On the only cloudy and rainy day of the trip, we quietly cruised through New York on our way back to Vermont. We looked forward to the hour-long ferry ride across Lake Champlain, but New York had two more surprises for us as we neared the lake.
Both caught us totally off guard. We were driving over what seemed just another of the many bridges over another river or creek. Instead, we found ourselves turning back quickly to survey the stunning Ausable Chasm, a two-mile sandstone gorge with three waterfalls. Finding a parking space, we swung the car doors open for the second surprise. It stunk to high heaven.
Any thoughts of exploring the chasm ended with our first breath. Seems local farmers truck manure in by the ton to fertilize the soil for their crops and fertilize our nasal passages with a revolting pungency. A local worker provided us with information on the richness of the local soil thanks to the soil of countless cows and chuckled, “You sure did pick a bad time to stop.”
With the odor still ripe in our noses, we pulled our car into position on the ferry hoping the brisk lake air would provide relief. Then we saw a man and woman opening the trunk of their car over and over. Taped to the trunk rim were at least 15 air fresheners. We wanted to dunk our heads into the trunk and breath deeply. Then we wondered what could they possibly be carrying in a trunk that needed so many dangling cardboard pine trees? Drugs? Dead bodies? Moving to the back of the ferry and away from potential serial killers, the lake air soon made us hungry. Fortunately, just a short trip up from the Burlington, Vermont, dock the perfect fuel awaited.
Bove’s is a tiny restaurant that looks as though Michael Corleone could have dug a pistol out from behind the toilet in the men’s room and returned to put slugs into the dirty cop and wanna be mob king in The Godfather. Fortunately, there have been many cameras in Bove’s recently but not to film mob hits.
The hits are the fabulous Italian food featured twice on the Food Network. Chef Melissa d’Arabian chose Bove’s roasted garlic pasta sauce on the Best Thing I Ever Ate. On Throwdown with Bobby Flay, the famed chef came to Vermont to take on Bove’s lasagna.
We spread out our orders to include the lasagna along with pasta with garlic sauce and the sweet red pepper sauce, another award-winning sauce in Bove’s lineup. Then everything got completely out of control, at least for me, when the waiter delivered a giant slab of lasagna. The layers of pasta were all perfectly baked. Meatballs were carefully sliced and laid on top of the pasta layers. A variety of cheeses permeated it all along with a rich marinara sauce. It was easily the best thing I ever ate.
That was the problem. It was all too mouth-watering. After sharing with everyone, bite after bite came far too fast. It all seemed so delicious it was hard to slow down. Suddenly, the richness of the cheeses hit me. There was no stopping, but each bite was taking its toll. Forget Throwdown, I had moved on to Man vs. Food, and food was now kicking me right in the gut.
Fortunately, the morning dawned brighter. We were ready to track down the Lake Monster we came to see. Others might explore Lake Champlain for the alleged sea monster, Champie. We wanted to get a sighting of former KU pitcher and friend T.J. Walz. Drafted by the Oakland A’s after his senior season last spring, Walz became a relief pitcher for the Single A minor league Burlington Lake Monsters.
Sadly, Walz proved as elusive to see as Champie. The morning of the game, Walz called to tell us he had good and bad news for us and good and bad news for him. The good news for us was that we were on the pass list for the game. Our bad news was that if we went to the game, we would not be seeing Walz. His good news was that he had just been called up to a new team, the Burlington Bees, a high Single A team in Iowa. From Burlington to Burlington. Walz’s bad news was that he really had hoped to see us and some familiar faces again. With an hour to pack his gear and catch a flight, Walz had no time other than to say farewell.
The Omaha native would soon be closer to home in Iowa. He would be seeing more important familiar faces than ours. That made us happy. We told him that when he felt it was time to move up to Double A ball to give us a call to come visit. He would be surely be called up just as we arrived.
We loaded our disappointment into the car and headed for Vermont’s ski resort town of Stowe, followed by an evening back in the White River Junction area. We made the short drive to the truly beautiful Dartmouth campus. Nothing like an Ivy League school for a campus steeped in heritage. All of the buildings reflect the school’s history. We especially loved the unique chapel.
The college, founded in 1769 to educate Native Americans, offered Laura academic scholarships because of her Native American heritage, no matter how small. A full scholarship and the chance to play basketball in her home state lured her to Oklahoma, but she did look wistfully at what might have been as we toured the campus. Later we dined at Jesse’s Restaurant and Tavern. The massive lodge structure with rich wood had worn beautifully over the years and served us delicious steaks as our gorging continued.
The Dartmouth campus is close to Vermont Law School in its just as beautiful home of Hanover, Hew Hampshire. We delighted seeing that Kelly could make the short trip to a true college town. All things work out for the best.
On our final day, we returned to Boston. Hungry from the drive, we stumbled into Leo’s Diner just off of Harvard Square. Stools lined the small structure. Behind the counter in an area not more than 15 feet wide, two men moved with balletic grace around each other. Never a voice rose as one man took orders, finished plating and delivered bountiful portions of food while the other man stood in front of his grill working in carefully calculated moves. Hard to believe in a tiny diner we could see such finesse.
We strolled the Harvard campus and tracked down the Final Clubs featured in the movie, The Social Network. The Porcellian Club, where the Winklevoss twins met with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and the Phoenix Club, where Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin was “punched” into membership to the dismay of Zuckerberg, are very private male domains. The Porcellian Club is a small, unmarked address in the midst of a row of Harvard Square stores. At the Phoenix Club, only the door knocker with the mythical Phoenix bird gives a clue to its location.
As we made our way around Harvard Yard and Harvard Square through another crapmanity, there came a girl wearing a Burlington Bees t-shirt. That strange sighting reminded us of a lost opportunity, but also served as a reminder it was time to head home. First, though, one final stop for a caloric hit at Flour.
The Boston bakery is another Throwdown winner as the owner battled Bobby Flay in a sticky bun battle. We all weaken in the knees over a good sticky bun. As we drove through the campus of MIT, near the Charles River, we simply had to stop. The gooey delight proved itself a perfect capper to six days of near gluttony.
During our evening flight home, the lights of Chicago glistened below. The shore of Lake Michigan made it clear that we were back in the Midwest. As Chicago faded from sight, the rest of the flight allowed for reflection on all the joys we shared on our trip. It also reminded me that there are still many more adventures to come for all of us, God willing. Thank you for coming along on this one.