Travelling in Sunshine

We are fortunate that our travelling days have been sunny under clear blue skies. Today it was especially important as the sun helped keep us warm on a very cold day. True to the forecast, we awakened to -20C with a windchill of -25C. We decided we did not need to go skiing. After a few yoga stretches we were reassured that yesterday’s skiing had not ruined us. From our bedroom, we could see the ski runs of Magic Mountain glistening, awaiting today’s skiers. Apparently downhill skiers are better protected from the bitter cold.

Lisa and Ken welcomed us to the breakfast table with plenty of choices: orange juice, tea or coffee, yogurt, fig or granola bars, cottage cheese and fresh fruit, crustless quiche with ham and cheese, toast with homemade plum jam, hot cereal, an assortment of cold cereal. The next couple who came in declared themselves vegetarian; so, they were offered scrambled eggs. Yesterday we had French toast made with Lisa’s multi-grain raisin bread. All delicious! As we ate we watched blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches and a downy woodpecker at the feeders. Lucinda, the very large, very long-haired cat watched the birds too. Our hosts had said they would remove the cat from the common areas if we did not like cats. We were happy to watch Lucinda make her rounds.

The sun created beautiful shadow patterns on the wooded hillsides and fields as we travelled first east then south to Connecticut. Long grey shadow branches reached across the snow-covered rivers. We stopped at the Vermont Country Store, mostly to take a photo of the old grist mill and the covered bridge, but we were drawn in by the charm of the general store. Inside was a plethora of food samples: local cheeses, flavoured mustards and cream cheeses, fudge and biscuits. One room of the store had floor to ceiling cupboards and drawers reminiscent of a very old apothecary shop. We bought some fine smooth Vermont cheddar and venison sausage, but the flavour I left the store with was a delicious lime cheesecake.

In Brattleboro we stopped at Grafton Village Cheese, another store we remembered fondly from a visit two year’s ago. We needed to sample many cheeses there after tasting one chili flavoured cheddar. It was too spicy for both of us. When something is too spicy for Brian, you know it is really hot. Effie’s biscuits were best at dousing the flames. We bought some Gouda and more cheddar then headed across the river to New Hampshire to buy liquor and wine where taxes are much lower than elsewhere.

We settled back into listening to more of The Pilgrimage as we drove through Massachusetts. We decided we had time for a stop at REI near Hartford and still arrive near Guilford in time to pick up our grandchildren from school. We did not buy any backpacks at REI but I tried on two packed with fifteen pounds each and after discussing backpacks with the knowledgeable salesman, I decided I wanted to try a different one that was sold out. The search continues.

Alex flew into my arms when I opened the doors of his school. Alex accompanied me into Julie’s school. Julie was not eagerly watching for us. She was engrossed in a game with a friend; so, my arrival was met with a frown. I grabbed a hug and once I lured her outside, her game was forgotten. Stories of valentines accompanied us home.

Alex practised the cello and Julie showed me how to play Minecraft on the iPad. We thought about making chocolate chip oatmeal heart-shaped cookies, but the oatmeal part was non-negotiable from Alex’s perspective; so, we will make these another day after shopping for oatmeal.

Our sunny day ended with family around the dining room table enjoying roast of lamb. Perfect.


Skiing in Vermont

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The only thing that would have made this a better day was a little more sunshine, but we are not complaining. The sun did shine for about an hour this morning. We are happily reclining after a hot shower and almost four hours of cross country skiing at the Viking Nordic Centre near Londonderry, Vermont. This area received about three feet of snow in the past ten days; so, the trails had a terrific base and were groomed just before we headed out at ten this morning. It was snowing pretty steadily for about half of our skiing; so, a fluffy top layer covered everything.

We skied more than twelve kilometres in two hours this morning. Within ten minutes of starting I darted off to the left on Helga’s Way with Brian calling after me that he did not think this was a good idea. Brian had noticed, and I had not, that this was a black trail, the most difficult. Once committed we kept going and I slowed so Brian could lead the way down a steep multi-curved hill. Brian keeled over part way down to avoid missing the next big turn. I sailed past then dropped into the snow rather than do battle with the very large pine in the next curve. Happily we were without injuries and finished the rest of the black trail without more spills. After this we avoided the black trails. The blue ones were challenging enough. We are certain that we climbed more than we descended.

The barn condos are n the bottom middle of the photo. We went all the way down and all the way back up.

The barn condos are in the bottom middle of the photo. We went all the way down and all the way back up.

Downhill ahead!

Downhill ahead!

We took a break at noon. We changed our upper layers and left things hanging around the wood stove in the warming hut. We drove a few miles to the Maple Leaf diner where we ordered a cheeseburger with fries for Brian and burger and onion rings for me. We could easily have split a burger and only had fries or onion rings, not both. All portions were enormous. Brian did the manly thing and finished my burger for me.

We returned for another hour and three quarters. We completed just over eight kilometres. I think we were weighted down by food and we are sure we went almost continuously upward. The downhills always felt shorter. According to Brian’s GPS we climbed about three hundred feet. We think the GPS was defective. It felt more like a thousand feet of difference in elevation.

Red barn condos

Red barn condos

We passed a huge red barn-like building with outbuildings which had been converted into condos in the seventies. They look out over a wide river valley. Today the river was heavily blanketed in snow and looked more like a field than a river. We enjoyed skiing through a pine forest and mixed forest of huge hemlocks, birches, maples and beech trees still sporting their bronze leaf dresses. We had the trails pretty much to ourselves. They are busier on weekends.

With tomorrow’s forecast of temperatures of -25C without counting wind chill, we may decide to head south to Shawn’s sooner rather than ski again. We are pleased that the Blue Gentian has a hot tub and it will be toasty for our use after tonight’s supper.

Vermont In February

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Here we are, cozy by the fire in The Blue Gentian Lodge east of Londonderry in south Vermont.  We are stuffed from having dined at The Grill, a restaurant in a small plaza just down the road in Londonderry. I had a plate full of scallops with mushrooms and red peppers on rice. Brian and I shared a bowl of thick New England chowder then Brian had fish and chips with a local brew, Switchback.

We drove three hundred and seventy miles to here from Niagara in seven hours today with rest, coffee and food stops along the Niagara State Thruway. We were watched by hawks, silent sentinels in the bare treetops along the thruway. Once in Vermont we stopped near Troy at a beer store we had discovered two years ago. This store is packed floor to ceiling with hundreds of varieties of ale, lager and ciders. The very genial staff pointed out lots of different possibilities and told us we could make up our own six pack; so, we did. It appears that craft breweries in Vermont are doing well. There are more than thirty of them, AND pay attention, Government of Ontario, they are all available in grocery stores! Brian is enjoying Bear Naked Ale as I write. I have no room for my Cherry Razz Ale nor my Grapefruit Ale tonight.

It was a sunny day for travelling on dry roads with white fields and forests which became much hillier as we approached Vermont. Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage accompanied us in Audiobook format en route. We are preparing for our Camino!

This lodge was opened in the sixties when Magic Mountain, the downhill ski resort next door, opened. The current owners have been here twenty years. Based on the couples we have met in the lounge, the lodge has many repeat guests who have been coming here for several years. It’s cozy and clean, with quilts and local art on the walls, not fancy, but comfortable. We are looking forward to French toast for breakfast before going cross country skiing at the Viking Centre three miles from here.