|Shelburne Farm Inn|
Sherri put the van in drive at 7:17 a.m.on Saturday, June 9, 2001 and eight ladies spanning the ages from 29 to 81 years of age, set in motion for a vacation trip to Vermont. For readers of this story, please note that you must read between the lines to get the full gist and flavour of the story. I’m sure it won’t be difficult.
Sharp-Eyed Barb (aka Police Mom) at 81 and the matriarch of the group, kept a watchful eye on our chauffer who was clocking 140 km at times. Sharp-Eyed Barb warned of smokies in the bushes taking pictures. It’s amazing what cataract surgery can do!
The first of our technical glitches was firing up the lap top computer. We later learned that the battery had succumbed to deficient power and wouldn’t boot up. The next problem was Melissa’s CD player. It kept rejecting the adapter so we had a limited selection of old time cassettes that didn’t suit the majority of music tastes.
The ride was rather boring but Sherri, with her little “Betty Boop” giggle, kept the peddle to the metal and we arrived at the border crossing at 11:00 a.m. for an early lunch. Wrong Way Carolyn, still living up to fame from the last trip with the help of co-pilot Knock on the Head Cathy, named after my most recent mishap in the stable getting a hooves in the head and face, managed to make one wrong turn. This was later followed up with a wrong way entry to the motel parking lot.
The group was entertained with Juice Box Connie’s spillage in the van. She doesn’t have much experience with these contraptions and squeezed her box. Connie continued to provide lively commentary with the notice of the drive thru pharmacy. She gleefully surmised, what a good idea for a perfect date and I’m not talking about headache pills. Snack Pack Chris, added that you could even get your favourite colour and taste. Just use your imagination.
After being star struck with the delights of the Christmas Loft Store, motel accommodations were soon in order for the traveling ladies.
Juice Box Connie had unknowingly booked our motel right across from the Sirloin Saloon Steak House where we had dinner reservations. Highway 7 is a rather busy thoroughfare, but once again Take Charge Phyllis was daring to dart across the road with Sharp-eyed Barb dragging behind her. On better judgment from Knock on the Head Cathy decided to wait. I, dressed in a long fancy gown, stood on the shoulder of the road in the company of compardres. All of a sudden the cars stopped, just like Moses parting the waters. All eight women jaunted across the highway, grateful for the drivers’ kindness. I guess they didn’t want to be responsible for splating eight women on the pavement and making them all road kill on their vacation.
Take Charge Phyllis now has a new nickname or title. Knock on the Head Cathy was given the vibrator to announce when their dinner table was ready. Take Charge Phyllis demanded the vibrator for her jean pocket. We were all thinking “cheap thrill”.
Dinner was absolutely divine and the waiter wasn’t bad either. Ruthie missed a big opportunity that night. She’s going to be very sorry she missed our trip. The waiter was even giving us directions on how to get to the Jazz Festival that night. Cute college guy, and we know how much Ruthie appreciates the younger men.
Dinner conversation was rather heightened with many chuckles over Juice Box Connie’s famous old stories. Connie has a wealth of them in her diary of memories and only Connie can do justice telling them. We all roared with laughter, almost, not quite, matching Connie’s volume of cheer.
Carolyn just had to tell us about our farrier’s visit again. She does have some problem keeping focused when the fellow is bent over hard at work. Again, Ruthie – another missed opportunity. Phyllis suggested that we buy Doug a pair of Wrangler jeans! However, I’m not certain that the view would be the same – no offense.
Upon leaving the restaurant, Snack Pack Chris, bulging at the seams of her tiny dress as she tried to digest her big meal, wanted to have her mood read on the “love” machine at the door. The rest of us didn’t dare. The lights jumped around trying to analyze Chris’s desire and finally landed on “Naughty but Nice”. Yep, it seems to fit, but only her husband would know that!
It was an early start to a very packed day of tourism. Our group decided to leave the sleepy quiet room next door as we headed down for some complimentary coffee. Nothing complimentary about the coffee I might add. Carolyn insisted that we deserted them as they came looking for us.
We headed off for our breakfast at the former Vanderbilt/Webb estate, The Shelburne Inn and Farm. We were not disappointed. As in previous visits, the warm inviting ambiance of the Inn made us all feel like ladies of social grace. A classical musician gently plucked the strings of an enchanting harp and dancing hot ember logs in the hearth, welcomed guest to the Inn this morning. It was nice to be pampered in such an elegant setting. Sharp-eyed Barb and Juice Box Connie had a succulent banana brioche with mascarpone cheese. Some of us chose more traditional working breakfast themes, but all were absolutely delicious.
