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Weekend Road Trip, Part One: Buying Slate

by Tara

Last night, we stayed up into the wee hours, re-living some of our travels and travails in Vietnam. It's not often that we read our own journal entries—we're usually focused on the present, busily writing new stories. But, I'm having my second annual case of springtime wanderlust, and remembering the insanity of traveling in Vietnam has somewhat quelled it.

…but not quite.

I'm as giddy as can be to write that we're headed on a three-hour road trip to northern Vermont this morning. I need a break from road building, foundation work, tree clearing, site grading and all the other construction-y things that have been consuming our time. We're going on an honest-to-goodness weekend adventure! It feels like we're on summer vacation, even if the trip has a homestead-related agenda.

The morning dawns with brilliant blue skies and a warm sun shining overhead. We planned our outing for today because it was supposed to rain. All work has been canceled, Rick won't be around, and we've already told Jim, the man with the slate roof tiles we'll be buying, that we'll meet him around noon. I guess we'll just have to enjoy this gorgeous day with a nice drive!

After I've packed a few snacks, we pile into our pickup truck, roll the windows down, and hit the road with Mark Knopfler's "What it Is" blasting from the speakers. No matter how much we love our land and the home we're building, traveling together is like slipping on an old pair of perfectly broken-in hiking boots: so comfortable, so ready for adventuring!

Us Driving in our Truck Tara through Muddy Sideview Mirror Tyler Driving (Hobbit Foot)

As we rumble along in our truck, driving through Vermont's green mountains, we're oohing and ahhing the entire way. The roadsides are lined with lilacs and queen anne's lace, occasionally wafting floral aromas into our noses as we cruise by. There are also signs for tag sales, antique sales, and even a rhubarb festival. We cruise over rocky, rushing rivers so loud that they briefly drown out the sound of our truck.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love my new home state!

After about three hours heading northward, we leave the highway and strike west towards Grand Isle, an island in Lake Champlain. We follow a narrow causeway through Sand Bar State Park, and then across the lake, which sparkles in the sun on either side of us. Soon, we're on land once more: a quiet green island of small rolling hills, and fields of tall grasses that bend and wave in the wind.

Vehicular traffic has almost all but disappeared here on Grand Isle, but two-wheeled travelers are out in abundance! We pass cyclist after cyclist along the wildflower-lined roads. It is beautiful here, and I decide that one of these days, we'll have to return with our bicycles and camping gear!

Shortly, we arrive at Jim and Beth's house. This couple we found on Craigslist is selling roughly one thousand pieces of slate roofing tiles, removed from their 1800s barn. Jim meets us at the drive, shaking our hands and whisking us away for a tour of his two-hundred-odd-year-old structure from which we'll collect the makings of our cottage roof.

1800s Barn

After a nice chat and a tour, Jim takes us to see the slate. Though apparently it's better to store slate vertically instead of stacked on top of one another (the weight can damage the bottom pieces), we buy it anyway. It's a great deal, even if loads of the tiles are damaged.

Slate from 1800s Barn

Loading slate into the bed of our truck is a hot, sweaty business, but we're in the shade and there's a breeze. The labor is made easier with a big jug of ice water that Beth brings us. As we work, we talk about Jim's fascinating past as a pilot, about his life in Vermont, about our current homesteading projects, and all of our traveling adventures.

Jim & Tyler Loading Slate from 1800s Barn

After a good hour of work, we're finished loading—the slate fits perfectly. The truck is sitting a little low, seeming to groan under its newfound weight, but we're sure it can handle the ride home.