The gum wall in Seattle. One of the places to not go to in Catherine Price's book, "The Don't Bother Travel Guide." Are there places as bad in Vermont?
I heard a fun little report on NPR this morning about a book, “101 Places Not To See Before You Die. ” Author Catherine Price chronicles tourist attractions of dubious interest, like a prison in Latvia that doubles as a prison, the Beijing tap water museum, and a wall in Seattle that’s covered by zillions of wads of pre-chewed chewing gum.
That got me thinking of writing my own, more modest guide. Places not to go in Vermont.
A bazillion tourists come to Vermont for good reason. Great landscapes, historic villages, pretty architecture, history, cultural events, etc.
But it’s not all beautiful quaint New England. I’m going to get myself in BIG trouble for this, but I’ll give a sneak peak of my guidebook with some examples, in no particular order of gruesomeness:
Stop Lite Lounge, West Street, Rutland. I’ll explain this place with a little story. Several years ago, I went to Rutland to cover a murder for the Burlington Free Press. The alleged murderer used to hang out at the Stop Lite, so at 9 a.m. on a bright, cheerful, pre-Christmas Saturday morning, I went in to talk to people.
Inside, a man was passed out on a bar stool, head slumped on the bar, an upended bottle of Bud Light flowing along the bar and dripping onto the floor. A fat bartender in a stained, tight t-shirt sat sound asleep, snoring enough to make the windows rattle. And the smell! The Sunday morning after a frat party at the municipal landfill next to a manure pit would smell better.
Monday mornings, Vermont District Court, Lake Street, St. Albans. All criminal courts are grim places, with petty criminals being paraded in and out for their weekend misdeeds.
For some reason, the court in St. Albans is much worse, with skinny tattoed young men waiting their turn in the courtroom as their overweight, scowling girlfriends watch. This happens in most courtrooms, but it seems busier in St. Albans.
Williston Road, South Burlington. Looks like the road outside New Jersey’s Paramus Mall, but without the charm. Convenience stores, shopping centers, el cheap motels, restaurants and gas stations line the perennially congested roadway. Everybody wants to turn left into drive-throughs, against traffic, so people either sit and stew or collide with each other. Lane changes are confusing, there’s too many traffic lights and driving through Williston Road would make the Dalai Lama turn homicidal.
Route 4A, Center Rutland. Such wonderful architecture: An old diner with its front collapsing. A cheap, abandoned motel with all its doors open, its windows broken, with moldering mattresses visible. A listing cinderblock industrial building. Ragweed growing from holes in parking lots strewn with rusty, broken equipment. . Filthy houses. The western gateway to Rutland says it all: Go away!
Rest area, northbound Interstate 89, Waterbury: No rest going on there. It lacks bathroom facilities, so people crap in the woods nearby. In those woods, people, men mostly, meet for furtive sexual trysts. (You can tell by the, uh, evidence left behind) Need to go to the bathroom? Hold it and keep driving a couple dozen miles north until you reach a better rest area in Williston. Your bladder will hurt, but you’ll still be glad you waited.
Speaking of Williston….
Wal-Mart, Taft Corners, Williston: It’s no worse or better than any other Wal-Mart. Just try getting to the place. Drive past acres and acres of parking lots, untold number of traffic signals, and the millions of cars inexplicably drawn to this vast shopping destination. Seems like it takes nine hours to arrive at Wal-Mart to complete a ten minute shopping excursion. Can’t these roads and parking be designed better?
One of the houses on Route 118, East Berkshire: Some of the graceful old Victorians in this village have been beautifully restored and are painted, primped and landscaped to the standards of Martha Stewart, without the bad attitude. They’re definitely worth seeing.
But one house stands out. Part of the roof has collapsed. Clapboards are falling off. The yard is a maze of car parts, whole, abandoned cars, a giant, graffiti-scared tractor trailer, and more junk that would fit in New York’s notorious Fresh Kills landfill. Seems the junk is added to daily. I’m taking bets on when the junk finally overwhelms the house, or is piled high enough to become Vermont’s new, highest peak.
OK, I’ll open up to you, dear readers? What other Vermont places should end up on this Do-Not-Go list?