Vermont: July 2017: Day 6

22 07 2017

Today’s activity — biking from Porters Point through Airport Park to meet the Island Line bike path, which goes across a causeway to South Hero Island in Lake Champlain (there’s a bike ferry too that takes you around the gap in the causeway for larger boats). According to the maps, it’s about a 10- to 12-mile round trip from where we were. It’s an easy to moderate bike trail, but for someone who hasn’t ridden a bike in more than 10 years, and who’s unfit, that 10 to 12 miles in the sun in the middle of a summer’s day was a killer. But I made it.

 

Barn on South Hero Island

Barn on South Hero Island

Our destination on South Hero was The Accidental Farmer burger stand where we had the daily special burger. It was good too, but even better was the wonderful red cup of lemonade that I scoffed down as soon as we got there. After we’d had lunch, we had a Maple Creemee (soft-serve ice cream). The sizes they have are Baby, Small, and Large, and the Baby size ($1.75) was just perfect.

And then it was back on the bikes to head back to Porters Point. I struggled, especially with the hills (which were really just long low gradients for the most part, but I kept running out of puff and gears).

As soon as we got home to the bottom of our street, I dumped my bike and walked straight down the access way into the lake — fully clothed. That cool fresh water was just bliss for this overheated body!





Vermont: July 2017: Day 5

21 07 2017

It was a quiet day today. My friend had business to attend to, so spent the morning on the phone to her business partner in Australia. I did a bit of research for her, processed some of my photos, then started reading a book.

The weather was perfect, and I thought that reading in the large hammock strung between two trees on the front lawn would be a good idea. It was — but then it wasn’t. After negotiating getting into the hammock (I haven’t done that for decades!) without tipping myself out, I settled in. I’d been in the hammock less than a minute when the mosquitoes decided that this warm body was too delicious to resist. Despite putting on heaps of ‘natural’ insecticide, the mozzies just swarmed around me. Not biting me, but buzzing around every bit of my face and hands, and the tablet I was holding to read my e-book. They were too annoying and drove me inside within five minutes, where I settled onto a couch on the covered porch away from the mozzies and continued reading.

Hammock time

Hammock time

View of the trees above the hammock

View of the trees above the hammock

By late morning my friend had finished the call and was mostly finished with her work, so we drove into Burlington for lunch and some shopping. There are some neat little stores on Church St in the Marketplace, and we spent all our time in a few of them. She helped the local economy with her purchases! Oh, I must mention the gorgeous cocktail we had at Ken’s Pizza and Bar place — it was like a very yummy key lime pie thickshake, but with alcohol!

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We got back around 5pm, took a swim in Lake Champlain, then headed back to the cottage so she could finish her work. I edited her document for her, then went and got Chinese take-out while she made her last call to Australia about the document that had to be submitted that day.

With the sun staying up until well after 8pm, it’s easy to eat late and by the time you settle down to watch TV, it’s almost time for bed.

 





Vermont: July 2017: Day 4

20 07 2017

Woken up super early this morning with a phone call asking where we were. Seems our hot air balloon ride is RIGHT NOW! We got dressed and out the door in super quick time, driving to the launch site, which fortunately was less than 5 minutes away (normally up to 30 mins away).

We stood by as they prepared the basket and balloon for flight, then it was time four adults and the pilot to get into what seemed to be a TINY basket! (the basket is meant to hold 6, and surprisingly, we weren’t crammed in, as we expected to be just looking at it from outside). Once the balloon was mostly inflated (using huge fans), the gas burners were started to finish off the inflation, and it was time for us to get into the basket.

Next thing we knew we were off the ground! It was so seamless and unobtrusive, it was hard to believe we were on our way. Up and over the trees and buildings in front of the launch site, and then into the sunrise over Mallett’s Bay in Lake Champlain. Wow! What an experience. Except for the occasional blast of the burners, it was SOOO quiet and peaceful. No noise, no sudden movements, no motion sickness inducing moving or swaying, no sense of ‘fear of heights’, no apparent wind. I don’t do most fair rides — the carousel and perhaps a ferris wheel are my limits — and I have a fear of heights, so I was unsure how I’d cope with a balloon ride. I coped super well and enjoyed every moment, even when the pilot skimmed the lake wetting our feet, and skimmed some trees, allowing us to grab some leaves — these were very deliberate actions by him, and were well controlled, even though both made me feel a little uneasy at the time.

