August 4, 2021
I've got an alarm set for 5:45 a.m. so I can get up and be on the road early. I awake at 4:50 a.m. and lie in bed for a few minutes before getting up to make coffee. We're on the road without breakfast at about 6:15 a.m.
It's a travel day and we have about 250 miles to cover before we rest at a friend's home in Shaftsbury, Vermont.
It's slow going in the beginning because of a thick fog. Speed limit is 55 mph, but I'm doing about 45 mph. There are several places looking east into the Catskills where we rise above the fog and get spectacular views.
We travel for a while going in and out of fog and then conditions begin to improve. It's about 8:00 a.m. when, traveling about 50 mph, a doe darts out in front of the van about a 100 yards or so up the road. Melanie immediately reminds me to slow down as there may be other deer nearby.
I take my take my foot off the gas just as her fawn leaps out in front of the van. I brake, but the fawn is too slow and we hit it doing about 20 miles an hour. While the fawn manages to get out of the road and out from in front of the van, I can tell it's badly hurt.
Melanie's crying, I'm a bit in shock at seeing the distress on it's small face. I drive a bit farther and find a spot to pull over to check for damage to the van. I can't see any, but I'm truly upset at hitting the animal and get back in the van and take some deep breaths.
I really don't have the heart to see go back and check to see what I've done to the fawn and we move on.
We drive in silence for miles. I know I've, in effect, killed the fawn and it sits heavy with me. This is the first time in my 51 years of driving I've hit a deer. The incident also gives me a preview of just how much time it takes to stop a 10,000 lb. vehicle moving at 50 miles an hour. As I type this, I am still troubled by the incident. I know there was nothing I could have done to prevent it, but it's troubling all the same.
We move on through the Catskill Mountains and eventually the beauty of it all overcomes our grief and are in awe at the landscape before us. We make note and speculate about how grand the colors must be in the Fall Leaf Peeping Season.
We arrive in Kingston, NY to do some banking. There are very few branches in the Northeast of the bank we've been using for years, but there happens to be a branch in Kingston and Kingston is sorta on the way to Shaftsbury, Vermont where we're headed.
A woman who walks past the van as we're preparing to get out asks about our Florida tag. She lives in Atlanta and, well, Florida = Southerners to her. We tell her we're domiciled in Florida, but we travel full-time. One thing then another and it turns out we know some of the same people as she has relatives who live in Columbus, Georgia where I grew up. Small world thing.
After our banking chore is finished, Melanie finds a local diner and we have a late breakfast. Then we're on our way to Whole Foods in Albany, NY to buy a few items we can't readily get elsewhere.
We're thereafter in Shaftsbury about and hour and a half before our hosts say they will be home and available for us to arrive. I find a convenient place to park, Melanie works and takes mail to the local post office. I'm feeling a bit tired after our drive and being awake before 5 a.m. and take about an hour nap.
We arrive at Laura and Kevin's around 3:30ish. Kevin is a very talented documentary photographer and author of 12 books of photos who I met when I was practicing law and part owner of an art gallery in Birmingham some 15 years ago. We've not spent any time together since, after having an opening and show of his photographs at the gallery, we traveled together to document the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and attend the first Jazz Festival after Katrina.
We later had a two-person show at the gallery (he could not attend the opening) of photos we made over the three days we were in New Orleans. It was, by all accounts, the most popular show we had at the gallery while it was open. The gallery closed in 2007 just before the economic crash of 2008.
I give Laura and Kevin a tour of the van and we get a tour of their home and we all move out to their back yard near their garden for drinks and conversation before they serve us a nice dinner. The evening is truly wonderful and we really enjoy our evening together.
Kevin promises pancakes in the morning and we retire to the van in our spot near their garden in the backyard. We're asleep by 10:00 p.m.
August 5, 2021
Melanie is awake before I am and she works and checks social for a while before she suggests I might want to get up and make coffee. It's approaching 7:30 and Kevin says he's making us breakfast after 8:00 a.m. I'm up.
We see Kevin as I put finishing touches on the coffee and we make our way into their home, We sip on coffee in the kitchen. We sit around a kitchen table as Kevin makes pancakes and we sip our coffees. The pancakes are some of the best we've had in ages served, of course, with Vermont Maple Syrup.
After breakfast we got ready and drove over to The Mile Around Woods in nearby North Bennington, VT for a nice morning walk. We covered around 2 miles as we sauntered through and around fields of corn and pasture land and nice forested areas. It was a truly pleasant walk.
We return to our hosts house and I quickly shower and we're on our way. We look forward to visiting with Laura and Kevin again next year.
Since we'd glimpsed a collection of sculptures in North Bennington on the way to walk at The Mile Around Woods, we go back directly to North Bennington for a closer look at them. The exhibit stretches about a quarter mile along a portion of Buckley Road and includes the historic train depot.
It takes us about 30 minutes and we're off to Bennington, VT for lunch. I'm up for a craft beer of some sort and Melanie finds lunch and that beer at Madison Brewing Company.
