It was a quick, easy, 125 mile, three hour drive that was mostly on Interstates from Springfield to Colchester. Colchester is just above Burlington, VT on Mallet Bay of Lake Champlain. The drive would have really been beautiful except for the smoke. Apparently there has been fires in Quebec that has the whole state of Vermont smoke filled. We spent the whole drive going from 500 feet altitude to 1,900 feet and back in rolling hills, up and down, up and down. We were only traveling 50-60 MPH on good roads the whole way so it wasn't stressful at all. The country side of Vermont is just chock full of forested, rolling, hills with an occasional picturesque village thrown in.
The campground is one of the nicest we have been in. It is very large and though most of the sites are full hookup, we have a 30 amp electric and water only since they wanted an extra 10/night for full hookup. We couldn't see paying $50 so we could dump at our site instead of on the way out!! It would have really only been 5/night since we are using Camp Club USA and getting the site at half-price. Being just outside Burlington, we have good cell service and they were able to give me a site out of the trees enough to get the satellite. Boy, did I miss ESPN at the last place!!!!!!
Tuesday we headed for Waterbury and Montpelier to see Ben & Jerry's (eat your heart out!!!), the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, the Bragg Farm, and the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. These were all inside so we thought, since it was raining, they would be a good choice for the day's activities. First stop was in Waterbury for Ben & Jerry's
. Believe it or not, there was about 40 people in our group and a group leaves every 30 minutes for the factory tour. This was on a rainy, Tuesday morning about 11:00 on June 1, way before the tourist season. They showed us a video giving the history of the company then showed us the plant. They usually only process two flavors a day. You may notice in the picture, the plant has two lines and they make a different flavor on each. Once each pint has been mixed and packaged on the floor in the picture, they are moved to a room at -40 degrees for a little over an hour to be frozen solid. After the tour you get a very small scoop of that days flavor to sample. We got to try their chocolate chip and of course it was very good though I much prefer Cherry Garcia.
Next we went about three more miles on the same road and reached the Cold Hollow Cider Mill
. It was very interesting to see how they pulverize the apples and then put several layers of this pulverized mixture under a press to extract the juice. Of course we had samples here as well.
Next was on to Montpelier to see the Bragg Farm Sugarhouse
, which is a working maple syrup producer. This was probably the best "factory" tour we have encountered. The man was very congenial and explained the whole process to us and showed some of the equipment as the maple syrup was done much earlier this spring. His is one of the only farms that still uses the old fashioned buckets to gather the sap instead of running plastic lines form tree to tree. When the sap comes out it is perfectly clear but only two to four percent sugar. Vermont law requires any syrup labeled "Vermont Maple Syrup" to be at least 73% sugar. This requires a tremendous amount of boiling to reduce the sap to that sugar content, thus becoming Maple Syrup. He said his small operation uses over 20 full cords of wood each year to achieve the necessary boiling of the sap. On the way back we stopped through Montpelier to see the capitol.
Wednesday the sun was shining at it was time to head for the sights near Middlebury, mainly the Vermont University Morgan Horse Farm
. They also gave a very interesting tour and explained how the farm is used to do research and advance the breed of the Morgan breed. They then turned us loose to tour the paddocks and barn areas on our own. The horses we saw were absolutely beautiful. We got to see a couple of mares and their recently born colts as well as some older colts that were still awaiting training. One interesting fact is that they name the horses born each year with a name starting with the same letter. For instance, all colts born this year have a name starting with the letter "S". Next year's will start with "T". That way they know by the horses name how old they are.
Next we traveled on to the outskirts of Middlebury to the Pulp Mill Bridge
which is one of the longest covered bridges in Vermont with a 184 foot span. It is also double-laned and still experiencing very heavy use (we had trouble just crossing the road in front of it due to the heavy traffic). The river it spans has an old power plant just below the bridge that creates a number of waterfalls that were very nice as well.
We then started back towards Burlington and stopped at the Vermont Wildflower Farm
. It was still too early in the year for most of the wildflowers to be in bloom but we were able to see some of the wildflowers and Doris got some wildflower seeds.
Then on to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory
for a tour there. For those that don't know, Vermont Teddy Bears are unique in that the arms, legs, and head all can be manipulated and turned 360 degrees. They also are warranted for life. If you accidentally run over it with a lawnmower, you just fill out a form and they will send you a new one free. If your bear is repairable they admit it to the bear hospital and repair it for you free. Of course you pay for this - the least expensive bear you can buy was around $50 each, not counting accessories.
Next we went to the Shelburne Country Store
. It wasn't near as nice and had much less merchandise. We looked through it but that didn't take long. We were hungry by this time of course so we headed back to South Burlington and to Al's French Frys
. It was a throwback to the fifties and unlike current fast food places that have adapted and now offer all-inclusive meal deals, everything they offer is sold separately. Though the place is famous and was busy with locals, we didn't find it to be anything special. We can say we ate there but that is about it.
Thursday, it was raining again and we just used it as a stand-down day and we just relaxed and watched a little softball. I think the Gators got hosed with all those illegal pitch calls!!! Saturday will be another day. Today (Friday) we didn't do much either except get things ready for the trip to New Hampshire tomorrow. I did manage to get Doris her weekly lobster fix at the local supermarket though - you tell them what size you want and they pull it live out of a tank and steam it for you!
As I said, we head for New Hampshire tomorrow with the first stop at a little village called Twin Mountain located near the White Mountains. We have reservations on Sunday for a tour up Mt. Washington which is the tallest peak in the NE US and holds the record for the highest recorded wind gust on Earth - 231 MPH in 1934!! We plan on leaving early so we can get to Twin Mountain and be set up by the noon start time of the softball game.