Vermont and New Hampshire are skinny states, so crossing both from west to east in one day was an easy task. I made the conscious decision to ignore the advice of my GPS, which preferred I dip south a little towards Boston and stick with the interstates. Instead, I took my chances with state route 9, winding from Bennington to north of Brattleboro, on to Keene, NH, then north towards Concord. I’d been warned by well-meaning “advisors” that this decision might get me stuck behind huge semis on steep hills for miles at a time, but that didn’t happen, and every mile of gorgeous green made me happy I’d stuck to my own plan. Plus, traveling at a leisurely but steady 50 miles per hour meant I could open the moon roof and Gracie could poke her nose out the window a good bit of the time.

Our first stop of the day was one of those where you pass something, then realize what you just saw and make a u-turn. We were hardly out of NY state, but I had to stop and photograph this “sign”–a sweet reminder of all the fun road trips Barney and I had made to this part of the country over the years.

Before Gracie and I reached the mountains, it was warm enough that I couldn’t leave her in the car for the time it would take for a sit-down lunch, so we pulled into a parking lot that offered more than 20 electric car charging stations and a Jersey Mike’s. We have a few of those in the Birmingham area, but in the northeast, there seems to be one right around every corner. I parked in the shade and waited in a short line to order a turkey and provolone sub on whole grain. A very tall, muscular young man with freckles and red hair—I’d guess a high school football player on summer break—was manning the slicer, back and forth, back and forth, over and over. When I asked if he found himself slicing like that in his dreams every night, he nodded and grinned. Then he launched into a dead serious description of his method. “The secret is the back,” he said without missing a beat or a slice. “You just have to stand up straight while you do it.”

I wonder how soon these will grace numerous parking lots in Alabama.

The gas station convenience store, third stop of the day, was a one-story white frame building with four stone steps up to the door. It seemed designed to match the antique architecture of its small town. When I stepped inside, I walked the aisles and didn’t see any signs for a restroom. I was heading out when I spotted an “Out of Order” sign on a door next to the register. A heavyset, gray-bearded man in jeans, a white shirt, and black suspenders sat next to it on a rickety folding chair. “It’s not,” he said as I walked by. I turned, with a questioning look on my face. “It’s not out of order,” he said. “That’s just to keep the druggies out.”

I shook my head and smiled, then said, “And how do you know I’m not one of them?”

“Oh, I know,” he said. “I know.” The non-gender (if that’s the right term—I’m never sure these days) restroom was spotlessly clean, and Gracie and I were soon back on our way.

Except for an occasional slowdown for road work, it was a smooth drive, and the Green Mountains of Vermont did not disappoint—deep, rich color and cool breezes beneath a solid blue sky as far as the eye could see. Every few miles, we passed a “Moose Crossing” sign warning that over an 8 mile or 2 mile or even once a 17 mile stretch, one of those top-heavy, antlered creatures might decide to cross the road, but we never spotted a single moose. In one small town, though, I spotted a sign above a rickety garage door. It read “Used Auto’s.” Even in Vermont, it seems, there are folks who don’t know where to put the apostrophe.

At the top of a steep road climb, we pulled off at a rustic gift shop with an expansive deck and a view of trees and hills that would not end. I walked Gracie, then with the temperature at 66 degrees, let her relax in the car while I wandered around inside the shop. Maple syrup, maple candies, locally brewed spirits, local crafts, and on and on. I bought a small jug of dark maple syrup and a book titled “Stories from Vermont’s Marble Valley” by Mike Austin. I’ll check the text later to see if the author makes any comparisons to the beautiful Sylacauga marble back home.

Our beautiful drive ended at a nondescript Holiday Inn not far from the Bangor, Maine, airport. Not impressive, but they did allow dogs.

Next morning early, we would make the “short” drive of less than three hours, heading eagerly down east to one of my favorite places in the entire world. I hope you’ll stay tuned for the adventures there.

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