Middlebury, Vt.

Life in the middle of Vermont.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vermont Weirdness on the Bus

From the Rutland Herald. File this under "you can't make this stuff up."

Man charged in bus joyride

By Brent Curtis Staff Writer - Published: February 25, 2010

MIDDLEBURY — An Addison man arrested Tuesday and charged with stealing a school bus told police he liked driving big rigs and had been taking unapproved joyrides with Betcha Transit buses for years, according to Vermont State Police.

Police arrested 27-year-old Jeremy P. Roberts five days after he allegedly commandeered a school bus from the company that serves the Addison Central School and drove it into a tree along Market Road in Bridport, causing more than $1,000 in damage.

Roberts, cited to appear in Middlebury District Court next month, was charged with one count of operation without an owner's consent and one count of aggravated operation without an owner's consent.

State Trooper Andrew Leise said Roberts is no stranger to school buses or Betcha Transit — Roberts drove a bus for the company for four months more than three years ago — but the company fired Roberts after learning he had convictions for negligent operation of a motor vehicle and attempting to elude police.

But Leise said Roberts told police during a taped confession on Tuesday that he has returned to his old job several times during the past two or three years to take the buses for a spin.

"He said he liked driving big vehicles so he would come by when they weren't open and take one of the buses," Leise said. "He said on one occasion he crossed the Champlain Bridge into New York and drove on I-90. On another occasion, he said he drove one of the buses to North Clarendon and stayed overnight in a motel without the owners ever finding out."

Roberts told police he didn't return the bus he took last Thursday because he lost control of the vehicle while driving east at about 60 mph on the country road. The bus went off the road, sideswiped a tree and became stuck in a field where, Leise said, police found it.

The trooper said he is hopeful that improved security at the bus company will help prevent future thefts. Leise said one of the reasons Roberts was able to make off with the buses was due to the lack of security at the bus lot, where the trooper said the bus keys were left in the vehicles between uses.

"I suggested to them strongly that they need to secure their vehicles better," Leise said.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Lemonade on the Lemon Fair

When life gives you lemons, the saying goes, make lemonade.

So it is that on a Sunday afternoon, instead of returning from cross-country at Reichert or snowboarding at Sugarbush, we are heading west into the sunset – to go ice skating.

For those of us who spend the season playing outdoors, the torrential rain that washed away most of the early winter’s snow a couple of weeks ago had one huge benefit: It flooded hayfields all over Addison County. That, combined with two weeks of frigid temperatures, has created miles and miles of skating lanes where once there was only snow and grassy stubble.

We drive west on 125, headed for fields along the Lemon Fair River.

Walking north and carrying our skates, we come first to ice that cracks easily under our weight. But we’re not worried. We can see the grass underneath the ice, just a couple of inches down.

At last we are out far enough on the ice that, while we can still see the grass underneath, there has been enough of a flood to create a solid sheet of ice, which holds us steadily.

Placing our fleece-covered bottoms on the glassy surface, we tug on our hockey skates, then clamber to our feet.

Out ahead of us there are hundreds of yards of ice. Tentatively at first, then picking up speed, we go zooming across the surface, arms swinging.

Yes, it’s bumpy. No Zambonis here to smooth the surface, as at the municipal rink and the college fieldhouse. We’re skating on what Mother Nature gave us.

Not only are there bumps. In the process of icing over and thickening, the flooded fields have cracked, leaving long seams where the ice rises abruptly an inch or two on to the next gigantic plate. And in a process I don’t really understand, even the smooth stretches of ice rise in gentle rolls, creating differences of 6 inches or more in height.

Despite the vast skating distances out on the field, eventually we go looking for new frontiers.

At the edge of the field is a frozen ditch, three feet deep. On the other side of the ditch, waiting to be explored, is a flooded forest.

We test the icy banks of the ditch. They seem solid enough. We decide to try crossing the ditch, hoping there is not frigid water at the bottom. We’re glad to find it’s a solid down there.

From the bottom, it takes most of our upper-body strength to pull us up the slick other side of the ditch. Finally we clamber up the other side.

Again hoisting ourselves up on the uncertain runners of our skates, we take a few tentative strides -- and begin skating through the woods.

Soon we are slaloming through the trees – taking one to our left, one to our right, around a stump here, sprinting to the next opening.

“I’ve done a lot of tree skiing before,” I say to my skating partner. “But this is the first time I’ve ever been tree skating.”

The westering sun shoots gentle yellow beams through the tree limbs. We not just navigating through trees on the edge of a field. This is a Fairy Forest, and we are skate sprites exploring our domain.

I’m thinking of the times when I was a boy and my father would take my brother and me skating along an abandoned stretch of the year a canal, in the western New York town where we grew up.

Dad was a busy country doctor. But occasionally he could sneak out on a Wednesday afternoon for an outdoor skate with his sons. At home, my mother would have hot chocolate for us before dinner.

As I’m skating the Cornwall field and forest, all the time I’ve been eyeing the Lemon Fair.

In fact, I’ve had my inner eye on it much longer than just today. I’ve fantasized about skating on that river for years, and have never done it.

I’ve spent enough time on the ice out here to know it’s thick enough. “You only live once,” I remind myself.

I lie down on the ice, spread my limbs, and slide off onto the surface of the river.
Standing up and beginning to skate, I find that I’ve been missing the best ice of all.

Though covered with a bit of snow, the surface is almost smooth. I skate hundreds of yards in one distance upstream, then a good bit downstream. My states make little V-shapes in the snow, scratchings of where I’ve been.

Off to the west out there over the Adirondacks, the sun is sinking, a fat fireball.

As it recedes, it shoots a giant skyrocket over red light straight up over the river. If I died right now, it would be OK.

Finally back in the car as it grows dark, I head toward town, the Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia” on the stereo: “Saw my baby down by the river.”

Pulling into the co-op parking lot, I spy a bumper sticker that just about says it all:
“Savor Every Second.”

-- 30 --

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