Burlington, VT Trip

No pictures again!

Robin & I took a run up to Burlington, in part to assuage Ra’s traveling addiction, and in part to drop in on Jamie McNeill’s workplace and have a look around. My vast network of travel-savvy friends and natives (i.e. Bruce Monroe, and the aforementioned Jamie) told me the city was a nice place to visit, walk the streets, and shop around.

We didn’t expect a sea-change in weather when we first planned the trip. At this time of year, you take whatever weather you get, and we got a lot of it. The temperature was mild to start, but rising winds hinted at on oncoming switch. It was still raining when we arrived in Burlington, but snow was already mixing in as we pulled into the parking garage. The wind carried a cutting edge now, so we bundled up before heading outside.

Church Street is a pedestrian thoroughfare, with occasional vehicular traffic crossing through at the intersections. A mix of privately-run and corporate businesses line each side of the street, and near the center, a mini-mall provides a respite out of the weather. Robin and I wandered through jewelry stores, kitchen stores, Christmas shops, and clothiers, our atypical tastes finding enough assortment to keep us interested, then we came to the Outdoor Gear Exchange Seasonal Outlet. Being related to my friend’s place of employ, we stepped in and browsed awhile before asking after the main store. The “Mother Ship”, as it is described, lies up the road a piece, on Cherry Street. Looking around this temporary extension, it was clear we were in for a treat later.

Travel had taken a wee longer than expected, so we were hungry. However, we didn’t want to stop and dine just yet, and we were at that point in Christmas shopping where the outflow starts to strangle the bankroll, if you know what I mean. In short, we needed a quick, cheap spot of food. Fortunately, a tattered gift card matched a nearby Starbucks (thank you, Mom!), and we soaked up some hot caffeine while sharing a small breakfast sandwich, decent if unremarkable, and satisfying enough to carry us another few hours without pinching the account at all.

Ra wandered an Old Navy store while I ran back to move the car. We hadn’t looked at the parking rates, but that pesky account thing made me a pinchpenny. The first two hours are on Burlington; after that the current rate is $1 per half hour. This isn’t bad, but one can circumvent the bill by shuffling in and out regularly, and while the place gets pretty full, there is usually a space to be found somewhere.

Rejoined, we trekked up to the “Mother Ship” for a looksee. And what a place it is. This is Outdoor Gearhead Paradise: new, used, demo; if it’s outdoor stuff you dream about, then you’ve got to visit this store. Give yourself plenty of time to wander the aisles and mingle with the crowd of enthusiastic fellow adventurers that I suspect must always be there. Something like three days should do it.

We spent over an hour in there before our stomachs finally drove us out again, seeking real food. It was pressing close to 3:30; we found out that many of the diners and cafes nearby close at 3. Fortunately, Henry’s Diner, lying just down the hill on Bank Street, remained open until 4, so we slipped in under the wire. A good thing, too: Ra had one of the best and biggest Sourdough BLTs we’ve ever seen, and I had a wonderful little cheeseburger and fries. The waitress was friendly and unhurried despite our late arrival, and no one complained when I disappeared briefly to do that car-shuffling thing once more.

Having satisfied our hunger, we went back to the streets. Now, everything was covered in snow, and the snow covered a skim-ice that made walking adventurous. The evening plans were definitely going to change. We ran back to Outdoor Gear Exchange to try on a pair of boots and chat briefly with Jamie. After a short visit, Jamie had to get back to work and we had to consider our options.

We knew what was going on outside would make the drive home more interesting than either of us cared to ponder, so we couldn’t stay. Plans to visit the local indoor rock gym would have to await another day. Robin and I walked to the car, a tad too late to avoid donating one dollar to the Burlington parking cause, and proceeded homeward, driving across back streets muffled in snow until we finally connected with Route 7 and joined the masses exiting the city. It would be a long, tense drive home, but we made it safely; now all we have to do is get another chance to go back and spend a real day wandering that fantastic store…

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