I’m on top of the world!

The view from the top of Mount Washington

Note to self: bring your own pillow next trip. One hotel pillow was too low, and stacking two on top of each other was too high. Where was the option that was “just right?” (Goldilocks I’m not…. Just look at my hair).

Got up a bit later than intended and headed right over to Mount Washington via the scenic Kuncamagus Highway, which is Indian for “the long and winding road with past-peak foliage.” It disappointed, so I took a detour onto Bear Notch Road (I know, I know, I said I would never drive on another “notch” road, but this one was actually paved – the whole way!) So, it took like forever to get to the start of the White Mountain Auto Road in Gorham, but I finally found it (GPS might take me on some strange routes, but it always spits me out in the right spot).

It was another gorgeous, gorgeous fall day – clear and crisp, a great day to go to the summit of Mt. Washington, which is the highest point in the Northeast at over 6,000 feet (that’s more than a mile high!) It takes about a half hour to drive to the top. The road is dangerously narrow at points with no guardrails, and it was freaking me out a bit – especially when I looked out the side windows (see photos posted on my Facebook page). I don’t think I’ve ever said “Holy Sh*t” so many times in a half hour. There were lots of cars going up due to the nice weather (well, nice at the bottom anyway). At the top, it was 29 degrees with snow and ice covering everything and 50 mph winds that almost knocked me over. Apparently, the road has been closed the past few days due to the weather conditions, so I lucked out.

I was also freaked out about going back down the mountain, as I had seen the narrow hairpin turns the people exiting were trying to make as I was going up. But it wasn’t bad at all, and I started to feel like an old pro by the time I was half way down (be sure to pull over frequently to cool your brakes!). I’m glad I did it. Now I can sport one of those “THIS CAR CLIMBED MOUNT WASHINGTON” stickers that you see so often, probably because they give you one for free. Great advertising gimmick.

After I was back on solid ground, I headed for Vermont. Actually saw some improved foliage on this leg of my journey. It is so beautiful up here. I took a drive through the White Mountain National Forest this morning, and the woods were just endless and tranquil and serene. Lots of bubbling streams, birch trees sporting yellow leaves, and tree-lined roads with the sun peeking through (see pics). Oddly, while this entire area seems geared for tourism, I saw very few people. The roads and forests were pretty deserted.

On the ride to Vermont, I ended up going through endlessly long stretches of rural and uninteresting farmland that looked a lot like Preston and Franklin. And somehow, I never saw a “Welcome to Vermont” sign, which was a bit odd. But, nevertheless, I am here.

I arrived in Barre (pronounced “barry”) at around 6pm, and was surprised to find it still light out. Barre is a cool little town just outside of the state capital of Montpelier. It only has about 10,000 people, yet is the fourth largest city in Vermont (this state is really sparsely populated, which works just fine for me). It still has a thriving downtown that looks like something out of the sixties. It reminds me a bit of New Haven – not as big and bustling, but the downtown has that same feel. Granite is a big industry here, and “Barre Gray” granite is highly sought worldwide.

I ate at the Wayside Restaurant upon the recommendation of the motel clerk, and it was excellent. The place was very crowded, and it reminded me of one of those small joints you always see the aspiring presidential candidates stopping into to chat with the common folks. I sat at a stool at the counter in order to not take up a booth and had Filet Mignon tips (only $8.95!) It was very good, and the restaurant is rated as one of the best in the country of its type (diner / American fare).

Now I’m planning tomorrow’s adventures, which include a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury and a boat ride on Lake Champlain up by the Canadian border.

A demain!