Dispatches From Vermont

I’m allegedly on vacation this week, and in fact have been enjoying myself and creating some memories, but this vacation has had some drama. We weathered Hurricane Irene in Philadelphia just fine (beyond a bit of wash out in the yard and a small leak). So we took off for vacation as planned on Sunday, which involved driving to Bar Harbor, ME over the next few days.

Little did we know this was about to take us through the epicenter of the worst flooding in 100 years.

I-87 in New York was closed on Sunday evening with some wind storms so we diverted to other roads, but soon kept encountering downed trees and power lines. We’d turn around, try another route, but we soon saw some pretty serious flash flooding, raging rivers of what had been creeks, washed out chunks of roads, etc. After getting turned around on Highway 32 we hunkered down for the night at a local inn in the Catskills where the river was roaring behind us, the trees were shaking and the basement was completely flooded. The plumbing stopped working at some point, but we had half of our room’s electricity thanks to a generator for a chunk of the evening. It turned out we were sharing our hotel with a number of people who had lost homes in the area. We were very grateful they had space when we got there, and even kept the pub open for a bit.

Monday dawned beautiful and sunny, as weather often turns after a hurricane. Hearing that I-87 was back open, we assumed we’d have no problems. And we didn’t until north of Bennington in Vermont, when the road closures started up again. Vermont has apparently been deluged with flash flooding over the past few days (which we didn’t know when we took off), and is just digging out from it now. Many of the small town picturesque bridges — what you think of as quintessential Vermont– have been washed out. Some of the roads look like they’ve been blown up. Attempting to find detours has had a WW2 element of fighting through northern France as the retreating Germans blew up the bridges and roads along the way. But we made it around a downed tree that was cutting off the one remaining artery from Ludlow, VT (where 4 of 5 routes out of town seemed blocked), took a dirt road detour on highway 7, and made it up to Burlington, which is quite pretty. The damage seems less pronounced up here, so fingers crossed we can drive over to Maine on the northern route.

The mess caused by the flooding has been pretty fantastic in places. Picture a river of mud coming down a mountain and then sweeping through a town. We talked to one of the highway guys by a closed bridge and he told us that there had been a garage in the middle of the street until a few minutes before. Whole lanes are just gone in places, and little scenic paths over the swollen rivers clearly just missing. Other construction folks have told us sections will be out for months. The good thing about all these detours though is that we are seeing the real back roads of America!


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