Keep Fit: My Life in a Country Music Video

“It’s a smile, a kiss, a sip of wine, it’s summertime. Sweet summertime.”

I didn’t necessarily plan on doing the unthinkable and leaving the Hamptons over the 4th of July weekend. But Vermont called. As Zac Brown says, “I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right and the radio on.” All those things are available in Vermont. So I went.

A major upside to the time away is that I experienced many slices of small-town Americana. Here’s how to live your life like you’re in a country music video:

1. Before leaving the East End, I watched the Southampton 4th of July Parade. Parades are like the color pink: You love them when you’re young, are too cool to bother attending when you’re a preteen and in some strange time warp, eventually end up looking forward to it every year. It’s very Norman Rockwell. The most amusing aspect about the Southampton parade is that it seems like every fire department on the East End brings all fire trucks, vehicles, sirens, horns and flashing lights in their possession. I dream that one day, the North Sea Fire Department will be allowed to entertain the crowd with their shenanigans again. Not in a dangerous way. Just in a “this-is-an-awesome-way-to-end-the-parade” way.

2. I began my journey up to Vermont at the Southampton Train Station. The train was late, stopping just west of the station on the tracks opposite the platform. And it sat there. For about 20 minutes. Finally, an eastbound train pulled into the station. Within minutes of the second train leaving, I watched as the conductor on my train climbed down from his post, manually shifted the tracks and got back inside to steer the train from the far track to the near track and into the station. No technology needed?

3. Upon arriving in the Green Mountain State, a local Vermonster tipped us off to a watering hole where rock jumping was encouraged. My friend remarked that, in the true nature of a Vermont activity, this was either going to be a great surprise—lots of rocks, lots of people—or a huge disappointment—a few pebbles along a bank.

The winding road soon gave way to hundreds of un-policed, un-lifeguarded locals piled on the rocks of the decommissioned marble quarry. It was like something out of The Lion King, with all of the animals huddled around the desert’s one water source. Every few seconds, some brave soul would plunge into the icy water. The water paralyzed you for a second, felt good for the next three, and then forced you to beeline to the ladder ASAP. Naturally my next challenge was to jump from the highest rock, something like a 20-foot plunge. But I just needed to watch all of the Vermont adventure-seekers taking flight to assume—or cross my fingers—that it would be “safe.”

4. I entered a hot dog eating contest. Competing in a hot dog eating contest is one of those things that I would have liked to put on a life bucket list, had I thought that the chances of me ever having an opportunity to enter were even remotely possible. I signed the waiver saying that I wouldn’t sue if something went horribly wrong, filled up my water glass and took my seat amongst the other fierce competitors. The challenge: all you can eat in five minutes. The result: I finished two. The winner ate seven. He was halfway through number eight when time was called. And I was falling in love as he was walking away.

5. Light off fireworks way too close to spectators. The impressive Saturday night fireworks display had us craning our necks at a 90° angle to see them. The guy who was lighting them off was practically dancing on the fuses.

6. Last on the list of things to do to pretend like you’re auditioning for the CMAs: Pay attention to baseball, which is entering into the second half now that the All-Star Game is over. Head to the stadium to take in the atmosphere of America’s favorite pastime.

Or, check out the festivities from your favorite watering hole…

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