Posted by: David | January 1, 2010

Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont

My best friend’s family have this little vacation and skiing destination to which they travel most years during the holidays. This year I ventured to visit them there. According to the directions I extracted from Google Earth, it should have been a 2 hour and 17 minute trip with just a few simple turns after getting off the interstate. Easy! I didn’t even bother to print the directions, and FAILED to read that parts of the route may be seasonally closed. It was cold as hell and lightly snowing the whole way, several vehicles having slid off the interstate and gotten stuck. As I got higher and higher into the mountains, nearing the end of the route I kept wondering where the heck the big sign at the Main Entrance was and why I hadn’t seen it yet. And what’s this “ROAD CLOSED” sign anyway?

No choice but to turn around, swear a few times,  make several phone calls to my friend, and finally a stop at a bagel shop in Stowe for some directions. The first query in said shop produced no result, having fallen upon the ears of a busy teenage employee. The owner of the shop appeared and not only provided good directions, but would have offered shortcuts if I’d responded affirmatively to his inquiry into my “adventurousness”. Negative. Not adventurous. At all. He even gave me a map. I felt guilty that I didn’t buy a bagel. But next time I will. And if you’re ever in Stowe and feel like a bagel please go there. I think it was called The Bagel or something like that.

I’d only lost about an hour, and learned that Vermont Route 108 “through” the Notch itself is not passable in the winter months. It was nearly dark by the time I arrived at the resort. It sure was beautiful there. The place was like a little town. It was so sprawling that my friend came down to get me in his car. Good because I never would have found their actual condo. These places are set up so that you can just grab your skis and walk to the lifts in half a tick. At this particular resort there is an incredible network of trails and lifts arranged so that skiers can get to trails of all ability levels. There are also various swimming pools, all kinds of shops and organized activities for kids of all ages, you name it. Shock and awe for a proletarian like me. Ski in ski out.

The view from their windows the next morning. Think that’s Spruce Peak catching the sun.

We went for a two hour hike along a cross-country ski trail. The snow was not too deep and well-packed.

My buddy spotted this shot.

After our hike we loaded into the car and headed to a dumpy little book store a few towns up Route 15. The place was jam packed and poorly organized, but my friend, his son, and me, we all found some books worth buying. The kid found, in addition to some old Mad magazine books, a baseball cap from a nuclear power plant in North Carolina, which we Googled when we got back. My buddy found a handful of psychotherapy titles, and I found The Big Book of Hell, an early Matt Groening (Simpsons creator) cartoon compilation and Cranks, Quarks, and the Cosmos, a collection of science writings by the physicist and New Yorker magazine writer Jeremy Bernstein. We headed back to the condo.

Guess what these teenage siblings are doing? Each playing games on their iPod Touch.

Like his dad, my friend’s son is heavily into card sleight of hand. At 14 he’s way ahead of where Dad was. This photo shows nothing impressive, but that’s my fault.

They brought Vinnie, their cockatiel, along. Vinnie and the daughter are best buds. She loves animals.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do any skiing. Haven’t skied since 1975. They said I should bring a bathing suit so I could go in the outdoor pool and experience the thrill of being in a pool while it’s snowing. I declined, being too cool for pool. Actually I’d been in a pretty foul mood for most of this holiday vacation and really didn’t even want to make the drive to Vermont. Why? I’m just a self-involved jerk is all. No lie. You may think otherwise because of all the nice things I’ve written here but, like that unhappy drunk loudly slurs after being shown the door … YOU-DOE-KNOW-ME! If you DO know me, by the way, then you know what I mean, and lucky you.

I was nice enough to let my friends do whatever they wanted to though, and I even helped with the assembly of a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, which, they reminded me, I’d given their daughter as an age-inappropriate birthday present some years before. The pieces were very precisely cut and required close examination to make sure they were properly fit. We made a few mistakes along the way and lapsed into comical (to us) accents somewhere between Monty Python and Crocodile Dundee.

This puzzle was HARD. We stayed up past midnight getting the bird done.

Don’t I look tired? My friend is attached to that right arm. Yes he really exists. He even has a t-shirt that says “My imaginary friend thinks you have serious mental problems”.

I headed back to New Hampshire before the puzzle was done. But they finished it, thank goodness. Now their cockatiel can take a nice crap on it. Ha ha. Guess I’m still not back to my normal cheery self. That last post (Sorry About All The F-Bombs) is but further evidence. Be glad I’m leaving out most of the depressing details. What have I really got to be complaining about? Not one goddamn thing.

Hey, Happy New Year again and as always thanks for reading.


  1. I think not buying a Bagel might have been against the rules. If I was the owner of The Bagel, I might have come after you and changed up the directions a bit.

    Happy New Year!!!!!

    Happy New Year to you too MTAE. I’m glad you’re not in the bagel business. Though I guess you’ve got the haircut for it. At any rate, there was no sign posted about this rule. However, the restroom door was locked, so I probably would have had to make a purchase in order to “leave a deposit”.

  2. Better than what I read last year!

    Happy new year to you too!

    Also, I have never seen snow, so what exactly did your buddy spot in “My buddy spotted this shot”.

    Is it just trees / twigs ensnared in snow?

    Thank you Dinesh for your comment. Perhaps you are referring to my final post of 2009. It was dreadful indeed. These things happen sometimes. And I hope 2010 is a good year for you as well.

