The Shortcut

My daughter and I decided to take a shortcut through Vermont on Tuesday to get her back

Back to School

to college in upstate NY. She had come home that way several times with a friend, and we had gone that way the first time we visited the school. I was looking forward to a scenic mountain drive and lunch in a cute backwoods cafe.

It takes about an hour and a half to get to the Vermont border from where we live. We had our route all mapped out thanks to Google maps, found our way to Rt. 9, and began our shortcut journey. Within 5 minutes we hit a roadblock. No signs, no explanation, no detour options, the road was simply closed.

Fortunately there was a police station very close by so I stopped to ask what was happening. I told the nice lady at the security window that we were trying to travel across Vermont to get to NY. She gave me a big smile and said, “Not today”. I asked if there was another way we could go, a detour, and she said, “the roads are washed out so you have to get back on I-91 and connect to I-90 in MA.” So much for our shortcut, I thought.

We got back on the highway heading south and were trying to figure out how much time we were adding to our trip. If we had gone the usual way taking all the interstate highways we would have been half way there by then. Very soon the traffic began to slow and become congested. Lanes were blocked off and cars were being forced into a single lane. Suddenly we realized we were getting off at an exit, all cars were taking the exit because the highway was closed. No signs, no explanation, no apparent detour options.

We decided to stop for lunch and assess the situation. We got out my daughter’s laptop and looked for information about road closings and alternate routes. It looked as though we could go from where we were across Vermont, or take some back roads and rejoin the highway. I looked out the Taco Bell window and saw lots of cars driving toward the congested traffic circle we had just come from but very few cars taking this road into Vermont. I was skeptical and decided to ask the locals what was going on.

I asked in Taco Bell, I asked in McDonald’s, but no one seemed to have any useful information. At this point we had no choice but to join the traffic that was circling under the highway. I saw some road workers and asked if they knew what was happening but they said they were from out of town.  After inching around the circle and following the majority of cars that turned right I stopped at the first gas station, only to be told to keep following the traffic, that was the most direct alternate route.

So here we were out in the middle of nowhere, or somewhere between Vermont & NH, behind a huge truck going 20 miles per hour on a detour from our shortcut. We began to laugh and make jokes, and try to figure out when we might arrive at our destination at this rate. We had wanted to leave at 8 am to arrive by noon but we had gotten a late start and left home at 8:50. Still we had hoped to arrive by 1:00 pm, however it was already 1:30 and we were not even halfway there.

I don’t know how long it took, maybe an hour at crawl speed, to get to Rt. 10 (a faster 2 lane road than what we were on) that would take us to where we could re-enter I-91 to get to I-90. What a relief to drive 40 mph and feel like we were getting somewhere out in the middle of nowhere (NH/VT/MA?). Suddenly coming up on the right, we saw this big building with huge signs and lots of cars in the parking lot. The signs said “Best Christmas Tree Shop Ever” and “The Center of the Universe” and… (what?) I put on the brakes and downshifted.

My daughter said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Well you can’t exactly drive by the center of the universe and not stop.” She laughed and I said, “We’re already late, so let’s have some fun.” My daughter had wanted to buy a friend some maple syrup and I thought we could find it here.

A country styled building with boardwalk porches all around and beautiful landscaping, it seemed like a resort or restaurant. At the entrance we were greeted, offered current sales info, and given a map. The aroma of scents was overpowering and there was too much to look at all at once. What was this? To our right was Home, bath, kitchen & garden, featuring Vera Bradley, Pandora, and other name brands. Yankee Candle’s were everywhere.

There were 19 or 20 rooms on the map and we tried to use it as as guide through this maze. Suddenly we felt like we were in Disney World, then we went through an exit and ended up in a Bavarian Village. My daughter exclaimed, “It looks and smells just like this in Germany!” Her plane was laid over there last year on her birthday. To the right past a faux shop was a dark forest, to the left we heard rushing water. We went left in darkness passing waterfalls & fountains, through the Nutcracker Castle and into Santa’s workshop. What? The map was disorienting because West was at the top of the page.

Backtracking to the Bavarian Village and entering the Black Forest my daughter said, “I feel like I just went through the wardrobe into Narnia.” I think we did. Aahhh… there is light, and more Yankee Candles, and more cute purses, and Maple Syrup! Does any of this make sense? The center of the universe is full of Yankee Candles, candies, cookies, spices, jellies, jams, pretty purses, Christmas trees & everything Christmas, and there was still more! We were barely looking, rushing through every room on a mission to find the maple syrup, and I was getting dizzy, almost sick; or was it the overpowering candle smells? We did not finish touring the store as we didn’t want to delay our trip much more than we already had.

As we left I noticed the map was titled: Yankee Candle Flagship Store. Imagine finding that out in the middle of nowhere! With maple syrup in hand we journeyed on, eventually re-entering I-91, then merging onto I-90 and heading on toward Albany. It was almost 4:00 pm by the time we arrived at her school. So our shortcut, which was supposed to cut our usual 4 hour highway trip down to a casual 3 and a half hour scenic drive, instead took us 7 hours. If ever someone mentions taking a shortcut again, I think my mind will wander off to many strange and curious images and smells, and an uncertainty of whether it is a good idea or not.

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