Vermont Airport Introduces “Lactation Station” For Mothers

Traveling mothers have things a bit easier in Vermont at Burlington’s airport after a “lactation station” was installed, allowing mothers to breastfeed or pump in a private booth post-security. The modular Mamava Lactation Station has room for luggage and a stroller, a fold-down table and power adapters, soft lighting, and antimicrobial surfaces. The station provides a clean and private alternative to using a bathroom or other public space during a layover or before a flight.

Burlington Airport was the site of a “nurse in” protest in 2006 after a breastfeeding mother was removed from a flight, and will be the first in the world to have the nursing kiosk. Burlington aviation director Gene Richards worked with Mamava directly, as part of making the airport experience “as relaxing as possible.”

As a parent and frequent traveler, I’m happy to see a way to make travel a little easier, with or without a baby. While I have breastfed (discreetly) in public all over the world without anyone noticing or caring, pumping requires a certain amount of privacy. As this station will also benefit mothers traveling without babies who pump and want to take bottles through security, it’s providing a solution to a problem. Moreover, it shows that airports can respond to passenger needs and add amenities, rather than take them away. We can all drink to that!

How to Plan a Cycling Vacation

Rob Annis

For me, the only thing better than visiting a new place is seeing it for the first time from a bike saddle.

As a cycling fanatic, most of my trips involve a bicycle in one way or another. Whenever I’m heading to a new place, the first place I try to hit is a bike shop, whether it’s to rent a bike or just get recommendations for local routes. For the past few years, my bicycle has been a central part of my travel plans, whether it’s traveling to a far away city for a massive charity bike tour or renting a house and pedaling in every direction for a week.

Every travel website claims the journey is often as important as the destination, and that’s even more true on a bicycle. You’re traveling at slower speeds, and exposed to the elements and your surroundings much more than if you were in a car. In my opinion, there’s no better way to travel.

In San Antonio, a wrong turn led my wife and I down a maze of residential streets. As we attempted to find our way back to our hotel, we stumbled across a beautifully decorated gazebo, where moments before a deliriously happy couple had gotten married. As the mariachi band serenaded the crowd, we watched from afar, not wanting to intrude on the scene. The scene reminded us of our own wedding years before, and quickly eased any frustration that was building inside me after I got us lost.

So what’s the right bike tour for you? If you’re a first timer, going with an established tour company or tagging along with a more experienced friend will be your best bet. Bike travel has its own unique set of challenges – equipment failures, gear options and unforeseen physical limitations – that novice riders might not be ready for. The Adventure Cycling Association is an incredible resource for finding a bike tour or planning your own epic journey.

The one-day or weekend tour

Probably the most common bike tour is a short-term tour. Organized rides typically have multiple distance options, so you can ride 100 miles while your significant other does 30 at their own pace. Organizers will usually have support stations between every 15-20 miles, so you’ll be able to stop, refill your water bottles and grab a quick snack. Some of the better one-day rides have mechanics at most stops to quickly adjust your brakes or solve the mystery squeak coming from your bottom bracket.

If you’re looking for quiet and solitude in nature, this type of tour is not for you. The Hilly Hundred, a two-day autumn ride through the rolling hills and foliage of Southern Indiana, boasts more than 5,000 riders, so you’re never truly alone on the roads.

Guided group tours

Go to the back of almost any cycling magazine and you’ll see offers from multiple companies offering to lead you and a group of other riders in winding tours through gorgeous roads or trails here in America or abroad. Groups tend to be on the small side – expect about a dozen or so riders, depending on the operator – with a follow van filled with drinks, food and repair tools. Depending on the tour, riders will either camp or stay in hotels or inns along the way. Guides typically are extremely knowledgeable about the areas they ride, so be sure to spend some time pedaling next to them.

Be sure to study the routes and mileage before signing up for this type of tour and be honest about your skill level. There are few things worse than signing up for an expensive tour and spending large portions of it in the van because the route is more mountainous than you can handle.

Romantic couple pedal

This is definitely high on my list of to-do trips with my wife. Several tour operators specialize in scenic inn-to-inn trips through Vermont or other states. Each morning you depart from a different bed-and-breakfast, outfitted with a map and a snack. While you and your better half casually pedal to the next inn on your itinerary, your luggage is transported via van. Many of the tours offer different routes to make it as easy or as challenging as you want.

These are great tours, but make sure you know some basic bike repair skills, like changing a flat tire, before you go. Depending on the tour, the operator might not offer roadside assistance.

