Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 40/60: Burlington to White River Jct

The only problem with today's scenic drive through the Green Mountains was that we were about two weeks too late for the fall color, and most of the trees were bare. We did have a few good views of hillsides carpeted in autumnal hues. We didn't bag a lot of killer shots because streaky clouds frequently dimmed the sun. The hills and valleys are covered with trees; I kept thinking how beautiful it must have been in the spring and summer, let alone the autumn. Dan enjoyed driving the country roads; not much traffic, constantly changing scene. The two lane road was in poor repair much of the way, but tolerable.

We made it to Woodstock in time for a late lunch. After a few hours of driving through tiny villages with virtually no business, bustling touristy Woodstock was a shock. We parked in a free lot a couple blocks from town. You know, it is a really pretty old town; no wonder it is popular. Lots of substantial old buildings, both residential and commercial, very stylish, with fashionable shops and trendy restaurants. Dan chose Bentley's, a pleasantly traditional place. We both had salads with chicken added; the chicken was moist and tender.

Then we went just up the road a piece—some hardy souls walked it—to an interesting historical complex. Basically there are two parts. One is a large, working farm, Billings Farm, that demonstrates sustainable farming, as well as the history of farming. This we skipped.

What we were interested in was the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. This place has a complex background which we learned from a young ranger who gave us a tour. The property's first owner, Marsh, was an early conservationist, one of the first to propose that the resources of nature be conserved. He was a theorist and writer who never had the funds to practice what he preached. Billings was a highly successful businessman (railroads, etc.) who was so inspired by Marsh's ideas that he bought Marsh's property and tried to apply them there. One of the main things he did was to plant hundreds of trees. At that time, Vermont—now known for its trees—had been largely de-forested for the sake of pasturing sheep. He also established the Billings Farm, to spread the idea of smart farming. Through marriage, the property came into the hands of Laurence Rockefeller, one of the sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He was an active conservationist and tried to continue Billings' work. His wife was the grand-daughter of Billings, and she tried to keep much of the mansion as she remembered it from her childhood.

It was an interesting tour but a little wordy, and there was little time or attention to the art on the walls of the house. They did have a couple of small works by Bierstadt, nothing much. The interior decor was by Tiffany; lots of woodwork, all beautifully carved in simple geometric patterns; excellent embossed wall coverings; that was the best part.

We went over to nearby White River Junction, much more affordable, to spend the night at a very basic Comfort Inn. Our absentee ballots were waiting for us, as we had arranged. After a little confusion we located a supermarket and stocked up on drinks and snacks. Dan had been hoping to eat at the Chinese restaurant across the street from the motel, but their power was out because a line repair was being made nearby. I wasn't planning to eat Chinese food (after my msg episode, I'm feeling very negative about Chinese food), but I was with Dan to explore the situation. We ended up going to a country kitchen place also nearby. Ordinary stuff; no wine.

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