We both enjoyed our lunch. Melanie had a burger and salad and I had the best pastrami sandwich recently. I had the FBomb, an Imperial Double IPA, my favorite. Recommended.
Afterwards I quickly duck into a local chocolate shop for a few take-away treats.
We're then on to our campsite at Molly Stark State Park where we will be in residence for two days before traveling eastward to Brattleboro for a night. We were at Molly Stark just shy of two years ago in September 2019. It's one of our favorite state parks.
We quickly set up and Melanie walks around camp and takes our trash, then goes for a shower at the campground shower house very nearby. I journal some while she's gone.
She makes us an adult beverage and we go to the back of the van for FaceTime with friends.
Later lunch means we again skip dinner and retire to the back of the van for a bit of streaming before retiring around 10:00 p.m.
August 6, 2021
We're up around 7:00 a.m. I make coffee and we have breakfast in the back of the van. Melanie begins her work day and around 10:00 a.m. she mentions taking a hike in Molly Stark.
She says we should take the trail leading up the fire tower on Mount Olga. I'm game, so after we clean up breakfast dishes and straighten the van out a bit, we leave the van and hike up through the campground to the trailhead.
The trail is a bit muddy. It has been raining quite a bit in Vermont and various wet weather springs are in evidence. We arrive at the fire tower and have various conversations with other hikers from California and Massachusetts.
Melanie declines to go up in the tower because she'd been up the last time we were here and I ascend to the top and make a few photos. It's quite smokey today, I guessing from wild fires out west. Certainly not close by as Vermont has had an extremely wet summer so far.
When I'm back down we finish our hike and make it a complete loop going out in counter-clock wise fashion. The trail finishes very near where we're camped.
Melanie calls her father and checks in with him. I read and check social media and, once Melanie is off her call, she makes us our lunch salad.
Melanie continues her work day while I clean up lunch dishes and journal for a time.
She has a Zoom Meeting at 3:00 p.m.
I get out our zero-gravity chairs and we enjoy an adult beverage, then walk around camp. Another beverage, skipping dinner, we retire for streaming and sleep.
August 7, 2021
We're up at near 7:00 a.m., Melanie begins her work day as I make coffee.
We're decided to leave Molly Stark State Park relatively early so we can catch the Farmers Market in Brattleboro, a short distance away. Melanie goes for a shower and I continue to sip coffee and read.
After she's back, we begin to ready the van for travel. Since we've planned to be boondocking for at least 2 days, we stop at the dump station and empty our grey and black tanks. I also fill our fresh water tank with fresh water.
We're less than 20 miles from where we'll be tonight in Brattleboro, VT on the border with New Hampshire. The Farmers Market is about 15 miles away from us.
We make one quick stop to replenish our tonic supply at an 802 Liquor Store. While Melanie is in shopping, a woman walks up and asks about our van. She's interested in renting out her nearby farm and thinks living in a van will give her maximum flexibility. But. It's cold in Vermont in winter and she'll need a 4 season van. Nope. That's not us, I tell her.
The Farmers Market is only about a mile from that stop and we arrive to find it quite busy. As luck would have it, we are able to park along the road and make our way the short distance to all the farmers' and other merchants' kiosks.
We buy some tomatoes and some soaps to give away as gifts for our up coming hosts. I stop at North Wind Farm and purchase, from Nate and Thalla, kimchi and pickled cucumbers that look delicious. They have farm-raised tacos for sale and the farmer lets me sample the pork he's prepared. It's amazing, but it's too early for tacos and we move along and into town.
Melanie has mail so we park in a lot nearby and then begin looking around downtown. It's now nearing lunchtime, but the place we want to go isn't open for lunch. We decide to go back to Whetstone Brewing overlooking the Connecticut River. It's closed until noon.
We walk back into town and I sit on a park bench while Melanie goes into the local Co-op for a few more grocery items we need. Now it's lunchtime.
There's a line forming outside, but it's not too long before we're inside and snag a riverside table for two. Lunch is good bar food. I have a double IPA, she has a lemonade with blueberry vodka.
After lunch we check out an outfitters and I purchase a pair of shorts. Then we're back at the van cranking up the generator as it approaches 80 degrees outside.
We make a quick stop at a grocery store for a 9 volt battery to replace the dead one in our smoke detector in the van.
Our Harvest Hosts, Saxtons Distillery, is less than a 1/4 mile away. Melanie works while I lie down for a while and then get up to work on journaling and processing photos from my Nikon camera.
We've located Miranda around the back of the distillery and after Melanie is finished with work, we walk around to the front and get drinks and a bottle of gin for the road.
I've made dinner reservations for us at Peter Havens Restaurant. We had a very nice dinner a few weeks back.
We arrive at Peter Havens at around 7:15 and are told we should wait outside since our table is not ready (it's not available, we later learn). At around 7:45 we are invited in. It's obvious almost from the beginning that staff and kitchen are behind the curve of the onslaught of patrons who've arrived close together.
