Busses Stuck on the Hill

“The thing is,” said my son afterwards, “No one even thought it was weird. It was just something that would happen in Vermont.”

He had a point. I dropped him off early for a nordic ski meet, then went to take a walk at the Green Mountain Audubon center. I had over an hour. I drove the couple miles out on the dirt road, passing a bus headed up, and started down the hill at the end. There was a bus there, pulled over at the bottom. Printed on the side was “White River Valley” so they had had a long drive already. That hill was a bit slick, but it didn’t seem too slick. Then again, I wasn’t driving a bus full of minors.

When I returned, the bus was still there. In fact, there now were three busses, from different school districts. I thought of offering to shuttle some skiers up, but I figured that was a non-starter. Parents have to sign a waiver to allow their kids to ride on the bus. Any good bus driver would not let them ride in some stranger’s vehicle, even if they had a current FBI background check. So I kept going.

Up at the ski center I learned that the race, no surprise to me, was delayed–busses stuck. I chatted with my son for a bit. Then someone passed looking for volunteers to shuttle people up. I guess they are being flexible with the transportation, I thought. So I headed back down the road again in my car.

At the bus, the first driver was, predictably, unwilling to let students go. I understood that. I asked if he knew the long way around. One of the busses was gone, so maybe they had already decided to take that route. A bunch of cars started to pile up, folks willing to transport skiers. Then the town truck arrived to sand the road. So the busses were no longer stuck, and we caravanned back to the ski center. I spent a lot of time on that road.

Eventually everyone got where they needed to be, and the race started, only 45 minutes late, and my son cranked it out despite the crappy conditions, and it was an event full of fun and hard work, and I saw a bunch of other parents I know, and it all worked out. There were plenty of people willing to help, and it felt to me like a conflict between neighborliness and liability.

Once upon a time neighborliness would have won the day. Today, safety and security take precedence. I don’t think one is better than the other, or that one way should be the right way. I just noticed it in this case. I would have done just what those bus drivers did. But still, it would have been nice to have a bunch of people solve a problem and make the solution happen. And that is something, I am sure, is not unique to Vermont, even if those busses stuck on an icy hill was a classic Vermont situation.

Going to Snow Land

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Down here in the valley we have little snow. Oh we have some patches here and there. It snowed this morning, in fact, and a dusting tried to gather on the cold ground. But really things are brown and gray with some dark green punctuation. So yesterday we took a trip up to where the snow can be found.

Head up just a little bit and you can find snow. We went to Stowe and parked the van at Trapp Family Lodge. We clicked on our nordic skies and headed uphill into the woods. The sky was mostly cloudy but blue popped out here and there. I skied with the whole fam–spouse, daughter, son. My offspring can ski my pants off now. They have been taking lessons with a ski program a couple days each week. They have come a long way, skill-wise, since our first trip on those same trails.

We skied only slightly uphill at first but then hit the steeper trails. Trapp Family Lodge has a backcountry cabin a couple of miles in. Caretakers there serve hot soup and sandwiches and hot cocoa and tea. On a chilly day and after some work getting up there, that is a treat. That trip to the cabin, which once was a huge adventure for my kids, was yesterday a solid ski that they described at taking “so much less time than it used to!” True, that.

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The trails are groomed and the snow was perfect. It was just the antidote to the dreary snowlessness of the valley. We have talked many times of moving where there might be more snow–higher in elevation, farther north. We miss snow. Records show that our town used to get more snow that we get now. That rots for us in these days of warming. One of these days we might do it. My wife, however, pointed out that it will just be a matter time before Stowe gets too little snow as well. True (I am afraid), that.

This week? Rain in the forecast. Even up high. That is whey we had to get up there. We had to slide around in the fresh snow before it melts away. Hopefully we will get more chances this winter to romp about in the white stuff. As always, I will try to be optimistic. We had a neighbor, back in the days when we lived on the mountain, who had a vanity plate: PRY4SNO. Maybe I will try that.

Mercury Falling and Mercury Rising

So my extended break from entering anything on this blog is broken as of today. I woke early this morning, not really intentionally, but I did, I looked at the clock and realized I was in time to get outside and perhaps see Mercury rising just before the sun. It has been rising early enough the past week or so but the skies have not been clear enough to see anything. So I slipped from the warm blankets and grabbed a thick sweater before heading downstairs. I checked the thermometer–5 below zero. I would have to suit up.

With snowpants over my pajama pants, thick socks and a couple of layers on top, I slipped on a hat and gloves and grabbed my binoculars. The snow squeaked on the porch, loudly enough that I thought it might wake the children asleep upstairs. I stepped through the knee-deep snow out to the field. I perched myself next to a birdhouse on a post and scanned the horizon. This time of year the sun rises north of Camel’s Hump, so I looked there, but I saw nothing. I was not sure what time Mercury might rise over the hills, so I waited.

In the meantime I checked the star chart on the Planets app on my iPod Touch. This app shows the rise and set times for all the planets, based on your location. It also shows what constellations are visible. Venus glowed brightly next to Scorpio. I wanted to learn a new constellation, as the ones I know are few. I found Virgo and spent some time trying to burn it into my memory. I had a hard time visualizing that set of stars as a reclining woman, but I got a good look at it.

I was warm enough in all my layers so I kept waiting. I finally did see something in the general area I was looking, but it seemed too far south, and it seemed to blink. I watched in the binoculars, resting them on the birdhouse. It wasn’t exactly a high powered telescope on a tri-pod but it worked well enough. It kept rising and heading further south so after a bit I knew I had my planet. After about 45 minutes in the same spot I headed in. The stars were faded and I could hardly see Mercury. Since Mercury won’t be visible until December, it was well worth rising in the cold and dark. I even managed to stay warm.

Once inside, before the sun rose over the Mountains, the temperature dropped to 7 below zero. Not a warm morning. I cranked the fire and fired up a cafe latte. I sat back with a book and waited for the children to rise. Now, the sun up, the mercury is rising a little higher. It won’t get hot today, but it will be warm enough to play outside for a while. I plan to take several laps around the field on my skis. We have enough snow this year for a great nordic track and we–adults and children–have taken advantage of it every day we have been able to do that.  I won’t be getting up quite so early tomorrow, unless I decide to get a ski in before I head to work. Even if it isn’t as cold as this morning, however, that ski just may have to wait until late afternoon.