we left midday on thursday
for the airport. the first
flight was from oakland to las vegas and we didn't get to sit together,
but our connecting flight to manchester worked out fine and that was the
longer one so all was okay. the flights were long, but not unbearable.
we caught up on reading, though, in retrospect, we should have planned
out the weekend with our time.
got into the hotel around
midnight that night and, after checking in, looked for a place to eat.
no one was open so we ended up having to go to burger king.
next morning we hit the
road towards waterbury which
is where our next hotel was. it's also the site of the ben and jerry's
hq. they have a factory there which produces about 25% of the ben and jerry's
ice cream in the world. the other vermont plant does about twice that,
in total 80% of the ben and jerry's stuff you see comes from those two
places in vermont. remarkable. more on that later.
along the way to waterbury
we stopped by the american precision museum and took a look at the info
they had on old lathes and machining devices. they also had some information
on the building which was the manufacturing site of guns in its earlier
days. there are a lot of brick buildings back east so it's interesting
to change my thinking as an engineer of stick built buildings in the west
where we think about earthquakes as the primary consideration outside of
making sure the building stands up straight. back east they have to worry
much more about frost levels and heaving as a result of the freeze/thaw
cycle. it was an old building, too, which means that they used a lime-based
mortar for the bricks so repairs need to be done sans portland cement.
this old house, once again, providing a good deal of background for my
knowledge of building practices in the northeast.
one display featured dozens
of small machines that were made by hand by a local craftsman. they took
about 40k hours to create, which is something like 20 years of full time
work. they are remarkably detailed for their size and it's crazy that he
did it all from scratch.
after visiting the museum
we hit the road for marsh-billings-rockefeller
national historical park. we were unable to find it, though, so we
next stop was hanover where
we visited the dartmouth campus.
dartmouth wasn't overwhelming in any respect. it was nice, but not great.
the college seemed to be the center of the town and the town seemed to
be more upscale than most college towns. we were on a schedule and didn't
see anything amazing to eat so we hit the road again.
sometime in the afternoon
we made it to the ben and jerry's hq. we got tickets for a tour later in
the night and then went to stowe for an early dinner.
the ben and jerry's tour
was short but sweet. you watch a video and then watch them making ice cream.
it's not an incredibly involved process from what we saw. there were about
10 workers there getting everything done and the room they do it in is
fairly small. i imagine that most of the real ice cream making happens
elsewhere. at the end of the tour we got a sneak taste of their new flavor
- orange and cream, which i thought was good, but needed more tang in the
orange swirl. cherry garcia is the #1 selling pint and the first flavor
i remember tasting. i've never liked it.
one thing that they try
to convey is the social consciousness of the company. they work with local
farmers and try to do as much as possible to be organic and good for the
environment. after the tour we visited the flavor graveyard where they
have tombstones of old ice cream flavors that they discontinued for one
reason or another. it's nice to see them embrace their failures in a humorous
after the tour we checked
into the hotel in waterbury and took a breather. we checked the local theater
times and decided to drive to burlington (vermont's largest city at just
under 40k) to watch whatever
works. burlington is a small town by most accounts (davis is 50% larger),
but it was fairly vibrant. there are a couple colleges in town so the downtown
area has plenty of bars and a good night life. there are some good shops
and it's next to lake champlain so it has a good setting as well. after
the movie we walked around the town a bit more and then went home.
the next morning we went
to check out the waterbury flea market. when we got there only a few booths
were set up so we ditched it. perhaps they were just getting started or
were scared off by the rain. montpelier was next. it's the capital of vermont
and only has 9k people, but it's a nice town. we went to the farmers' market
and looked at the local produce, meat and art. there was a band and plenty
of people. it was every bit as lively as many of the farmers' markets we
have in the bay area, though a bit smaller.
inspired by the farmer's
market we went to an actual farm. morse
farm is outside of montpelier and seemed to be a pretty good sized
farm. it has been family owned for over 200 years, something like 9 generations
i believe. we watched a video on their practices which was informative.
being around all these farms really made me want to have one of my own.
self-reliance has been a wish of mine for a long time, and i think having
a farm is a good step towards that. i like it because you can have some
self subsistence while also engaging in the traditional economy by having
tourism. it's also nice because you can potentially be very diverse in
your income streams - i imagine a long-term plot of land with a tree grove,
some land set aside for livestock, some for small level crops, etc. if
you have enough land you can have an area for mountain bikers and cross-country
skiers (part of the tourism). the trick is to have enough money and skill
to be able to go from being a pathetically insufficient city person who
relies on others for everything else to one who can make their own food
and fix their own house and small engines and everything else. the house
fixing part i'm confident i could figure out, but i need to improve my
ag and small engine repair skills before i could really make the jump skill-wise.
money-wise you would be best off if you could have some part-time job that
you could do from any location to earn some cash while everything else
is getting set.
at any rate, morse farm
is a nice place and they have an amazing soft-serve maple ice cream that
they dip in maple sugar. it was great.
after morse farm we went
to the state
house for a tour there. it's a pretty good state house, probably in
the upper half of state houses. most state houses are pretty average and
if you've seen one you feel like you've seen them all. pennsylvania's is
one of the nicest. we learned a bit about the history of the state house
(this is actually the third). the first was torn down to build something
better and the second burned down in the 1850s. the woman who gave us the
tour was good enough. she worked for the sergeant at arms for a few years.