Self-supported bike packing

For riders interested in riding at their own pace and roughing it a bit, this is a great option. Your only limit is your imagination; some friends and I are currently planning a 3-5 day tour hitting Midwest microbreweries. If you want to camp at night, ultralight gear and food can be towed behind you in a trailer. Or you can try credit-card touring, where you stay at a hotel each night and carry extra clothing and gear in panniers strapped to your bike.

Try to pick friends who are roughly at the same cycling level and temperament as you. If you’re planning on riding mostly back roads, make sure at least one of your group members has the needed mechanical skills to do roadside repair work, like fixing a broken chain or spoke.

Fantasy camp for racers

In July, I’ll be riding part of the Tour de France with Sports Tours International, along with a dozen or more other cycling enthusiasts. For about nine days, we’ll be riding the same roads as the pros – albeit a lot slower. For amateur racers like me, the trip will be the closest I’ll ever come to the WorldTour peleton. During the ride, we’ll leave before the pros, stop for a bit to eat and watch as the real racers rocket past. Afterward, we’ll pedal our way back to the hotel. Most professional races, including the Amgen Tour of California and the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, have similar tours. For other pro cyclist wannabes, there’s the La Vuelta Puerto Rico, a three-day, 375-mile “pro-like experience,” according to the website.

Many of these trips are typically for more advanced and fit riders. Scan the tour operator’s website to get an idea of what to expect before typing in your credit card information.

A Spooky Road Trip On Vermont’s Haunted Highways

The state of Vermont thinks it has plenty of ghosts and is looking to share them with the world, at least during the witching month of October. In the southwest part of the state, known as “Bennington Triangle,” hikers mysteriously went missing between 1920 and 1950. At Lake Memphremagog in the north, the ghost of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne has been spotted walking across the top of the lake. To share stories, Vermont has launched Haunted Highways, a collection of ghost stories with lodging packages available statewide.

“Ghosts have been part of the Vermont landscape for hundreds of years, marking each phase of Vermont’s historical development,” said Joseph Citro, Vermont’s official Ghost-Master General and author of “The Vermont Ghost Guide” in a statement. “Across all corners of the state, vengeful vagrants, lovelorn ladies, and lonely lads lurk in Vermont’s eternal shadows, and it’s wonderful how the state is embracing its spooky past.”

Travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these elusive figures can follow Vermont’s highway system, starting in the southern part of the state in Bennington, then driving North on Route 7 to The Equinox resort off exit three to historic Manchester Village where the spirit of Mary Todd Lincoln is said to haunt the third and fourth floors of the resort’s south wing.

Along the way, several spooky Vermont inns and bed-and-breakfasts close to ghost sighting areas – some with haunted rooms and the home to strange events – have special seasonal offers.

The Green Mountain Inn in Stowe, Vermont, wants guests to listen for the tap dancing steps of the inn’s former horseman Boots Berry. Born in 1840 in the servant’s quarters of the Green Mountain Inn, Boots Berry was a local hero before he was fired for excessive drinking. Legend has it, he saved a little girl stuck on the Inn’s roof during a snowstorm before slipping and falling to his death. During severe winter storms, Boots can still be heard tap dancing on the third floor of the hotel. From October 21 through November 30, 2012, rates start at $96 per night based on double occupancy.

The Readmore Bed & Breakfast in Bellows Falls, Vermont, is offering a bottle of local Spooky Sparkling Cider and scary tales about the haunted “Cook’s Room” to travelers who book a two-night stay with breakfast through November 30, 2012. Total package price starts at $300, based on double occupancy.

The White House Inn in Wilmington, Vermont, haunted by the presence of the baroness who originally occupied the inn, is hosting a special séance/haunted tour with dinner on October 27, 2012. Rates for a two-night stay through November 30, 2012 start at $349, based on double occupancy.

The Golden Stage Inn- Interstate 91 in eastern Vermont, where guests and staff alike have noticed strange events in the “new” wing, and where innkeepers have become familiar with a young friendly spirit they’ve named George, who appears dressed in a traveling cloak and some say bears a remarkable resemblance to Robert Redford. The Golden Stage Inn is encouraging curious visitors to have their own ghostly experience through November 30, 2012, with rates beginning at $165 per person based on double occupancy.

