Fall is here, and the colors are blazing; take it all in from the seat of a bicycle.

Fall colors line a typical quiet Vermont country road.

Fall colors line a typical quiet Vermont country road.

For decades, during the summer as well as the fall, the October Country Inn has been home-base for those who come to experience the idyllic Vermont countryside from the seat of a bicycle.  In fact, the OCI was originally founded to satisfy the lodging needs of the nascent Vermont bike tour businesses.  The incredible scenery along a plethora of quiet country roads make Vermont a destination for cyclists from near and far.

There are many route options to choose from.  Just in our little corner of the state, a dozen or so cycling routes can be found on the Vermont Bike Rides website.  These routes all come with maps and blow-by-blow road directions.   All you’ll need is a bicycle, a water bottle, and the inclination.  It’s not mandatory to stay with us, many don’t, but we’d love to have you if you decide against camping out.  Don’t forget, after your ride, the Longtrail Brewery is just across the street.

Old dairy barn alonside Pomfret Road.

Old dairy barn alonside Pomfret Road.

One of the cycling routes listed on the Vermont Bike Rides website, the Pomfret loop, is a 24 mile tour of Vermont hill farm country and river valleys that delivers a spectacular variety of fall foliage color vistas.  This particular ride begins and ends at the Billings Farm and Museum, outside of Woodstock, Vermont.  Park in the overflow parking lot and begin the ride by riding north on Route 12 for 0.6 miles and take a right on the “Y” intersection with Pomfret Road.  Follow it as it turns to the right at the Teago General Store

Colors light up the Vermont hill farm counry.

Colors light up the Vermont hill farm country.

(2.6 miles) and begins to climb, winding through incredibly beautiful hill farm country. When you reach the top of the climb (5.8 miles), shift into your big ring for a long downhill cruise. This leg starts out winding through open pasture land, and then funnels into a narrow creek side valley. Upon reaching the White River (11.8 miles), the road bends to the right, and follows the White River. This road dead ends at a stop sign (12.4 miles). To the left is a

Taftsville covered bridge.

Taftsville covered bridge.

bridge that crosses the White River, leads to Route 14, and the West Hartford General Store.  Turn right onto the Quechee/West Hartford Rd. (unmarked) and begin to climb. At the top (15.9 miles) shift into high gear once again for a shorter downhill sprint. Keep on the lookout for a paved road on the right that intersects with the Quechee/West Hartford Rd. at a very shallow angle (17.6 miles). Carefully turn right on this road (Quechee Main St., unmarked), and almost double back in the direction you came. Follow this road through and beyond the Quechee Country Club.  Turn right onto River Rd. (21.0 miles) when you reach the Taftsville covered bridge. At this point, River Rd. is hard packed dirt following the Ottauquechee River. River Rd. turns to pavement (23.2 miles). Turn right into the Billings Farm overflow parking lot to complete the ride (24.0 miles).

 

 

Fall colors in Vermont–one of the wonders of the world.

Fall colors at the October Counry Inn.

Fall colors at the October Country Inn.

As the last days of September slide away, shorter days and cooler nights work their magic on the foothills of the Green Mountains bordering the October Country Inn.  No matter how many years we’ve watched summer morph into fall, this incredible display of color always astounds us.  No wonder our guests come from around the world during this time of year more than any other just to see this unique and remarkable display.

leavesApart from just witnessing nature’s raw beauty as the foliage changes its color, you might wonder how this change comes about.  Leaves are nature’s food factories.  Plants take water from the ground through their roots, take carbon dioxide from the air and, with sunlight and through a process called photosynthesis, turns it into oxygen which is released back into the air, and glucose which provides the energy for life and growth.  Photosynthesis happens in the presence of sunlight and chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is also the chemical that gives plants and leaves their green color.

redtrees

As fall approaches, and the days get shorter and shorter, Vermont’s hardwood forest begins to shut down its food-making factories.  The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves as sunlight diminishes, and as the bright green fades away we begin to see combinations of yellow, orange, red, and purple.  These colors show the traces of other chemicals that have been in the leaves all along but that were masked by the volume of green chlorophyll needed to enable photosynthesis to provide enough food for the trees to live and grow.

Of course, knowing a bit about why this remarkable display of color occurs is all very interesting, but it’s a poor substitute for being in its presence.  If you’ve got a bucket list, make sure that spending time in Vermont during fall foliage is on it.  If you don’t have a bucket list, this is a good reason to start one.

Meatloaf–our favorite version of this American classic.

meatloaf2Meatloaf is not a dish we typically serve at the October Country Inn because it seems like red meat dishes have fallen out of favor for so many.  We sure like to cook it for ourselves, however.

Before we get into the preparation details–because there are so many meatloaf ingredient variations and possibilities–a brief discussion of the main components might be helpful.  A meatloaf contains four basic components: ground meat, filler, liquid, and a binder that holds the whole thing together.  For the ground meat, look for a prepared meatloaf mix that is as close as you can find to two parts of beef, to one part each of pork, and veal.  For the filler, you want something that adds to the texture without adding a distinct flavor.  Oatmeal, bread or cracker crumbs do this job well.  Eggs bind everything together.  Add some liquid that will moisten the loaf without adding it own distinct flavor.  A dairy product like whole milk or plain yogurt is our favorite.

To cook a meatloaf, gather the following ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of meatloaf mix
  • 6 strips of thin-sliced bacon
  • 2/3 cup of oatmeal or cracker crumbs, or 1 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup of glaze (ketchup, barbecue, or chili sauce)

meatloaf1After you’ve gathered all the ingredients, prepare a foil lined baking pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the chopped onion and garlic for about 5 minutes or until softened.  Set aside to cool.  Mix the eggs, milk or yogurt, thyme, salt, black pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco in a medium bowl.  Add this egg/milk mixture to the meat in a large bowl along with the crackers, oats, or bread crumbs, the sautéed onions and garlic, and the chopped fresh parsley.  With wet hands, knead the whole thing together into an evenly blended lump.  Fashion into a loaf of about 9 by 5 inches on the foil-lined baking sheet and lay the bacon strips crosswise over the top tucking the ends under the bottom of the loaf.  Brush half the glaze over the top and bake until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, about 1 hour.  Cool about 20 minutes, apply the remaining glaze, slice and serve.