Vermont weekend: Changes in altitude … changes in attitude?

Montpelier Hubbard Park Vermont

A view from atop the stone tower in Hubbard Park in Montpelier, Vermont.

Road trip!

A few decades ago, that phrase used to mean a wild weekend to a buddy’s wedding or a major sporting event, often just a convenient excuse for youthful debauchery. That kind of trip I long ago relinquished to the next generation.

Last weekend I drove my dignified mid-50s self into the Green Mountain State of Vermont to visit my sister. Along with a new camera, I brought a vow to be more observant, more conscious, and a mental-note-to-self to just pay more attention to … well, life.

There was nothing specific on the agenda except sampling a few of the many quality craft beers the state has to offer.

Montpelier Vermont Langdon Street

A chance to reflect on Langdon Street in Montpelier.

As luck would have it, the mid-November weather was unseasonably mild and sunny. The trees were more gray than burnt orange and red, but this was not a leaf-peeping excursion.

Even so, a hike up a challenging trail in a city park resulted in a spectacular, 360-degree view of mountains. Leaning on the edge of a stone tower at the highest point also reinforced my ridiculous fear of heights. (Or, as comedian Steven Wright clarified, widths.)

Aside from spectacular sights (I’m a visual learner), nothing leaves a stronger impression on me than good music. Especially when it’s a new artist, a new sound, and completely unexpected.

Dave Keller music

Dave Keller’s new CD. Worth a listen, and his live show is damn good.

Ladies and gentlemen, listen to Dave Keller.

Keller’s in his mid 40s, a blues guy from New England (!) of all places. He and his band performed at Sweet Melissa’s in Montpelier to celebrate the release of his new CD, “Soul Changes,” funded through Kickstarter.

The guy knows how to put on a show. Two of them in one night, actually. And Keller’s intensity is such that when he signs a CD you buy for someone special back home, he practically writes a love song on the label.

The guy’s good. (More about Keller’s life and music is here in the Seven Days newspaper).

It’s tough to maintain that kind of energy for an entire weekend (for me, I mean, not Keller), so there has to be some time set aside for quiet.

That’s often hard to accomplish in a capital city, but Montpelier is different. It’s a small, fairly walkable city with no chain stores (you can guess the population, but you’d be way over — go ahead and look it up). The city screams local, down to the several independent bookstores that are well-supported by a well-read populace.

Montpelier Vermont

Chalk message on a storefront in Montpelier. I wonder who wrote it, and why. Maybe some answers will appear underneath.

The city, and I suppose the entire state of Vermont, has a certain feel to it — independent, liberal-leaning, and fairly accepting of those who may see the world, and their place in it, in a non-traditional way.

I guess the best way for a “flatlander” like me to describe the area, based on many visits over the years, is that most people there seem to give a damn.

That applies to politics, the environment, social causes near and far (a woman I met at an art gallery spent a year in Africa working on establishing a safe water supply), books, craft beer, locally grown food and music (art forms, all).

My sister and I had the good fortune to meet a charming young couple in their 20s, Ben and Kelsey, at a local pub. They struck up a conversation with strangers who are as old as their parents, and were genuinely interested in our take on the world. That just doesn’t happen everywhere.

I felt a sense of hope for the future as we said good-bye, and that is a warm and comforting thought indeed. What was once called a road trip is now part of the journey.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in driving, family, Irish Investigations, music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Vermont weekend: Changes in altitude … changes in attitude?

  1. Joseph McKeever says:

    Good piece, Jim.


  2. markbialczak says:

    Touching piece, Jim. Montpelier was good to you, and you were good to Montpelier. I must take a listen to the blues of Dave Keller.


  3. markbialczak says:

    OK, I just listened. Mr. Dave Keller is a bluesman with plenty of soul. Great tip, Jim.


  4. chmjr2 says:

    Enjoyed this posting. Vermont is my favorite place to visit (thankfully I live close by in N.Y.) after the Adirondack Mountains. And you are so right that Vermont has a different feel to it. For me it is the feeling that says enjoy, relax, be yourself.


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