My wife and I took the kids on a roadtrip, a brief vacation over the Columbus Day holiday. We drove up to Vermont and remained there for a few days in the crisp autumn weather. We experienced rolling countryside, amazing Fall foliage and natural beauty in abundance. I’ll be sure to post some of those experiences eventually on the permanent travel website. However, you’d rather hear about the geo-oddities I collected during the journey, correct? Alright then, let’s get started.
NOT the Longest Covered Bridge in the United States
Check the Intertubes and you’ll see lots of references to the Cornish-Windsor Bridge over the Connecticut River, connecting Vermont and New Hampshire (see map) as the longest covered bridge in the United States. The 1866 structure stretches an impressive 449 feet in two spans. I enjoyed driving across it immensely and I loved the nostalgic script above the entrance, "Walk Your Horses or Pay Two Dollar Fine." It’s quaint, it’s historic, and it served as the longest for nearly a century and a half. That’s not true today.
It was eclipsed by the 613 foot Smolen-Gulf Bridge in Ashtabula County, Ohio in October 2008. What?!? 2008?!? Seriously, who still builds covered bridges?
The world still hasn’t caught up with the reality so many sources still cite the Cornish-Windsor Bridge as the most extreme even though it’s now only the former longest covered bridge in the United States.
The Green Mountain Railroad
I know we have a couple of railfans in the readership so perhaps some of you will enjoy this video purely on its merits. We took a two-hour excursion on the antique White River Flyer, a part of the historic Green Mountain Railroad. The kids loved it.
Sure, the slow-motion chug from White River Junction along the western bank of the Connecticut River was enjoyable in its own right. I also appreciated one other noteworthy aspect:
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The Connecticut River serves as the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire, but the two states don’t share the river equally. It belongs to New Hampshire. However it wasn’t always possible to keep the railroad on Vermont’s banks because of the landforms along the river. There are several causeways and bridges. The train leaves Vermont ever-so-briefly each time the train crosses one of those sections, and clips little corners of New Hampshire along the way. I’ve isolated one of the examples in the map, above.
This little point of trivia amused more much more than it fascinated my family.
The Phineas Gage Monument
We also drove through Cavendish, Vermont during our travels. Cavendish is located in the quiet, rural interior of the state, tucked away securely within a forested valley. The most noteworthy event in the town’s history occurred in 1848 when Phineas Gage used a 3-foot iron rod to tamp down blasting powder during construction of a railroad bed. The powder ignited unexpectedly and sent the rod completely through his skull. He survived but his personality changed. His unfortunate accident became a famous medical case study that continues to have relevance today.
Cavendish placed this marker in the middle of town (see map) in 1998, the 150th anniversary of the event. Notice the skull at the bottom, right side of the plaque. It shows the route the iron bar took through Phineas Gage’s head in rather grizzly detail. The monument also has a map at the middle-top that shows where the accident took place about a kilometre to the southeast.
Loyal reader Matthew has a photograph of the actual skull and tamping road that he observed at Harvard Medical School’s Warren Anatomical Museum. He cautions that the spot cited on the monument might not be exactly correct because it wasn’t recorded precisely at the time. Still, I love the idea of a macabre treasure map built into a monument even if it might be slightly off.
I know several of you are dedicated county counters. Here are the fifteen new counties I recorded during the trip.
- New Hampshire: Grafton; Merrimack; Sullivan
- New York: Chenango; Delaware; Otsego; Rensselaer; Schenectady; Schoharie; Washington
- Vermont: Bennington; Orange; Rutland; Windham; Windsor
I’m now up to 1,071 counties or 34.1%.