Posts Tagged With: Vermont

A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

My Favorite Place in New Hampshire

My Favorite Place in New Hampshire is not, technically, in New Hampshire. It’s in Vermont. Hanover is on one bank of the Connecticut River, and my favorite hangout is just on the other side.

(I understand the importance of rivers separating states. I was born on the shore of the Savannah River, in Savannah, Georgia, but grew up and went to high school in North Augusta, South Carolina. In-state tuition for Clemson was on the South Carolina side of the river. Rivers make a difference. But I digress.)

My faithful blogosphere friends understand that I am in New Hampshire for six months. That doesn’t keep me from slipping across the Connecticut River to walk in Norwich, Vermont. While that’s a beautiful village, with an interesting store called Dan and Whits (“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”), that’s not my favorite place either.

My Favorite Place in New Hampshire is King Arthur Flour. My favorite bakers in South Carolina, Mark and Angie Lowrey at Crust Bake House in Columbia, told me about King Arthur Flour before I came up here. Others did as well, then, I forgot its name. But if you settle in the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River, you will soon hear about King Arthur Flour.

The residents of the area seemed to be inordinately proud of King Arthur. I was told you could take tours there, but you can’t. That’s because, actually, it’s not a flour factory. That part of the business is in Kansas where the wheat grows. They cultivate Maple Trees in this part of the world. Are you following this? My favorite place in New Hampshire is on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River where they celebrate wheat harvested and processed in Kansas.

What King Arthur Flour does extremely well is bake bread and pastries. I’m eating a sticky bun right now. They teach baking to amateur chefs and professionals. This is where Mark and Angie ((of Columbia Crust fame) learned to bake. Since I began visiting Crust Bake House and spending approximately $50-$100 each week on bread, raspberry muffins, cookies, scones, biscuits, and assorted pastries too numerous to catalog, I say these King Arthur folks taught Mark and Angie well. Crust Bake House once posted a notice that they were looking for part-time help to wash dishes. I considered applying, but the notice required that the employee have a good attitude. I decided my best option was to remain a faithful customer and not complicate our lives.

After arriving in New Hampshire and exploring a variety of bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants, I decided to search for King Arthur Flour. (My favorites on the New Hampshire side of the river are Umpleby’s, Lou’s, Market Table, and the Dirt Cowboy, all excellent options. Serious question: Why would anyone ever go to Starbucks and purchase one of their recently unfrozen cardboard concoctions when there is a local bakery nearby? Human behavior puzzles me.) I found the King Arthur Bakery and discovered why it has achieved cult-like status. It’s a bakery on steroids. They have every pastry and bread imaginable, more even than Crust. I’ve had chocolate croissants in Belgium and raspberry croissants in Paris, but at King Arthur Flour you can buy a chocolate raspberry croissant. King Arthur sells soups and sandwiches. They sell pizza and salads. They have a gift shop where you can pay way too much for King Arthur pancake mix or vanilla from Mexico.

You can eat three meals a day with King Arthur, not in the healthy way of a South Carolina restaurant where you can consume grits, sausage, eggs, and biscuits for breakfast, devour a meat and three vegetables for lunch, and enjoy a barbeque sandwich with French fries for supper.

At King Arthur Flour, you would eat a couple of sticky buns for breakfast, have a Rueben sandwich with bread made on the premises for lunch, then purchase soup, salad, a blueberry muffin, and cookies to take home for supper. I hate to admit it, but now I’m trying to get my King Arthur weekly bill down to $100.

My Favorite Place in New Hampshire: King Arthur Flour (and Bakery)

 

Categories: Diet, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Walking in New Hampshire—January 2016

“We humans are creatures of the last five minutes.  In one study, people who found a dime on the pavement a few minutes before being queried on the happiness question reported higher levels of satisfaction with their overall lives than those who did not find a dime.”  Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss

Most months, on Facebook, I give a simple account of my walking for the month, usually how many miles and how much money I found. Years ago, I began keeping a record of miles walked every day on a 3X5 card. It was too easy to kid myself without accountability. I might tell someone, “I walk two or three miles five or six times a week,” but it just wasn’t so. Since I have kept an accurate account, my mileage has gone up.

Somewhere along the way, I began to note how much money I found.

Finding money makes me happy.

I love it when somebody tells me, in person or on social media, “My husband and I found a $5 bill when we were walking yesterday and we thought of you.” Three times this week, someone Facebooked they found money while walking and thought of me. I love it. Keep it up. Pray for me while you’re at it.

Because I have been in New Hampshire for most of the month of January, I haven’t found much money. The snow has covered it. I predict a windfall when the snow melts. Three or four dollars! If other people don’t beat me to it.

The snow and cold has slowed me down some with regard to walking, but I’m doing better than I thought I would. This is a beautiful area, even when it’s cold. New Hampshire and Vermont (I am just a few miles from Vermont) keep their streets and sidewalks clear because people need to get around, even in winter.

Here are my January stats:

21 days

48 miles

4 states

7 towns/cities (from Edisto Beach, SC to Woodstock, VT)

$1.78

 

 

Categories: Quotations, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Days Seven and Eight: Cousins, Maple Syrup, and a Green Vest

   I have two favorite cousins, one on each side of the family.  This revelation is not a surprise to anyone.  My cousin Patsy on Daddy’s side of the family is a sweetheart and one of my favorite people in the world.  My cousin Yvonne on Mother’s side of the family is also a sweetheart and one of my favorite people in the world.  I will write about Patsy later, I’m sure, but this leg of my Retirement Trip was to see Yvonne in rural Vermont. 

 

            Yvonne was named after me, Marion Yvonne.  When I was seven years old, I began spending two weeks (plus or minus) every summer in Birmingham, Alabama, with her parents, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Mildred, huge influences on my life.  Yvonne was born during the second year of this tradition, which lasted until I was in college.  So, whenever I can, I try to see Yvonne.  It is not an easy trip.  Vermont Von now lives way North, an hour from the Canadian border.

 

            Von is always surrounded by her family, and this visit was no different.  She has a good husband, Hal, and three adult children, Aaron, Stormie and Kaysi.  I am fond of them all.  When they were all small, Jenna called Stormie, “Thunder,” close enough for a three-year old.

 

            Vermont Von always fills my time with visits to places such as the Ben and Jerry Ice Cream Factory (yum), the Cabot Cheese store (yum), and the Von Trapp Lodge (American home of Maria, from Sound of Music), I have bought two serious winter vests up there from Johnson Woolen Mill and managed to leave a third, a green Filson vest, in New England for four years, with which I was finally reunited last week.  I buy gallons of maple syrup from a local hardware store.  Where do you get your maple syrup?  So we roam Vermont during the day and tell stories of our misdeeds to her kids in the evening.  I laugh so hard my face hurts.  I think this younger generation is as fascinated by our foolishness as we are by them and their weird behavior.  Life goes on, generation to generation.

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