Montpelier, VT -- August 29 & 30, 2007

I was the only passenger to get off the bus at 10:30 that night and, as I hadn't done any research, I had no clue where to go. The station was closed. The driver said all that was open was the Exxon station. I walked over a bridge in the direction he'd pointed, pausing in the middle, staring at the moon reflecting in the water, and leaned against the big metal trusses.

There were a lot of cars in the Exxon station parking lot (the next day I would realize I was mistaken--I was looking at a car dealership). I didn’t want to announce to a convenience store full of pickup truck drivers that I was traveling alone and had no plan....even if their pickups were sparkling clean. I wanted to know something before I admitted ignorance.

I tightened the straps on my backpack and wandered back over the bridge in the direction I thought the town should be. I guessed right. There was a glow and dull murmurs coming from here and there. Some of the bars and restaurants were still open. I walked past a group of women wearing red lipstick and chunky jewelry, drinking margaritas on the patio of a restaurant. There was a stately courthouse, a store selling crystals that dangled above a copious display of quartz and amethyst rocks. There was an Irish pub and a worker owned cooperative spilling with drunk kids, some of which were sprawled in positions unattainable on a bus seat, their dreadlocks fanning out across the sidewalk.

Walking around town, in the light of the full moon, over quaint little bridges made me want to abort the search for a hotel and find a place to sleep outside, in the elements. I didn't, though. The guys on the bus in Alabama had scared me about chiggers--little bugs that burrow under your skin and I had to remind myself that I was a stranger who didn't have a clue. It was better to be safe. Of the thirteen hours I was in town I spent eight hours a bed in a hotel.

In the morning, in my search for readers, I inquired at coffee shops, restaurants, at the New England Culinary Institute, and came up empty. I was told to come back later. In a few hours this place, people would tell me, will be swarming with readers. But, I didn't have until afternoon. My bus left at 11:30. The time constraints were frustrating.

I did find two people reading and even had the opportunity to visit the library and a bookstore--just one of the many bookstores. For a town of 8,000 people, the town has--brace yourself--five bookstores.

I tried get permission to take photos of teachers at an elementary school, but, no. When I inquired at the office, they said I couldn't without talking to the principal, who had way too much going on to spare even a minute. I stood in front of the school waiting, scanning the rush of children heading for the playground, looking for the lone child with his head in the latest Harry Potter walking with his parents who, not only could make sure he didn't run into trees, but could also grant me permission to post their young prodigy on my blog. But, no.

I walked onwards, rewarded my fruitless efforts with fresh baked bread at a bakery that smelled so good it'd be shameful to pass it by.

At the Capitol building I hoped I'd find a security guard with a book. Instead I happened upon the governor. He was giving a speech about healthy school environments for the children of Vermont and recognizing school officials for taking the initiative to provide healthy environments. Doing what? I don't know. He didn't go into it.

The governor was funny. Someone was taking a picture and, unsure of where to take it from, was scooting forward and back from her squat on the floor. After she'd finally found a spot at the right distance, the governor smiled and, after she’d taken it, remarked, “Close enough for government work.”

I wanted to find out what the governor liked to read and, as the recognition ceremony continued, I considered rushing the podium—“I really hate to interrupt, but my bus is leaving in a few minutes and I’m doing a project …”

I refrained.

On the way south, unlike on my way north, it was light enough to see the mountains which Bill McKibben, who lives in Vermont, was describing in Deep Economy, the book I had lying in my lap.

The mountains were so enticing I had problems getting any reading done. A dirt trail ran along the road next to a forest of trees, and I imagined myself running parallel to the bus. In just over a week, I would no longer have to travel from place to place. I would actually live somewhere and would have time to go running.

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