We headed out over Lake Champlain, getting a unique perspective of this magnificent water feature in Vermont, eventually reaching a maximum 4800 ft altitude, then heading over land, seeing farmland, forests, roads etc. and the planes taking off from Burlington International Airport in the distance (yes, the pilot radioed in his position to air traffic control!). It was a perfect day for it — clear skies, calm lake waters, rich green landscapes, etc.

 

After an hour, we’d travelled some 10 miles, and it was time to land. But where to land? The company has permission to launch and land at several sites, but today the winds took us away from those, so we found a prospective field next to a house and headed towards it. The owner had spotted us (heard the burners?) and came out and was taking photos of us. Jeff, the pilot, yelled out asking if we could land in the field. He said yes, and in we came. We were told to bend our knees and to expect two or three small bounces. We got none of that — you could hardly feel the landing at all!

After getting out of the basket, it was time for the support crew to deflate and pack up the balloon, while Jeff talked to the home owner and set up for the after-flight food and champagne. The home owner had to go off to work, so Jeff left a bottle of champers for him — seems it’s a tradition going back a couple of hundred years.

And then it was all over. We got into the support vehicle and were driven back to the meeting point where we paid for the trip, exchanged photos via phone, and  said our goodbyes. Wow — what a fabulous experience, one I’ll never forget. I highly recommend doing this — I have a fear of heights, I get motion sick, and I don’t do rides, but I could do this. I enjoyed every moment of it.

(I took heaps of photos, all of which [except for the people photos] are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157686470421115)

So, what do you do for the rest of the day when it’s now only 8:30 am and you’ve been up experiencing Vermont as you never thought you would? You start by having home-cooked pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, of course!

Later in the day we took the boat into Burlington (about 30 mins), had a long lunch at Spot on the Dock (the place with the wonderful jalapeno-infused margaritas!), then headed back home. A quick dip in the lake (it was a hot and humid day), then it was off to share a taco meal with some of the other summer residents in this ‘family compound’, before being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and heading back to our cottage for an early night.

Our red ski boat

Our red ski boat

I slept like a log!





Vermont: July 2017: Day 3

20 07 2017

Tourist day today!

Our first stop with brunch with another friend in central Burlington, at Monarch and Hummeringbird. I had their delicious lox and bagel.

Next stop was Shelburne Farms, where we did the daily wagon tour of the property. Fascinating place — the farm barn was MASSIVE and only housed the horses (sheep and cattle were either left in the fields or went in other barns; the carriages, sleighs, etc. were in yet another barn). The current Inn (the old mansion) is huge, and housed the family (Vanderbilts and Webbs) and all its visitors.  It was a hot day, so the covering over the open-sided wagon was much appreciated.

Part of the Inn

Part of the Inn

Farm Barn

Farm Barn

Next stop was a yarn store, followed by a stop at an artists’ collective in the Burlington Arts District. My friend purchased a couple of large pieces from Conant Metal and Light, and I got a couple of small things (my stuff has to fit in a suitcase!) from the eclectic and vintage wares store there.

We finished the day with a swim in Lake Champlain.





