Sunday, September 15, 2019

Exploring Vermont (with a side trip to Poland, Maine) - Part II

We continued exploring the wonderful Green Mountain State, venturing out beyond the Champlain Valley.

We had a terrific motorcycle ride to Stowe, which is known as The Ski Capital of the East.  But did you know that Stowe is also home to the Von Trapp Family from The Sound of Music fame?  Yup, Maria, Captain Von Trapp, and their family settled here after their U.S. singing tour and opened the Trapp Family Lodge, which is still owned and operated by Von Trapp kin.  No visit to Stowe is complete without visiting Smugglers’ Notch, which separates Green Mountains highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, from Spruce Peak in the Sterling Mountains.  The notch earned its name from the illegal activities that transpired there during the Embargo Act of 1807, when Vermonters were prohibited from trading with Britain and Canada. Later during Prohibition, the pass was used to transport booze into the U.S. from Canada.  Guess Smugglers’ Notch is testimony that “where there is a will, there is a way”, even if it means breaking the law.  We did some hiking while in Mansfield State Forest, including the Barnes Camp Loop Trail.  We worked up quite an appetite, so we headed to the Stowe Sandwich Shop.  It may be small in size, but it has an extensive menu, even vegan options.  Large portions, tasty food, excellent service, welcoming atmosphere, and clean bathrooms.  I highly recommend it!

Mom and Dad surprised this humble stuffed rat with a tour of the Cabot Creamery.  Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, this co-operative consists of 800 dairy farm families and 1,000+ employees, dedicated to providing the freshest, top quality cheese products.  We learned the history of the creamery and how they produce cheese using the stirred curd process.   

Then we were escorted to the Sample Room, where we were privy to tasting more than a dozen types of cheese.  Yup, you heard me, CHEESE—REAL cheese!  I thought I died and went to rat heaven!   If anyone is looking for some holiday gift ideas for me, here’s a few suggestions:

The Grandest of all gifts for Rambling RV Rat!


...I'd settle for these, too!

Despite a heavy downpour, Mom and I stopped to visit Martin Bridge Park in Marshfield, which featured the Martin Covered Bridge.  Built in 1890 along the Winooski River, it is unusually tall for a covered bridge.  This is because it was built to accommodate a wagonload of loose hay being transported between Farmer Martin’s fields.  Though named for the property owner, it was constructed by Herman Townsend, a very helpful, talented neighbor.  There’s a little picnic grove nearby, a picture-perfect setting.

View of Winooski River from the Bridge.

Vermont has its share of roadside attractions, and our motorcycling routes afforded us an opportunity to see several.  One is called Prayer Rock.  It dates back to 1891 and was the inspiration of Joseph Greene to have the entire Lord’s Prayer chiseled within it.  Personally, I said a prayer that Prayer Rock never gets caught up in the storm of political correctness.  May it remain a roadside attraction for many more generations!  From the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet in Burlington to the Queen Connie Statue (A female version of King Kong) in Leicester, I enjoyed them all.

With 20% of its population aged 65 or older and a median age of 42, Vermont is developing programs to entice folks into the state, such as the Remote Worker Grant Program, which became effective January 2019. If you come to live in Vermont while working for an out-of-state employer from a home office or shared workspace, you may receive up to $5,000/year for a period of 2 years.  Another program set to launch in January 2020 is The New Worker Grant Program, which will provide assistance to folks who move to Vermont to work fulltime for Vermont employers.     You can get all the scoop and the poop about these programs at

We picked strawberries, blueberries, rasberries and blackberries on numerous occasions.  Of the several orchards we visited, my favorite was Rulf’s, which we found by accident when passing through Peru, NY to bring Rat Patrol (our UTV side-by-side) for service in Malone, NY.  In addition to u-pick fields, Rulf’s has a petting zoo, bakery, farm stand, gift shop, and cafĂ© featuring delicious sandwiches and homemade ice cream!  You are really isolated in these rural areas of NY State.  There are few stores or restaurants.  My suspicions that most residents are self-employed or have a few different hustles were substantiated when I saw Dick’s Country Store and Music Oasis.  His sign touts, “Gas, Groceries, Guns, Guitars.”  Talk about diversification!

Rasberries, from vine... ALL MINE!

Mom turned some of these...

...into a strawberry crumb cake.

This little calf at Rulf's ventured out to see what I was up to...

...and then admonished me for invading his turf!  Guess he is not a fan of stuffed rats.

