Onward & Forward To Bennington: A Major Stuff Up (New England)
18 Oct 2012 - I didn’t sleep a wink last night. Well, at least from 3:00 am onwards - hazards of being continuously on the move and starting to feel like a gypsy, I guess. With my mind going around in circles, I had to resort to parking myself on the sofa with a book just outside our bedroom so that I wouldn’t wake Peter. By the time 7:30 arrived, I had half moons under my eyes and had to give every part of my body plenty of warning that we were going to move as a team. Feeling drab and grey, it was the first time in the whole New England trip that I didn’t wear color - not my cerise sweater, or bright turquoise Tommy Hilfiger jumper, or periwinkle blue cable knit or olive green V-neck. Instead, I pulled out my gray cable knit which I wear with my sweats back home. Bad omen as it seemed to set the mood for the rest of the day.
It’s amazing what a shower and mug of coffee will do for the sleep deprived, however. By the time Steve and Sue served us our fruit plate, followed by mouthwatering pancakes, maple syrup and sausage, I felt as if I had gained my equilibrium. Or so I thought. Meeting and chatting with two delightful women over breakfast, a mother and daughter named Jennifer and Darlene Shenefelt, buoyed my energy levels, as did picking the brains of a lovely Texan couple, Twyla (studio musician/ live singer) and Craig Foreman. Yes, Texas is on our bucket list.
Our departure from Stowe was slightly delayed as we said our goodbyes to Steve and Sue, who would be closing the doors of Three Bears At The Fountains B&B permanently in 12 day’s time. Getting into the car, I had programmed our GPS to Woodstock, which we wanted to visit en route to our final destination in Bennington.
Hmm.... Woodstock. Apparently an hour and a half from Stowe, Vermont. We seemed to be driving through eerily familiar scenery and towns to get there. What the hell was this, Ground Hog Day? Driving down the town's main street, I asked myself where the famous village green was, supposedly surrounded by charming Greek Revival and Federal mansions. This town had about as much charm as my big toe. Where were the quaint boutiques, the beauty and the air of graciousness that we’d read about in guide books and the internet? What about Quechee village and Quechee Gorge just up the road? Something was dreadfully wrong. All we found was a gun shop, a truck repair place with four guys out the front doing a whole lot of nothing, an antiques store, and a general store. The lady at the antiques store hadn't even heard of Quechee village. Uh ohhh.
Ducking into the antiques store, the lady behind the counter said to us with a giggle, “Oh, you’re looking for Woodstock, Vermont - that’s really beautiful! Right now, you’re in Woodstock, New Hampshire.”
“So how far is Woodstock, Vermont from here?”, I asked with trepidation.
“Oh, it’s a long way away - at least another hour and a half.”, she said.
Shit. I had somehow programmed Woodstock, New Hampshire instead of Woodstock, Vermont into our GPS, thereby doubling us back to a state that we had already been to. Peter looked at me with eyes that could kill. I dreaded to think what he’d say when we got outside the shop.
“Vic, didn’t you bother looking at the map before programming the GPS?! We’ve just wasted a f*****g day!”, Peter exclaimed.
“How was I to know that there were two f*****g Woodstocks in New England!!”, I countered. Tempers were flaring, with Peter pissed off as he had trusted me to organize our program while he did the driving. Meanwhile, I too was pissed off for Peter coming down on me like a ton of bricks for an honest mistake.
By this stage it was past noon, and we needed to grab a bite to eat and regroup before we went any further, wherever the hell “further” would be. We hadn’t decided if we would head to Woodstock (Vermont) or just forget about it altogether and head to our B&B in Bennington on the Southern end of Vermont. Settling ourselves down in a random cafe in Woodstock (New Hampshire), Peter and I shared a mediocre sandwich and a soup that repeated on me for the rest of the afternoon. We ate in stony silence, afraid to even look at each other, thinking that we could be in Woodstock (Vermont) instead, enjoying a fabulous lunch whilst overlooking a bustling and very chic Main Street.
“Okay.”, Peter said, trying hard to control his mood but failing miserably. “Why don’t we visit Woodstock (Vermont) anyway before heading over to Bennington. It’ll just mean we get to the B&B a little later.”
To compensate for the time wasted, and because it was my stuff up, I agreed to drive us there. Peter didn’t argue as he was feeling mentally exhausted. Slumped into the passenger’s seat in a depressed silence, he dozed off as I took control of the wheel. While the drive there was scenic and picture perfect, I could only focus on the road in front of me and getting us there as quickly as possible - it was already 1:30 pm and half the day was gone.