After dining in the large stateroom, we decided to finish our shopping before beginning tours of the farm.
We bargain hunted in shoe stores, although no bargains were to be had. However, Sharp-Eyed Barb did find a very comfortable pair of footwear and purchased them.
The group split up after the shoe fittings. Knock on the Head Cathy and Betty Boop Sherri revisited the Christmas store where a couple of purchases were made. I must say that Sherri restrained herself from buying a good inventory of the store, even with Cathy’s persuasion for a few items Sherri adored. However, Betty Boop Sherri does have a web site address so Harry might not be safe yet from a spending spree!
Everyone returned to the van, minus Snack Pack Chris. Her fellow travelers had left her behind in the antique store. While all of us were asking among ourselves if we had seen Chris, a fleeting glimpse of a deer like figure, was observed spanning ditches with such ease, shoeless and somewhat out of breath. She must have thought we miscounted heads and was abandoning her.
Back at Shelburne Farms, none other than Marshall Webb, a great grandson of Dr. Webb, treated us to a private tour of the Breeding Barn. He ushered us into the van and drove us to the magnificent facility. On route, he had mentioned about the farm promoting environmental conscious issues. It was here that Sharp-Eyed Barb put her two cents in, stating that she guess he hadn’t spoken with Bush lately. That single comment brought howls on the bus. Not bad for an 81 year old to be so reflective and sensitive. I think Mr. Webb was pleasantly surprised. I don’t think he is a fan of President Bush.
We arrived at the Breeding Barn and it was a pleasure to see that at least horses have once again been a part of this architectural wonder. In a few weeks the Carriage Association of America will be hosting an event at the Breeding Barn. It is a grand structure. The roof alone equals two acres in size. It is being painstakingly restored to its former elegance.
Our visit ended too quickly, but Mr. Webb wanted to have us back at the main gate in order that we could take the property tour.
We arrived in Middlebury late afternoon. The Inn was expecting us. It is a lovely quaint historical building dating back to 1827. For those in the group who hadn’t visited the Inn before, it was like a breath of fresh air and quiet serenity. They held high tea for us in The Morgan Room, appropriately named.
After settling into our rooms, a phone call to the farm finally brought a response. When Bob answered and acknowledged that Harry was there, my first inclination was to ask, “what’s wrong”? Bob wouldn’t say that anything was wrong and said that Harry was just socializing. (For those of you who don’t know, Harry is our veterinarian.) The phone was passed to his wife, Betty Boop Sherri, who instinctively asked that same question – “what was wrong?” I guess we will just have to wait until we arrive home to see if any damage had been done to human or animal.
Refreshed and hungry for dinner, we arrived in the dining area for our evening reservation. It would be a meal to remember.
We had a young inexperienced waiter serve us. It was his very first day on the job. We decided to order a couple of bottles of wine, rather than order individual glasses. Of course, Sharp-Eyed Barb had to confuse the waiter by requesting ice cubes for her wine. We all looked puzzled when he returned with seven glasses of wine; one with ice cubes. We all felt bad having him bring us a couple of bottles and returning the filled glasses of wine he had managed to deliver without spilling to our table. We would have drunk the wine already poured, but soon the head maitre’d took over serving our table.
The orders were eventually taken for our meals and all were delivered but one. We soon learned that Sharp-Eyed Barb’s sweet pink salmon had become “flying sword fish”. The cook had to prepare another dish for her. By the time her meal had arrived, we had all finished our meals, leaving Barb to begin her solitary dinner. We were all surprised that not even a hint of complaint came across the lips of Sharp-Eyed Barb about the poor service. The evening before she scolded the bartender and gave him implicit instructions on how to make a proper Caesar.
It was during our leisurely meal, which just happened to take three hours, and a couple of glasses of wine, that Melissa started to loosen up. We finally came up with a nickname for her; “Wind Up Melissa”. Amazing, how a little wine can turn this quiet reserved little thing into a Chatty Cathy doll with a tinge of sarcasm. Finally, the bill arrived for our meal and we decided to retire to our rooms, since it was now dark outside and we didn’t want to go strolling the streets in the event we would be mistaken for something else.
