July 17, 2011

Due North, Day 1: Points on the Map

Saturday, July 9, 2011: With a full tank of gas, a strawberry air-freshener hanging from the rear view mirror, and Billy Joel's greatest hits spinning in the CD player, I pulled my car out of the driveway at 6:30am to begin my 7-day adventure. I had decided ahead of time that I would stop at several places along the way up to Burlington, Vermont. My first point of interest was to be Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

After a two-and-a-half hour cruise over the Throgs Neck Bridge, up I-95, and veering into the heart of CT, the GPS finally made its wonderfully familiar announcement of "Arriving at destination." At once, a 50-foot high silver dome emerged from the woods looking like a prop from a vintage science fiction movie. I parked the car and strolled quickly to the entrance, stepping through the foyer and into the Late Triassic Period. In the main exhibit room, an 80-foot long panoramic diorama depicts life-sized reptiles and amphibians against a backdrop of mountains and rivers. This scene stretches around the room, into the Early Jurassic Period, where dinosaurs roam a makeshift jungle. Sounds and occasional rainstorms further enhance the experience. 

In the center of this prehistoric setting, one finds the absolute highlight of Dinosaur State Park--a layer of sandstone that features hundreds of well-preserved tracks made by a roving Dilophosaurus some 200 million years ago. These tracks are named Eubrontes. The site was first discovered in August of 1966 when a bulldozer operator came across six three-toed footprints. Local scientists were notified immediately and the two seasons of excavations that followed revealed one of the largest displays of dinosaur tracks in the world. I felt a wave of awe wash over me at the mere sight of these imprints of the distant past.

The next point on the map was at the Olallie Daylily Gardens in South Newfane, Vermont. It is a place of lush flower fields featuring over 2,500 varieties of daylilies, many of them very unique and all of them vibrant and flourishing. It made my heart feel good to stroll around such a colorful display of life. All of the plants are also for sale. Friendly farm hands walk about the six-acre grounds, ready to dig up and pot any plants that a guest wishes to purchase. If it had not been the first day of a 7-day trip, I probably would have driven away with 10 plants. :)

As mid-afternoon began to roll around, I made my way up to Windsor, VT to visit the American Precision Museum. This building, housed in an 1846 armory, showcases a vast assortment of vintage machines dating from the 1830's through the middle of the twentieth-century. It is a place that celebrates America's Industrial Revolution and the ingenuity of the designers of the great precision tools of the time. On site, there are lathe demonstration and video clips showing the machines in use. I think that my pictures from the Precision Museum look classy in black & white; I hope you will agree:

My last stop before checking into the Days Inn for the evening was to be at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, VT. It is a complex of 17 buildings dedicated to the nautical history of the Champlain Valley. Displays range from the dugout and bark canoes of the earliest Vermont natives to Revolutionary War ship models to early steamboats and outboard motors. The tour winds through an 1818 stone schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, boat shed, winch house, and down a rocky path to a harbor where one can climb aboard a working replica of the gunboat Philadelphia II. A slow stroll through the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum proved to be the ideal way to unwind after a very long day of driving.

"When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you."

~Isaiah 43:2