Montpelier, Vermont - I've travelled a lot, so I'm quite familiar with tourist kiosks. Staffers are usually quite straightforward, but now I'm standing in front of Rick in Vermont's capital city. That's when I discover just how charming, accommodating and out of the ordinary this city is.
I have only to show my genuine curiosity and Rick offers to take me around for a walk. A part-time actor born and raised in Montpelier, he's only too happy show off his hometown.
On State Street, he points out the main reason for the city's existence: the pocket-sized city of 8,200 was chosen in 1805 as the state capital. On impeccably clean sidewalks (nary a cigarette butt in sight), politician types (less than 8 per cent of the population) mingle with the Vermonters in more casual attire of sneakers, sunglasses, T-shirts and jeans. It's a little bit work, a little bit slack - just what every city needs.
We pass the Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, Vermont College, Capital City Press and the State House. This glorious, regal building perched on a green hill looks more like a national capital that that of the second-least-populated state.
During our walk I realize that something is missing from the usual American streetscape: Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's. The only chain restaurants I notice are two Subway outlets.
Another interesting fact: the last murder here occurred nine years ago, motivated by adultery.
"But enough of this stuff," Rick says. "I'll take you to see what Vermont is really about."
And so we begin our ascent to famed Hubbard Park, a beautiful jaunt up the mountains that circle the small burg and make the state a mecca for skiers.
In winter tourists come in droves. Rick loves this season because, as he says, "The city is swarming with foreign babes you'd never see otherwise."
Apart from a few directional signs, nature seems untouched by human hands along the dusty path. At the end of our 30-minute climb we reach the 54-foot observation tower, completed in 1930 and designed by a local to have a "ruined castle" look.
The tower boasts a remarkable 360-degree bird's-eye view of the mountains, including Camel's Hump, the Worcester Range and the seemingly never-ending forest. Rick says everyday is a clear day in Vermont.
Hubbard Park is a haven for the country's bird lovers, and at least two new bird species are discovered here every year. Close your eyes and listen and the songs of birds fill the air like a thousand symphonies playing in harmony.
To cap it off, Rick points out a bald eagle in the distance with a wingspan that, even from a couple hundred metres away, is impressive in its swoop and majesty. The Green Mountain State indeed.
On our walk down the mountain, Rick runs into some fellow actors going up to the tower to enjoy the view. We discuss my impressions of their town and they invite me for a drink later that night.
I walk Rick back to his abandoned tourist booth and thank him for his hospitality and time.
"You've only seen a glimpse of what we have to offer," he says. "Meet me here tomorrow and I'll show you some other stuff."