Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021
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Miles to go

Follow Highway 100 through
Vermont's quaintest towns

Two hundred miles, two lanes and four traffic lights. That pretty much sums up Vermont's Highway 100, a picturesque stretch of blacktop that passes through some of Vermont's quaintest towns. There are no billboards, no strip malls and no fast-food franchises - just white-steepled churches, antique shops, country inns, historic sites and some of the state's best ski resorts.

After a four-hour drive down the interstate from Montreal, I start off in Stamford just inside the Vermont/Massachusetts border and head north along what Car & Driver magazine called one of the 10 Best Driving Roads in America. The highway threads through a wide valley and the mountains in the distance take on a soft grey hue. I coast past butter-coloured farm houses with white trim as the road slips around the North River.

In Whitingham, I stop at the general store. Next door, a plaque commemorates the birthplace of Brigham Young, a 19th-century frontiersman and early Mormon leader. Locals here still stop at the store to get their mail, grab a coffee or just shoot the breeze.

After a hairpin turn at Jacksonville, I'm on a side road heading towards the river and the North River Winery. This cottage industry produces 65,000 bottles of fruit wine and cider each year, including varieties such as Blueberry Apple, Vermont Pear and a dozen others. You can take the opportunity to sample their wares in the wood-panelled tasting room. The wines, including many organic offerings, are mostly produced from locally grown fruit. This year they've also created a Merlot and American Chestnut Chardonnay with grapes from Long Island.

Back on the road, the highway climbs through the hills of the Green Mountain National Forest, snaking past clapboard houses and trailer homes. I crack open the car window; I hear the river rushing and smell the smoke from wood stoves.

I'm eager to reach West Dover, home to one of the most spectacular inns in Vermont. Housed in a converted barn, the Inn at Sawmill Farm is run by owner-chef Brill Williams. It's known for its cuisine and has been a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux group since 1984. For the last decade, the property has received Wine Spectator magazine's annual Grand Award for its outstanding wine cellar. From Château Pétrus to the best small California wineries, it's not difficult even for a seasoned wine lover to find something tempting here.

By the time I reach South Londonderry, I've started to take white clapboard churches for granted. No matter how small the village, there's always a white church - maybe two - its steeple slicing the sky. The area's many Greek Revival buildings, with temple-like pediments, columns and mouldings, signal that I'm heading for the best part, the historic stretch of this drive.

In Weston, I step back in time at the Vermont Country Store, a restored rural shop that sells nostalgic and hard-to-find items, such as Raggedy Ann dolls, cotton slipcovers and Dr Sloan's Liniment for Arthritis. From there the road to Plymouth skirts Echo Lake where cabins and summer camps huddle in the pines across the narrow basin. This is where Henry Ford would meet with Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone at the Echo Lake Inn.

In Plymouth, I come across the Calvin Coolidge Homestead standing on a hill outlined against the icy blue sky. It's closed in winter, but still worth a peek to see a part of American presidential history. Coolidge was born in Plymouth and later spent his summers in the family home. It was here when he was vice-president that Coolidge received word in the middle of the night that president Harding had died. By the light of a kerosene lamp, Coolidge's father, a notary public, administered the oath of office swearing in his son as the 30th president of the United States on August 3, 1923.

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