Vermont: Freedom and unity.

Vermont: Freedom and unity
U.S. Map, highlighting Vermont Welcome to Vermont

Welcome to Vermont.

Welcome to Vermont
I-89 Northbound
White River Junction, Vermont

New Hampshire-Vermont Border
January 1, 2000

With apologies to George Carlin, Vermont seems like a good place to catch up on your sleep.

Maybe it was because we came through Vermont at 9 am on January 1, 2000. The place seemed deserted. In total we drove about 100 miles in Vermont, and you talk about isolation. We left our campsite about 12 clicks south of Gorham, New Hampshire, on our way back to Boston, Massachusetts. On the way, of course, I had to take this detour to Vermont.

So we headed west on US-2, looking for a place to eat. We crossed into Vermont just east of St. Johnsbury. I actually had no idea that we had traversed the Connecticut River, which was really strange since I had my eyes peeled looking for the proverbial "Welcome to Vermont" sign. All of a sudden I started seeing green state route markers and (802) instead of (603) in phone numbers on signs and billboards.

The ride went through the northern Green Mountains. I guess what side of a river you're on determines what color your mountains are (New Hampshire has the White Mountains). We went through a few small towns which consisted of a few houses, maybe a gas station and a small restaurant, as well as some pickup trucks, but that was about it. Even St. Johnsbury was barely a blip on the urban radar. It really sets in knowing you're on a primary thoroughfare, looking out and seeing plains in the foreground and mountains in the background.

Once out of Montpelier, the ride south along I-89 was spectacular as far as the landscape but just as desolate as US-2, maybe even more so. I even took a detour off of I-89 to fill 'er up. I think it was Williamstown, Vermont, which is about 5 miles off of I-89. VT-64 wound around some farms, and once I got into town it there were just a few houses, shops, and a church.

Overall, Vermont can be summed up thusly: With apologies to Jay Johnstone, "I went through Vermont one day and it was closed."

Montpelier, Vermont

Welcome to Vermont
Montpelier, Vermont
January 1, 2000

I came to Montpelier not just to take this picture, but to also see for myself what the place was like. There are a bunch of sites on the Internet with lists of factoids (mine included, hint hint); one of those factoids was, "Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonalds." Now, I am not such a maven of American consumerism to the extent that a place anywhere in the world without a McDonalds is beyond comprehension and a complete affront to our way of life, but that just didn't make sense. There had to be a reason for this.

After I read that the first time, I looked in the index of my trusty Rand McNally and saw the population of the capital of the Green Mountain State:

Montpelier   8247.....E-5

Eight thousand two hundred forty-seven.

Are you kidding me?

By now I could see that Vanya was fast asleep, and since I was driving 100 miles out of the way and fighting to stay awake at the wheel, I didn't have the chance to look around Montpelier as much as I would have liked to. But that population is correct. This place is miniscule! This ain't no state capital! They're comparing this to the Bostons and Denvers and St. Pauls and Richmonds and Phoenixes and Atlantas and Indianapoli of the country? The population of this state capital is less than that of my own hometown! And Mt. Sinai, New York, is just a blip on the map. This one-horse town, they have little second grade kids memorizing.

Maybe I missed the true essence of the town since I came up US-2 instead of Main Street. There seemed to be some activity on US-2 but you got the feeling that even though you couldn't see it, you knew there was nothing else besides this road. I crossed the Winooski River and made a left on State Street. Looking at a map in retrospect, I missed Main Street. And I guess after all it's pretty hard to miss something in Montpelier.

Vermont's capitol is probably smaller than most Town Halls in the United States. Despite its size it does make a good attempt to appear stately, and I'm sure the gilded rotunda is more impressive when the sky is not overcast. But like New Hampshire and Delaware, Vermont's Statehouse does not generate feelings of awe that you get from, say, Minnesota or Pennsylvania. Dimensions play a large role in that. You don't have to look up or left or right to take this capitol in. It doesn't blow you away, it doesn't have a stark presence.

When you're in front of some capitols it makes you say, "Wow." This one makes you say, "Oh."

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