Updated: Feb 5, 2018
by David Michael Kirby
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost
Sometimes when I take the road less traveled, it’s because the GPS made me do it. More on that in a moment.
Thanks to Charles, an acquaintance of mine, I discovered the Coffee Barn Cafe, a place where one can get an authentic New York bagel with the works (including smoked salmon from Acme in Brooklyn). Dan, a staff photographer with Time-Life for over 35 years, opened the place five years ago when he found he couldn’t buy a decent cup of coffee around here. It’s worth a stop just to chat with Dan.
After my nosh, I went to Manchester for the rest of the day, invited to a reception and screening for sponsors of ITVFest. It’s one of two “shire towns” in southern Vermont (Bennington is the other). The charm factor in Manchester is off the charts: a river runs through it, flowers are everywhere, and beautiful architecture lines its pedestrian friendly streets.
I checked in at the ITVFest office at the Manchester Visitors Center, then did a little shopping at Vermont Kitchen Supply a couple of doors down. It’s a good thing I knew what I wanted, otherwise I could have spent hours there (not to mention hundreds of dollars). I picked up coffee-making accoutrements, before heading to Spiral Press Cafe in the Northshire Bookstore for my afternoon coffee quota. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Once I ordered my coffee, I got some hiking suggestions from the young man behind the counter (Freedley Quarry in East Dorset). When I stepped back to photograph the cafe, I was surprised to see my friend MaryLynn on the other side of the camera. We were both on our way to the get-together at the Taconic Hotel.
Following a successful reception and screening, Philip, MaryLynn, and I dropped off the equipment at the office before walking up the street to dinner. Thai Basil is not to be missed. My pineapple fried rice -- served in half a pineapple -- was out of this world, and so loaded with my choice of scallops, I lost count. The evening was beautiful, the sky glowing softly behind Mount Equinox in the gathering twilight.
When it was time to drive back to Dover, MaryLynn followed me (and unwittingly, my GPS) as night enveloped us quickly, darker than you might imagine. Having made this trip a few times already, with Phil last week and by myself earlier in the day, I trusted the steady, calm voice of my GPS. I took my time, eyes peeled for any wildlife that might be feeling suicidal and only had to slow down once for a raccoon so round, his speedy agility crossing the road before me was surprising.
We were almost back to Dover when I turned left on a road that -- at first -- seemed like every other before it. Dark, no street lights, woods close in. After about 500 feet, though, the pavement ran out. The dirt road was smooth, if narrower, and rather than turn around, since I knew the highway was just three miles away, I pressed forward. Soon the road was twisting back and forth, rising and falling, like an angry snake. I began having second thoughts when we passed an old farmhouse, several outbuildings and a hulking barn. We were driving through a scene out of a Stephen King novel. I half expected some terrifying, terrorized man to charge out of one of those soulless buildings screaming at us to stop.
At last, we got to the highway, the right turn that would lead us to civilization -- and our destination. The next road I passed on my right was the broad, paved, scenic route I took every other time I traveled to and from Manchester. I literally laughed out loud, vowing to review my GPS journeys from hereon out. MaryLynn and I had a hearty chuckle about it once we arrived at the Inn.
I wondered afterward what Robert Frost might have made of my “road less traveled” and if driving that road in daylight for the first time would have made any difference. One positive about the abundance of dark here? The night sky is more spectacular than I ever remembered.