We have met so many wonderful people as we travel, work-camp, and volunteer, and we always make time to reconnect with them whenever possible.  Hence, we took a side trip up to Maine to get together with fellow former Amazonians, Don and Diantha, who work each summer at Sabbathday Lake in Poland, ME, the only active Shaker Village remaining in the world.   The Shakers are another example of communal living (Check out my posts about visits to the Amana Colonies in Iowa and the Oneida Community in New York   if you find this Utopian way of life as fascinating as I do.)  Arriving in America in 1774 to seek religious freedom, Shakers started the Sabbathday Lake community in 1783.  The village consisted of 170 members at its peak.  Sadly, today there are only 2 members, and for a very good reason—Shakers believe in celibacy.  Like the Oneida Community, the Shakers were very progressive.  Women played an equal role to men in leadership and responsibility.  The Shakers were “early adopters” and embraced technology.  Did you know it was a Shaker WOMAN who invented the circular saw!   The interpretive programs by Don, Diantha, and other staff were fascinating and enlightening, and the property itself is quite beautiful.     

Since Don and Diantha are natives of this area of Maine, they gave us a tour, including the Portland Observatory.  Now whatever you do, don’t call this a lighthouse!  It is a maritime signal tower!  What’s the heck is the difference?  Basically, ships look for a lighthouse to guide them.  However, the function of the Portland Observatory, built high on a hilltop by an entrepreneurial retired U.S. Navy Captain in 1807, was to look in the distance through a telescope for ships entering the busy Portland Harbor.  Then, through the use of a telescope, signal flags, and most importantly, payment of a $5/year membership fee, a business would receive advanced notification that its ship was coming into port.  Lighthouse or signal tower, it was quite an engineering feat and novel idea for its day, and it still offers some fantastic views of Portland Harbor.  We dined at Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company in Freeport, satisfying Mom’s hankering for the delectable crustacean.  We then went to visit Don and Diantha’s cottage in New Gloucester, and I became buddies with their two Whippets, Chase and Reacher.  The Grants were wonderful hosts; we so enjoyed their camaraderie and hospitality.

They dropped us back to our truck, Big Boomer, and we headed to Poland Spring Resort, where we were staying at The Lodge a few nights.  Good thing, ‘cause there was lots to do and learn about this historic 5000-acre property.  It has the oldest golf course in the U.S. (opened in 1896), and the Poland Spring water brand was launched from these grounds more than 150 years ago.  The property has several different buildings for lodging, but all include a full breakfast and access to amenities and activities within the Maine Inn.  From concerts, dancing, and karaoke, to Bingo and Murder Mystery Shows, the Resort has lots of fun evening entertainment, too.  Mom and Dad got their dancing shoes on and made a spectacle of themselves yet again.  As you can see from the following photos, we had some nasty storm clouds one evening, but oh, what a magnificent sunset they gifted us!

The Maine State Building that was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago is on the premises, acting now as a museum and art gallery.  It is 1 of only 5 buildings from that Fair that still exists.  

The All Souls Chapel is also on Resort property.  Built in 1912 as an inter-denominational church (Catholic and Protestant) for use by the Resort’s employees and guests, the Chapel now presents itself as a lovely non-denominational wedding venue or concert hall, and the general public can come by to visit or say a prayer during specified hours of operation.  

I thought it apropos to complete our tour of the Resort grounds by visiting the original source for Poland Spring water.   There is a nicely restored bottling plant on the premises, serving as an education/event center.

Words within the original spring house, Sapientia Donum Dei, are Latin for "Wisdom is the gift of God."

Our side trip to Maine was over much too quickly.  As we traveled out of Maine, we encountered some very rough, deconstructed roads, reminiscent of what we experienced during our 2016 trek to Alaska!  Fortunately, it was only about 10 miles of this mess.  Then we entered New Hampshire and traversed along the picturesque Kancamagus Highway.  Last time we were in this area was a motorcycle trip nearly 20 years ago!  We stopped at several viewpoints, relishing the magnificent vistas of the White Mountains.

We arrived at Burton’s Grill in Nashua, New Hampshire, about 30 minutes outside Boston, to meet up with friend Kevin, with whom Dad worked in New York, his wife Abbey, and their toddler, Kendall.  Kendall is certainly the apple of her parents’ eyes, and rightfully so—she is an adorable, bright, personable, precious gift—plus she is a big fan of Toy Story like I am!   I continued to enjoy the scenery on our way back to Button Bay State Park, marveling at yet another wonderous sunset.

After a few heat spells during the summer, the glorious cooler weather was upon us, which meant our time to depart Vermont was fast approaching.  The squirrels and chipmunks were extra busy stocking up for a long winter, and our encounters with snakes during the day became more prevalent.  Sadly, we missed the peak of fall foliage.   But we saw a few trees starting to change color.

We left Vermont on a dreary, wet, and muddy day—the same conditions with which we arrived!  Fortunately, though, we did not require a winch out this time.   We stopped back in Central NY for a few days to check up on Aunt Laurie and visit close friend Rosemary, who had just undergone knee replacement surgery.  Both are progressing nicely and were quite happy to see me.  Nothing can cheer a person up more than an adorable stuffed rat like me!  We decided to pop into Turning Stone Casino since we were staying again at The Villages RV Park, which, like the Casino, is owned/operated by The Oneida Nation (You can read my critique of the campground here (  Anyway, I was feeling lucky and Aunt Laurie’s penchant for gambling got a hold on me.  Fortunately, the prospect of feeding my belly won over the temptation to gamble.  So my family and Aunt Laurie all enjoyed dinner at the Casino’s Upstate Tavern.  Reasonably priced, good service, and with several plant-based options for Dad, this was darn good food for a bar and grill!