    Yes, it is just trees / twigs ensnared in snow. The circular pattern is supposed to please the eye.

  3. Haha, the post is filed in the ‘Kismet’ category!

    We went to Jaipur in these holiday. We also drove to the place. While going many parts of the road were under construction or heavily jammed! 280 odd kilometres in about 8-9 hours!

    It is an ‘Urdu’ word, part of your vocabulary? in the English language too?

    Not sure where you’re seeing the ‘kismet’ category, but it certainly applies here, as it does to most of my posts. In English kismet means fate or destiny. That which is meant to be.

    I hope your drive to Jaipur was worth all the trouble and that you had enjoyable holidays. Thanks again for visiting.

  4. Holy cow those picture are pretty. I especially like the 2nd one from the ski resort. Makes me almost but not quite want to learn to ski. I think I’d better stick with jigsaw puzzles.

    Thanks Allison. The clouds in that second photo were low and you could literally see them sort of scooping down over that peak. I’m sure I got the names of the peaks wrong in the post, even though I tried to find them on an online topo map. I was fairly disoriented up in them thar hills with the sun so low in the winter sky. But I’m with you on the skiing. My only snow related sports these days are shoveling and snowblowing. 🙂

  5. All that good stuff from one lil ol book store? What an interesting place that must have been! (Makes me wish I’d swiped a few baseball caps from the ex who was a nuke plant engineer … )

    It was an interesting if not a bit dumpy little store. My buddy is a good negotiator and bought $50 worth of books so asked if the proprietor wouldn’t mind throwing in the hat for nothing. Which he did. The hat was probably from a PR campaign for the Harris plant in North Carolina and had an acronym on it (which Googling revealed): ALARA As Low As Reasonably Achievable. This refers to their efforts to keep radiation exposure as close to zero as possible.


    Your laughter is infectious Maleesha.

  7. So here is the trick. You park at Stowe (Spruce Peak) and pay money you take the chair lift up. You then take the ski access over to Smugs at the top of the mountain and ski down to visit your friends. Smugs allows you one ride back up on your Stowe lift ticket (or they used to). Saves a lot of time when the mountain pass is closed–as it should be, that pass is scary in the summer. Of course it does require you to ski. And I believe I warned you that the pass was closed in the winter. That’s what you get for not listening =-).

    You did? Warn me? Crap. I wish I would have listened better. Now, maybe you can tell me why my DVR cuts off the last minute of Dr. Who. I saw Dr. 11, and yeah, he’s a kid. Seems like they just keep getting younger and younger. Boy, Rose was lookin’ good though, wasn’t she?

  8. I’m totally salivating over that puzzle.
    I Looooove puzzles. Note the use of a capital L.

    Hahahaha! Salivating over a puzzle! That’s something only an UNEMPLOYED person would do right? Thanks for commenting Talea, and I totally noted the capital L. 🙂

  9. Well I do know you and I do know what you mean!! HAHA Also — that puzzle is hard since all the pieces are exactly the same shape (which I absolutely hate and find totally un-fun although I am a huge game-lover). I believe there is an Archer Mayor mystery that takes place up there! Put it on your reading list!

    Hi Carol, thanks for commenting. It’s hard to get that drunken inflection into a written form … but yes,the damn puzzle pieces were way too precisely cut. We discovered after the photo was taken that ONE OF THE EDGE PIECES was wrong! Well two actually, duh. One late night we spent the better part of an hour looking for one single piece and in our fatigue made a joke out of finding and re-fitting it over and over. We decided that we ought to aim to live in the same old folks home and hope for easier puzzles a few decades hence … nnnnnnnGAH!

  10. Why is it “the smuggler’s” notch? I wonder what you could smuggle inside the US. Was it busy when in the US suddenly alcohol became the Nr 1 policy item?

    Have you seen WordPress has come up with another novelty today: “Home Page” as a stats item. That is bad news for me.

    Didn’t notice that WordPress item. Home page is merely the current post. Since your posts rotate, how is this bad news for you? You’re closing in on 150,000 visits to your blog. Where’s the bad news? You write about things that are interesting to many readers. Keep up the good work!

    You’re right on the money re: smugglers’ notch. Here’s the link to the lore. Is it of additional interest that the place became a playground for the wealthy?

  11. It seemed bad news because up to now I did not have to pay attention to my most recent post. Next I thought the new feature could be used to get hits for things that would not otherwise get them, and I quickly hung out some Alberti cradle songs.

    However, apparently WordPress had to give up on its idea. It was complex and became messy. Ten days after its first implementation the top post list on the home page still contained double entries or entries that had no reason to be there.

    The idea had been to include the home page hits in the top posts list, not as “home page”, but with its real title.

    Well then I’m glad it didn’t work out. I didn’t really get it anyway.

  12. Do you consider blogging good work?

    I thought it was just a highly instructive passtime. Formerly, I did more knitting.

    Hmm. Interesting question. Pastime is more accurate. More of an educational entertainment with the additional novel form of socializing. ‘Good work’ connotes to me more charitable and helpful endeavors rather than social entertainment. I do find great value in it though. It’s been very nice to get to “know” people like you and other folks whose blogs I read.

    Knitting is good too. Some of those Canadian blogger ladies like to knit too.

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