The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken is a labor of love. We have found glorious beauty and have marveled aloud about grandeur in all 50 States, but we are often asked a question. “Which State is your favorite?” It is as hard to pick a favorite as it is for a mother to pick a favorite child. Next to impossible.
However, for jaw-dropping beauty around every corner of the highway, we have a top selection, and it may come as a surprise. As much as we love beaches and seashores, the Green Mountain State of Vermont is the one we remember as the most striking.
We haven’t even been up there for the autumn colors. We’re not sure our hearts could take it.
Good things really do come in small packages. Vermont is the fifth smallest state in the Union, with the second smallest population. It would come as a shock to Vermonters if they weren’t in a rural State. The capital is Montpelier, all 7,755 residents strong. The largest city is Burlington, less than 40,000 in residence.
Vermont is 160 miles long from north to south, and just 80 miles wide. The lowest point is Lake Champlain at 95 feet above sea level. The highest point is the peak of 4,395 foot Mt. Mansfield. Vermont is bordered on the east by New Hampshire, and on the west by New York. Massachusetts is at Vermont’s southern gate, while the Canadian Province of Quebec is up north.
Statehood was problematic for Vermont, and it’s big, bad neighbor to the west was to blame. Vermont operated as an independent State for 14 years (they even minted their own coinage) because New York insisted it was really just a western part of New York State. Finally, in 1791 Congress allowed Vermont into the Union, but only if Vermont paid an aggregate $30,000 to landowners who mistakenly believed they were in New York.
Top Airports in Vermont:
Rutland–Southern Vermont Regional enplanes about 5,000 passengers a year. Boston is the most frequent destination.
Burlington International is the major Vermont airport, serving over 600,000 passengers annually. New York City is the favorite place to fly.
Presidents Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge. First Lady Grace Coolidge.
Military/Politics: Patrick Leahy, Aaron Perry, Stephen Douglas, Thaddeus Stevens, and Zephyr Teachout.
Actors: Orson Bean, Zosia Mamet, Field Cate, Justin Martin, Tara Correa-McMullen, Ernest Thompson, and Gabriel Mann.
Entertainers: Aaron Lewis, Rudy Vallee, Maggie Geha, Dan Tyminski, Julian Woodrow, Troy Ramey, Pierce Fulton, Grace Potter, and JoJo.
Writers: Parker Croft
Athletes: Patty Sheehan, Carlton Fisk, Keegan Bradley, Birdie Tebbetts, and Hannah Teter.
Movies in Which Vermont Played a Role:
Sucker Punch (2011)
Thank You For Smoking (2005)
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Super Troopers (2001)
Weird and Wonderful Facts About Vermont:
Montpelier is the only U.S. State capital without a McDonalds. There is one in Barre, three miles out of town.
Montpelier is the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S. (So why would they need a McDonalds?)
Vermont’s State Capital building is one of only a few to have a gold dome. Atop the dome is a statue of Ceres.
IBM is the largest employer in Vermont.
Ben and Jerry’s, in Waterbury, is renowned as the top employer in the United States in terms of employee job satisfaction.
Let’s Take a Trip Through Vermont:
Our trip through Vermont will be all of 62 miles, but it will be some of the quirkiest and most picturesque miles we have traveled so far.
Way back in Mississippi we said we weren’t going to stop at every University campus but would hit the most beautiful ones. The University of Vermont in Burlington fits the bill.
UV is a lovely college that fits into the town it calls home. The tree-lined campus is spic and span and the people we encounter will be friendly and engaging. Hardin Coleman, Cynthia Dill, Ben Affleck, and Dierks Bentley went to school here. You can almost see them toting books up the hill.
After wandering through the Home of the Catamounts, we head out for the short drive to Waterbury. Here, we will visit and tour the Ben and Jerry’s plant.
Ben and Jerry are known for their ice cream and their innovative method of employee relations. Until Ben retired, the top employee was prohibited from making more than five times what the lowest earner made.
Today, we will sample the flavor of the day, select which flavors we wish to buy (through another yummy sampling process) and tour the grounds. We learn how the tasty frozen treats are made and see it all in action. Later we will walk to the Graveyard of Deceased Flavors, where will pay our respects to Wavy Gravy, Aloha Macadamia, and Schweddy Balls. Rest in peace.
Next up, an awe-inspiring drive through the Green Mountains. No stops are necessary, just a willingness to put the phone away (you won’t get much reception up here anyway) and enjoy the vista of beauty before you.
Finally, we make our way to Montpelier. We told you earlier that Montpelier is America’s smallest capital at just under 8,000 population, but small alone wouldn’t make it the memorable stop it is. The city looks like the prettiest picture postcard you ever received. The capital building’s golden dome standing majestically above a city the size of Yreka, California is incongruous and perfect in its incongruity.
We have one more sweet reason to stop in Montpelier. Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks produces the purest maple syrup this side of heaven (And we bet the pancakes in heaven sit under this stuff.)
We will have soft serve maple ice cream, made on-site. We will enjoy some maple cream candy. Then, we will open our suitcases and fill them with bottles of syrup.
Sweet Jesus! You can take me now!
We can’t leave until after the lecture. In 20 minutes, we will learn more about making maple syrup than when we read The Bobbsey Twins at Sugar Maple Hill when we were seven.
The Capitol Plaza is the best bet for an overnight in Montpelier. Rooms for $136 a night.
We say goodbye to the New England States with this little jaunt through Vermont. We are given solace that we may well have saved the best for last.
Hey, Maine was pretty great, and how about that boat ride on Lake Winnipesaukee? What about the show we saw in Portsmouth? It’s hard to choose. That’s what makes this The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken!
Next up: Hawaii. Aloha Oy, baby.