Thoughts of Dad on a camping trip to VT, September, 2004
I left for VT at about 5am on a Thursday morning. By the time I reached the Lake Champlain ferry it was 11 and I was pretty wiped. Usually I get out and walk around the boat but this time I put my head against the door and the drumming of the engines seemed so much like the sound of the car when my mom & dad took us on vacation that I just dozed right off. I woke for a moment and the land and pier were gone and there was nothing but water going past. I nodded off again and when I woke up we were docking at the other end. But I felt really refreshed. I drove up to Burlington and unloaded my bike and gear and pedaled the shoreline path that runs north 12 miles, the last of which run out onto the causeway out on Lake Champlain. It was warm and bright and sunny and there were almost no people on the trail. I actually saw none on the causeway till I reached the end. That night I set up camp outside of Stowe at a site along the river. It's quiet and really my favorite spot to go camping. As it became dark around 6 I lit up the coleman lantern and began reading "Duty" by Bob Greene. It starts as he goes home to Ohio to be with his dying father. Some of the details of caring for him like lifting him in and out of bed brought back such strong memories of my dad towards the end. His father often spoke of seeing Paul Tibbets around town, the pilot of the Enola Gay who pretty much stayed out of the limelight after leaving the service. Even though his dad referred to him as the man who won the war, they had never met. The day after he lost his father, Greene went to meet Tibbets and spoke to him at length about his experiences during the war (Greene's dad served in Italy). It reminded me of talking to my own dad about the war, and how so many times since when I saw or read something that I
wanted to ask dad about, I realized I couldn't because he was gone.
By this point it began to rain lightly and I had moved into the tent. I continued reading propped up in my sleeping bag then stopped and suddenly became more aware of my surroundings. The hiss of the lantern. The warm sleeping bag. The smell of the tent and the way the lantern light played against the tent walls as the rain pitter pattered against it and it was just like camping again with my dad. I couldn't help getting choked up as the tears came to my eyes. It felt like he was there with me and I hadn't felt that before. By 9:30 I was pretty wiped and turned in. At 6 I woke up after having the best sleep. I was so rested. After getting cleaned up I headed out for breakfast. Normally I'm pretty good about what I eat, but I wanted something that was high calorie and would fuel me through a long ride on the rail trail up north. So I chose bacon and eggs and toast, which I never have normally because it's probably not all that good for you in the long run. Then I remembered that dad would fix exactly that breakfast every Sunday. Bacon and eggs and toast. He ate it too during the week which was probably part of why his arteries were so bad in the end. But the taste
of the buttered toast and the smell of he bacon was just like Sunday morning with dad.
I headed north through the pass at Smuggler's Notch. The foliage was still mostly green until I began to climb up the mountain. Even shrouded in fog the colors became more vibrant
the higher I got. Near the top I had to keep my eyes on the pavement as it gets kind of steep and twisty and hairy, but it was a pretty neat drive. The sun was out and the day was warmer as I reached the area where I park for the trail. It was another beautiful sunny day and I did the 10 miles north along the river and through the farmland of the VT country side. It was so beautiful with just slight hints of color here and there. When I got back to where I parked I was still so energized that I picked up some more water and headed south along the river again. I hadn't planned on it but wound up doing 35 miles that day. Friday evening I bought some wood and spent the evening reading and eating by the campfire. It was so much like having dad there again, then it occurred to me that up until a year before he got sick he was an avid biker himself and had biked the length of NJ, High Point to Cape May twice. I was doing the same thing that my Dad loved. Yet we had never biked together. But it sure felt like he was there with me that weekend.