A Travellerspoint blog

Day 39 (10.10.07) - Vermont to Maine

3 stops in Vermont first, then we skirted the White Mountains in New Hampshire and actually made it to Maine finally, not the top corner yet, but Maine!

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View (Re) Discovering America on jl98584's travel map.

Miles Driven: 138
Weather: Rain last night again, Heavy overcast most of the day, Mid 50's F

<<I wrote this last night, 10.10.07, but lost the internet signal before it was finished - all that great writing lost forever! So here it goes again. Maybe someday I'll learn to back things up as I go?>>

As promised, the first thing we did this morning was visit the "Rock of Ages" granite quarry and factory in Graniteville, Vermont (close to Barre and Montpelier). This is the largest granite quarry in the US. It is over 600 feet deep and covers about 56 acres. The granite dome they are working is so large, that at the current rate of extraction, it will last another 4,800 years!

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You must take a tour to see the quarry (safety reasons I assume), but it was worth it. The bus parked right next to the fence, which was right next to a ledge - I guess they aren't worried about the edge caving in! The picture is hard to do justice to the scale. In the second picture I used the 12x zoom to capture just the detail in the lower right of the wide angle shot. The men are drilling a series of holes in the granite to break it into blocks small enough for the derrick to hoist out of the quarry. The ladders up to the top are for safety only, the derrick also hoists the men and machinery into and out of the quarry.

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The "Rock of Ages" company sells some granite wholesale to other companies who manufacture various products out of it. They also process some of it themselves to sell as gravestones, manufacturing platforms and other things. Granite makes a great platform for manufacturing since it is very solid and stable (at various temperatures I assume). So after touring the quarry, we decided to also tour the factory. This is only a small section of it, but you can see some of how it works.

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We also found out that tourists can make their own souviner by sandblasting a picture onto small piece of granite. I love hands on experiences and the cost was quite reasonable ($8.50), so I decided to give it a shot. A room in the factory is set aside with three small sandblasting boxes. Staff assist you in picking out a piece of polished granite that has a rubber mask attached to it. You stick your hands in heavy rubber gloves in the sandblasting boxes and grab the sandblasting gun. The staff turns on the power and you move the gun back and forth until your picture is blasted into the granite. As long as you keep the gun moving, the rubber mask protects the parts of the granite it covers so the only area's that get blasted are where the mask cutouts are. Here is an example of the three stages, the blank polished granite piece is on the top, the piece with the rubber mask on the left, and a finished piece after sandblasting on the right. This is another tourist who has just finished making his souviner. He is scraping remaining pieces of the rubber mask off with an exacto knife. Mom also took a picture of me doing the sandblastingl.

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Before leaving the "Rock of Ages" factory, our tour guide recommended we visit the Hope Cemetary just outside of town. It has many examples there of finely carved granite which they are very proud of, I think they like to recommend this as kind of a 'showroom' for their art. Neither Mom nor I particularly like going to cemetaries, but since we were driving right by it, I decided to pull over and check it out. There are certainly some unusual gravestones there and it really does show how well granite can be carved.

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After leaving Barre and the granite behind, we drove on eastwards. Mom thought we should head straight to New Hampshire and finally get back on track for our trip (we had planned to make the northeast corner of Maine by October 1st!) However, I thought it also might be fun to stop at the Cabot Creamery and see how cheese was made. It wasn't very far off the road we were taking anyway. Again, the tour started off with a video about the history of the company (I wonder if all Vermont factory tours follow the same sort of plan?). It was interesting however, we learned that Cabot Creamery is a farmer owned co-op that has won a major international award for having the best cheese. I didn't learn too much about what makes cheese, but I learned a little more about how a modern cheese factory works! The still pictures I tried to take didn't come out very well, but I did get a halfway decent video of two hugh metal troughs. The first one is mixing up cheese curds (curds are cheese before it's been aged). The one in the background is processing whey. The dark spots are peppers, which are being used for this particular batch of cheese.