Our server is also the host and floor manager. She's doing her best to keep it all together with some success, but we must wait an inordinate amount of time to order drinks, then wait an inordinate amount of time to get them. Once our drinks are finally served, we order dinner thinking we're going to be waiting a while for that too.
I start with the soup du jour, a tomato and eggplant. It comes out in reasonable fashion and is over-the-top delicious. Our entrees in turn come out and we are also served second glasses of wine on time.
Our host/waitress tells us the wine is on the house. She appreciates our understanding about the prolonged waits for drinks, ordering etc. I ask if they are short-handed. They are as, among others, a top server had an emergency and would be out for a week.
Both of us enjoyed our entrees and we'll be back when we visit Brattleboro again.
Making our way back to the van, we drive to our Harvest Hosts location and after a quick set up, we're soon asleep, noting that a place that serves alcohol closes on a Saturday evening at 9:00 p.m.
August 8, 2021
An alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., I reach over and luckily hit the snooze button on my phone. I quickly check to see how lucky I am and, yes, it's counting down the minutes before it will alarm me again. I doze briefly only to wake up before the alarm goes off again.
It's Sunday, a travel day for us and Melanie has made a plan to be in Keene, New Hampshire for church services there at 9:00 a.m.
We both need a shower so Melanie finds a Planet Fitness in Keene and at around 6:45, we are moving in that direction. We're only 16 miles away and the trip this time of morning is a breeze. Not much traffic this time of day.
I contemplate how getting up early to travel to another location in a van to have access to a shower in a gym would be a deal-breaker for many people. I remember the many times, while out backpacking in some remote wilderness, my friends and I would clean up via a "SunShower" set up and how our trips to Planet Fitness was basically the van life version of my backpacking experience.
The shower is a great one with water pressure that was strong and hot water on which I didn't have to wait. We're are in and out within 15 minutes. We quickly dress in the van, Melanie for church services to be held by St. James Episcopal Church, today in Fuller Park nearby.
We arrive at Fuller Park with enough time for us both to eat breakfast and sip coffee for bit before Melanie gathers her portable folding chair from the pass-through storage in the van and makes her way to services about 50 yards away. There looks to be about 25 or so parishioners in attendance.
After services, we'll make our way north and east to Waterford, ME for a visit overnight with a long-time friend I've not seen for years. He has a summer home there. Waterford is where he attended summer camp as a child and where his children went to summer camp.
While I've been to Waterford many years back, I have no real recollection of the area. When I was there, I traveled over to Interval, NH to be fitted for my custom-made Limmer Boots. The boots were a 40th birthday gift from close (backpacking) friends. They were a very hot ticket then and, as I recall, it took me almost 3 years to receive them once I was fitted. Yes, I still have the boots, but they're currently in storage in Birmingham.
We leave Keene and head east towards Waterford. The day begins to warm up and we crank up the generator and turn on the van AC. We stop for lunch in Henniker, New Hampshire just off of Highway 202 (becomes I-89) at The Country Spirit restaurant. Lunch is good and we're back on the road in less than an hour.
We begin to experience heavy traffic as we approach the intersection of Interstate 89 and Interstate 93 and are delayed by stop and go traffic and a missed exit on my part. We move south on I-93 for 6 miles before we can get off and turn around to travel back north towards Concord, NH. The traffic is very heavy heading south towards Boston. It's the first time in a long while we've seen as many cars on the road.
We make our way north and east going through Meredith and Conway. There's road construction and intermittent showers along the way. We reach our destination just after 4:00 p.m. It's now cooler because of the afternoon showers.
My friend has a nice home on Bear Pond. We spend the evening catching up and are asleep just after 10:00 p.m.
August 9-10, 2021
We intended to spend only one night on Bear Pond with my, now our, friend, Bob Schiffman, but decide, after immediate plans are cancelled for Melanie, to spend another few days with him.
Bob and I haven't laid eyes on each other since he generously agreed to allow Tate and I to attend the Masters back when Tate was maybe four years old. Over 20 years ago. It's hard to believe it's been that long since we saw each other.
A bonus of staying is getting to spend time with Bob's eldest son, Adam, and to enjoy Adam's great preparation of dinners for us on two evenings.
The other delight was getting to go on a hike with Adam and his aunt, Mary Beth, Bob's sister and my high school classmate I'd not seen in a very long time. Maybe we were in brief contact when Adam had his Bar Mitzvah in Columbus, Georgia at age 13?
We hiked a loop trail on Sabattus Mountain and Mary Beth treated us to lunch at a local grocery store afterwards. It was great to spend time with them.
I got out on my bike on Monday to get some exercise, check out the surroundings of a place I'd not been to in many years and deliver mail for Melanie. The last time I was in Waterford was to visit Bob one summer. He had rented Bear Mountain Inn for a month or so and I met he and other friends there for a nice week's retreat.
I rode over to Harrison, ME on Long Lake and back to Bob's and was able to see much of the immediate area, including where Bob and all his children went to summer camp at Camp Wigwam.
We travel again on Wednesday.
Steven and Melanie