“OK, we’re here.”, I said an hour and a half later. Driving down Main Street in Woodstock (Vermont), it was even more lovely than we had anticipated. This only succeeded in depressing us further. There was no way that we could give it the time that it deserved. Still, we parked the car and made the most of the time that we had.
About Woodstock, Vermont (Finally):
Ok, tour guide hat on, albeit a flawed one..... Woodstock (Vermont) developed rapidly once the war ended in 1783. Waterfalls in the Ottauquechee River provided water power to operate mills. Factories and manufacturers mushroomed, producing everything from furniture, wooden wares, window sashes, blinds, carriages, horse harnesses, saddles to luggage trunks and leather goods. The Woodstock Railroad opened to White River Junction on September 29, 1875, carrying freight and tourists. The Industrial Revolution helped the town grow prosperous. Today, the economy is largely driven by tourism. Woodstock has the 20th highest per-capita income of Vermont towns and a high percentage of homes owned by non-residents. The town's central square, called the Green, is bordered by magnificently restored late Georgian, Federal Style, and Greek Revival homes. The Rockefellers have had an enormous impact on the overall character of the town, helping preserve the 19th century architecture and the rural feel.
While it would have taken a good two hours of walking to do this stunning town justice, Peter and I had to cram it into a little over an hour. It almost pained us to see every corner and back street even more beautiful than the last. “Hey, I’m not your geisha.”, I reminded him as he marched sullenly ahead while I tried to keep up ten paces behind.
At four o’clock we had no choice but to leave Woodstock. It would be dusk soon and one thing you don’t want to be doing is driving through the New England highways when night falls and the moose and bears come out and occasionally cross the roads. But wait, there was more bad news. While there was a Woodstock in both New Hampshire and Vermont, there was also a West Road, Bennington in both New Hampshire and Vermont. Again, I had re-calculated the driving distance wrongly. Instead of taking us another hour and a half to drive to our B&B, it was going to take us about two. Absolutely detesting long stretches on the road, Peter howled. In the meantime, I figured that things couldn’t get any worse.
Peter took control of the wheel this time. Driving from Woodstock (Vermont) to Bennington (Vermont), we came across some breathtaking scenery: cottages by glassy lakes, streams gurgling over rocks, and chalets, ski lifts and resorts all awaiting the arrival of the snow. While the fall foliage was still noticeable, there were already areas where the trees were bereft of leaves, awaiting the advent of winter. While the tension between us seemed to have relaxed on the surface, it was because we didn’t trust ourselves to utter a word.
After a total 6 hours of driving in one day, it was dark by the time we arrived at our B&B and we were beside ourselves with exhaustion. Called Four Chimneys, this quintessential Old Bennington mansion is considered one of the best inns in Vermont. And yet it would take us till the morning to appreciate it. Checking into our cottage, which featured a separate annex with a single bed and separate sitting area upstairs, I grabbed my book, headphones and laptop and headed straight up the spiral staircase as soon as I unpacked.
“What are you doing?”, Peter asked.
“I’m sleeping upstairs! I don’t want to be anywhere near you!”, I barked.
“Oh c’mon, Vic, don’t do that. It will only widen the rift between us. It was just a shocking day for us both.”
“OK, but if I stay downstairs, you’ll have to promise me that you'll pull your head in and stop beating me up over this. It was a mistake and you’re not perfect either.”, I lashed back with all the conviction I could muster.
Agreeing to put the day behind us, we showered, changed, and headed out to a local Italian restaurant for some pasta and a few vinos. Finding ourselves in conversation with the Canadian couple at the table next to us, we were invited to attend the regional square dancing contest in Bennington. Oh man. As if the day couldn’t get any more bizarre.
“Thanks very much.”, Peter said graciously. “We’ll get back to you.”
Thus ended a truly challenging day and another occasion during our travels that put our relationship to the test. Thankfully, they don't happen that often. Oh, and the restaurant we ate at was named “Allegro”. Happy. And the day mercifully ended on that note.
Travel Tips For Driving From Stowe to South End of Vermont:
Make sure that you’ve got the right state programed into your GPS; names can double up between states.
Never trust your GPS implicitly - always cross check with your map.
If you’re heading from Stowe to the Southern end of Vermont, like Bennington or Deerfield, try staying overnight in Woodstock. For starters, the distances are too great otherwise. Secondly, Woodstock is a delightful town filled with magnificent homes, great shops, boutiques and home ware stores, as well as a plethora of fabulous restaurants. While it has a small town feel, it is a very wealthy small town and it has a refinement to it that is well worth exploring.
Bring your sense of humor with you in case of any mishaps. It helps if your partner has one too.