Getting to and from your destination is half the fun. The places you come across as you travel the roads can be and sometimes are just as exciting as your destination. On my trip to and from Maine, I put my GPS on no highways and was amazed at the places I found on my backroad travels.
St. Raphael’s Ruins, Williamstown, Ontario
Even before I had left Ontario, I found a gem. My friends John and Annie, who I had the pleasure of visiting at their new house, had mentioned an old church that was a shell without a roof. I did not know exactly where it was, but when I came across these ruins, I knew it had to be it.
This beautiful stone church started as a small framed church called “the Blue Chapel” in the late 1700s. St. Raphael’s Parish was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1806. In 1821, this stunning stone church began its construction. A fire in 1970 consumed the church and left only the walls standing.
The Friends of St. Raphael’s Ruins formed in 1994 to preserve the ruins in this rural countryside. They held fundraisers to stabilize the walls of the church and continue to keep the ruins alive.
As you walk inside, you realize that beauty is not only on the outside. Cascading stone walls and a stone staircase to where the pulpit would have been make a fabulous site for a wedding or gathering. You can visit anytime between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for free or contact the friends of St. Raphaels Ruins to book an event. It’s worth the stop along the way.
Crossing the US Border into New York
Crossing the US or Canadian border is not a problem if you know the rules. Crossing into the US, I never take any food with me and have my passport and destination ready. A few questions: How long are you going to be away, the purpose of your trip? I was across.
One of my favorite stores when in the US is Family Dollar. They have cool little items along with regular household items and some clothing, all at reasonable prices. I pulled into a Family Dollar but had to make sure I did not park in the horse and buggy section.
I was in Amish country. I am always intrigued by the Amish community. They all have amazing skills, and their resolution and commitment to their community and beliefs are extraordinary.
Crossing into Vermont
The bridge leading into Vermont is a beautiful beginning to the scenery that is Vermont.
From this point, you are looking towards New York. If you scan just to the left of the bridge, there is a little known fort with an interesting history.
This secluded fort, located just a few miles south of the Canadian border, has another name. Fort Blunder. The War of 1812 had the British invading the United States. They had already infiltrated Maine as far as Washington, DC. An order was put forth to build a large fortification at the edge of Lake Champlain after the war in 1816. 30-foot walls were erected to keep the British on their side.
Construction of the fort was stopped when it was discovered that the land they were building on was British Canada soil. According to a survey, the border was 1 -2 miles south of the fort. In 1842, British Canada agreed to shift the border, and Fort Montgomery became an American fort once again.
South Hero, Vermont
The story goes that a stonemason by the name of Harry Barber was known to spread joy and amusement through the community by playing the accordion, yodeling, and, of course, his magnificent stonework abilities. Harry was born in Switzerland in 1899 and immigrated to Vermont quite by accident. He boarded a boat in Europe that he believed was going to South America. His destination: Chili. Instead, he landed in Quebec.
Thinking he could walk to Chili, he began his journey south. In Rouses Point, New York, a young woman, Beverly Rocque, took him in and fed him. Love blossomed, and they settled in Vermont.
The Fairy Castles Come to Life
The first castle was built in 1930. A creation of castles of his homeland commissioned by land owners. There are six castles built all together. They are small stone castles that could very easily house fairies. Perfect in the form of castles throughout Europe. What beautiful gifts they must have been. When searching for them, please be aware that they are on private property. There are some visible from the road. They really are the beautiful little gems of South Hero.
The Birdhouse Forest
While searching for castles along the shores of Lake Champlain, I came across a forest of birdhouses. There are hundreds of birdhouses along the roadway and into the forest, as far as you can see. The landowner started with a few birdhouses to attract tree swallows to nest. It is a swampy area, and mosquitoes are rampant. The Tree Swallows’s favorite meal is mosquitoes.
What started as a few dozen birdhouses, which quickly filled with Tree Swallow families, is now over 400. People living in the area say there are far fewer mosquitoes now. A beautiful display that plays an important role in your evening relaxing. Watch out for the dinosaurs, though.
Waterfalls and Silos
Winding my way through my backroad travels of Vermont gave me some beautiful scenery. Fairfax Falls in Fairfax, Vermont, not only serves as a beautiful view but also produces hydroelectric power for the surrounding community. A beautiful area beside the falls allows you to take in the stunning view.
Diving through Cambridge, Vermont, I came across these painted silos. The remnants of a lumber mill, the silos must have looked cold and lonely. In 2016, artist Sarah Rutherford completed her design. Celebrating both the past and the future in beautiful artistic form.
