Update from Montpelier, VT

I am stopped for the day at Montpelier in Vermont after spending most of the day in New Hampshire. I am at a creperie called The Skinny Pancake and settled with my laptop, a latte and a chicken/pesto crepe. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Scar Tissue is playing in the background. The latte is exremely milky and a world apart from what I would get in seattle. I have mostly given up home of finding good coffee for a while, so I’m not completely disappointed. Apparently the coffee house culture that I take for granted in the Pacific Northwest is not a fixture all over the country.

Out the window, Montpelier seems lazy and sleepy, not surprising for a Sunday evening. Most of the local businesses in downtown are closed. From the looks of it, the town looks like just the kind of cool little artistic nook that I’d love to spend time exploring. I walked around a little bit gaping at some of the enormous houses. A friend of mine loves gazing at people’s front porches and yards to see how they are decorated, and I seem to have gotten this habit from him. Or – as I like to think – I’m looking at them for him and maybe I’ll remember some of them enough to relate to him. Sometimes I take pictures if the house looks sufficient impressive or unique. I think he would have been disappointed if he had looked for front porches though. The houses in New England do not seem to have these. I suppose the prolonged harsh winters have something to do with this.

I’m spending the night at a little B&B called Gamble’s B&B. It is an enormous house that reminds me of the old homes in Portland. There is a big pool table in the living room which made my face light up and I promised the landlady – a silver haired old lady called Laura Gamble – that would play a few rounds with her when I got back. Playing pool is one of those things that I could do all day long given the chance, but rarely do in real life back home.

Today’s riding was a mix of disappointing and exhilerating. The really scenic roads in Vermont leading up to New Hampshire had really bad surfaces and I didn’t enjoy riding them much. The riding in white Mountain National Forest was so-so. There was a lot of traffic (people in New Hampshire seem to enjoy driving at 45mph in a 50mph zone) and the scenery wasn’t very interesting. Granted I didn’t go as far north as Mt. washington. On my way there, I passed a stranded Harley rider and did a u-turn to go see if I could help him. His bike had completely died while he was riding and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I fished out my little multimeter and found that the battery voltage was 4V – super low – but that was more of a by-product of his trying to get the engine to turn over. Another rider stopped and started yanking at some of the cables going into the battery and found that one of them completely snapped. Problem identified! He rode off and I helped him strip the ends of the cables, splice the wires together and insulate it with electrical tape. I was glad I could put some of my tools to use and even gladder than I didn’t have to use them on my own bike. He managed to jump start it and get on the road again. I’d lost some time by now, so I decided to turn around and head west instead. It’s a pity I couldn’t take the gondola rides to the mountain, but I was glad I could help a fellow rider out.

I followed the various state highways to Littleton and then got on US-2 to St. Johnsbury and Montpelier. Riding US2 made me happy and a little wistful. I figured if I followed it far enough west, I would get to my very own Cascade range and Washington state. It was a good thought. I’m not ready to go home yet by any means, but it was nice to be able to ride a small part of the same road from back home.

My favorite riding was in Vermont after all. It’s strange how the landscape changed as soon as I crossed over from New Hampshire – big meadows and tall grasses all looking so lush green – an impossible green that I’ve never seen anywhere in all my travels. My favorite moments were when I would come up over the crest of a hill and there spread in front of me would be miles of green land – a little like the Shire would look like if it were real.

I am going to finish up my meal now, pore over a map to figure out the route for tomorrow and try to find a place to stay at in Montreal tomorrow. Then I’ll go walk up to the river’s edge and sit by the water and smoke a cigarette before heading back into town. Then for a game of pool and possibly even break out the flask of Scotch. :)