Vermont: Home Exchange Turned House Sit

“We’re in Vermont,” we’d sometimes say, and more often than not the response was, “Oh, it’s a beautiful state”.  Indeed.

Vermont frozen river near Tunbridge

We’ve been skiing in Vermont numerous times, and once we started thinking of long term travel, spending an entire ski season there jumped to the top of our wish list.  We had dreams of skiing so much that we’d need to buy annual lift passes.  While it seemed likely we could find someone in Vermont who would love to come south for the entire winter season and exchange homes with us, we had to scale our ambition back simply because we weren’t quite ready for such a long term exchange (pesky little things like work, jobs, wedding preparation, etc.)

Back in the fall we started inquiring to home exchangers in Vermont and New Hampshire about a 2 to 3 week exchange.  There were a few nibbles, but nothing gelled.  And then we heard back from someone who had previously said they already had plans to go to Hawaii: the exchange they had lined up had fallen through, and while they had no plans to come to Atlanta, they needed someone in their house because of their dog.  Basically, they needed a house & dog sitter.  They said we were welcome to stay while we were gone, and our Vermont trip was on, albeit for two weeks.  Tack on a 1-week visit with clients in Boston the week before that, and we had three great weeks of Travel-Work-Play lined up.

As you’ve read in a recent blog, I (Chuck) set out from Atlanta driving on a Saturday with our Mercedes ML350 laden with three weeks of gear, including skis and our new French Press (ready availability of coffee is essential for this nomadic empty-nest middle-aged couple).  The car made it only as far as Spartanburg, South Carolina before the check engine line came on and it started sputtering and lurching.  The plan had been for Chuck to make the 2-day drive to Boston to work with clients and Lori would fly in the next Friday, Valentine’s Day, and we’d head to Vermont.  The Mercedes had other ideas.  The nearest dealer’s service shop wasn’t open on the weekend and the independent mechanic they recommended was home sick. So I drove the ML350 the 20 miles or so from Spartanburg back to Greenville, where the nearest CarMax was located, the car lurching and sputtering along the Interstate at 30 miles an hour tops, all the while thinking to the people zipping by me, Yep, take a close look: this is what you get when you buy a Mercedes.  Three hours later I was back on the road in a 2011 Nissan Rogue, the ML350 peacefully resting in the parking lot (it would have to wait for 3 weeks to get traded in since I hadn’t actually brought the title with me).  I love CarMax.

I was only delayed three hours, but that put me in Winchester, Virginia close to midnight.  The next night I was in Auburn, Massachusetts amidst a foot or two of fresh snow and more to fall that night. It–the snow, the Nissan, the Holiday Inn–was all beautiful.  Things were right in the world, and after a week with a couple of awesome clients, my bride of 28 years joined me on Valentine’s Day and we were headed to ski country.

Lori at the Shire, Woodstock, Vermont

As our home-exchange-turned-house-and-dog-sitting didn’t start until Sunday, we spent the weekend in Woodstock, Vermont.  We had been through, and admired, Woodstock every time we had passed through to Killington on a ski trip.  Let’s stay here one day, we’d say, so this time we did.  After we couldn’t procure reservations at any of the B&B’s close to town (it was President’s Day weekend, after all), we stayed at the Shire Riverview, a nice, comfortable, clean, and reasonably priced little Inn walking distance to the center of town with a gorgeous view of the frozen river and countryside. We had breakfast at Mon Vert, a wonderful pastry-bagels-and-coffee cafe, there was a snow-carving contest on the town square, and we met our hosts for the coming weeks for lunch at Bentley’s for great conversation and a pretty fair (3 stars out of 5) meal.  It was a quintessential Vermont weekend.

The next day we settled into our house sitting assignment and bonded with Bonnie, their most gentle and friendly, though quite large (120 pounds), dog.  It was a beautiful day, the kind of day we would have loved to skied, but on a holiday weekend we knew the slopes would be packed.  In fact Monday–the actual holiday–was even nicer weather without a cloud in the sky, but the Tweets we were seeing from Killington skiers confirmed that staying in and enjoying the awesome mountainside view of our host’s home was the right choice.  A snow storm set in on Tuesday, the kind of big snowflakes that brings a quieting hush to the air that still amazes this couple originally from South Mississippi.  It snowed hard enough that we made no plans to leave the house and actually didn’t go skiing until Thursday of that first week.  We decided to give Stowe a try; if we had known it would be our only day to ski, we probably would have gone to Killington.

To be continued…

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