Our 2022 Road Trip #22: Little State, Big State House

The Vermont State House on a gray day, gold-leaf dome shining and citizens hanging around.

The old leaf dome of the Vermont State House shines through a gray post-rainy late morning.

In our early traveling years we didn’t make a point of visiting every state capital or capitol building along our route because, well, we hadn’t really considered collecting them like trading stamps or Beanie Babies. In later years we’ve regretted bypassing a few that were within reach (e.g., Richmond, Frankfort, Jackson) and/or those capitals we did visit but skipped their capitols (Little Rock, Topeka). In more recent times we’ve upgraded their priority level and included them where so inclined and doable. Montpelier, VT, is America’s smallest state capital, but it was easy to reach from our planned path, and an engaging addition at that.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…

The morning leg of our driving day had taken us from our Waterbury hotel in northern Vermont to Quechee Gorge State Park in the southern end. After our walk in the park we doubled back 50 miles north up I-89 to Montpelier. Most streets were lined with metered parking spaces on both sides, though were guarded by signs admonishing visitors of the two-hour time limit and their rule forbidding anyone from pumping more coins in to extend beyond the two-hour mark. I fail to understand their reasons behind irking paying customers who’d brought along plenty of spare change for exactly such situations, but…their city, their rules.

We found a spot in front of the post office, which wasn’t far away from our first planned stop. As we got out and fed the meter, an elderly gentleman noticed our Texas plates and chatted about how he used to live in Beaumont. I explained the SUV was a rental, but storytime would not be stopped.

From there we walked on to the Vermont State House, home of local government and government accessories. By this time the rain clouds that had sprinkled us along the Quechee Gorge trails had receded, leaving an opening for locals and us intruders to come out, frolic, and/or do tourism.

Vermont State House historical marker in front of their colorfully flowered walkway.

The obligatory historical marker for the State House, which opened for residency in 1859.

Am Ethan Allen statue on the State House front porch.

Naturally a statue of state hero Ethan Allen stands on the front porch.

Thomas Chittenden statue on Vermont State House front lawn.

Off to one side is a statue of Thomas Chittenden, their first and third governor. He was in charge during the Revolution, and again when they attained statehood postbellum.

A statue of Ceres atop the capitol dome, holding a grain bouquet.

Atop the dome is “Agriculture” — the goddess Ceres holding a grain bouquet.

A factory across the street from the State House, a couple of bicyclists riding around like it ain't no thang.

The view of the mall and lawn from the State House porch. At left, two dudes on dirt bikes were just riding and hopping around the place.

No one came or went through the foreboding front doors, which looked locked and unmanned. We walked around to a side entrance and entered without trouble or suspicious glances. The side hallway led to the main atrium, where a guard or two were posted. Unlike some other capitols we’ve visited, frisking and metal detector walk-throughs weren’t required because no one in Vermont holds a grudge against their government or would do something stupid there, we’re guessing. Other, larger states must be so jealous.

A long, deserted, red-carpeted hallway through the State House.

One of the many red-carpeted hallways throughout.

Looking through the open doors of a government office, a velvet rope preventing us from walking in.

Visitors were allowed to roam much of the place. Velvet ropes clarified which areas were forbidden so we couldn’t just walk in and borrow office supplies.

A roped-off view of a state congressional chamber, green carpet.

Both legislative chambers refused us access, neither to the Senate…

A roped-off view of a state congressional chamber, red carpet.

…nor to the House, though this one offered a more generous view.

A fireplace and two vinyl chairs.

Upstairs features included this fireplace and two chairs, great for holding fireside chats with your constituents if you bring your own cameras and fire.

A glass case full of buttons and stickers advertising various women who've run for Vermont offices over the years.

Museum-style collections included this assortment of female politicians’ campaign buttons, stickers, and other freebies…

Glass case of indigenous artifacts required of every museum or museum-shaped building.

…and the requisite collection of indigenous artifacts.

tiny bronze indigenous statue.

We found one small statue paying tribute along the same lines.

