Days with Dad: Off-roading in Southern Vermont

Climbing obstacles is a father-daughter pastime

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During the week, North Bennington resident Joseph Barese works as a mechanic at Redeemed Repair in North Hoosick. Saturdays are for errands. As for Sundays, those are saved for his 23-year-old autistic daughter, Sarah.

They usually start at 5 a.m., when Barese wakes up to make lunch for Sarah: rice and pot roast, plus snacks. Then, every other week, he drives to a Chester meeting spot, where Sarah arrives from Claremont, N.H., with one of her caretakers. From there, Barese brings Sarah to that day's meeting spot with the Southern Vermont Off Road Association, the Facebook group he started in 2012. At 11 a.m. sharp, the group sets off, led by Barese's black 2001 Toyota Tacoma as he and Sarah trundle up rocky, wet and muddy trails and into the mountains.

"She just loves it," Barese said. "You can see it in her eyes."

You can also see it in the way Sarah leans her head out the parked truck's window whenever her father walks away. While she's unable to speak, it's obvious what - and who - she wants.

"It's her day with her dad," Barese said. "It gives me joy to do it for her."

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