Friends & Family: Ludlow, Vermont in the Shadows of Okemo

With the temperature dropping and skies threatening, I only hoped that I would make Ludlow before nightfall and, ideally, dry. Per my standard riding practice (SRP), I do whatever I can to avoid interestates and multilane highways, I found myself skirting around and then riding through Concord, the capital of New Hampshire.

Sporting a glistening gold dome like the capitol buildings of its neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and other New EIMG_0079 - Version 2.jpgngland states including Connecticut, the New Hampshire Capitol building was completed in 1819, seven years before the the first dome, made of copper, was set on our nation’s capitol building in Washington, DC.

For the first time on this journey, I wondered why I was riding. As cars passed me on the slick roads, young children pressed their nose against the cold windows or their parents’ cars seemingly giggling at me in my bright yellow rainsuit. Perhaps they thought I was Big Bird riding away on some wet adventure. Hunched over and and in a rhythm like that of a metronome gone haywire, I wiped the drops of sheeting rain from my face-shield wishing I was in a warm car.

I did arrive in Ludlow just as the sun dipped behind Okemo Mountain. While the rain-suit did I good job keeping me dry, my numb toes and soggy cover to my AirHawk seat cushion provided the evidence that today’s ride was the most physically challenging of the trip, so far.

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Ludlow Vermont was chartered as a city just 15 years before Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1761 and is also the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. Though it wasn’t the rich history, notable historic village nor the ski resort which brings hordes of New Englanders here in the winter that brought me to Ludlow. No I rode through whipping rain, nasty wind and biting cold to visit The Timber Inn Motel.

Well, even that’s not entirely true. Actually, I came to visit a friend who not only attended my high school, but also my college, Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Glenn Heitsmith and I also served the Syracuse University Ski Club, organizing weekend trips to Vermont ski resorts. Yet like others I’ve encountered on my east coast tour, I haven’t seen Glenn in more than 20 years — perhaps longer. But he, his family and the infamous Inn he owns were sponsors and supporters of my WorldRider journey and for this trip, he graciously offered accommodations.

While familiar with Ludlow and Okemo Mountain, I’d never skied or visited. And until Glenn brought it to my attention, I had no idea that I had family living and working in Ludlow. I guess because I come from a fairly large extended family, there are many relatives I’d never met. While I’d heard of Joe Karl and his family, and my father had met him on a few occasions, I’d never met. So with a warm motel room and my friend Glenn in Boston for the weekend visiting his son, I arranged to meet Joe and his family–his wife Kathleen and their three lovely daughters.WorldRider 2010 cut.JPG

Glenn not only arranged me to meet long lost relatives, so to speak, but also to deliver my WorldRider presentation to the local community Rotary Club. An article in the local paper as well as a broadcast to other Rotary Clubs, the room was packed at one of Ludlow’s finest restaurants, D.J.’s — even three Rotarian motorcyclists from elsewhere in Vermont showed up to be inspired by my adventures.

Before making tracks toward Syracuse and Rochester New York, Glenn took me on a hiking tour over the Healdville Trail which winds through Okemo State Forest and to an historic fire tower which offers vast views of Okemo Mountain and the surrounding forests and mountains. Glenn is working to gain support to maintain the old fire tower which was built by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. We then worked out way to the summit of the mountain and the ski area before making a muddy trek down a few grassy and muddy ski runs. We noticed hoses and other plumbing fittings indicating that the ski area was preparing to make snow very soon.

With more foul weather and rain on the forecast, I packed up Doc and after an excellent lunch in nearby Proctorsville at Singleton’s General Store, where not only can one find a fresh and tasty sandwich, but all the whiskey, guns and ammo you could ever desire.

I only rode as far as Saratoga Springs the day I bid my friends and family farewell in Ludlow. Next stop? Syracuse New York where I’m hoping to connect with former professors and walk in the shadows of my younger self.

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My cousin Joe Karl — after all these years, I finally meet him and catch up in Ludlow, Vermont


Joe’s beautiful twins, Brigid and Paige sporting fresh vegetables from the family garden. A great homemade dinner at the Karl residence — everybody helped!


Joe’s eldest, Riley had to work on a little homework before dinner.

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View from Timber Inn Motel in Ludlow, VT toward Okemo Mountain

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Climbing the historic fire tower in the Okemo National Forest. Glenn is hoping to bring it to full restoration.

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Historic village and town of Ludlow Vermont from atop Okemo Mountain’s historic fire tower.

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Rushing waters and plenty of fallen leaves as Glenn tours me through the state forest.

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Hiking the Healdville Trail with an ad hoc snowball fight thrown in.


Glenn’s wife Donna holds her cards tightly after a wonderful meal and fun with the kids.

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Erik was the ringleader of the evenings card game. Seems the rules changed either to suit his hand or extend bedtime just a few minutes later. I couldn’t argue!

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Patrick Chadburn prepared my last meal in Vermont, but with the bike loaded enough, I passed on any whiskey, guns or ammo. Maybe next time!

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Hoping both the temperature and rains hold off until I get to Syracuse.

1 reply
  1. Glenn Heitsmith
    Glenn Heitsmith says:

    An accurate retelling of the great memories of your Fall Tour through Vermont, which included your excellent gig before Ludlow Rotary, now available at Best part may be that your visit filled out many incomplete memories of our antics at Syracuse University in the early 1980s. I’m pleased that your meeting of kin, Joe Karl & family, went well. And what an honor it was being handed the phone to speak with brother Jon Karl, one of ABC-TV’s Washington correspondents, whom I once interviewed about his counter-administration mag. start-up, “Communique,” while he was a student at Darien High School and a reporter for the Darien News-Review.
    Best laughs reserved for the photo in your following post on visiting Dr. Hollenback at the Newhouse School. Was that photo staged at some sort of paper recycling dump or does she really run her show among all those boxes and papers?


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