Vermont Fall saddens me

Fall Foliage in Vermont saddens me

Fall Foliage in Burlington. Photo by Chau Mai

This morning, my Feature Writing professor began our class with an apology that he couldn’t return the rewrites of our personal essays because he spent his weekend in Vermont.

“It’s weird. I’ve never seen that bad,” my professor, whose parents were from Vermont, talked about his disappointment at the current fall foliage there. He said he should have stayed in Boston to enjoy the fall colors.

I could share what he felt because I was there last Saturday though I didn’t know if we shared the same destination in Vermont.

More than three weeks ago, I started preparing for a trip to Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, according to Wikipedia, and about 260 miles from Boston. I chose Vermont to see the leaf peeping (I learned this phrase from my best friend Janice) after my classmate said she is from Vermont not Maine which I planned to go before.

I didn’t know why I certainly thought that it wasn’t Vermont but Maine known as he United States’ most beautiful state in the fall.

After receiving her email, I searched on Google and a lot of sources say highly of the fall colors in Vermont. I felt quite disappointed that some websites said the fall foliage in some cities were just over their prime. I decided to go to Burlington after visiting the website which says that the leaf peeping would peak in the middle of October and visiting Mega Bus’s website which offered a round trip from Boston to Burlington at $31.25.

After booking the tickets online, I got the second email from my classmate who said she’s from Burlington, which is on a lake and in the mountains, too, and it’s one of the Vermont’s most beautiful places in the fall.

“The leaves should be very beautiful,” she said in her email.

Last Friday, on the eve before my trip to Burlington, I searched on Google again to decide where I would go to see the fall colors when I was getting there. I visited the website, the home of the Burlington Parks and Rec Department, which says the city of more than 42,000 people is home to 18 parks.

That night, I thought I got a cold because it was so cold. I had to stopped my late dinner for a while to  go upstairs to put on a sweater.

Before getting to bed at mid night, I was shocked to learned that the temperature was falling to just 1 Celsius degree, which was forecast to stay the same until 7 a.m.

“How can I leave at such a freezing temperature?” I said to myself thinking of leaving for the train station at 5:30 to catch the bus at South Station at 6:30. But I reassured myself that I would take a bus near my house because the bus usually starts operating at 5:25, and it often takes just 25 minutes to South Station.

I went to sleep with a thought that ten hours in Burlington would be enough for enjoying the fall there.

Never did I know that a series of disappointments were awaiting me.

First disappointment

This disappointment resulted from my subjectivity that the bus would start at 5:25.  Yet, I forget one thing that today was Saturday not a weekday, and there is no bus until 6:30.

No choice. I walked in the freezing early morning on the nearly empty street to the station in a pair of boots that I haven’t used since last winter. I tried to walk quickly but I couldn’t because of the cold and my unexpected hurt on the sole of my right foot. I chose the wrong boots.

I learned prior that the train would be disconnected in three stops.

When I got to the T station, the row of buses were available to serve passengers to JFK/Umass station, and from there the train from Ashmont will take the passengers to South Station which is just two stops away.

Walking down to JFK station, I overheard the complaining chat from two Vietnamese women that they had been waiting quite long for the train. That meant if I had arrived earlier, I had to wait like them. No luck to South Station early. Just five minutes after I stood there, the train was arriving.

When I got to the South Station, it was 6:32 p.m. and I was still pretty sure that I was able to catch the Mega Bus, which is known not only for its cheap deals but its frequent delays. But I was completely wrong.

No Mega Bus to Burlington there.

Disappointed at myself, instead of complaining and blaming on Mega Bus’s punctuality, the train disconnection, the bus unavailability, the freezing temperature, I went to the Mega Bus counter to ask the next bus to Burlington. But no one was there until 7:30.

No problem, I would wait because my target was to go to Burlington today.

“The next bus will depart at 3:30?”

“You mean 3:30 p.m.?”


“Do you know any other bus to Burlington?”

“Greyhound over there.”

Before I left the Mega bus counter, I asked the woman there if I could get the refund but she said my tickets are non-refundable. She added in case I took the  second bus at 3:30, I had to pay another $10.