Since we were located on different floors and since Wrong Way Carolyn’s group wasn’t sure what rooms we were in on the next floor, they decided to follow the call of the wild, “Juice Box Connie”. It wasn’t long before they honed in on her distinctive booming voice. They had found us!
With much chuckles now, especially with our newly renamed Vibrator Phyllis punctuating the conversations with her usual candor laced with sometimes seedy overtones, we all were feeling a little guilty about the noise we were creating and perhaps thinking we might be disturbing other guests. Timing couldn’t have been better as the phone rang with a sudden urgency.
Betty Boop Sherri answered thinking it was Doug calling for Carolyn. The voice on the line stated that they had received complaints at the front desk about the noise level coming from this room. Betty Boop Sherri’s face paled as she responded in a very apologetic tone. He got her good! She should have gone with her instincts, as it was Doug all right and not the front desk. Still feeling a little remorseful for creating so much volume with our laughter, we decided to cease and desist for the night.
It was another early rise for a long day of activity and driving. We began with a leisurely breakfast at the Inn and this time the service was much faster than the previous night. “Thank God for prunes and All-Bran cereal!” Juice Box Connie added. Wind Up Melissa still in fine form from the previous evening, kept referring to people as “freaks”. I think we finally got her to let her guard down. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea?
Wrong Way Carolyn managed to get us all safely, without losing our way, to the UVM Farm for a brief tour.
We had a decent tour guide this time around, despite the lightening strikes that Juice Box Connie noted with alarm. At the end of the tour, the ladies got to see how a real man does it with a dummy, even though it was a five-legged variety.
After that fantasy trip for some, we climbed into the van and headed out towards Shelburne on a turnaround trip to catch the ferry.
On route we stopped in for a brief visit to the American Morgan Horse Association headquarters. The painting of “Intrigue” aka Serenity, still hangs in the front foyer as you enter the building. Even though another name identifies the painting as another Serenity horse, I remember when the nameplate, Serenity Intrigue, was there. It was like Studley posing there to greet us all with his very expressive head.
We made good time from there to the ferry docks and our van was loaded first on deck. The ferry ride was uneventful and we stayed inside, sheltered from the cool drizzle outside. However, the weather made for a good day in the van and this time we were careful not to get lost. It must have been a boring ride, although you couldn’t tell with the laughter. Most of the conversation centered around eating too much and having to get out the sticks of dynamite to clear the way. I wasn’t party to a lot of the chatter, since Betty Boop Sherri was the driver and I, Knock on the Head Cathy, was co-pilot.
Waiting in the pouring rain for Connie to confirm our reservation and get our passes at the motel, we took turns keeping her company. Once again, the service wasn’t exactly efficient. It took us half an hour to check in. Juice Box Connie was peeved saying it was taking away from her shopping time.
We eventually got our rooms and we all struggled with Juice Box Connie’s body bag to drag it into the room. Vibrator Phyllis has another name for the odd shaped long zipper bag! We soon began our window shopping – pronto, although for a few, it was more than “window shopping”. Remember what I previously said about Betty Boop Sherri refraining from spending too much; well throw that thought out the window. She is quite weak minded when it comes to Lake Placid and all the boutiques.
Just before we started our shopping, we decided to get some wine for a little party we were planning later that night. Betty Boop Sherri was elected to get the booze, as she was closest to the door and had a hood on her jacket to protect her from the rain. Off she went, looking like the little wicked witch from the west with her pointed hood, dodging the puddles. Believe me, she truly looked like a witch earlier that day when she appeared from the shower with her locks pointing in all directions.
Wrong Way Carolyn had made dinner reservations at “Jimmy’s” the wonderful Italian restaurant we visited once before on a previous visit. We dined to our hearts desire and loved every mouthful. The only incident at this meal was when I, Knock on the Head Cathy, lost my pill on the floor. I decided to leave it there, even though it was my last dose of antibiotic. We drove back to the motel to begin another interesting evening of fun and merriment. Right…
Betty Boop Sherri was ready tonight for Doug’s check in call with Carolyn. Every time the phone rang, one of us would disguise our voice to answer the call. Doug never did phone. We later found out that he was shaking in his boots at Betty Boop Sherri’s threat for revenge and aired on the side of caution, deciding to leave well enough alone. Never mind coward Doug, we are all very patient, as you well know.