Forty Putney Road Bed & Breakfast in Brattleboro, Vermont, is showcasing the spooky side of town at locations such as the Retreat Cemetery, just steps away from the inn, where numerous ghost sightings have occurred. Through November 30, 2012, rates start at $159 per night based on double occupancy.

This video has more on the ghosts of Brattleboro, which seem to center on the cemetery of the former Vermont Asylum and a stone tower built by Asylum patients as well as a haunted castle.

[Flickr photos by VTscapes]

Discovering Lincoln Family History At Hildene: Robert Todd Lincoln’s Vermont Estate

The things you find tucked away in someone’s safe after they’ve died don’t always reflect well on them. But in the case of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s eldest child and the only one to survive to adulthood, secret documents found in his safe helped restore his image as a righteous man and a good son. In the years after his father’s assassination, his mother, Mary Todd, suffered from severe depression, paranoia and mental illness to the point where her behavior became a concern to the family.

Mary Todd, who also had to bear the burden of losing three sons that died young, was said to have an irrational fear of poverty and sometimes walked around with thousands of dollars in government bonds sewn into her outfits. After she almost jumped out of a window to escape a fire that was a figment of her imagination, Robert had her committed to an asylum in Batavia, Illinois, in 1875.

Mary Todd got a lawyer and after a trial that made her son Robert look like a dirtbag who needlessly pushed his mother into an asylum without legitimate grounds, she was released. She drifted around Europe for four years before returning to Springfield, Illinois, where she died in 1882 at age 63. The cause of death was listed as paralysis and many believe that she may have had a stroke.

In 1978, nearly 50 years after Robert Todd Lincoln died at 82, caretakers of Hildene, his country home in Manchester, Vermont, found some papers labeled “MTL Insanity Papers” in a safe tucked away in his bedroom closet. The files, which contained Robert’s correspondence with family members and medical professionals regarding his mother’s condition, revealed that he wasn’t the uncaring son he’d been portrayed as. The file proved that his concern had always been his mother’s health and well-being.

Learning more about Robert Todd’s complex relationship with his mother is just one of many reasons to visit Hildene, the Lincoln family home in Vermont where Robert Todd Lincoln lived and died. Visitors can tour the stately home, built in 1905, visit a beautifully restored century old Pullman car, check out the estate’s farm and take a long stroll on the estate’s extensive grounds.

Robert was said to have had a distant relationship with his father as a boy, thanks to the demands of his father’s career and the fact that he was often away from home. He was 21 when his father was assassinated but managed to carve out a remarkable career of his own, even as his mother was descending into increasingly worse mental health. He was a successful lawyer who later served as the U.S. Secretary of War and U.S. Ambassador to The United Kingdom before becoming the President and Chairman of the Pullman Company.

When Robert was 20, he and his mother stayed at the Equinox Hotel and he was taken by the natural beauty of the Manchester area. He vowed to return one day and did just that 40 years later, purchasing a 500-acre plot that was to become a country home that would serve as a residence for Lincoln family descendants until 1975. While his father kept his summer home just miles from the White House, Robert Todd preferred Vermont’s natural splendor. Today, the residence is maintained by the non-profit Friends of Hildene, and if you don’t mind plunking down $400-500 per night, you can stay at the Equinox if you want the full Lincoln experience.

My children enjoyed petting the farm animals but the highlight of the visit for me was touring Sunbeam, a restored 1903 Pullman car that was moved to Hildene a few years ago to honor Robert time at the company and the fact that his father signed the Transcontinental Railways Act, which paved the way for the construction of the transcontinental railroad. In the heyday of trail travel, more than 100,000 Americans slept on Pullman cars while traveling around the country each day. It might have taken forever to get from Chicago to New York, but if you take a walk through Sunbeam, you’ll wish it were still possible to travel the country in Pullman style.

[Photos and videos by Dave Seminara]

Bringing My Love Of Backpacking Home

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” – Henry Miller

Every year, I spend months saving money for backpacking trips abroad and learning about the foreign cultures I’ll be visiting. The farther away from home and the more exotic the destination, the more value I put on the trip. It wasn’t that I didn’t think cities drivable from my home weren’t worthwhile; but I wanted to experience unknown local delicacies, mountainous landscapes, ecofriendly villages, rich history, interesting communities and just a place that was generally different from my home of Long Island, New York. How could I possibly do that without getting on a plane?