Second disappointment

I went to the Greyhound counter and asked for a ticket to Burlington. The friendly woman said the first bus will leave at 10 and a one-way trip is $40, which is more than my round trip ticket bought from Mega Bus.

No problem, I would buy it because my target was to go to Burlington today.

My subjectivity again killed me. I certainly thought the bus would arrive at the destination after 3,5 hours at 1:30 p.m. because I remembered the Mega Bus schedule. The return trip with Mega Bus would be expected at 8 p.m. That meant I would still have at least 6 hours in Burlington.

“That’s no too  bad.”

But wait, I wasn’t taking Mega Bus but Greyhound.

A few minutes before boarding, I learned that the destination of my bus wasn’t Burlington but Montreal, Canada. Burlington was just one of its stops.

At last, I get on the bus to Burlington on time. Photo by Chau Mai

I thought of going to Canada some day by this bus. But it’d be in the future. Now my target was to enjoy the fall colors on the way to Burlington to offset my unexpected late departure.

At Handover, MA the first stop on the way to Burlington. Photo by Chau Mai

I didn’t recognize my mistake that I didn’t ask the Greyhound woman about the arriving time when she helped me to buy an e-ticket until the bus was approaching Hartford, Connecticut at 12:45.

It was strange to go to Vermont via Connecticut because it is just one state (New Hampshire) away.

Again instead of complaining or blaming on myself, I stepped out of the bus when it arrived at Hartford and enjoyed the view along the streets.

Next to the gas station near the place the bus parked in the Station Market in Hartford. Photo by Chau Mai

It is approaching to 1:30 but I’m still in the middle of the trip. Photo by Chau Mai

A quick shot before returning to the bus. Photo by Shazia Yosuf

I felt relieved when the driver said the next stop would be Burlington and the expected arriving time would be 2:50 but it was subject to the traffic. Now my time in Burlington was supposed to be shortened by nearly 1 hour and a half.

For the rest of the trip, I focused on playing around with a camera.

The bus arrived in Burlington ten minutes late. What disappointed me wasn’t the late arrival, though.

Third disappointment

When the bus was approaching the International Burlington Airport, I wasn’t aware that that was where I would get off. I also wasn’t aware that the airport is about 40 minutes from downtown Burlington by bus. That meant my time in downtown kept to be shortened by 40 minutes.

Why had I been so subjective to think that Greyhound and Mega Bus shared the same station in Burlington? I had the feeling that there was no bus station in downtown Burlington where I planned to start my Burlington exploration. Was I right?

While I intended to catch a cab to downtown because I wouldn’t have much time now, a bus was arriving.

I got on the bus and paid $1:25 for the ride by cash but the driver said: “no cash back” when seeing my intend to insert a $5 bill.

To get downtown, I had to transfer to another bus at University Mall – the Vermont’s largest enclosed shopping mall, according to its website, and from there, it would drive me to Church Street which I didn’t know that was one of my target destinations.

On the bus, I was sitting next to a local man with his hands covering one end of his cane, chatting with him and trying to catch the view along my way because I was excited to see the fall leaves.

On the way to the transfer stop. Photo by Chau Mai

I am quite pleased with the leaf peeping along the way. Photo by Chau Mai

It was  3:20 p.m. now. When the bus approached University Mall, I thought of taking some coins to pay for the transfer bus. But before dropping the passengers off, the driver printed out transfer tickets and handed them to person by person.

Waiting for the transfer bus at University Mall. Photo by Chau Mai

On the way to downtown from University Mall, I was glad to see the sign “Main Street” because several of my planned destinations were on and around this main street.

When the bus stopped at the corner of Main Street and Church Street, it was 3:45 p.m. But I wasn’t hurry at all because I was standing near at least three destinations: Church Street Market Place, City Hall, City Hall Park. And because I wanted to learn something. When it comes to travel, I prefer quality not quantity.

One of the first photos I took from the corner of Main Street and Church Street. Photo by Chau Mai

Arriving downtown Burlington didn’t mean that disappointments would stop following me. Yet it was no longer my fault.

[To be continued]

(Burlington, Vermont October/13/2012)


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