Views from The Villages RV Park.

We said our goodbyes and headed down Interstate 81.  Seems like some of the sections of this roadway, like in Scranton, PA, are perpetually under construction.    Anyway, road conditions were the pits!  No surprise that we busted yet another leaf spring.  Fortunately, Dad had a spare on board (We busted our first and our fourth leafspring on this trip!)   We could not overnight at our usual Walmart in Harrisonburg, VA.  When we phoned to inquire (as we have always done in the past), we were told the town owns the parking lot, so Walmart cannot guarantee overnight RVs will not be towed.  So instead we parked overnight at a Walmart in Woodstock, VA.  I was secretly thrilled with this change of plans—Paisano’s Pizza joint in the same mall was offering a 2-topping large pie for only $10.99!  Good thing we are leaving the East and all the foods we love.  We have packed on the pounds eating our way up and down the Coast!  We stayed 2 nights again at Cane Creek County RV Park in Waxhaw, NC (a great little Park.  You can read more about it here: to see Jeffrey, our biker bro from NJ.  He is such a kind, generous soul, and a great cook to boot!  Shrimp, smoked salmon, and eggplant parm, made special to fit into Dad’s diet.  It was a feast fit for an army!  Thankfully more friends from NJ, Donny and Sandy, and Jeffrey’s neighbors joined our troops.

Some creatures featured at Jeffrey's property.  Nature surely is fascinating!

With storms brewing in the Gulf, we opted to change our route and not return to Gulf Shores, AL.   Instead, we took I-75 to I-20, being sure to avoid the Atlanta bypass (which we neglected to do in March and it proved to be a bad decision).  As we passed through Atlanta, I saw the Olympic Torch—and lots of homeless tent cities.   Interestingly, Little Rock, AR, through a partnership with Canvas Community Church, started a new program in April 2019 to combat homelessness.  Called the Bridge to Work, it pays the homeless $9.25/hour to pick up trash throughout the city.  Participation in the program entitles the homeless person to a meal, assistance with temporary housing, and assistance with physical and mental health issues.  There are teams consisting of 8 workers, with an opening on every team for a homeless person encountered along the cleanup route to join.  The stats are encouraging: Nearly 400 signed up through Canvas Community Church to become workers, and almost 2,000 bags of trash were removed from Arkansas’s Capital City.  However, many of the homeless encountered by the workers to fill up the empty slot on their teams rejected the opportunity.  Hence, the adage, “you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” has some credence.

We encountered no rain during our travels home, but boy, we were suffering from the dramatic change in temperature!  We went from mid 60s in Vermont, to nearly 100 degrees down South!  No way were we overnighting in Walmarts the next 2 nights—we wanted our air conditioner!  So we found two decent RV parks to do one-night stays:  Sunset RV Park in Tuscaloosa, AL and Miss Ellie’s RV Park in Waskom, TX.  They weren’t very pretty and had the majority of their sites rented to oil workers, but both parks had all the essentials for overnight:  easy access off the highway, a pull-thru site with water, sewer, and 50 amp electric.   Plus they had some nice perks:  FREE WI-FI and Cable TV.  Furthermore, at $32/$30 respectively (with FMCA or Escapees discounts), they were reasonably priced.  And who can complain with this view from Ms. Ellie's!

We were on the last leg of our 11,600-mile trip (of which 7,000 miles were towing).  Fortunately, we had no more problems except an encounter with a Kamikaze Hawk.  I don’t understand how a hawk, who can see an object 20 feet away that a human can only see at 2 feet away, almost collided with Big Boomer and the RV.  He missed us by inches!  Eyes like a hawk—no thank you!

We arrived home at our leased lot in Livingston, TX to greetings from neighbors and some serious storm clouds, but we managed to get all settled before the rains came.  Ironically, we were told it was hot and dry here all summer.  At least the showers produced a colorful rainbow and the clouds added to a lovely sunset.

We were in Livingston just a few days, long enough to catch up with Alan, Kathy, and cutie pie Mitch Miller, wonderful friends from our days working at the Grand Canyon Conservancy.  Instrumental in turning Dad on to whole foods/plant-based eating, Kathy cooked up a delectable vegan dinner for us all.

Well, we are excited to be heading out to Granbury, TX.  It’s time to inspect and take delivery of our 2020 DRV Mobile Suites 40KSSB4 unit!  I’ll tell you all about it in my next post, along with some long-awaited photos!

Talk to ya soon!

We would like to thank the following organizations for all the great service and support they offer to the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club


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RV Dreams

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