I spent some time at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania to recharge before hitting New England. I got to be there for Thanksgiving and then for the first snow while we decorated the Christmas tree. Nothing like snow and the Chipmunks Christmas album to put you in the holiday mood.
I left the next day and was grateful for the dusting of snow covering the rolling pastoral hillsides: all the grey landscape was suddenly warm compared to the snowy white. The sky was now pink when it had been white and dismal before. The Winter weather made everything so much more beautiful. By the time I got to Vermont the gently sloping hills had turned into mountains and evergreens dotted the forest in increasing numbers the further north I went. The villages here were tucked into the valley and the buildings were clustered together in such a way that I was reminded of snow globes.
I finally felt like I was in the right place at the right time. Starting around the great lakes and through New York, many of the towns I had driven through were boarded up for Winter. “See you in the Spring!” signs were posted on the windows of half the buildings. Now, here in Vermont, the towns and villages were cozy little shelters of warmth among the harsh snow. These towns didn’t close down in the Winter; rather it seemed like this was the time of year when they were needed most. And while postcards with Fall landscapes made me regret for a moment that I hadn’t been here sooner, I still felt like this was the right time. The Fall may be more stunning, but the Winter feels like the defining season.
But perhaps I concluded all this too soon. I spent the night in a hostel in Ludlow. It was a converted barn in someone’s backyard, but it was nicer than it sounds. I had the place all to myself. The next morning though I awoke to find more than a foot of snow on the ground and more coming down. Hum. The weatherman concluded it would snow all day and turn to sleet and ice later on. I hesitated but eventually decided to stay put rather than risk it. I had no experience driving in snow. So I ended up watching some of the obscure VHS movies available: The Electric Grandmother and The Accidental Tourist. I stayed clear of the horror movies, seeing as how I was alone in a barn in a snowstorm.
When I left the next day the driveway hadn’t yet been plowed, but had been shoveled the day before. I dug out my car and shoveled a path in back of my tires. But I only made it half way down the short driveway before getting stuck. I ended up having to dig myself out five times. I had completely cleared a full foot around each of my tires and still they spun in place. The Hostel owner eventually came out and pushed me free. It might sound very touristy of me to say, but I kindof enjoyed the experience. I wouldn’t want to have to do it all the time, but when I broke free I was just so pleased.
And then, the greatest thing of all happened. I found the Ben & Jerry’s factory! The tour was less than stellar, but I was grateful they were still giving tours this time of year, when many of their own ice cream shops were closed for Winter. But as anyone who has been on a factory tour knows, the greatest part is the sampling at the end. We got a nice sized scoop of a new limited edition flavor: Maple Blondie. I highly recommend, especially if you happen to like Blondie brownies. Then the next day I came across Lake Champlain Chocolates and took a tour there too. Even though the tour was more like a lecture in front of a plate-glass window looking into the factory, it was still informative and interesting. Sure I could have learned the same things by watching the Food Network, but it’s something different to learn from someone directly, and it’s really a lot more complicated than you might think.