she told us that the state senators make something like $600/week and don't
get paid when not in session. vermont citizens also have their home numbers,
apparently. all this got me thinking about california (the largest state
population-wise) vs. vermont (the 2nd smallest pop-wise. wy is 50th). both
are big into agriculture. vermont is liberal relative to the rest of the
country, as is california. i think the biggest difference can be summed
up by: 600k vs. 37mil. i used to feel that california was the best state,
but lately i've been feeling that we've gotten too damn big and crowed.
it has led to so many problems and i just can't imagine living here the
rest of my life. i feel like being a citizen in a state like vermont must
be much more empowering than being a part of a juggernaut like california.
you can't really get anything done in a state this size. your representatives
are so far removed here, but there it seems as though there is more interaction
with the people. i think a lot of politicians lose their way, even when
they were well-intentioned, in part because they don't know their constituents
and they exist in an ivory tower removed from the people. it's been said
that all politics are local. i don't really know what the intention is
behind that, but i do feel like local politics get more done in a lot of
after montpelier we went
to the rock of ages granite quarry.
the quarry is in barre (pronounced like the name) and is the largest "deep-hole
dimension granite quarry" in the world. when you first walk up to it the
600' depth is a bit surprising. it's no grand canyon, but it's man made
and very steep. it's also remarkable because it's been in service for so
long (130+ years) and yet, really, not that much has been taken out. it's
a very slow process and they don't work for two months in the winter so...
after checking out the
granite quarry we left for burlington again. we had a small snack and then
went to the grand isle area. there are 3-4 islands in a row on lake champlain
which divides vermont and new york. the islands are really nice with great
views of both states. oddly, the build up there is very minimal. there
aren't a lot of great houses like in most of the rest of vermont, but there
also aren't as many houses as you would expect. i guarantee that an area
like that, if it were in california, would have million dollar homes every
100 feet. i'm very curious about the history of the islands because it
would seem as though someone would have come along by now to whore the
area out, but somehow that hasn't happened. thankfully.
we drove back to montpelier
via i-87 in new york. upstate new york is nice and the mountains there
are taller than they are in vermont. in vermont the mountains are more
like hills. there's a lot of rolling hills and trees and water. upstate
new york looks more like the parts of canada that i'm familiar with. we
had some pizza from montpelier and called it a night.
the next morning was the
beginning of the last full day of the trip. we checked out of the hotel
and got some breakfast at a good pancakes place. they serve dutch style
pancakes which means big and thin. my grandma serves them small and thin
and i still consider them the best in the world. these cakes were good,
though. had mine with apples and blueberries. meryl went with chocolate
and whipped cream which is pretty crazy if you ask me.
started the long drive
towards augusta, maine after breakfast. saw a 5 or 10k in stowe as we were
leaving; pretty good turn out considering the size of the town. along the
way we had planned on going to a corn maze that also had a mini golf course.
along the way it occurred to me that corn wasn't in full bloom yet, but
we were almost at the farm so we went anyway. turns out that the corn hadn't
grown past about 30" and the farm wasn't really open for business yet.
so we went on to augusta to see yet another capital.
only realized this today,
but missed an opportunity to visit another johnny cash place - waterville,
maine which is pretty close to augusta. damn. augusta itself was pretty
uninteresting. it's a city that has clearly seen better days, but wasn't
a complete wasteland. the downtown area is pretty empty these days and
the city seems to have succumbed to sprawl like most cities have. the riverfront
area is nice because it is a window to a bygone era when america was the
best country in the world. oh well.
after augusta we went to
portland. portland is a pretty nice city and another new city for me. i
had be to all these states before, but it's been 8 years and i hadn't been
to many of the parts that we explored on this trip. we had a big lobster
dinner which was a first in maine for me. i've only had lobster once before
and it was only the tail and i don't know whether it was maine lobster
or not. lobster is good and a little better for you than crab and shrimp,
i think, though it still is high in cholesterol. still, i think i like
shrimp and crab more than lobster. they're all probably endangered so eating
them should probably be kept to a minimum either way. we walked around
portland a bit and then left for kennebunkport.
kennebunkport is famous
for being the town where the bushes live. we went there to check it out
and because it was on the way. it's basically what you would expect: really
nice houses, seaside commerce, lots of rich people. surprisingly, though,
some of the houses for sale in the town were downright reasonable - you
could actually get in the town for 200k. the nicer places by the ocean
are undoubtedly in the millions, though. we accidentally chanced upon the
bush compound and stopped to take pictures. assholes.
after getting some ben
and jerry's in kennebunkport we left for concord which we had missed the
first time. we arrived in concord around 10p. we went straight to the capital
building and took some pictures. we didn't dilly dally too much because
we had to wake up before 5a the next day to catch a flight out of paradise.
woke up at 4:40a monday
(1:40a our time) and left for the airport. got breakfast at the chicago
airport, but meryl didn't get her bagel and was sad the rest of the day.
the trip is over.
in sum, trips are great
and i wish we had the money and time to do more of them. i don't like california
like i used to and i want to live in a small town away from people and
class as soulcraft (thanks tamara) during the trip and finished it
before touchdown in oakland. had heard about it from a ny
times article a while back and it's gotten some press on npr lately.
it also feeds into the mike
rowe speech that i linked to a week or so ago. this recent train of
thought coupled with this trip gives me a new direction towards self-reliance
and getting out of a place where pissing on the street is a not uncommon