The rain came down in waves, beating softer then harder, yet together, our spirits were beaming. With a slight shift of my right hand on the steering wheel, we splashed around each curve with the radio on blast. There was no need for the sun when we could rely on each other for light.
First stop: Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory
We made it just as the 2:00 tour was heading in and bought our tickets for the 2:30. It’s a great little day trip for anyone in the area; free for children under 12 and only $4.00 for adults, and of course whatever your ice cream costs afterwards, because are you really going to leave without buying some? It’s only about a 10-15 minute tour that walks you through the ice cream making process with several well placed puns. For example, have you ever heard of a “chunk-spelunker”? It’s someone who digs out all of the chunks and leaves the ice cream for someone else, whether it be cookie dough, chocolate chips, or what have you. I’ve never been a spelunker, but I definitely look through the half gallon to make sure I scoop the best places with the most chunks!
Next: Stowe Street Café
Because who doesn’t eat their dessert before their entrée? If you have never done so in your life, you’re missing out. The quintessential little spot at the edge of Waterbury and Stowe served the most delicious grilled cheese with honey drizzled apples layered in between the cheese and the crispy bread. Local artwork adorns the walls, each with a price tag if your purse strings can stretch long enough, some with a story from the artist. There is a door on the far wall that joins to the neighboring bookstore.
Proximo: Bridgeside Books
We spent a good half hour, maybe 45 minutes, perhaps longer, in the bookstore. I lose track when there are so many worlds swirling around me waiting to be wandered in. Locals came in to chat with those at the front desk, discuss their latest reads, and pick up special orders. If you are like me, currently unemployed, you may like the Sale room in the back, or front depending on where you enter from; front if you enter from the Café, back if you enter from the main entrance. The sale room consists of an amalgamation of unsold holiday gear to immensely unpopular, yet amusing young adult novels. The budget minded will like the $1 price tags. There are several cushy chairs to settle on if you care to read the first chapter or two of the book you are considering, before you pay the $17 per book for the premium selections.
Settling In: Innsbruck Inn
After some back and forth, we decided to stay the night, rather than just have a day trip. Some searching led us to Innsbruck in Stowe, where they had rooms available for only $75 a night, which between the two of us was a pretty good deal. Stowe is modeled after a Swiss village, and Innsbruck lives up to that reputation. When we arrived, the man at the front desk offered us a choice of rooms, seeing as their peak ski season was waning, there were a number of vacancies. At first, he asked if we “wanted a room with one large king bed or two beds” to which we both replied two and I joked that I would probably kick her out of the bed if we only had one. After which he said, “you know what, I think I’ll give you the big room, it has two adjoining rooms, that way if you really get sick of her you can kick her to the other room.” When we got up to the rooms, we learned, that for the same price, we had two rooms, each with two beds, an electric wood stove, two television sets, etc. Double everything for the same price. We figured it was simply because it was off-peak season. It was comfortable, warm, spacious, and smelled delicious. Oh, and they had great robes.
Grub: Sunset Grill and Taproom
Still in Stowe, we stopped in to this google recommended bar and eatery. It was sparsely inhabited and we settled in at the far side of the bar. As drinks were ordered, an older couple slid onto the stools beside us. Ever friendly in the countryside, hellos were exchanged.
The bartender commented on my New Jersey license, apparently she hails from the garden state. Another older couple, kitty-corner from us, did too. I don’t explain that I’m not actually from there but just lived there for a while, because I just do not feel like telling the whole story.
The couple who now reside next to us comment that they are from Boston – correction, so he so forcefully let us know, HE is not FROM Boston, he’s from MICHIGAN, he lives in Boston now with her. We never got their names. It doesn’t really matter. Here I explain the whole upstate NY, went to NYU, moved to NJ thing. He takes this as an invitation to speak about politics, seeing as NYU is so “incredibly liberal.” I, of course, kindly let him know that I already knew that, and was “incredibly okay with it.”
“Do you know how right wing New York State really is?” Deadpan. This man is deadpan. Can every 40 or 50 year old just stand back for a minute and realize how politically aware my generation is, please? Please realize that I just told this man that I grew up in upstate NY. Do I know how conservative it is……..? At this point I was simply amused.
She would like her daughter to consider NYU. He thinks the city is “dirty” and cannot believe all of the “Arabs” making it so dirty……..I chose to ignore this comment because if I didn’t, I would probably slide him across the bar, face first, into several glass bottles………
Eventually, the woman told him to shut up. The man insulted her. They argued. I stopped paying attention. It was awkward. They moved to the pool table where she beat him, which was satisfactory. We ordered wings, which were delicious. Get the Lil’ Abner’s wings!
Final Stops: Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Cabot Cheese, and Lake Champlain Chocolate
Cold Hollow Cider Mill boasts the “best cider doughnuts” in the area. I can’t lie, I’ve certainly had better (Raggi’s farm in Fort Edward), but they are decent. I did, however, buy a 20 oz. bottle of cider jelly, which I HIGHLY recommend. My father says it’s too sweet, but I suppose I probably have the biggest sweet tooth in the family. They have a plethora of other options and are the featured cider at local restaurants, like the aforementioned Stowe Street Café.
A ways down the road is a Cabot Cheese store. There is an entire table for tasting, which I had just about an entire lunch at. I splurged on some Chioptle cheese (try it, you won’t regret it) and Farmer’s Reserve, because who doesn’t like an especially sharp cheddar?
Across the parking lot was the Lake Champlain Chocolate, where I spent a total of $20 on delicious dark chocolate. I have a taste for dark, and apparently Peruvian is my specialty, who knew? Take that as you may.
We pulled away with the clouds billowing above us, mirroring the smoke stacks swirling away from the butt of her cigarette. I used the speed limit signs to suggest the 10-15 mph more I should drive, smiling at the mixture of sounds melodically entering my eardrums; the shhhhh of my tire treads thinning against the pavement, the whirrrr of the wind against the aluminum, the bass of the EDM music, and the brain waves crashing as our philosophical talks moved me in directions I never before thought possible.
Travel, they said. And I listened.