Sunset boat ride, on my last day in Burlington

6/20/22

On this, the eve of the summer solstice, my Servas host family treated me to a wonderful and rare experience: a dinner boat ride on the lake, right in time for sunset!

More on that in a moment, but it was a full day overall, so I’ll share the rest first.

To start the day, I pedaled a few blocks away to check out a hidden neighborhood gem: an old quarry, now mostly grown over. It is tucked into the neighborhood on a dead-end street, and if my last two hosts hadn’t told me about it, I never would have known to seek it out. But it was a really cool little greenspace, with little paths in several directions.

After that, I went back to the co-op to buy a few provisions for the road tomorrow: the Hero Islands are not known for vegan-friendly restaurants and shops. (In fact, the hotel I have booked seems to have a strong fishing theme.) Both at the co-op and shortly before and afterward, I saw some cool colorful murals.

That last one is on Church Street, the brick-paved pedestrian plaza in the middle of town. While there, I dipped into the Ben & Jerry’s shop—just a few doors down from their original 1978 location, I believe—to sample their new vegan flavor, strawberry marshmallow. (I added a scoop of the Colin Kaepernick-inspired Change the Whirled, too.)

After Church Street, I meandered back home via the UVM campus. It was quiet during the summer, but during school months, its 10,000 students make up about twenty percent of the city of Burlington’s population.

My next adventure was to bike over to the lakeshore park to meet up with my new friend Kim, a fellow Marillion fan who will be attending the Marillion Weekend in Montreal with me in a couple of weeks. We took a beautiful stroll down the boardwalk (where I saw many swinging benches that reminded me of those in St. Petersburg, Florida) and then the bike path where I had ridden yesterday to get to Rock Point. We stopped to admire a sandy beach where many people and dogs were enjoying the sun.

After Kim and I exchanged numbers, we parted ways and I continued down to the dock, where my hosts Valerie and Michael and their 16-year-old son Isaac were waiting on the boat for me. Shortly after we set “sail” (not really—it’s a motor boat) we made a quick stop to pick up their amazing friend and neighbor Melanie, who waded out into 58-degree water to meet us, like a superhuman! (After dinner, Michael and Isaac also each took a dip in that water, from the boat. My hat is off to all three of them, who are clearly true-blue Vermonters!)

With Melanie on board, Valerie unpacked an extensive, homemade vegan spread for us all to enjoy, including quiche, two kinds of salad, local bread and butter, chips and salsa, and watermelon and strawberries, the latter of which she picked today. It was a wonderful repast.

Melanie is spending a week sleeping at a retreat center on Rock Point, where I hiked yesterday and where we sailed around today. It was cool to see the forest and rock formations from a different perspective. And watching Melanie wade back out to her island home for the night, after we dropped her off, made me think of the magical selkie from John Sayles’ classic film The Secret of Roan Inish.

On the boat, we talked about life and human connections, as well as the amazing work that Michael and Valerie do as founders and leaders of the Vermont online community Front Porch Forum. They began this venture in 2000. On the surface, it  bears much similarity to Nextdoor.com, but it predates it by a number of years, and is a grassroots-based neighborly site rather than one founded by venture capitalists and often mired in controversy. I was very inspired to hear about all the work they have done with the site over the years—including now—and how successful it has been within the state of Vermont.

We capped off the voyage by watching the sun set over the lake.

Wow.

I’ve had such a thoroughly wonderful time here in Burlington. I’m so glad I was able to add Vermont to my itinerary after all.

Now I’ve got one day of spring left before summer officially begins, and one more day in the United States, for about the next month. I’ve got three solid days of cycling ahead of me now, 30+ miles per day.

I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Hero islands tomorrow!

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