Although this side trip was my idea, I think Mom enjoyed as much as I did (and the cheese tasting at the end a little more). She remembered her mother making cheese by hand when she was little - quite a difference. While I was in the gift shop buying some extra sharp chedder, she prevailed upon another tourist and snuck this in behind my back!

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You can also learn more about the Cabot Creamery at their web site:

http://www.cabotcheese.com/

So having stuffed ourselves with cheese samples (and a few purchases), we got back on the road towards New Hampshire. We got as far as St. Johnsbury when Mom said that she'd really like to visit the Fairbanks Museum there. We had heard about it from the tour guide at the Fairbanks House in Massachussets. Some extreamly distant cousin's of Mom's had moved to St Johnsbury, VT. Thaddeus Fairbanks invented the platform scale, then he and his brother, Erastus, formed the E & T Fairbanks Scale Company in 1824. This venture was very successful, in fact we passed the current factory later on our way out of town! The Fairbanks Museum is really a Museum of Natural History, but they do have an exhibit in the basement about the brothers and some of their scales. I also loved the building, but forgot to ask if it was a Fairbanks home.

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The rest of the museum was interesting also and they even let us take pictures! However, we couldn't use flash (light is hard on fragile objects), so I didn't take too many pic's and the ones I took aren't very good. Mom took this picture of an old music box. She couldn't believe it only cost a nickle to play, so asked the museum staff. 'Oh yes' they said and then even handed her the nickle to play it! (Some Vermonter's may not be so reserved after all?)

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So having toured the granite quarry, the cheese factory, and the Fairbanks museum - we were finally ready to start heading east again. This time, we drove through New Hampshire without any major stops - although we did stop frequently in Vermont and New Hampshire both, trying to get the perfect shot of the fall foliage. With the cooler weather, the colors were somewhat better today, but the dark sky & rain made it difficult to capture. We took Hwy 2 through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and I could tell what all the fuss is about. Even if the colors aren't as bright as in some years, the colorful forests go on and on. The trees are very dense and you can see colors for as far as the eye can see in both Vermont and New Hampshire. My pictures may not do these justice, but I will post just the best shots here. There was one spot where the sun was streaking though the overcast just over one of the White Mountains, which was awesome, I think this is my favorite shot (cropped heavily).

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Finally, it was getting too dark even for me to try to pull over for scenery pictures - so we actually made it into Maine! We will continue heading east tomorrow, maybe only ten days or so past our original target?

Posted by jl98584 18:14 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Comments

Did you try the Cabot butter? It has whey or something in it. They said they don't ship it far since it is too delicate, but it is local chef's favorite. I thought it was the creamiest, most delicious butter I ever ate. Good thing I'm not a local, or I'd have had a heart attack by now!

by TexasRTJ

So you did get to Cabot Creamery? And the Fairbanks Museum is the one I'd written you about and thought you would enjoy. I'm glad you saw it. Did you see the pictures made of thousands of insects and butterflies?

I feel really bad that I didn't write you earlier about Westmoreland, NH, as I know you would have found the family history there fascinating. Will your return route take you anywhere near?

Nice to see that others besides family are reading your blog. Apparently there was a little miscommunication there in Montpelier, but it's turned out okay. One shouldn't judge a people group, but Vermonters do have a reputation of being a bit taciturn, and I can imagine that what the man thought of as humor might not have been recognized as such.

Also, New Englanders in general have a reputation for slightly looking askance at those from other parts of the country, especially CA. We felt it occasionally in the 3 years we lived in Hartford--friendly people, very nice, yet sometimes we weren't viewed quite the same as if we'd grown up there. I was greatly amused just a few years later, when I got into some genealogical research, to find that our ancestors were governors and other leaders of CT and MA, but while we lived there in grad school, we were only Californians.

by msj

Yes, there was some of that butter in the tasting area of the Gift Shop after we got done with the tour. They did mention that it was not fat free! I didn't buy any butter yet, but do have three packages of their cheese in the fridge.

by jl98584

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