Falling goats and farewell
The next day begins with sunshine — two days in a row! — and Loraine’s signature croissant French toast, which might satisfy even my husband until lunchtime. That’s fortunate, as we decide to tack on a loop around nearby Isle La Motte. Fellow B&B guests had recommended it over breakfast, but I’d retained little information about it apart from its having an art barn and a 480-million-year-old reef. That, coupled with confirmation from our map that it’s flat and scenic, is enough to justify a side trip.
Isle La Motte lives up to its promise of empty roads and nonstop views out over the lake, but we’re the odd ducks out when we roll up to church in spandex. This particular church — St. Anne’s Shrine — is located at the original site of Fort St. Anne, Vermont’s oldest European settlement, so it’s likely that its saint has seen much worse during the past three and a half centuries.
We arrive at the site of the Chazy Reef just as it begins to drizzle, so we stop for a minute at Fisk Farm, next door. The sign outside advertises the art barn and Sunday tea and concert series, but even though today is Sunday, we suspect that the damp weather and the mosquitoes will keep away all but the most loyal listeners. Thirty minutes before concert time, the audience is an older couple and their aging yellow Labrador, who wags his tail at us for a minute before flopping back onto the deck. I sympathize. In the rain and with 20-plus miles to pedal until we reach the ferry, this side trip seems less appealing than it had over croissants and coffee. We spare a few moments to check out the reef — is that a mollusk? maybe a gastropod? — then head south.
Some sleuthing over the breakfast table had yielded an interesting tidbit that propelled us through the rain: the promise of seeing rare Tennessee fainting goats on a farm just south of Alburgh. These petite goats have a genetic disorder called myotonia congenita that causes them to stiffen or fall over when startled or excited, with no lasting negative consequences.
Last year’s guidebook to the agriculture produced on the islands had invited cyclists to stop by for farm tours, so we make a short detour up a steep drive to Morgan Hill Farm. Owner Sherry Siebenaler meets us at the door, but regretfully tells us that she’s late to pick up a load of hay and, with a glance at our bike shoes, warns us that it’s knee-high mud in the fields.
We’re disappointed, but she assures us that the goats will, in fact, faint over something as inconsequential as Siebenaler appearing with a feed bucket. Knowing that the breed lives long, healthy lives, we thank her for what is undeniably an amusing mental picture and head back down the hill.
We’re parking our bikes at a picnic table outside Hero’s Welcome general store in North Hero when the rain begins in earnest. Our timing couldn’t have been better; even though I ride through North Hero fairly frequently, I’ve never been inside the labyrinthine store. Rooms full of oddities and puzzles found in the best Vermont country stores keep us occupied as our lunch break turns into afternoon coffee while the rain chops the surface of the lake. Only the promise of a few leftover strawberries at Pomykala (closing up shop as we pull up) and the threat of missing the last ferry back to Burlington stirs us from our stools and out into the rain.
We arrive back at the ferry wet, a little chilled, and having missed the last two planned stops of the day — Grand Isle Art Works and Snow Farm Vineyard. Dinner at the Blue Paddle will also have to wait for another day.
But as we joy-ride over on the ferry to see Matt and Emma safely on their way, it’s hard to feel as if we’ve missed much of anything. The Green Mountains are a hazy blur beyond Burlington to our east, but a single ray of sun beams down through the clouds to the west, possibly shining on Isle La Motte, or illuminating the path of Ethan and Ira Allen, leading the Green Mountain Boys back home.
Westley is a freelance writer in Vermont.