While some rushed to make the pool and hot tub before closing, Sharp Eyed Barb was having trouble with the bathroom fixtures once again. The night before she couldn’t turn the water on in the shower, this night she couldn’t turn it off. The dial was frozen open and no amount of female muscle could budge it. The shower ran for a good 20 minutes before someone came to investigate the problem. In the meantime, Juice Box Connie had been commandeered to get a cork screw for our waiting bottle of wine. Betty Boop Sherri had called the office, asking the manager for a corkscrew without explaining why. The conversation was open to intrepretation. She is so innocent at times, it’s a wonder she doesn’t get herself in more trouble. Needs lots of protection this one as I was rolling off the bed with laughter, listening to her speaking with the manager of the motel. She tunes out external noise very well I might add.
Finally, with the clouds of steam now escaping to the rest of the room, an elderly gentleman with cane in hand knocked on the door. At the same time, Betty Boop Sherri decided to call home. Upon entry to the room the fellow managed to shut off the water tap and set in panic when he announced to us that the sprinkler system may go off with the amount of steam in the room. Meanwhile, Betty Boop Sherri is unperturbed by the recent news while she chats away to Harry on the phone. She was totally oblivious to all the commotion around her and was flagging us with her hand while speaking into the phone uttering the words “what dear”... All I could think of was the PC sitting almost directly in line with the sprinkler head. I ran for the case while Juice Box Connie dove for it with towel in hand, running around like a chicken with her head chopped off screaming “cover it up; get the bag”…… Sherri never clued in during the whole episode and quietly hung up the receiver when she had finished her evening conversation. Was she surprised when she finally listened to what we were saying. Thank God, the sprinkler never activated. The little old man left the room but soon returned knocking on the door, asking to retrieve his cane. I wondered who he reminded me of, and finally the light came on! He was like the “dirty old man” from the old Laugh In television show of the early 70’s, only cleaner. Juice Box Connie figured he had spied our bottle of wine and just wanted to party with us.
After sharing old stories with everyone and a glass of wine, served with hunks of old Shelburne Farm cheese mixed together with wide-open mouths of tired yawns, we wanted to call it a night.
The bathroom floor was more or less flooded so another call to the front desk was in order. They decided to move us to another room for the night and in the end, that was the best choice. I’m not sure if Juice Box Connie ever did get to have her privacy in the bathroom as we had interrupted her numerous times with all the goings on.
In the confusion of bed changes, I woke up in a panic thinking I was on the wrong side of the bed and that mother had gone for one of her many nightly constitutions. I flung myself to the other side with a thud! All you could hear was “OHHHHH…!” I landed squarely on poor old mom and shook her violently from her sweet slumber.
We began the day a little later, stopping for breakfast at the Howard Johnson before descending upon the village shops again. It would be our last opportunity to purchase souveneirs so our theme would be – “shop til we drop”. I can tell you that Betty Boop Sherri’s credit card and a few others got some workout today.
With packages safely tucked away in motor carriage, we rested at lunch in an outdoor café. Suds were in order along with a light meal. Wind Up Melissa was really winding up today with unrehearsed comments that caught most of us off guard. She can be quite wicked at times.
With feedbag time over, we headed off to see Juice Box Connie’s English Bull Mastiff puppy that lives in Saranac Lake. Once again, Snack Pack Chris whispered to me if I had seen her purse, as she didn’t want to alarm anyone or be put out of the van for being so forgetful. I later found out that it wasn’t the first incidence. Her purse was right in front of her feet.
It was a brief visit as most of us were swatting fevorously at the hordes of black flies. They seemed to be in a frenzie with the arrival of fresh new Canadian meat to feast on at their dinner table in the woods. “Ben” the dog, had grown considerably and at six months, now weighs 118+ lbs. With the clumsiness and cuteness of a young pup, he entertained us for several minutes.
After some picture snapping and a bathroom break, we climbed into the van and started our long journey home with Betty Boop Sherri at the wheel. We knew for a fact our excellent fuel mileage would soon evapourate with lead footed Sherri. Snack Pack Chris closed her eyes and said ten Hail Marys every time Betty Boop Sherri decided vehicles were impeding her way and pulled out to pass. I think Chris would have hugged her St. Christopher medal if she had one. You could feel the turbo kick in and a thrust of power that shot us forward. A few times the tires squealed too. Never trust those “fly girls”. They have a thing for thrust. However, we didn’t mind so much as home was starting to look good now.