typically quaint; I was most impressed with the shoemaker who really did make shoes although he did repairs too. When we entered the store he was actually making a pair of shoes for a customer. 

For each of the five days we were in Middlebury, we took long drives to explore the surrounding areas. Our intention was to cover as many of Vermont's roads as we could during our stay. To help us we purchased the book, 25 Bicycle Tours in Vermont, by John S. Freidin. We wanted to bike, but we also wanted to drive some of the bike routes because they are usually in a scenic area. John used to own Vermont Bicycle Tours which is based near Middlebury and his knowledge of the towns is included in the book so it was a helpful way to tour.

One day's drive was to the Woodstock area. In his book, John, wrote, "...Woodstock where Vermont's most stately architecture has been meticulously preserved. One Woodstock native, US Senator Jacob Collamer, liked to boast that 'the good people of Woodstock have less incentive than others to yearn for heaven.' " We found it to be very nice, but busy because everyone knows about its charms. Pictures just don't do justice. 

I was intrigued with the artwork in the dormer on this house.

On that same drive we visited Sugarbush Farms whose claim to fame is both their maple syrup and smoked cheeses. They gave lots of samples and we purchased some of both. This small business is way out in the country and up quite high. It was a pretty drive. 

After the cheese is smoked, they dip each bar in paraffin then two other ladies carefully wrap with plastic while including the label. 

On another day's drive, we ended up at Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory. We had taken the tour there 13 years ago on our first visit to Vermont so we just indulged in their wonderful ice cream. The tour is worth taking so please include that in your visit. Another thing we did not do that we thoroughly enjoyed on our first visit was the Shelbourn Museum just south of Burlington. It really is something that should be included in any trip to Vermont.

Eating out is fun in Vermont as we discovered on our first day. Fire and Ice is where we ate first and there aren't enough words to describe the delicious meal we had there. We arrived in time to enjoy the "early bird" prices. Ron ordered chicken and I ordered scallops. This landmark restaurant which looks like a big house has a huge 60 item salad bar which included shrimp, breads and fresh wonderful greens and all the trimmings. It has been serving steaks, seafood, prime rib and homemade mashed potatoes along with their lavish salad bar since 1974. 

Another remarkable dinner eaten in the Middlebury area was at the Dog Team Tavern which was just down the road from our campground. When we entered this sprawling building which was a tea house in the early 30s and has been a restaurant since the 40s we were greeted by a hostess who was standing next to a large chalk and poster board which was leaning against a table. It listed more than a dozen entrees and included prices. We must have looked a bit puzzled because we were asked if we had ever been there before. When we told her we hadn't, she went on to explain that meals are served family style and we have to order there before we are even seated. She took our order (which seemed strange) then we were asked to sit on one of the couches until we were called. A short time later we were ushered to a small table which was set with everything including  cups of the tomato-broccoli soup that we had chosen; the soups were hot and delicious. We had only just began to eat when our server brought over huge sticky rolls, fresh bread, and a small ferris wheel of extra treats was wheeled over to stand beside our table. On the wheel were such things as horseradish spiced cottage cheese, sweet and sour sauerkraut, spiced beets with onion, corn relish, apple butter, and bean salad. A nice salad came next followed by our entrees. Ron ordered grilled scrod which he said was terrific and I ordered my favorite, scallops. When the our meals were delivered all that was on the plate was the meat; our server dished up all of the mashed potatoes and vegetable (brussel sprouts) we would want. The food was excellent and the experience charming. 

Our next destination was what Vermonters call the Northeast Kingdom which is an area about 40 miles square bordering New Hampshire and Canada. Our campground was Sugar Ridge RV Village and Campground  in Danville. The pictures below do not completely capture how wonderful this place is. In our 13 years of full-timing and the two years of camping before that, we have never been in such a nice campground as Sugar Ridge. The thing that impressed us is that the sites are so very wide and long and it didn't matter if the site was in the woods or in the open; they are all big and the roads are nice and wide making turing or backing in easy. Many commercial campgrounds crowd sites close together so they can make more money per acre; not this one. We think it would be an ideal place to spend a whole summer. They have a nice pool, laundry, showers, hiking trails and the owner uses his beautiful horses (they looked like the Busch Clydesdale horses) to give wagon and carriage rides throughout this large campground.

