Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Country Roads

We were out by 10 again, this time going north through Massachusetts and New York into Vermont. It was worth the two-hour trip just for the ride. Lauren drove through charming old farm towns, over babbling brooks and raging rivers, and past endless fields of waving corn and jolly orange pumpkins. Vermont lives up to it's nickname "The Green Mountain State." It was foggy when we left; the mists rose majestically over the carpets of pine and cedar on the hills. The fog eventually lifted, reduced to fluffy white clouds bundled around the mountaintops like fluffy scarves and revealing a gorgeous, breezy blue-and-gold late summer day.

It was a bit after noon when Lauren parked in the very back of The Vermont Country Store in Weston. We come here every year. The rustic shop is filled with unusual and hard-to-find bric-a-brac, from hand-made soaps, candies, and baked goods, to locally-made flannels and knits, to cookbooks by Vermont authors, to old-fashioned toys and games, to brands from the early and mid-20th century that other stores no longer carry. Thankfully, they weren't that busy when we arrived. I had no problems walking around, sampling their caramel corn puffs, Cookie Buttons, and Vermont Common Crackers and jam.

I didn't get much. Even many of the sale items in the rooms upstairs were beyond my budget, and others, like the knitted items, were things I could make myself or buy cheaper in my area. I couldn't resist those Cookie Buttons, though. I went with the seasonal Pumpkin Pie this year. I also bought my annual bag of Boston Fruit Slices. These half-moon-shaped, sugar-coated gel candies with the hard outer rind are some of my favorite candies. I usually get them in Atlantic City, but I haven't been able to get there in a while. I also picked up a thin cookbook filled with honey-based recipes from the Vermont Beekeepers Association that was far less costly than most of the books in the store.

The Bryant House is the Vermont Country Store's eat-in restaurant. Lauren had a reservation for 1:30. It wasn't really necessary. They were a little busy with the tail-end of the lunch crowd, but nothing horrible. We even got a prime table next to a wide hexagonal window that gave us an excellent view of Weston's main street. We both had egg creams, seltzer with milk and chocolate syrup. Lauren had flatbread with pulled beef and vegetables. I had an enormous bowl of chili topped with fresh Vermont cheddar and ground beef. Yow! That chili was delicious and savory, but it was also spicy-hot! Between the heat and the huge bowl, I couldn't finish it.

We couldn't resist their gingerbread with whipped cream for dessert. Ooh, that was good. Perfectly moist and just sweet enough. The waitress was really sweet. Our orders were a little late; evidently, she'd gotten Lauren's mixed up and had to fix it. She paid for our desserts to make up for it. We thanked her by giving her the biggest tip we could.

Strolled across the street after lunch. There's two other interesting stores that are worth visiting in Weston. The Christmas shop reminds me a lot of the Winterwood Christmas stores in Cape May County. They have every possible Christmassy thing and ornament, from favorite characters to figures and houses to sports teams to animals and traditional Christmas symbols like Santa and angels. There's even small sections for Halloween and Thanksgiving merchandise. I didn't get anything here, but Lauren found a paint-by-numbers nativity-themed advent calendar.

The Weston Village Store is next-door. While they sell a lot of the same things as the Vermont Country Store - maple syrup and candies, cheese, fudge, old-time toys, clothes - they're slightly more touristy and a bit more irreverent. Their walls are laden with signs with either retro logos or goofy sayings, and there's a lot of practical jokes and magic tricks among the toys and ribald joke books in the kids' area. All the clothes have "Vermont" on them, despite being only slightly cheaper than the non-labeled clothing across the street. Lauren got nothing here, but I bought a tiny glass bottle of maple syrup, which was slightly cheaper there than the similar sized bottle across the street.

Walked around for about a half-hour more at the Vermont Country Store. Lauren got a few more things, but I didn't see anything else I needed. We finally pulled out around quarter of 5, heading back across the endless highways and through the small farming villages and past horses grazing and the weathered farm houses and silos.

We arrived at almost 7. The Millers had gone to another appointment in North Adams, picking up dinner from one of their favorite holes-in-the-wall there, Jack's Hot Dogs. Lauren had two hot dogs; I had two tasty cheeseburgers with relish and ketchup. We shared popcorn chicken and cheese fries while watching the Yankees play the Red Sox and Phillies play the Mets. We got to show off our finds, too. Lauren gave her parents long-sleeved print shirts and her father a comfy sweater. She made the best find of the day for herself - a beautiful purple quilted vest with thick black fur lining that she found on the racks in the upstairs sales room.

Didn't have as much luck playing Mario Kart 8 tonight. Lauren wanted to play the online games, but for some reason, her Nintendo Switch just would not hook up online. When we did get on, we didn't do well. Lauren did the best, coming in 7th on the Wild Woods level. My best was 8th on the first go-around on Sweet Sweet Canyon.

(Incidentally, the Yankees killed the Red Sox tonight 10-1. The Phils did far better, flattening the wayward Mets 4-0.)

We're going to stay in the area on my last full day here, exploring the Lee Outlets. We haven't been there together since we spent three days there when I visited in October 2015. I'm looking forward to it; plus, it's a shorter and less complicated trip for our final day together.

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