I learned some fun facts about Vermont this past weekend
- there are a lot of cows
- there is a lot of cheese
- there is a lot of ice cream
- there is a ton of yoghurt
- did I mention that there are cows?
Dan really likes John Hodgman, not for his excellent portrayal of a non-Mac, but for the podcast in which he judges the fate of all mankind. Last year, Mr. Hodgman introduced Dan to the unique celebration of cows (via this podcast) that is the Strolling of the Heifers (if you can’t run with the bulls…).
For the uninitiated, this is a weekend in which the entire greater Brattleboro, VT region celebrates all things dairy. The “stroll” is when all the small children associated with 4-H clubs and animal rescues march their young cows down Main Street while various dairy products are thrown to parade goers (really; they were handing out yogurts).
This is a big deal event. Bernie Sanders was the honorary master of ceremonies and I got to watch him walk in the rain wearing a plastic poncho. Apparently the Governor was there to, but I have no idea of who that guy is.
The best part was that all of the various sponsors, who happen to represent local dairy products, kept giving away huge amounts of cheese and yogurt. It was really great for me, but it would have been a bad first date for the lactose intolerant.
Dan really wanted to go, and I really like cheese and thought this could be a good idea, but as I am not independently wealthy and we have some other summer travel plans: we needed to keep costs low. We decided we’d camp nearby at Fort Dummer State Park.
The weather was looking pretty iffy, so I decided we should splurge for the lean-to over a standard tent site. I figured we could store the bikes inside, but we ended up pitching the tent inside, too. The plan was to bring our commuters and use the bikes to get around Brattleboro. There was a farm-to-farm “Tour de Heifer” ride planned as part of the events, but we didn’t want to commit due to cost and weather. It looks like it would be a lot of fun: metric century on dirt roads, farm-to-farm route, and locavore lunch.
However, given the biblical-flood worth of rain that happened on Saturday, 60 miles on muddy farm roads followed by a drive back to Boston sounded like zero fun.
Instead, we rode our bikes into town on Friday night. We quickly learned that Vermont isn’t flat. I tried to get a elevation profile of our commute from the campground to the downtown area and back, but it really doesn’t look that exciting. After living as flatlanders for five months, 400 feet of climbing over two miles on heavy bikes with flat pedals seems like a lot. I know it isn’t. I know we’ve become flatland, citified wusses. We’ve also started to become accustomed to being able to purchase coffee or baked goods within 50 yards of wherever we’re standing. Before you know it, someone will offer me some free vegetables, and I’ll have the audacity to ask if they’re organic.
We rode into town to get some dinner, and then headed to the street festival, where we discovered that while our dinner was delicious, it was entirely unnecessary given the amount of free cheese, free yoghurt, free bread samples (including a glutard-friendly baguette) and cheap street food vendors ready to provide us with consumables.
After gorging on dairy, we rode back up the hill as the rain started to assert its imminent presence. We camped in our tiny backpacking tent pitched in the middle of the lean-to with our bikes safely stored inside. If it had plumbing, it would have been bigger/better than some of the apartments we had looked into when planning our move North. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night when the rain started “for real.” It rained somewhere between “consistent” and “driving” for the next 24 hours.
We left the bikes locked to the lean-to and took the truck to town to watch the main-event parade, which was then followed with another cheese fest.
I sampled a hardboiled organic egg (and met the chickens who laid it), ate a lot of yoghurt, maple sugar cotton candy (brilliant idea, way better than fake-pink-flavor), ate some more cheese, got some samples of organic carrots and salad dressing, had a “bike powered” fruit smoothie, got some free chips and salsa, got a sample of some veggie chips, a few bags of glutard-friendly granola, some trail-mix, and more cheese. Oh, and some yogurt. There was an absurd amount of yoghurt.
After we ran out of things to eat, we walked back to town to get some lunch. We hung out in town, went back to camp to clean up a bit, and then headed back into town to check out the local brewpubs and play some darts. For some reason, we don’t have a dartboard within stumbling distance from our apartment. I’m not really sure why North-Camberville-meff-rlington doesn’t have a proper dart pub.
Brattleboro doesn’t either, but they do have a couple bars at which no one seems interested in playing at the dartboards they do have. So, we got to throw a few while having a drink.
Sunday, we woke up to beautiful weather. We had the official Strolling of the Heifers breakfast at a local diner and then drove over the border to NH to go for a hike. The sign at the base of the hike mentioned that there would be views of Brattleboro from the summit. It did not mention the fact that the “view” was only present due to the power lines running up the mountain and you accessed that view by skirting a cell tower.
Despite the disappointment at the summit of Mt. Wantastiquet, the trail was really beautiful and we got to do something other than eat dairy products and eggs. On the way home, we passed through Keene, NH, another place I haven’t been before, and we put down a waypoint on the GPS, because we would like to go back and explore. It looks like a beautiful area.
We have a lot of upcoming travel. We’ll be headed to Gloucester, MA in a few weeks, and then Dan might take a road trip in July, and I have some travel for work and family visits at the same time. My sister-in-law wants to ride her first century, so we’ll be doing that at the end of July in the western part of the state, and then in August we have the traditional paddle trip to eat up the rest of the summer. It’s going really fast. Maybe, too fast. It’s not even really summer, yet.