In my time bouncing back and forth between New Hampshire and Vermont last weekend and this week — being as it coincided with peak fall foliage — rooms were hard to come by, and hard to hold on to, resulting in Ace and I staying four different places.
Which, in the interest of full disclosure, I will now tell you about.
First we checked into the Lancaster Motor Inn, which like most of the lodgings we encountered in New England had upped their prices for the autumn rush. We paid $60-something, plus a dog fee, for our room, which was just a short walk from the river, where Ace romped while I picnicked on clam chowder and apple cider.
Lancaster’s a nice little town –equal parts quaint and hard-boiled. We saw a covered bridge and, just our luck, there was a parade that night that came right past the motel. Basically, it’s every fire engine, rescue vehicle and salt truck from all the nearby towns, and they slowly roll down Lancaster’s main street, blaring their horns and sirens at full blast.
Ace didn’t think much of it, but I guess even quiet little towns need to cut loose sometimes.
Our second night was outside St. Johnsbury, Vermont, at the Alpine Valley Motel, Restaurant and Pub (though both the restaurant and pub were closed). At $80 a night, it was about twice our limit. But with few other choices, and temperatures dropping to freezing — leading me to rule out the tent — we coughed up the dough.
It, too, was a nice little spot, with a babbling brook running behind our cabin, and views of vibrant mountainside foliage from the front porch. Again, we attempted to recoup some of what we were overspending on motels by spending less on food. Peanut butter and jelly was on the menu that night, and the next.
On our third night, after visiting the inn where John Steinbeck slept (but didn’t admit to sleeping), we stopped outside of Whitefield and walked into the office of a modest looking place called Mirror Lake Motel and Cabins.
I rang the bell and waited, and waited, and finally the proprietor appeared, looking like he’d been midway through a nap. He said he had vacancies, and that dogs were allowed. He wanted $60 — cash only. He grabbed a handful of keys and shuffled outside, picked a room, walked inside, and lifted up the bedspread.
“Give me about 20 minutes,” he said. Ace and I checked out the lake while he cleaned, then, once he showed us how the heater worked — “You’re going to need it tonight,” he warned — we settled in our room and whipped up some more peanut butter and jelly, this time on crackers instead of bread, which was a pleasant change of pace.
The next morning we saw snow on Mount Washington before we returned to Lancaster for a visit to Rolling Dog Ranch. Then we headed back east to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, then south to the town of Brattleboro, where we finally found some lodging we could afford — a Motel 6.
So I celebrated with a nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant, spending close to $20 — in other words, blowing the amount I had saved on an affordable motel.
A gigantic grass lawn was just across the street — property of a textile company — and I took Ace there for some exercise (before I noticed the no trespassing signs). We used it again the next morning (yes, we’re outlaws), before we shared breakfast at a nearby restaurant and checked out.
From Brattleboro, we took Highway 7 west across southern Vermont, again enjoying some peak fall foliage. I’ve gotten to enjoy several doses of that by heading south — first in the north of Maine, again in parts of New Hampshire and for a third time crossing Vermont. On our way west, the leaves were in full color as we climbed up the mountains, a little past peak as we went back down.
I won’t say I outsmarted Mother Nature; it’s more like, purely by coincidence, I adjusted to her schedule.
By the time we hit Bennington, I got yet another dose of color.
We cruised by the Bennington Monument, a 300-foot tall stone structure commemorating the Continental Army’s 1777 thwarting of British and Hessian troops that were attempting to reach a supply depot. The Americans, carrying what is believed to be the first American flag into battle, forced the British to detour to Saratoga, where they met with defeat in a battle that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.
From the top of the monument, accessible by elevator, visitors can see Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.
It was just a few minutes more to the state of New York, where fall was also in full glory. Seeing a roadside coffee stand near Hoosick, we pulled over.
I sat at a picnic table and drank a cup. Ace got out for a stretch. And even though we’ve seen more fall foliage than anyone has a right to, we decided to take a few minutes and do what the sign said: