The sun is hiding behind a sheath of steel blue skies this morning. A damp chill hangs in the air, leaving the world without any measure of doubt: fall is here. As we lay in our tent, listening to the rapidly escalating sound of raindrops plunking into our rain-fly, it dawns on us that the deeply rutted dirt trail we traversed to reach this spot last night is likely becoming a mud-slick. Springing to action, we break camp with record speed.
By the time we're ready to go, the skies have opened up, throwing down heavy sheets of percussive rain. With a nervous smile, I turn the ignition of our little Honda Civic and attempt, gingerly, to pilot our car over the steep embankment ahead. We've scarcely moved two feet when the front tires break loose, delivering the disheartening whine of rubber slipping on gritty mud. Oh shi…
Craning my neck, I peer out the rear window, throw the gearshift into reverse, and back up for a head start, careful to keep the passenger-car-consuming-crevasse below us centered under the engine. (The photo below is from a similar experience we had in Russia.) Then, dropping into first gear, I slowly roll on the throttle, gunning it once we have a modicum of momentum.
Hitting the embankment, we immediately lose traction again. With our tires spinning and mud flying everywhere, the hand of our speedometer drops precipitously towards zero. With both of our faces fixed in a cringing grin, we inch up and over the peak, zooming down the other side, rolling to safety in the nicely graveled "Fish and Wildlife" area which led us here.
Having successfully freed ourselves from what could have become a time-consuming mess, we laugh and high-five, relieved we weren't forced to enlist help in escaping our parking space. (The photo below, again, is from a similar experience we had in Russia.)
A few miles down the road, our phone does it's ritual morning beep-beep-beeping, indicating we have a bevy of unread emails. Pulling into a tiny parking space in front of a rural post office, a thick fog engulfs our car as I inspect them for any work-related emergencies. All is quiet on the business front, but one of the messages is from Sue, inviting us to dinner tomorrow night!
We had planned on leaving today, after a final visit to Maple Hill Road, but with such a kind offer, we decide to stay another night. After RSVPing with a grateful, enthusiastic yes, we head to breakfast at a little diner in Shoreham called The Halfway House, where we eat biscuits and gravy and french toast while a cold, drenching rain continues to fall outside.
At the bar, two dusty quarry workers sit on stools, chatting about crushing rock over their morning coffee. Catching wind of their rather loud exchange, I can't help but smile with delight when the conversation takes a turn for the unexpected. They've gone from discussing the finer details of aggregate machinery to talking earnestly about the benefits of exercise and how great it makes them feel:
Guy #1 It just feels so good, you know, swimmin' in the water, free and easy. My muscles loosen up and I can breath so deep.
Guy #2 I know, it's the same feeling I have when I go jogging. It's like I get in a zone, and afterwards, I feel so good.
Guy #1 Yeah, colors just seem brighter. It's like the trees get even greener!
While Tyler absentmindedly flips between pages of the diner's "Guns and Ammo" magazine, skimming through dramatic stories of horrific break-ins and the shotguns that ended them, we exchange a broad smile in agreement with the pair's enthusiasm.
Back on the road, we continue our search for a place to call home. Winding eastward across the misty Green Mountains, we follow our GPS to another dozen locations, haphazardly spaced from north to south between Randolph and Brattleboro. We've scoured the area we're most interested in (the western valley of Vermont from Middlebury south to Bennington), so we're giving another part of the state a fair shot, just to be sure we've covered our bases.
After several hours of tromping through woods and fields in the rain and mud, our clothes are soaked and studded with brambles and burrs. Though we've explored many sites, the only thing we've learned is that we prefer the western side of Vermont. As we climb the mountains and descend once more, heading towards the valley, it feels like coming home.
We have one final property to visit—none other than "our" ten acres on Maple Hill Road. We haven't entirely given up hope on it. Tyler is certain it is the one, but I'm not so sure, and we're both curious to find out how we feel about it after all we've seen the past three days. We've purposely saved it for last, but it's getting dark. A re-visit of our favorite spot will have to wait until tomorrow.