Senator Peter Welch
U.S. Senator Peter Welch of Norwich, Vermont completed his quest in 2006, but that has not stopped him from maintaining his club membership and continuing to visit the towns and cities of his chosen state. While campaigning for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, previously held by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, he was mindful of the towns that he wanted to visit along the way in scheduling his travel days. His goals were to meet as many Vermonters as possible where they lived and worked and to complete his 251 quest in three months.
“There are so many small, rural towns in Vermont with names that do not roll off everyone’s lips,” recalls Representative Welch. “In those settings I met rugged, individualistic, self-reliant Vermonters, who look you directly in the eye and size you up to decide if they can trust you. Life can be challenging at the end of Vermont’s dirt roads, but there are strong roots in those communities where neighbors help neighbors.”
251 Club member, Kaylie-Ann Flannigan, was delighted when her studies provided her the opportunity to travel back to her home state of Vermont to not only conduct research for her thesis, but to also finish her 251 quest. Kaylie, who is earning her degree in food studies from The American University of Rome, is conducting her thesis on agroecological agriculture. While conducting her research in Vermont, Kaylie visited 13 farms and interviewed 33 farmers.
In addition to visiting farms, Kaylie would often seek out towns near hiking spots. Towards the end of the summer, Kaylie realized that she had about 30 towns left that were close to each other in southern Vermont. Because of this, Kaylie planned “a fun ‘ultimate Vermont weekend’ with one of my best friends, and we finished up my 251 adventure visiting several towns a day and camping in several state parks along the way. It was so much fun!”
Kaylie has many cherished memories from her 251 Club trips, from visiting Plymouth, to paying a visit to the Grafton Historical Society, to wandering around Brandon, but her favorite memory was “spending time with my friends while exploring new places… Through these town visits I was able to reconnect with my home state and visit with friends I usually see sparingly.”
Jim and Jane Spencer
“We lived in Vermont for nearly 19 years before moving to Florida 7 years ago. We have still summered in Vermont each of those 7 years as our daughter and family still live there.
Jannette and I joined the 251 Club of Vermont and received great materials from the Club. We began our journey armed with a sense of adventure, detailed roadmaps, highlighters, a new selfie stick, folding chairs and packed lunches. Additionally, Jannette has a passion for covered bridges. She downloaded an online list, which even included street locations. We were off.
We completed the journey just before heading back to Florida. 251 Towns and 106 bridges. We both recommend this adventure for all.”
Terry and Jerry Robinson
“My husband and I started the 251 Club in April of 2020. We have lived in Vermont for 48 years and had visited many of the towns separately as part of our jobs as educators but wanted to visit them all together starting in 2020. Just yesterday we finished! Since we live in South Hero, we knew the furthest away would be Windham County and we would need an overnight. We had to wait till we were both fully vaccinated to plan that. We decided to stay at the Grafton Inn In Grafton. We took a picture of us with a sign saying that we finished. It only took us 13 months to do it!! Thank you Vermont and 251 Club!”
Ron Thompson of Williston is a road adventure record-setter. Over a three-year period, he visited all of the “lower 48” U. S. states with his wife Laura on their Harley. Next came the Vermont Covered Bridge Challenge, which the couple met by passing through every one of Vermont’s 106 official covered bridges. With his recent retirement, Ron decided to take on the 251 quest solo.
“As a native Vermonter I though that I had pretty much visited all the towns in the state, but to my surprise I found that not to be true,” says Ron. “I started on March 8, 2017, averaged 17 towns a day, and completed the challenge in 15 days. Yes, this was a little aggressive, but once I started checking off the towns I visited, the more I wanted to do. What I enjoyed the most was seeing so many old buildings and learning more about the history of Vermont, particularly the history of Ethan Allen’s family. It was an awesome adventure!”
“Whenever you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this someday,’ the time to start is right then,” Orah Moore says emphatically. “I understand that there is more time to travel in retirement years, but I have never considered the 251quest as something that has to wait until then. It’s an adventure that I began while my children were teenagers and pursued in jerky starts and stops over seventeen years. There is value in doing it in the ‘now’ and the journey brings such great enjoyment.”
Orah, one of Vermont’s most highly regarded photographers, completed her 251 quest in 2016. She served on the 251 Club Board of Directors and continues to be an enthusiastic champion of the organization.
Anne and Ben Linehan
Anne and Ben Linehan of Tunbridge, Vermont marked the completion of their five-year, 251 quest by releasing a celebratory brew – 251 (Towns) Golden IPA. They can do that as owners of Brocklebank Brewery, named after Brocklebank Mountain, the highest geographical point in Tunbridge. Proudly displayed in the brewery’s tasting room is an enlarged Vermont county and town outline map colored in to note the couple’s travel progress. “We combined our love of beer with our love of Vermont and visited breweries along the way while adding towns to our list,” says Anne. Accompanied by their dog Stack O’Lee, the couple also visited the state’s three gores and one grant, saving Victory for their last stop on July 7, 2016.
The Linehan’s one-and-one half-barrel nanobrewery housed in a converted creamery, is one of 44 craft breweries in the state. For Brocklebank brewmaster Ben nanobrewing translates to no more that a four barrel production with four to five on-tap offerings a week.
Paul and Paula Hennessey
“Did I see you on the State House lawn hitting a golf ball?” asked a friend of Paul Hennessey. The short and the long answer is that Paul hit 251 golf balls in a one-of-a-kind quest that spanned 14½ years. “It took that long to find time in four schedules to make day trips,” recalls Paul. He and his wife Paula live in Barre, Vermont; they shared the quest with friends Denny and Linda Barnard of Starksboro, Vermont.
The foursome approached their travel challenge seriously. Each town visit had to the have the expressed purpose of counting toward their 251 quest. Research, much of it online, was done in advance. “We found the Vermont Cities and Towns web site to be particularly helpful,” says Paula, who was the designated note-taker. Her notes are integrated with photos in four, five-inch thick albums. Linda takes the books to Senior Citizen Centers. “People who can not physically travel now can travel around Vermont through our books,” Paula adds.
“We also set as a goal to find and talk to someone who had lived in the town—the community matriarch or patriarch—most of their life,” says Paul. “We asked what it was about their town that we should remember. The answer was often ‘Me—I am the 7th generation to live in this farmhouse.’ Or, ‘I have not lived here all of my life yet!’ Generally town clerks and store keepers are welcoming founts of information.”
“The history of our state is remarkable which in turn made our experience so remarkable,” says Paula.