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From the Publisher: The Scenic Route

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Published August 24, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Paula Routly holding a lobster roll at Cajun's Snack Bar in Lowell - COURTESY
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  • Paula Routly holding a lobster roll at Cajun's Snack Bar in Lowell

Seven Days looks a little different this week. Occupying six full spreads of the paper — with lots of accompanying photos — is the journalistic equivalent of a summer road trip. Five of our writers teamed up to explore Route 100, which winds past a dozen Vermont ski areas, the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, countless artist studios and galleries, amazing eateries, and natural wonders, from the pristine waters of Lake Whitingham to Eden's abandoned asbestos mine.

The road is a monument to Vermont's industry, in the broadest definition of the term, and a testament to its ongoing entrepreneurial spirit. For every shuttered plywood plant are a dozen mom-and-pop operations, selling wood pulp, handblown glass, organic veggies, quarried stone and gourmet pizza. Happily, Route 100's size and traffic volume encourage and enable human-scale transactions. Along this stretch, commerce and natural beauty coexist in harmony.

The idea to report on the route as a group was hatched on the drive back from a June wedding that my significant other and I attended in Grafton. Interstates 89 and 91 got us there as quickly as possible. But post-party, on Sunday morning, we took the long road home via a stretch of Route 100 I'd never driven. There was a lot more to the state's longest, most Vermonty north-south highway than I'd realized.

In the next editorial planning meeting, I raved about the ride, and the culture team shaped it into a cover story idea. We decided to divvy up the road and assign each section to a different reporter.

Food writer Jordan Barry, an avid gardener who grew up in southern Vermont, was eager to explore Wardsboro, "home of the Gilfeather turnip." Culture coeditor Dan Bolles signed up for the stretch from South Londonderry to Plymouth dotted with summer camps. Food editor Melissa Pasanen was drawn to the craft-rich Rochester area. Staff writer Sally Pollak agreed to take a fresh, local look at tourist-heavy Waterbury and Stowe.

I really wanted to return to the austere northernmost stretch of Route 100 I'd traveled for a memorial service earlier in the summer. It was oppressively hot in the Northeast Kingdom on the day we visited — I think I left some DNA on the booth seat at Cajun's Snack Bar in Lowell — but the heat made diving into Lake Eden that much lovelier.

I love reporting stories like this one because I'm curious by nature and happiest when talking to strangers. Having an assignment gives me an acceptable excuse to be the way I am — and clutch a clipboard, too. It's also a necessary reminder of how hard reporting can be. You have to relax to get people to talk to you, but taking names, snapping photos and remembering to ask every crucial question is nerve-racking. You can't easily repeat the experience, either.

In the end, everyone delivered, and the resulting piece is a fun and informative read. It's not investigative journalism helping readers understand the state's housing crisis — that was last week — but rather a subjective take on Vermont from a "scenic byway" that is also a main artery, a road as crucial as it is life-affirming.

Enjoy the ride.