Just a fun note. It is just down the road from Smuggler’s Notch Ski Area. I giggled when I saw the sign.
Small Town Living in Vermont
You know you are in a small town when everything is in one store. Hastings store is located in Danville, Vermont, and has “everything from soup to nuts,” as my Mom used to say.
In this one store, you can find the Post Office, the liquor store, a cleaner, home-made goods, gifts, groceries and ice cream. I will be honest. It was the ice cream that drew me in. What a wonderful store and great ice cream. It’s definitely worth a stop when passing through Danville.
Driving through Vermont, I started to see signs for covered bridges. I love the concept and feel of a covered bridge. Maybe because even though cars have been traversing them for many years, I am expecting a horse and buggy to be crossing when I peek in. Some have become walking bridges, and some are still able to hold cars. No matter what type of transportation they use, it is still an unexpected delight to come across one.
Backroad Travels into Massachusetts
As you all know, by now, I love to stop at small diners and cafes along the way. I drove by this diner and knew I had to turn around. Belly Buster Diner on Boston Road in Billerica, Massachusetts, was certainly worth the turnaround. Offering a steak eggs benedict, it was hard to resist. Served with great friendly service, it was an excellent stop along the way.
This is actually my third trip to Salem, and it never disappoints. The history of the Salem witch trials is a sad and tragic story of ordinary people that were persecuted beyond reasonable cause, which is both interesting and heartbreaking.
Although the story is poignant, Salem today is a vibrant celebration of what is now. The cobblestone walkways and beautifully treed alleyways will lead you on a delightful stroll by interesting and creative shops, small cafes, and beautiful fountains.
I always try to take a scenic tour while I am in cities like Salem. The last time I was here, I took the Salem Witch Walk. This time, I took a ride on the Salem Trolley. My guide and driver were both informative and entertaining. I learned not only about the witch trials of 1692 but also about the history of the waterfront and the roots of this beautiful, magical little city.
Salem needs a blog of its own. There are so many things about Salem I want to share. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at this magical city in a future blog. If you are in the area, I highly recommend a stop. Beware at Halloween, Salem is spooky and very busy. Lol.
Boogie Affair, Greenfield, Massachusetts
One of my destinations on this road trip was a van show in Greenfield, Massachusetts, called Boogie Affair. Held in Franklin County Fairgrounds, it was a wonderful weekend, spending time with old friends and making some new ones, looking at some excellent vans, and enjoying the festivities of the event.
I have been to these fairgrounds before for the Van Nationals in 2019. Parking with hydro and trees is not always a certainty at van shows. It was a great weekend with some awesome people. The theme was medieval times and was celebrated in full force.
I want to thank Dick for buying me breakfast and Chris for cooking. The tacos the next evening were also excellent. I had never heard of tacos in a bag before. A small bag of Doritos, taco meat, cheese, and lettuce, and you have a taco to go. Oh, so cool! The vendors had their own creation I had never heard of. A grilled coffee cake muffin with milk butter. I am not sure what milk butter is, but it was so very good.
It was a fun time with my friends and a promise to be back. The 2024 Van Nationals will be held at this park. I can not wait!
BBQ Party in a Box
A stop at friends near Belleville led me on an experience that is a first for me. Andy and Becky, along with their extremely talented daughter Brittany, run a catering service called BBQ Party in a Box. A service that provides everything you need to have a successful BBQ event. Pick from any of the fun BBQs and the menu to be served, and you have it all.
They were planning a BBQ for a wedding and found themselves a person short. I volunteered to help in any way I could with their full knowledge that I had never worked in a kitchen or served before. I have never worked in an industrial kitchen or served in a restaurant in my working career. The menu was chicken, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, loaded potato salad, coleslaw, and ice cream sundaes for dessert.
A First is Achieved
I do not believe I have ever peeled that many potatoes at one time in my entire life. Lol. Serving at the ice cream sundae bar was fun. Cooking is by far not my favourite pastime, but I must say it was a whole lot of fun this time. Serving at the Sundae Bar was so fun. Thanks for the most excellent first. I would be most happy to do it again.
A great visit with wonderful friends ended with a car show in Belleville. Some pretty cars, interesting people, and a whole lot of laughs.
What a wonderful backroad road trip. Beautiful scenery, wonderful people with a little magic mixed in.
Next time you are on a trip, set your GPS to no highways and see what you discover.
What is the most interesting place you have discovered while traveling to and from your destination? Leave them in the comments.
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventures! See you next time.
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