Vermont: July 2017: Day 2

18 07 2017

Day 2 (Monday) was bright and shiny – for an hour or so. Then some thunderstorms came in – like, serious thunder and lightning quite close. And rain. An hour or so later and it was fine again – cloudy, but no rain, thunder or lightning. The air was warm. ‘Let’s go for a ride to a nearby tavern for lunch’, said Kris. So on the bikes we went — some cycle paths, some roads with light traffic. We opted to have lunch outside, but just after the food came, it started to sprinkle, then the rain got heavier. We moved inside, chatting all the time. Meanwhile, the rain was bucketing down outside (that white wall you get with heavy rain). After we’d finished lunch, we waited a while until it looked more like a gentle shower and got on the bikes to ride back to the cottage. We knew we’d get a bit wet. It was only about 5 km. But the rain got heavier and heavier. Do you know how wet you can get riding 5 km? Yep. Very. Soaking, in fact. Like drowned rats. But we made it home and then the rain stopped and the sun shone again. At least it wasn’t cold :-). I think Vermont’s weather is like Melbourne’s — four seasons in one day; wait 10 minutes and it will change again… (and yes, we laughed a lot about our predicament)

Kris had to have the Jeep serviced yesterday too – mostly because of the annual smog check. She got the car back late in the day and we drove (with her Dad) into Burlington for a bite to eat. Burlington has parking meters that have to be used until 10pm – that was really lucky, cos when we got out of the car, we smelt something odd (sort of a burning smell), and as we waited for Kris to fill the parking meter with coins, some green fluid (anti-freeze) started pouring from the front of the car. She called the mechanics (it was nearly 8pm but they were still working!) and they sent a car trailer to pick up the Jeep and give us a loan car (like rent-a-wreck!). So the Jeep is back at the mechanics, and we have an old black Camry to drive around in tomorrow.

It’s all excitement here in Vermont!

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Vermont: July 2017: Day 1

17 07 2017

My first full day in Vermont was a day in the sun with my (Australian) friends, whom I’m visiting here.

We started with a long walk, followed by a day on (and IN) Lake Champlain. It was hot and sunny for much of the day, but boy! that lake water was sure cold and bracing, until you got used to it. Getting out of the water onto the transom of the ski boat was a bit of an issue for me — with my two shoulder surgeries, excess weight, lack of upper body strength, and lack of a ladder, I couldn’t pull myself out and had to have the help of all three of my friends to get myself up onto the transom like a beached whale! Fortunately, there’s no video of this, but we certainly laughed a lot!!!

We had a late lunch at a restaurant on one of the docks in Burlington (Spot on the Dock). While we waited for a table, we had some drinks, as you do. I had the jalapeno-infused margarita, which was a perfect balance of heat, bitterness from the lime, sweetness from the syrup, and the alcohol of course. Damn, it tasted good! But the two margaritas weren’t so good on an empty stomach and in the sun, and added to the dehydration (I hadn’t had any water for several hours) resulted in a massive headache for me by the time we wandered off to Creemees, the ice cream place nearby. Then it was back on the boat for the ~30-minute ride back to the ‘compound’.

It was a perfect day for us all to experience the best of summer in Vermont together — two of my friends left early on Day 2 to travel back to Australia, leaving just me and my girlfriend to share the rest of the week.

Some photos from Day 1:

green, green, green everywhere

Green, green, green everywhere

I'm staying in a cottage, but the lake has plenty of mansions too

I’m staying in a cottage, but the lake has plenty of mansions too

The underpass below the causeway doesn't have a lot of clearance and we had to duck our heads to get the boat through

The underpass below the causeway doesn’t have a lot of clearance and we had to duck our heads to get the boat through

 

Ashley and Kris (daughter and mother)

Ashley and Kris (daughter and mother)

 





