You can get here from there, but it’s not easy.
Jonathan and Leslie arrived from the West Coast on Christmas Day, riding the tail end of unusual shirtsleeve weather, which certainly made for easy driving, listening to an audio book the way down on dry pavement and chatting at seventy on the way back.
Clear skies and snowless roads allowed relatives from New York and New Hampshire to visit while the Californians were here, and generally speaking, a good time was had by all. And then snow and freezing rain arrived just when it was time for the West Coast contingent to return home.
They were booked on a flight out at five in the morning, so they could be back in San Francisco by the middle of the day. The problem is that in good weather, I live an hour and a half from the airport, and in bad weather, I might as well live at the end of the world.
To make their early flight, they’d already booked a room at a no-frills motel with transport to the gate; the plan all along was to drive down the night before for their send off. Then it snowed.
To me, the thin frosting of ice was a disappointment. I love winter, but this precipitation was a dangerous nuisance and not the drifts of white powder I crave. But for Leslie, born and raised near the Bay, it was a first. Sure, she’d woken to a landscape obscured by fog before, but she’d never before woken up to a landscape transformed overnight by the phase change of rain to snow. To her, even this measly accumulation appeared magical. She snapped photos to show the family back home.
Meanwhile, I reserved a room at their cut-rate motel just in case I could get the Californians to the airport but couldn’t drive home.
The first twelve miles from my house to the interstate were slippery, but once we were on the highway, the roadway was clear, and as we drove south, the snow dissolved into slush. I dropped them off and raced daylight home, feeling guilty at abandoning them to a subpar dinner along a commercial strip, but not even the prospect a rematch at Scrabble could keep me from home. I arrived just in time to shovel slush from the path to the hen house before it froze into slick ice.
I have friends who hop on planes all the time, no big deal. But they live near airports with flights that go places. My closest airport is on a spoke a flight from a hub. If I were a restless spirit, this would be a real problem, but I’m a homebody, a homebody who welcomes intrepid travelers, happily living in place.
The difficulties of traveling in Vermont played a significant role in the state’s settlement, development, culture and politics. But Vermonters weren’t always eager to have good roads. Opposition began in 1753, when the Abenaki joined forces with the French to protest the building of a British military road along an established Abenaki trail. Resistance to new roads has continued ever since, from the Green Mountain Parkway to the building of the interstates. Given this opposition, how is it we now drive cars in all seasons, in all weathers, in all corners of the state? I talk about these issues of transportation in Vermont in Getting from Here to There: A History of Roads and Settlement in Vermont as a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers’ Bureau.
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