We had a hard time planning our route to Danville after taking so many drives from the Middlebury area. The state routes are narrow which doesn't normally bother us, but they twist up and over mountains and the grades were pretty steep. We decided to play it safe and drove north on US Route 7 to Burlington, then jumped on I 89 getting off after Montpelier and finishing up the drive on US Route 2. In hindsight and after taking long drives up in the Kingdom, we could have taken Vermont 15 even though it would have taken us out of our way. The drives in Vermont are worth the miles put on any vehicle. 

We followed the same procedure as we had during our first stop and consulted the bike book for tours to drive. We didn't even think of biking in this hilly area; even the bike book lists the tours in the Kingdom as strenuous. Nearby St. Johnsbury is an old, fairly large town and we observed that the towns in the north were not as neat and pretty as the central and southern Vermont towns. The library is another story though and is featured in my article on libraries

Downtown St. Johnsbury 
We enjoyed our drives and paid a visit to the Cabot Creamery for more samples of great cheese. They give tours there, but we happened to stop on Sunday when they weren't making cheese so we just bought some. We also stopped in to visit the Maple Grove Factory with its Sugar House Museum and gift shop. We arrived too late in the day for the tours there so we browsed the store and sampled syrup. But on another drive we discovered the last covered railroad bridge which is still in use in the state. It is the only one remaining with a full length cupola which provided an escape route for the smoke. We also discovered many country stores and occasionally we stopped in to look around. I love the squeaky wooden floors and many are heated with old fashioned wood burning pot bellied stoves.  And many times in the north, we saw barns or buildings that someone forgot long ago. Most villages also have a statue of someone on a little spot of green near the center of town (lower right picture).

Several little villages or hamlets had buildings that dated back to the early 18th century. Lower Waterford, for example, (pictured below) which is right on the New Hampshire border doesn't have much more than a post office, inn and church. 

The Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford dates from the early 1700's

Peacham is a sparkling village of white clapboard homes that seem unchanged since they were built over 150 years ago. 

The above pictures were taken from almost the same spot but looking in different directions. On many of our drives we saw houses with barns attached and here right in the village of Peacham (near the post office) was one such house-barn combination. I photographed it from several angles. Does anyone know why they were attached like this.

We moved to Dorset for the final five days in Vermont by traveling south on I-91 (again avoiding steep grades on mountain roads) then turned west on U.S. 4 until we got to U.S. 7 where we went south to Dorset. We stayed at the small Dorset RV Park which is just south of Dorest. As we entered town and drove through the very busy town of Manchester, we realized that we hadn't done our home work very well. Manchester was full of outlet stores scattered throughout three different streets. Traffic was in a constant jam due to the fact that there was no traffic light at the most major intersection. We were really wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

During our stay in Dorest we managed to avoid the outlets by taking more drives and biking twice on a very nice bike route. We saw an ad for the annual chicken pie dinner at the Baptist church so signed up for that. That was fun. And across from the campground was a huge kitchen store. They advertised an apple pie contest and offered tastes to everyone after the judging. We did that and agreed with the judges choice of best pie. Just down the road from the campground in the other direction was the first marble quarry and the oldest such quarry in the United States. It is no longer used but was pretty. Imagine huge marble chunks just laying around.

Ron's sister has always loved Westin so she recommended we should visit that little town. There were a lot of people there so she wasn't the only one to like Westin. We parked by the village green (most towns have one) then set out to discover what was in the three or four stores there. They were full of merchandise, people and were much bigger than they looked from the outside. If they didn't have it, you didn't need it. 

They even had a real working pot bellied stove which I am sure gets a good work out in the winter months. It was fun to browse and sample sauces, spices and other goodies. When several tour busses pulled up we left. 

We discovered that much of the southern part of Vermont was busy and was more touristy. In search of a cider mill and fresh apples, we came upon a wonderful lawn and garden shop (Equinox Valley Nursery) which also had the cider and doughnuts we were looking for. We ended up just enjoying their delightful scarecrows instead of indulging in goodies. You can click on the thumbnails to see them in great detail. I only photographed a few; there were lots of scenes.

All of our friends and family wanted a color report of our trip to Vermont, but there wasn't much. Because of the draught the trees were losing their leaves before they had a chance to turn into the brilliant reds and oranges that Vermont trees are noted for. It didn't matter to us because our delight was just in being there and exploring all of the little out of the way places that remain just the way they have been for ages. It was a great trip! 

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