I do not seem to be getting out and about as much as I used to, but I am busy. Lack of “shunpiking explorations” is probably a combination of factors: I still wish to avoid crowds; places I wish to stay are all booked as people are again traveling; I do not want to go far; you can no longer talk to innkeepers but have to use APPS that are all different, do not answer your questions, and often do not work; and, my mobility is not what it was. But life is good. With some books I purchased the end of July was a history of the Robinson Family and the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburg, Vermont. Also in adjoining Vergennes is the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum that I last visited about 12 years ago, and also a B&B Cathy and I were always meaning to experience. A plan developed, and date picked for the stay.

On my favorite US Route 7, I have passed the Rokeby Museum countless times, but never gave it a thought. But here is true history of what life was like in Vermont through the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The four generations of the family were Quakers, farmers, abolitionists, authors, and artists. They raised Merino sheep from the outset when that was the thing to do, and opened a tourist camp in the 20th century as America took to the roads.

The farmhouse has had many additions and changes since the 1700s and is surrounded by all the typical Farm buildings of the 18th century (well not the modern garage to the left that replaced a barn).

The family was quite active in the early Abolitionist Movement in Vermont, and the related exhibits in the newer visitor center are informative and eye opening.

Roadside Americana fascinates me, and I have about 30 feet of books in my personal library about highways, their development, and what lined the sides of the roads. Tourist camps in farmers’ fields evolved into tourist cabins, then motels, and concluded with chains as the Interstate system bypassed the old roads (any idea why I “shunpike”?). In 2016, I selected for The Walpole Players (I was president at the time) and directed a rare play by Dorothy Canfield Fisher entitled TOURISTS ACCOMMODATED about how Vermonters opened their homes and also build cabins as lodging for folks who had just bought automobiles and were getting out into the countryside. The Robinsons hung out a sign and welcomed tourists in their home and in this cabin. Click on the gallery below to learn more.

After touring the grounds and various buildings ( click on this link for a map of the grounds and details about the buildings ) I headed back down to Vergennes, which with a population of 2,553 in 2020, is the smallest of Vermont’s ten cities in terms of population, I always enjoy walking around the “little city.” And, then off to the Strong House Inn blocks outside town. Cathy and I always passed by, but never did get to stay. My first floor room off to the side, and off the library. I had the wing to myself, and yes, I read and wrote comfortably on the couch in the library.

Part of the decision to make this escape was to again visit the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. I was last there maybe 12 years ago. Of course on the lake itself, its entrance adjoins the Basin Harbor Resort which maybe someday I should experience. This is a remote area. This museum is special and its research, particularly underwater, on Lake Champlain is noteworthy. Here is a view of the “campus” followed by a map of the museum.

New since my last visit is this building with an interesting collection of boats.

having recently re-read one of my Hardy Boys books from my earlier youth, in which the brothers and their pals were out on their iceboats, I found the iceboat on the lower level with their history most fascinating.

I always wish museums would do booklets for purchase that would include the details (and more) from their exhibits. I am not sure whether I will ever fully understand all the American Revolution events on Lake Champlain, but in this gallery is a sampling of knowledge (click to see full size). So much more I need to learn.

I am including this map to put the area into perspective for you.

You know my interest in canals, and my last trip to the Champlain Canal. Down the path and on the lake is the premier exhibit – “The schooner Lois McClure is the Museum’s full-scale replica of an 1862-class sailing canal boat, based on two shipwrecks located in Lake Champlain. This replica project was initiated in 2001 with the goal to understand our region’s unique 1862-class sailing canal schooner; how it was built and operated; and the economic, cultural, and personal impact the canals had on our region and people.” You may wish to look at this page on the museum’s website to see the Lois McClure under sail.

I needed a break, and even a day away is great, an overnight doubly great. Each museum I spent about two hours at, thus could have done one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. So, if going keep that in mind. BUT IT IS THE JOURNEY, and you know I have to see roads and areas I have not been on. I spent much time driving “to and fro”, but that is also relaxing and thinking time for me. So, instead of marking up a map to share, I encourage you to get out your map, and follow my routes “to and fro.”

TO Vergennes – I took I-91 to exit 9 where I followed VT 12 to Bethel. Just north of Bethel I discovered (on my maps before leaving home) a new to me route over the mountains – I took Camp Brook Road to Rochester (turns into Bethel Mountain Road on the west end). Fun and views across the mountain – marked not for large trucks, with sign saying GPS brought you here in error. From Rochester up VT 100 a short way, west on VT 125 on another wonderful, Ray Recommended Route, over more mountains, past Middlebury’s Snow Bowl and resort area, down the hill past Bob Newhart’s Inn (well the facade for the show – stayed there in 2018 check out that post). Once on my favorite US7 it was north to Vergennes.

FRO Vergennes — an isolated route, but you have to see a totally different flat landscape in Vermont, but looking west to New York’s Adirondacks across the lake. Take VT22A south out of Vergennes, and enjoy. Instead of going all the way south to Orwell or Fair Haven and cutting east, I had never been through Shoreham Center to Whiting on Route 30, and then Route 73 to Brandon. I always enjoy browsing through Brandon. From there south on US7 to Rutland, and VT103 to Chester and home.

Hopefully you will get out a Vermont map and trace these routes and develop your own new adventures. At my B&B I got a brochure I had never seen before, probably since published in 1998 by the UVM Historic Preservation graduate class of 1999 — OTTER CREEK HERITAGE CORRIDOR — pretty much the territory I covered. I see more explorations coming, but cannot find much on-line. Guess I will have to correct that.

Stay safe and well — back to you soon, luv, RAY

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  1. Betty says:

    Wow; 80% of the trees were cut down in the state of Vermont by the 1850’s because of Merino sheep?! Hard to imagine with how important those beautiful maple trees are to the autumn leaf peeper industry today!
    Also, I read this on my phone and did increase the size of the pictures of ice boats but still couldn’t seem to figure out what the “captain” sits on it. When you mentioned rereading a Hardy Boys book, you brought me back to our older son reading and rereading all the Hardy Boys books in elementary school.
    Thanks for the post, as always, Ray!

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