An Abraham Lincoln bust in the middle of a hallway, shot from below to make him more imposing.

Mandatory Lincoln tribute.

Security continued not hassling us as we wandered the halls, which were lined with numerous paintings honoring renowned Vermont residents, some of whose faces had acquired fame beyond its borders and were familiar to us.

GIANT painting of a Civil War battle scene.

Julian Scott’s 1874 10′-x-20′ Civil War tribute “The First Vermont Brigade at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Oct. 19th, 1864”. This reenactment of that day in the Shenandoah Valley is jam-packed with personalities and Easter eggs recognizable to local historians.

Painting: black scholar standing proudly on a university lawn, books in both arms.

In 1823 Alexander Twilight became the first known African-American to earn a bachelor’s degree. He’d go on to become at various points a teacher, principal, pastor, and legislator.

Panting: bunch of sailors standing atop a battleship under cloudy blue skies.

Commodore George Dewey (born in Montpelier) and his men at 1898’s Battle of Manila Bay, during the Spanish-American War.

Painting: 60-year-old camping-trip guy in a rowboat in autumn, loosely holding one oar.

Doctor and ’90s Governor Howard Dean, who ran for President in 2004, but lost the nomination because Democrats thought John Kerry was cooler. Their game plan did not pay off.

Painting: shrewdly smiling businesswoman sitting by a window, a flag, and a vase of flowers.

Madeleine Kunin, their Swiss-born governor through much of the ’80s.

Painting: woman in a black dress sitting near an open shutter, closed book in her lap.

In 1920 Edna Beard ran for the House and became the first Vermont woman to win an election after the 19th amendment was passed.

Painting: portly gentleman with muttonchops, White House in the distance over his shoulder. Below the painting is a vase of flowers on an otherwise empty table.

President Chester A. Arthur, born in Fairfield, VT. In 2018 we visited his grave in Albany, NY.

Painting: Presidential guy in a stiff old armchair, hands hanging down at rest. Overhead lights glare annoyingly at the top the painting.

President Calvin Coolidge. We’ll come back to him in a later chapter.

Calvin Coolidge quote written on a banner: "If the Spirit of Liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont." Seven stars line the top and bottom each.

Coolidge’s 14-star Yelp review of Vermont.

The State House also had a cafeteria upstairs, but we declined their services. We had lunch plans elsewhere in town. We returned to the car and found a tiny, congenial protest had broken out in front of the post office in support of Ukraine — not quite a dozen folks, nor was it the sort of protest to attract law enforcement attention. We exchanged smiles and waves as we got in and moved the car a few blocks farther down before any meter-monitors could roll up on us and enforce their harsh two-hour limit.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

3 responses

  1. Wow! Yet another beautiful entry of MCC!. It’s one I almost missed since unlike the past one hundred and eighty four entries it did NOT appear in my electronic mail inbox! Mechanical oversight? Deliberate choice? Conspiracy on behalf of the WordPress bigwigs against the good people of Vermont? Wait, have I been softblocked? Is this what softblocking is? Are my comments unwelcome? Is THIS comment unwelcome? Feel free to delete if that’s the case! No hard feelings!

    In any case, my thanks for your writing of this entry and sharing it w/the world remain undiminished. I’d have let this little incident go unremarked upon — just blame it on one of Gmail’s many foibles and go on with my life; wait and see if the next entry of MCC! arrives or not — but my eye spotted what may (or may not!?) be a minor elision in your caption of Jordan Scott’s 1874 painting.

    You’ve written the sentence : “This reenactment of that day in the Shenandoah Valley jam-packed with personalities and Easter eggs recognizable to local historians.” I assume there should be an “is” or an “is a” somewhere in there? Up to you, I suppose!


    • I threw an “is” in there, just for you now! Thank you for making a difference!

      I promise I didn’t touch the email software and have no idea why your notification was withheld. It’s been years since the last time I had to do anything remotely resembling “moderation” here. I blame Gmail because they are large, and large entities are easy and cathartic to blame.


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