Getting to Vermont: July 2017

17 07 2017
  • PER to SYD Thursday, overnight at SYD airport
  • SYD-DFW Friday – flight delayed nearly 2 hours, but only 30 mins late into DFW. First Class upgrade on points, didn’t sleep; First Class only half full (only 6 people of a possible 14)
  • DFW- DCA (Ronald Reagan Airport, Washington DC) – delayed leaving for 40 mins as bad weather in DC area meant air traffic issues. Had a 2-hour window to next flight, reduced to 1 hour after the delay leaving DFW. Asked on arrival about next gate, only to be told flight to Burlington VT was cancelled! So after 35 hours of little to no sleep, my final 90-minute flight (due to depart at 10:20pm) was cancelled because of air traffic issues resulting from earlier bad weather in Washington DC area. No flight until 3pm following day, so had to find a hotel nearby and wait it out. Suitcase tagged from SYD to BTV, so it remained in the bowels of Ronald Reagan Airport — I was assured (by Sheena, AA Customer Service counter in Terminal C, 14 July 2017 ~10:30pm) that my bag will be retagged and will join me on my new flight on the 15th. Here’s hoping!!!
  • 3pm flight to Burlington the next day was 40 mins late leaving. The Admirals Club lounge AA agent told me my suitcase had been sent on the 10:20am flight and was already in Burlington, and the AA app confirmed this. The agent told me to go straight to the baggage claim people to get the bag as it would be behind the counter/out the back. On arrival at Burlington, that’s what I did, but the agent there said she didn’t have the bag and she ‘knew all the bags out the back’. She checked her system and said it was on the baggage carousel for my flight. But after waiting for all bags to come through, it obviously wasn’t there. So back to baggage claim where another agent said, ‘Oh yes, it’s out the back — I remember the name’. And I was reunited with my suitcase after wasting nearly an extra hour at the airport trying to get it. The incompetence of American Airlines has really been on show this trip!

 

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From my Facebook post about this trip and the delays:

Well, it’s midnight on the east coast of the US and I should be landing at Burlington airport in Vermont about now. Instead, I’m in a hotel room in Crystal City, Virginia (no, I have no idea where that is either, but it’s close to Reagan Airport in Washington DC). It’s a long story, but after 35 hours awake (cat napping only on the long flight, as usual), I’m about done and ready for bed. Short version — weather at DC delayed my flight to DC from Dallas by 40 mins. All good, as I had a 2-hour window. Got in with an hour to spare to find that AA had cancelled the 10:20pm Burlington flight! The next flight is 10:20am tomorrow, but it’s fully booked, so I’m on the next one after that — 3pm tomorrow getting in to Burlington at 4:30pm. My 8 days in Vermont is suddenly 7.

Good news — all the precautions I take when flying (like spare undies, basic toiletries, t-shirt and leggings, basic chargers and at least one US power adaptor) came to good use this evening ‘cos my luggage isn’t with me (it was checked from SYD all the way through to Burlington). AA assures me my suitcase will be on my next flight with me, and that it will be held with a rerouting sticker on it in the bowels of Reagan Airport, not floating around on a baggage carousel all by itself. I’m sort of second guessing that decision to leave it, but assuming everything is OK I just have to go through TSA Precheck with my carry-on as I already have my boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight.

And yes, that’s the SHORT story! I’m knackered and am going to bed. Let me know if there’s anything important I missed while I was incommunicado.

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While this was all going on, I received several emails from AA, but they ALL had incorrect information! I checked with both Qantas and AA agents and got them to confirm that I was still listed on the correct flights etc. The emails had:

  • incorrect dates (checked at SYD – all OK; assumed clerical error in the emails)
  • incorrect info (leave DCA 2:59pm, arrive 11:51 pm!! when actual time of arrival was scheduled to be 4:30pm; another clerical error)
  • rebooking details when my flights were was still showing as OK at Admirals Club in DFW (likely incorrect info on the system that the agent’s could see even though the auto emails may have been correct)

Other observations:

  • DFW — AA gate in Terminal A had CNN on the TV (no captions that I could tell) and were piping the talking head commentary through the ceiling speakers. Why??? It wasn’t a crisis, just political heads over-analysing every little thing. It was super distracting and annoying.
  • Movies watched on the Qantas flights: Going in Style (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin), Hidden Figures (LOVED it!!)
  • Admirals Club International First Class Dining Room at DFW — special invitation etc. What a joke! Get more food and a greater variety at the Qantas domestic lounges in Australia.
  • Admirals Club at DCA was one of the nicest and well-equipped I’ve ever been in — highly recommend.
  • Also AA’s ‘First’ class is a joke (see post on Qantas food and https://rhondabracey.com/2016/10/14/comparing-qantas-and-american-airlines/ for comparison)