Rural Living

 Glorious Fall Foliage, and Vivid Vacation Recollections

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


 Margo Oxendine

We rode the Stratton ski lift up the empty slopes, gazing down at the blazing fall countryside. It was delightful. I swear, I’d move to Vermont, if it did not require actually moving. 

Ahhh, it’s October: My favorite month! That’s when the rural countryside is at its most glorious. And, it’s also when I usually take my vacation.

Not this year. I couldn’t wait any longer, and did it in mid-September. Because I’m no longer capable of making the arduous trek to Virginia Beach in one harrowing five-hour day, I convinced a longtime pal to share the driving, and the room at the wonderful Belvedere.

I can’t say more, because it hadn’t happened yet when this column was due. I do know this: We gazed at the ocean, we ate breakfast at the delicious Belvedere diner. We rode bicycles. We trod the boardwalk at sunset. We probably ate dinner every night at Rockefeller’s. Ahhhh.

I fondly and with great sentiment recall one of the best vacations ever. Mom and I were perfect travel companions. So, one October, we took what we laughingly called a “busman’s vacation.” We left the autumnal glory of Bath County behind, got in the car, and headed to Vermont. We’d planned to “swing by” Niagara Falls, where my parents spent some of their honeymoon.

Mom was famous for “swinging by” places. My sister and I still laugh when we think of Mom wielding the road map (remember those?) while Daddy drove.

“Why don’t we swing by and visit the Duncans?” she suggested. “It’s only two inches out of our way!”

Daddy, famous for gripping the wheel in his hands and his pipe in his teeth, was having none of it. He was always hell-bent on getting to our destination. Once we’d arrive, he became a completely changed man, full of fun and a sense of adventure. But while on the road? We learned early to just keep our suggestions to ourselves. No, we were not stopping at Stuckey’s (remember those?). No, we were not having a restaurant meal. We always traveled with a full picnic basket, a full cooler and plenty of snacks. We felt lucky if he stopped at a restroom. Once, he insisted we “go” in the woods beside the road. I found it quite traumatic. Thankfully, I’ve never done it since.

So, Mom and I did not swing by Niagara Falls that October. It was at least six inches out of our way, and the trip from Virginia to New England was much, much further than we’d imagined.

We took a few days to visit my cousin Janet at her magnificent home on the water in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. We were gypsies in the palace, we joked. One night, Janet and her husband left us at the house with her mother, my Aunt Elsie. Things went well until I tried to dim the dining room lights before dinner, and made the huge blunder of pressing the “panic alarm” instead. I never knew such a thing existed, but we all found out exactly what happens when a panic alarm is activated: A loud disembodied voice demands one “leave the premises immediately.” A blaring horn alerts the neighborhood. The police arrive forthwith, armed and unsmiling. They don’t accept stupidity as an excuse. Worst of all, no one but the homeowners know “the code” to make the cacophonous clamor cease. We left the next morning. Never since invited back.

In Vermont, we were in paradise. Janet has a cushy “cabin” in Stratton, a ski resort. There were 10 bedrooms, so we slept in a different one each night. We took day trips through the awe-inspiring countryside, looking for covered bridges and praying we’d see a moose. Although the road signs kept promising it, our prayers were not answered. We shopped. Somewhere — it may have been Vermont or maybe Massachusetts — we swung by Norman Rockwell’s home, now a museum. We rode the Stratton ski lift up the empty slopes, gazing down at the blazing fall countryside.

It was delightful. I swear, I’d move to Vermont, if it did not require actually moving.

Around here, country store shelves are stocked with chewing tobacco, beef jerky and Vienna sausage. In Vermont, country stores offer gourmet cheeses, hand-knit sweaters, fine wine and great coffee.

I really miss those vacations with Mom. I am so glad I had a big, cumbersome Canon camera and took lots of photographs. These were the old-fashioned kind that you can put in an album. Every now and then I get out my Vermont album and page through it. It’s almost as good as a vacation with Mom. Almost.

To read more of Margo’s columns, order A Party of One. Call 540-468-2147 from 9-5, Monday-Thursday, or email:  



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