Right up until a day or two before we left, we still hadn’t decided exactly which route we’d take to get to St Johnsbury, Vermont. My folks had recently gone to Lake Placid and highly recommended it, Nancy put the North Pole on my radar screen and I was curious about the Ausable Chasm. All could be on the way, with not much detouring, once we decided we’d cross the border from Ontario into New York instead of Quebec into Vermont.
In the end, we decided that a six hour drive was enough of a challenge for the first day, and called the ferry trip across Lake Champlain from Port Kent, New York to Burlington, Vermont our adventure for the day. The early part of the day passed in a rather leisurely fashion, but by the time we hit Plattsburg, NY, I realized that had a little less than 20 minutes to make it to the ferry dock and more than 15 miles to go. If we missed the ferry, we faced an hour and a quarter wait for the next one, plus an hour crossing, plus nearly two hours of driving on the far banks to St Johnsbury. After what can only be considered a madcap dash down Route 9 with fingers crossed and baited breath, we made it with mere minutes to spare.
I have to say that of all the roads we traveled, the highways across northern New York were the least interesting. Lots of ice cream stands, lots of pawn shops and enough gun shops to rather alarm my pacifist Canadian self, a few nondescript farms. As we moved to the south, an occasional mountain teased in the remote distance. Only when we started down Route 9, along the banks of Lake Champlain, did the scenery become engaging. Unfortunately, we zoomed through it ten to fifteen miles per hour above the speed limit and never did get to take much of it in!
Tristan absolutely loved the ferry crossing (as did Simon, once he woke from his car-and-heat induced nap.) At first, Tristan was quite concerned while we waited for the ferry to arrive that the boat would sink under the weight of all the cars. Once we got on board, though, the freedom to get out of the car and wander around the ferry completely engaged him. The crossing from Port Kent, NY to Burlington, VT is a little more than an hour, but it passed in the blink of an eye as we wandered from port to starboard, stem to stern, above-deck and below, examining the view from every possible angle.
After we landed in Burlington, we still had nearly two hours of driving before we reached St Johnsbury for the night. Part of that we passed zipping along Interstate 89 to Vermont’s capital of Montpelier, and the rest on the road I would come to love, the one that brought us all the way to Maine, US Route 2.
By the time we reached St Johnsbury, we’d been on the road for nearly seven hours, and we were done. I’d chosen the Fairbanks Inn based on its moderate price and good reviews on Trip Advisor, and while it was pleasant enough, the room itself was a little shabby. There were rust stains on the suspended ceiling in the bathroom, and a stain that looked alarmingly like blood on the carpet. It was roomy, though, and had a nice patio door that opened on to a balcony overlooking the wooded area behind the inn. The final delight for the boys was a heated pool shallow enough at both ends that they could play freely and splash about for an hour before bedtime.
It was a long first day, and bloody hot, but a promising start to our adventure. I couldn’t wait to get up and get moving the next morning.