Monday, March 05, 2007

Northland Journal

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Articles from Vermont's Northland Journal

Vermont Through the Eyes of a Stranger
by Scott Wheeler

“What’s the temperature out there?” the trucker asked as we poured ourselves a cup of coffee at a mini mart just off Interstate 91 that doubles as a truck stop.

“About zero,” I said as I anxiously poured my first coffee of the day. “Well, to be exact, when I left home a few minutes ago, it was about one degree above zero, not that you’d care about that one degree.”

This was one of those simple questions that leads to one of those conversations where I walk away appreciating the beauty of the Kingdom even more than I did before. For that matter, sometimes I think it takes a visitor or a newcomer to the region to help us diehard, longtime Vermonters notice the beauty that many of us have stopped seeing long ago.

The trucker, a woman probably in her 40s with reddish brown hair down her back, was from Ontario, not far removed from Vermont’s wintry weather, but another trucker who joined in the conversation was from the sunshine state—Florida. Looking out the window over his cup of coffee, taking in the beauty of Vermont’s snowy landscape, the grandfatherly looking man, retired military, asked how the roads were that morning, noting that winter driving was new to him. He admitted he was still a bit unhinged by the driving conditions he had experienced the night before, before reaching the mini mart/truck stop.

The roads are “good” this morning I told the truckers who were obviously in as much of a hurry to hit the lonesome road as I was to get out on a windswept and bitterly cold Lake Willoughby in Westmore for my early morning ice fishing trip—and I surely wasn’t in a hurry that morning, the morning February, 2003, the morning of my 39 th birthday.

The idea of “good” roads in snow country is in the eyes of the beholder. Some folks who haven’t lived long in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom let winter roads bring their lives to a stop, whereas veterans of this snowy climate just regard the snow and ice covered roads as minor inconveniences.

“So, the ice is off the road?” the grandfatherly trucker asked in his southern drawl.

“Nah, I wouldn’t say that,” I told him. “What I mean is, although the roads are still covered in snow and ice, it’s a dry ice, not the wet slippery type that is anxious to send a vehicle, even a big rig like yours, into a skid. Drive carefully and you’ll get wherever you want to go today.”

While the three of us could debate the meaning of “good roads,” we surely couldn’t debate the beauty of Vermont’s wind-blown wintry countryside that morning. In my eyes, there really isn’t anything like the beauty of a cold, wintry morning in Vermont, with the exception of the warm March sun that heralds in sugaring season, spring, and the renewal of life in the Kingdom.


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