In the spring of 2016 I had the opportunity to take a 6 week (one night a week) Mountain Bike Clinic with the IMBA Certified Instructor and owner of Four Points Mountain Bike School, Rick Sokoloff (and past President/Founder of Stowe Mountain Bike Club). Ultimately, Rick taught me much more than just how to safely navigate the trees for the forest within some of the amazing local single track mountain bike trails of Trapp Family Resort or Cady Hill Forest.
One of the many lessons learned over the course of that clinic and one that clearly spans a much wider influence on me other than mountain biking, was the coaching from Rick that I still hear in my head as I zig and zag through the woods; “stay loose” and “look beyond the obstacles.” These two instructions, I can attest, have informed me of how to navigate my mountain bike through the wood while also guiding my latest life’s adventure as co-owner/Innkeeper of the Brass Lantern Inn here in Stowe, Vermont.
As a road bike enthusiast and bike touring veteran, my focus on the paved roads was to keep my vision very close to the immediate obstacles. That focus in concert with my awareness of the vehicular traffic from behind keeping me safely on the seat of my bike. From that first mountain bike lesson I realized my concept of seeing, minimizing and hopefully avoiding the obstacles of this new terrain in the woods was going to need some radical adjustment. I discovered a very strong relationship with identifying the obstacles but trusting muscle memory and the technology in today’s mountain bikes to avoid injury and allowing me to ride again the next day.
On the mountain bike I’ve discovered, very first hand, that if I keep my focus on that boulder, the one just a bit off center of the trail, just beyond the knobby front tire of my bike that, guess what, if I keep my eyes on it, I will absolutely run smack dab into that boulder. And transfer “boulder” for “tree” or “edge of bridge” or any number of other obstacles on the trail and the same reality applies. Hard lesson(s) learned early on. Fortunately, by maintaining a conservative speed on the bike, and that coaching from Rick from directly behind me on the trail, it left only my pride hurt and thankfully no real damage to me or the bike.
As part of the clinic, Rick had our class practice drills on an open field with just small orange cones spaced in the layout of a slalom course to help us train our brain to look past the most immediate cone to the next cone all while keeping a peripheral eye on the cone we were just passing. My brain did not trust that my inexperience of this concept would allow me to safely navigate the course and not roll over each and every one of those cones. With lots and lots of practice I continued to improve (and perhaps “trick my brain?”) into accepting that all is good, that tree root and boulder combination ahead is not a threat as long as I apply the skills of weight shifting, trusting the bike, and rolling over this obstacle all the while as I look ahead to the next challenge. “Stay loose and look past the obstacles.”
This whole metaphor thing of life, mountain biking and obstacles hit me suddenly one afternoon as I took a break at the bottom of a successfully run single track. And perhaps discovering this new sport of mountain biking at this “mature stage of my life,” and experiencing this thrill of earning your downhill rides, has provided yet another explanation for how and why I so appreciate and enjoy my landing spot here in Vermont in this magical place of Stowe.
Look for me outside,
Of the many rewards of this adventure of being Owners and Innkeepers of the Brass Lantern Inn here in Stowe, Vermont, one of the most special to us is the opportunity to welcome back guests, rather, friends.
We recognize that part of the experience of staying in an intimately scaled Bed & Breakfast such as ours is the sense of place that is only available in this unique style of lodging. In our search for a lodging business we were continually attracted to those B&B’s that were in the 8 to 12 guest room size. With our 9 guest rooms, and, both of us directly involved in the day to day operations of this Inn, we then have the reward of meeting and hosting so many wonderful guests that when they can, and in every way, return as our friends.
Just this past Memorial Day Weekend I was able to slip out of the Inn (thank you Mary Anne!) and go mountain biking with a friend who has stayed here multiple times over the past 7-1/2 years of our tenure here. And due to the generous offer of another returning friend, I have had the chance to drive a Ford Mustang, “Bullitt,” created in similar style to the 1968 Mustang GT and movie of the same name, starring Steve McQueen. Remember those car chase scenes through the streets of San Francisco? Ok, in my little tour through the back country roads of Vermont, I kept all four wheels on the ground (as we of course want our friends to return…). It was just so much fun getting behind the wheel of 300 horses.
Through the various stays of our friends, we catch up with guests who have become engaged, married, are expecting their first child, are taking their first trip away from the kids, visiting their kids for Parent’s Weekend at one of the local colleges and universities, and/or, just returning in search of a peaceful retreat. We continue to share book recommendations with our friends both while here during their stay and through e-mail, exchange holiday cards, etc. We have “regulars” affectionately regarded as “Inn-mates” but always, always recognized as Friends.
As those who have stayed here or other small lodging properties can most likely attest, the social component of interacting with the Innkeepers, staff and other guests is just one of the things that make a stay at a B&B a positively memorable stay. We recognize, very directly, the gift of each guest who stays here and for those who return whether only once or regularly of each friend that through their direct support of our business we are permitted the “pinch-me-to-make-this-real” kind of lifestyle.
“Arrive as guests, depart as Friends” – the photo at the top of this post, is a custom designed and created tray by one of our Friends!
May 9, 2017
Getting out of town can be so refreshing and, admittedly, can also be somewhat stressful. We regularly hear from our guests that traveled here by car, either from our neighboring states of New England to several states away, that shortly after entering Vermont they feel a sense of calming retreat.
