Burlington, VT

Home: Cormac’s AirBNB

Four Nights in Burlington

Our first evening, we mostly spent drying and cleaning our wet gear, and waiting for the nightclub below to start its music. But we were given a reprieve! Presumably because it was a Monday night, the club stayed silent, and we slept well, under the hum of the indoor air conditioner keeping the bedroom cool during this heat wave.

Red Square nightclub, along pedestrian-ized Church St., with our AirBNB on the corner above.

When we pulled off all of our panniers to lug everything up to our 2nd floor dwelling, one of the bolts connecting my rear rack to the bike frame fell out. Oh well, good timing at least, I’ve got plenty of time to deal with that later, I’ll get it back in tomorrow. Except when tomorrow came, I realized it hadn’t unscrewed, it had broken in half. And the half without the head was still embedded in the frame with no easy way to get it out. Shit.

Well, again, conveniently there were two bike shops two blocks away. And Rett needed to find some new bike shorts, so we went out into the brutal heat (walking slowly up the hill with the sun on us was nearly impossible). One shop was all backed up, but the other said they could get me in tomorrow morning to get the bolt drilled out. I also picked up a new chain and some brake pads to keep up on those wearing-out parts. Unfortunately Rett had no luck with her shorts, despite Terry Bicycling (her current and preferred brand) being located in… Burlington! But some long chats with their legendary customer-service team got her taken care of and likely locked-in as a customer for life.

By evening it had cooled down enough to make it an almost-comfortable two mile walk to Burlington Beer Company on the south end of town. We wanted to do at least some exploration of Vermont’s biggest city, that my brother had lived around as an unexpected pre-Portland experiment in the late 90s. Once I’d noticed that a few Subarus had passed us on the road, I started counting, and it became laughably ridiculous how many times I said “Subaru!” as another one went by. It was literally close to 1/3rd of the cars on the road being Subarus! (Hondas seemed heavily overrepresented too for some reason). I’d say Burlington is beating even Portland at making their stereotypes literal reality!

“World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet” is what the big dot on Google Maps kept telling us, long before we even walked this way. Seems like it wouldn’t be hard for a mildly motivated welder to take the crown from Burlington.

We had some excellent Rett-beers (including a Sauvignon Blanc-barrel-aged saison) with dinner, and then walked home in the dark along the trail that gives bikes/peds exclusive access to the Lake Champlain lakefront.

Burlington Beer Company
Rett spinning amongst the standing stones along Lake Champlain.

The club definitely started up for Tuesday night, and we didn’t stay out nearly late enough to avoid it, but apparently our sleeping-anywhere skills we’ve honed over 10 months also defend against floor-shaking DJs, because we slept pretty well again.

But in some of those falling-asleep moments, I thought more about my broken bolt, which I realized most-likely broke because it had started to loosen on its own. So the threads might not be frozen at all, and perhaps if I could get just a small amount of turning force on the shaft, I could move it? Thankfully I still remembered that idea in the morning: the bolt had broken with a decent lip across the diameter of the cylinder, and yes, I was able to use the broken head as a rough screwdriver to get it out! So that saved the time and cost of the bike shop. And conveniently there was also an Ace Hardware a couple blocks away, so I could stock up on stainless replacement bolts (including a new solution for my Brooks saddle hack, now involving a threaded rod and three nuts.)

The middle hole has the broken-off bolt.

After three nights, the heat wasn’t abating, and there was more rain in the forecast, so we went ahead and booked a fourth night. Prices in Burlington are insane right now, we were paying more than $200 a night (more than anywhere since San Francisco), for a place with a broken sink, a microwave/refrigerator circuit breaker that kept tripping, only one of the two indoor air conditioners actually cooling, and oh, have we mentioned the club whose music goes until 2am? So it was definitely not the best place financially for us to hole up for four nights, but at least its centrally-located conveniences paid off, and we just didn’t have many other good options.

Our final day we did laundry at the laundromat on the other side of the City Market Co-op. We try to make up for expensive lodging by getting kitchens we can cook in, but in this case the only central grocery store has Whole Foods-plus pricing, so we didn’t save a whole lot there.

I was surprised, that after riding across “middle America” for weeks, Burlington felt almost too liberal-hippie-ish to me. I don’t know if it was just my hypocritical bias that makes me feel less-comfortable in places where there are (other) dirty, strange-looking people with non-standard living situations loitering about, but beyond that, if the other, more-subtle aspects were slightly off-putting to me, it’s easy to imagine a genuine conservative feeling irreparably divided from this other part of their country (and vice-versa, of course). Or maybe it was just the heat getting to me.



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