7th May 2008 – Burlington, VT to Rutland, VT

River Gorge View Vermont Photo

Burlington nightlife turned out to be good. We got drunk and had another saturated fat-based meal. We visited several bars, met some locals, and naturally played some pool.

Of the various people we met, a few stood out. The first of which was a guy who must have been in his mid-forties. He was wearing a yellow coat and was absolutely covered in paint. In my drunken state, I was completely overwhelmed by this, and let’s face it, it’s not every day that you meet someone in a pub who is covered in paint. He was really drunk and kept talking to us while we were playing pool. I don’t think it occurred to either of us to ask him why he was covered in paint, but perhaps it’s better that way. He got to keep that element of mystique.

In another bar we saw a bunch of people playing pool. Naturally, this was an opportunity too good to turn down and we challenged them to a game. Amongst the group were a guy who looked like Bill Gates, another called Chuck, and a fellow I recall we discussed snooker with, a game which he thought he’d played before (“That’s the game with no pockets, right?”). He also told us that he’d heard we were pretty handy with the “sticks” in Britain. It’s all relative, of course, but compared to him and most of his countrymen, yeah, it seems we are.

American bars tend to fall into three distinct categories: you have your traditional dive bars, which are your dark, dirty, sleazy pubs where the local reprobates hang out, then there are the brewpubs, which brew their own ales (that all taste the same) and are aimed at a more upmarket, hipster crowd, and then there are the sports bars, where the jocks can be found hollering and whooping at one or all of the 25 different screens showing American sports. Now, I say “sport” in the loosest sense of the term.

Mass and I are certainly no fans of U.S. sports but we always keep an eye on them when we’re in the States so we can impress people by mentioning things like highest batting averages, wide receivers, strikeouts, major league, field goals and offensive rebounds.

We had found ourselves in a sports bar, and when we weren’t beating the locals at pool, we spent most of the time laughing at the baseball players on the TV because they all had interchangeable Hispanic names, like Jose Ramirez Gonzalez Lopez Ramos. But why waste time making up names when there’s an actual player who plays for the Boston Redsox called Coco Crisp.

I recall Mass and I speaking with a barmaid at one point who told us that her sister was studying in Glasgow. We didn’t have the heart to tell her that she would never see her again.

In the morning we ate breakfast outside one of the fancy cafes in town. It was located in the Church Street Market Place, a pedestrian mall in the downtown area with a good selection of shops, bars and restaurants, very European in style. The waitress who served us breakfast was a student and was probably the most well educated and articulate person we had met to date. It was quite refreshing to meet an intelligent young American, and further cemented Burlington’s status as the most liveable place we had visited in America.

Even more surprisingly, after a week on the road we finally managed to find a proper supermarket in Burlington, and the sight of fresh fruit sent us a bit crazy. We ended up spending $22 on bananas, apples, strawberries and grapes. It was a real sickener to actually have to eat some healthy food after a constant diet of junk food for a week, but I was hopeful that my body would reject it.

Loaded up with fresh fruit, we then headed on to a place called Rutland, where we checked in at a Rodeway Inn. Rutland is only 69 miles south from Burlington but it took us 6 hours, and probably 200 miles of driving, to get there because we’re both absolute idiots and have no idea where we’re going or what we’re doing.

We drove through a few less-than-interesting places on the way, including a brief stop at a tiny town called Stowe, a place that Mass had seen a picture of many years ago and had always wanted to visit. I don’t think it quite lived up to his expectations.

Anyway, getting back to Rutland, for what it’s worth, it is a town of about 16,000, it’s located in Vermont, and if you’re looking for a town with no character, no soul and no redeeming features, then Rutland is your place. I might be doing it a disservice since we didn’t exactly check the place out, but I’m just working on the law of averages here. It seemed totally unrealistic that we could end up in a nice town for the second time in two days.

However, the motel we were staying in was the cheapest we had found to date and was owned by some Indians, who must have mistaken it for a corner shop. Unfortunately we managed to wipe out the saving we had made by spending $20 apiece on steak in a posh restaurant later in the evening.

Mark Jackman is one half of the Jackman Brothers, who have written a trilogy of humour books set in the fictional town of Old Liston. He has also written a number of travel diaries, including the Mass and Peahead series about his road trips through America with his buddy Mass.