Road Trip to Burlington, Vermont

The 150-mile drive from Canton, New York, to Burlington, Vermont, went quickly as we listened to a book on tape (“Dog on It,” By Spencer Quinn) and looked out the window at windmills and Amish buggies going by.

We toured the University of Vermont with 20 or so others, exploring the campus with our tour guide, a biology major.

She led us around the sprawling university which bustled with activity in spite of the day of the week (Sunday).

We learned about the seven undergraduate colleges where 10,500 students pick from 101 majors and the average undergraduate class size is 31. We learned about UVM’s “green mindset”: UVM was one of the first college campuses to ban bottled drinking water and has several LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings on campus.

We learned that there is always something to do when you’re not studying:  there are over 150 student clubs and organizations and over 70 opportunities to play sports, from varsity to club to intramural. And we learned (second hand) that the food is good and accommodates students with a variety of dietary restrictions, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and food allergies. There is even a Ben & Jerry’s on campus.

We spent the afternoon and evening strolling around Burlington, in and out of stores on Church Street and swinging in swings by the shore of Lake Champlain.

We ate a snack at El Cortijo Taqueria and Cantina (I had a yummy taco with sweet potatoes, guajillo salsa, kale, and pepitas) and dinner at Sweetwaters where my daughter ate gluten free, and everyone agreed that the burgers and mashed potatoes were the best they’d ever eaten.

Trip taken October 2012.

Road Trip to Upstate New York!

Blue lights flashed behind us as we drove through the small town of Malone, New York, about 11:30 p.m. and just 40 miles from our destination, St. Lawrence University. Our right rear tail light was out according to the chatty young policeman who pulled us over. Less than 5 minutes later, blue lights flashed again, and another friendly policeman, this one from the state, told us the same thing. It wasn’t until after midnight that we pulled into the town of Canton, after 7 hours and over 370 miles in the car.

After replacing the tail light, we drove over to my husband’s alma matter where the trees were turning, the rain intermittent, the buildings old but majestic.

On our semi-private tour, with just one other family, we toured the campus, walking in and out of classrooms, lecture halls, and even a dorm room where a real student studied. (Unexpected bonus: students on the tour receive a giant cookie and their application fee waived.)

We saw the “treehouse” study areas at the library, bought shirts at the bookstore, and ate lunch in one of the dining halls, with meal passes from the admissions office: pasta, pizza, a turkey sandwich (on gluten-free bread), salad bar, and frozen yogurt.

As we drove around campus, we stumbled upon a soccer game and stopped to watch SLU beat Hobart in the game’s second half (3-0).

After gluten-free Mexican at the Hot Tamale in downtown Canton, we joined the crowds at Appleton Arena to watch the Saints’ ice hockey team beat Carleton University in overtime (3-2).

A pizza roll at Sergi’s was the late night snack for the boys.

According to its website, SLU was founded in 1856 and is a liberal arts college offering over 60 majors to its 2300 undergraduates. Seventy percent of the students participate in volunteer or community service while enrolled at SLU, and 50 percent of the students choose to study off campus, whether in the Adirondacks or abroad.

Pizza roll photos by Tommy Taft.

Trip taken October 2012.

Exploring Amherst

We explored Amherst the other day, my kids and I. It was school vacation, and equipped with directions, a map, and gluten-free food recommendations from the internet, we set off, arriving in the town of Amherst around 11 a.m.

With its white outlined brick buildings, tree lined streets, abundance of colleges (there are five nearby), eateries, and bookstores, it’s easy to see why the town of Amherst has been voted one of the best college towns in  the U.S. more than once.

After parking in front of Amherst College’s gym, we checked in at the Robsham Memorial Center for Visitors before wandering around the private school’s 1000-acre campus. Few of the college’s 1800 students were around (where were they? At lunch? In class?), and my voice echoed outside between the buildings. The grass was green, the grounds immaculate, the buildings stately, the school quiet.

A mile up the road we found the lunch place I’d read about, The Loose Goose. We each chose a different sandwich (from hummus and avocado to turkey and bacon) on a different type of bread (French baguette, ciabatta roll, and even gluten-free sandwich bread) before exploring a few of the shops down the street.

After an ice cream at Bart’s, it was time for our 2:30 tour of UMass.

The University of Massachusetts 1,450-acre campus was bustling, and people were everywhere. Only a short distance from Amherst College and only one and a half times its acreage, UMass’s total student population is over 27,500. We joined a tour of 50 other parents and teens and explored the campus with its variety of architecture, from quaint New England brick buildings to the new 26-story library.

We learned that students at any of the five area colleges, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Hampshire College, in addition to UMass and Amherst College, can take classes at any of the other schools. Even men can take classes at the all-women schools of Mt. Holyoke and Smith.

We didn’t make it to nearby Northhampton or to any of the other campuses, but instead headed home, our first impression of Amherst, and especially UMass, a good one.

Trip Taken April 2012