I’m not quite sure from where the motivation came, but, years ago, one of my goals when I began to seriously make the professional speaking circuit was to make a speech in each of the 50 United States.
The first 20 or 30 states came rather quickly. The last 10 or so were a while in coming. Strangely, I checked off Alaska and Hawaii in the spring of the same year. My wife, Kathy, accompanied me on both those trips. After seeing Maui and Anchorage, she decided, if given the choice, she would rather see Alaska again. Alaska was the only place where I have given a keynote speech before daylight. It was 9 in the morning and dark as pitch outside. In Alaska, we learned shrimp are called prawns. We discovered Alaskan halibut early in our trip. Afterwards, we ate halibut at almost every meal.
For the last few years, I was stuck on having spoken in 48 of the 50 states. Maine was the last one I had checked off my list. Vermont and New Hampshire were still yet to go. Back in the winter, I finally got the call. One of my favorite speaker’s bureaus had booked me in Vermont.
The meeting at which I would be the closing keynote speaker was to take place in Manchester Village, Vermont. When I checked flight options, I found I could either fly into Albany, New York and drive about 50 miles to my destination or fly into Manchester, New Hampshire and take a scenic route of more than 130 miles through the New Hampshire and Vermont countryside. I chose the scenic route. Besides, the rental car was much less expensive in New Hampshire.
I arrived in Manchester via Southwest Airlines. I picked up my rental car and, to my delight, I found my Chevrolet Captiva was equipped with a “NeverLost” GPS navigation system. God takes care of little children and fools. The system would prove invaluable.
My drive took me 70 miles north out of Manchester via Interstate 89 to Lebanon, New Hampshire. I crossed the Connecticut River near White River Junction, Vermont and, then I took I-91 South to State Highway 11, which meandered through the Vermont countryside and the Green Mountain National Forest.
I found the state of Vermont to be a most interesting place to visit. Here are few observations.
Driving through the countryside, I didn’t see one single brick house – not one. Well, I did finally spot one, but it was hundreds of years old. Most homes were of simple construction and covered with weatherboard or vinyl. Most had chimneys, and smoke was still escaping them in April. And almost every yard had a woodpile. Incidentally, the hardwood trees were still bare of leaves in that part of the world, and May was fast approaching.
The folks in Vermont drive small cars. Out in the country, the majority of cars are gas-savers. I did see a few mid-size and full-size cars on the interstates.
As I rounded one mountainous curve, I came upon a dairy farm. The sign out front read Taylor Farms. An interchangeable, smaller sign underneath read, Fresh milk today. I suppose I could have stopped and enjoyed some real cow’s milk right straight from the cow.
Another large, hand-painted sign at Taylor Farms poised the question, Have you hugged a farmer today? As I drove on through the Vermont countryside, that gave me pause for thought. I had not hugged a farmer lately. I then concluded some farmers are more huggable than others.
I suppose the purpose of the sign was to remind us we should show appreciation for those who still work the land and provide food for the world. That we should.
My final destination was the Equinox Resort and Spa in Manchester Center, Vermont. This is snow skiing country. It was interesting to see the ski slopes still covered with snow high in the Green Mountains. The mountains, far in the distance, reminded me of sundaes of blue ice cream with white chocolate streaming down the sides.
On my return trip the next day, I stopped at the Vermont Country Store on Highway 11 and bought a bottle of real Vermont maple syrup. I’m saving it for a special breakfast.
Come to think of it, I just might slip it in the Cracker Barrel some morning.
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a certified speaking professional.