Perhaps part of that feeling is from the scenery that the Green Mountain State of Vermont provides as you make your way to the Brass Lantern Inn. There is a wonderful and unique opportunity that is afforded to those who travel through Vermont as our small state does not permit billboards along our roadways. No billboards, anywhere, period. Whether you are making your way up Interstate 89 or via the iconic and historic Route 100 through the Mad River Valley, or Route 7 along the eastern edge of Lake Champlain, your views of this special corner of New England are unencumbered by these unnatural elements blocking those views. It is just one of those special conditions of this amazing place.
As I write this post we are actually away from our Inn as we take a brief retreat ourselves from our role as Innkeepers. We are in Bozman, Maryland, just outside of the town of St. Michael’s. It is an area we know fairly well from our life prior to our 2009 relocation to Stowe, Vermont. This area is rich in the qualities similar to Vermont; friendly locals, unique restaurants, shops, culturally rich and diverse events, peaceful, and just stunning vistas.
If you venture deep enough into this area known as the “Eastern Shore” you will notice a particularly interesting feature. As you drive along the quiet back roads of the area you will note that locals will give you a little wave from the steering wheel of their vehicle. It is just a two to three finger wave, just to say, “Hello, and Welcome.” In Stowe, and perhaps other small towns in Vermont, our special feature is to yield to others trying to make a left turn on Main Street. A simple gesture of unexpected courtesy, but one that is clearly special to experience first hand.
To be sure, the views are quite different here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland than from the back porch of the Brass Lantern Inn, as much of this area that provides the soft edge to the Chesapeake Bay is low and flat, all dramatically different than our view out of the Inn looking up at Mt. Mansfield. Sixty to seventy percent of some of the counties that make up that transitional area from estuary to land on this side of the Bay are considered and protected as wetlands. I know, sounds amazing, right, that we could see what some would perhaps term as swamp land to be so serene.
All this to say it is really calming to the soul to venture to a place, whether far, near or somewhere in between to experience either as the first timer or as a regular migratory traveler a place even subtly different than what you have at home. I think it is the peacefulness of being in a new place that then allows one to appreciate their own special retreat of home that in turn makes whatever stress or effort needed in that process of traveling to reach this place all worthwhile.
This past December 16th marked our 7th anniversary of the start of this wonderful journey of owning the Brass Lantern Inn in Stowe, Vermont. I still vividly recall putting up Christmas Holiday lights on the Inn on 12/17 on a beautifully clear, crisp, bright sunny day. The temperature that day reached a high of -12. Perhaps, and most likely due to the excitement of finally being here in Stowe and “living the dream” it never really felt that cold (“it’s a dry cold,” I convinced myself…).
And while we recognize winter as our signature season, we soon discovered that Stowe is an amazing place to live and visit in any of our distinct four seasons. Moving here from Baltimore, Maryland, what struck me initially was the enthusiastic embrace of winter by the town, and of course, its visitors. If you going to have winter, you might as well go all the way, right? While we loved our experiences in Baltimore, winters there could be grey and wet most of the time. Schools would close on a forecast of 4” of snow (and then not snow….). Here, in Stowe, for many Fridays in the winter, the school kids get to experience Friday afternoons as a “Friday Program.” The school buses line up at 11 a.m., picking up the students and the educational programs move to the slopes of Mt. Mansfield where the kids learn to ski or snowboard. What a wonderful life, right?
The excitement we feel today when we see that first snowfall of the season or any of our several “freshies” (new snow over old) is just as strong today as it was in that first week of ownership, 7 years ago. Much of the reason for this, I believe, is that we have the truly special opportunity to see and experience our winter landscape through the eyes of each and every guest (new and returning). The dream remains strong through the opportunity to be of service to you, our guests. Thank you all for supporting our dream over the past 7 years.
It has been a wonderful, enriching journey so far, and we are looking forward to what lies ahead. Sign on a shop window viewed today; “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”
We are grateful for this opportunity to be here in Stowe, Vermont at the Brass Lantern Inn at all times and certainly at this time and season of the year. We recognize that we are uniquely rewarded by the opportunity to welcome and host so many wonderful people from around this country and the world.
With so much apparent polarization of thoughts and feelings for our fellow human beings in this past year of political rhetoric, perhaps, and hopefully, we can use this time that has been set aside in the governmental calendars of the U.S. to be, dare I say it, a bit more compassionate towards one another. Thanksgiving may just be the perfect transition point to help us all move forward from this year of campaign statements.
The beauty of this current position we find ourselves here in Stowe, Vermont, is that on any typical day we are clearly more focused on this wonderful adventure of Innkeeping and thereby preventing us from paying much attention to the constant “news” feeds from so many electronic channels. Ultimately, I think this has been a good thing. Of course we want to be involved and aware of our local, national and worldwide events, we are intimately aware that our location and special community gives us some “protection” from things that might otherwise give us concern. Not really a “head in the sand” kind as much as, “thank goodness we have a healthy awareness and distance from those things that otherwise may impact our sense of peaceful retreat” here in northern Vermont.
We hope that this Thanksgiving Season gives you time to assess your own blessings and rewards. And perhaps this holiday will also provide a chance to bring us all together in a worldwide family. I know, kind of corny, but as our world becomes more interconnected (at least in a communicative sense, if not geographical) is it not in the best interest of all that we, get along?
This post certainly strays away from the more local focus of the Stowe area that we typically share but feel that we are more alike than different and the opportunity for being thankful just struck me today. And if your own Thanksgiving Day plans are still open why not consider a peaceful retreat to Stowe and the Brass Lantern Inn? Check out our “Thanksgiving in Stowe” special; stay two nights, get third at 30% off. Discounts extend for even longer stays, just call us to confirm.
George and Mary Anne