My friend Mike recently invited me to come visit him in Rhode Island. I agreed, expecting nothing more than a long weekend of photographing Newport mansions, going for drinks in Providence and just relaxing on the beach. Surprisingly, the jaunt turned into a mini road trip of New England, as well as an eye-opening experience about how to find culture in your own backyard.Rhode Island

“What’s a lobster roll? And Rhode Island has it’s own clam chowder?” I asked Mike as we perused the numerous cafe signs wandering the streets of Newport.

Apparently, a lobster roll has nothing to do with sushi, as I had assumed, but is fresh cooked lobster meat tossed with mayonnaise and served on a grilled hot dog bun. Additionally, Rhode Island clam chowder is a local favorite, with a clear broth, potatoes, onions, bacon and quahogs. Both were delicious, and I couldn’t believe I’d gone 25 years without sampling either.

“Now we’ve got to get you some Coffee Milk,” said Mike, telling me about the state’s official drink. “It’s like chocolate milk, only with coffee syrup instead.”

Continuing our tour through Newport, I was able to sip a classic cocktail at America’s oldest tavern and learn about the history of the famous Newport Mansions, embodying 250 years of history and featuring among the highest number of surviving colonial buildings of any city in the country. Providence, the city I knew only for its bars, actually proved quite historical with a walk down Benefit Street. Immersing myself in 18th century architecture, it was hard to imagine that I was only three hours from home.

New Hampshire

Next we were off to Franconia, New Hampshire. As we drove toward The Granite State, sea-level landscape transformed into mountain peaks reaching over 4,000 feet. The sense of adrenaline I only get while backpacking immediately washed over me, and I again I forgot I wasn’t all that far from home.

Mike and I spent three days hiking the Appalachian Trail, swimming in lakes and waterfalls and summiting Mount Washington, the highest mountain in the northeastern United States at 6,288 feet. I called my
mom excitedly about my newly discovered landmark, just as I had when hiking in the Andes in South America and the Blue Mountains in Australia.

The downtown area where Mike and I went for a nice dinner on our last night in town reminded me of some of the small towns I often visit abroad.

“This is the theater district,” Mike joked, pointing to a group of older men playing guitar at a one-stop pizza/ice cream/T-shirt shop, which was adjacent to an all-in-one dry cleaning/postal/Internet cafe/dog daycare. We walked across the street to the locally famous “Dutch Treat,” where I was once again introduced to a new meal, a burger topped with a flaky crab cake. While not authentic New Hampshire cuisine per say, it still made me feel like I do on backpacking trips when I’m able to find a cozy local restaurant selling a never-before-tasted food.


In Vermont, I experienced a degree of culture shock. It began at the Windham Hill Inn in West Townsend, a beautiful hotel in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the rolling hills of the Green Mountains, peaceful meadows and colorful gardens. The inside smelled of fresh-roasted granola, and locally made teddy bears adorned each room. I thought the emphasis on local products and country living was unique to the hotel; however, journeying into the nearby towns showed me southern Vermont was passionate about going local and community closeness. In fact, I didn’t see one chain establishment during the five days I was there.

In Brattleboro, almost every shop had a sign advising people to “go local.” Remnants of the town’s rich hippie culture from the 1970s are still visible, as you weave in and out of the many bead stores, eclectic galleries and laid-back cafes and bars. Colorful signs advertising events like poetry slams, indie film screenings, farmers markets, environmental workshops and fiddle contests abound, and it isn’t surprising to find locals fighting for moral cause.

Venturing off to the small village of Chester, I was transported to a time when Late Victorian, Colonial Revival and Federal-style architecture was the norm. In Chester, it still is. I was astounded by the depth of warmth conveyed by the city. Wandering down Lovers Lane as well as nibbling on scones at Inn Victoria‘s high tea and playing with the 10,000 plus teddy bears at Hugging Bear Inn and Toy Shoppe helped me experience an unusual culture.

Before heading home, we stopped in Grafton, and sampled some of Vermont’s local cheeses made with raw milk from nearby farmers as well as Vermont maple syrup candies at Grafton Village Cheese. Here I purchased souvenirs from the trip, Pure Maple Butter for my mom and Palmer Lane Maple Jelly Beans for my dad. I felt like such a tourist, but in a good way.

Going Home

For me, the trip wasn’t a “staycation,” “nearcation,” or any other “nearby getaway” term that implies escaping from reality to relax. Instead, it was a chance to experience cultures different from my own, learn about interesting pieces of history and sample foods I had never tried. I discovered new sites, sounds, flavors and lifestyles, but most importantly, I discovered a new way to travel by bringing my love of backpacking home.