We made it to Vermont! We came across the country for the 56th Escapees Escapade, an RV rally, in Essex Junction, Vermont. More accurately, we used the rally as an excuse to come to Vermont and beyond.
The same day we crossed over Lake Champlain into Vermont, we went to Vermont’s #1 tourist destination, Ben & Jerry’s!
Ben and Jerry’s began in 1978 with a $5 Ice-Cream correspondence course from Penn State. “Cherry Garcia” was the first of many flavors named for rock legends. They sourced milk and other ingredients locally and took on social missions. In 2004, they partnered with Rock the Vote and registered 11,000 new voters on free cone day. They also served “Save The Swirled” ice cream to Paris UN Climate Summit participants in 2015.
Ben and Jerry’s pay their employees a living wage with benefits, including three pints of ice cream for every day worked with the caveat that the pints cannot be sold. However, there is an extensive bartering system in the area!
We went on a plant tour and received a small scoop of “Milk & Cookies” at the end. Yum! The line to buy ice cream was long so we were glad we had ours on the tour.
The Vermont factory is the original of what is now six factories world wide and the only one giving tours. They produce ice cream 24 hours a day, five days a week, making one flavor at a time.
We enjoyed walking around the Flavor Graveyard. Some flavors “died” from weak sales but others died because specialty ingredients became too expensive or could no longer be obtained locally.
After the tour, we feel good about buying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!
We spent most of a week at the Escapees Escapade, a rally to promote RV education and fellowship. We were glad to see two couples we met at the Tucson rally last year, Dan and Sandie from New Hampshire, and Peter and Mary from Pennsylvania. We were also glad to meet Dan and Sandie’s friends, Ricky and Linda.
Participants were asked to pin their home. Our blue pin is in Boise. The only other Idaho pin was in Coeur d’Alene for a couple presenting on Sky Med.
We just enjoyed ourselves. I got up every morning for line dancing at 7:30 and even participated in the Ham-O-Rama talent show with the line dance group. I love, love, love line dancing!
There was nightly entertainment and the chance to meet RV “royalty.”
We met John and Kathy Huggins. They have an RV website and a weekly RV podcast called Living the RV Dream. We listened to them for years as we were preparing for this lifestyle.
We went to a variety of seminars. The one we enjoyed most was about the Vermont Maple Syrup industry. Vermont makes 40% of the country’s maple syrup. Twenty percent of Vermont is open land while 80% is forested, including lots of sugar maple trees!
A tree should be 10” in diameter before inserting a single tap. That tree might by 40-50 years old under good growing conditions. Larger, older trees can take multiple taps. Some still use buckets but most larger farms have a gravity fed tubing system. These pictures are from their presentation.
Sugaring, or collecting sap, lasts 4-6 weeks in the spring for as long as there are alternating freezes and thaws. Sap has the consistency of water and a sugar content of 1.5 – 3 percent before it is boiled down to a syrup. It takes about 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup which darkens and deepens with age. Flavor differences come from different soils.
An RV dealer sponsored happy hour each afternoon to promote visitations to his models. We had fun walking through the motorhomes.
We found a motorhome we liked but wouldn’t want to pay for it!
There were a few extra pillows on the bed! Don’t they realize space is valuable in an RV!
Randy even had the opportunity to give blood at the rally.
After the rally, we traveled to Concord (pronounced conquered), Vermont and found lots to do in nearby St. Johnsbury.
We went to the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, donated to the city in 1871 by Horace Fairbanks. Fairbanks made his fortune from scales, many still in use today.
The Athenaeum is part public library and part art museum, originating with the Fairbanks family’s private collections. Randy and I readily admit that we are “art impaired” but still knew enough to be impressed!
The 10’ x 15’ painting, The Domes of Yosemite resides here. This very valuable painting has an interesting history and the athenaeum was built specifically to display it.
The collection includes a variety of artworks, paintings and statues.
This is a mosaic using pieces smaller than the naked eye can easily discern.
This statue of Abraham Lincoln is thought to be the only one of him smiling.
There are a lot of really old beautiful churches in Vermont and this one had a labyrinth on the grounds. I walked the whole thing and found peace in the world at the center.
We went to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium!
We saw dead birds from all around the world – 3000 of them on display, with 2000 more in reserve!
We really liked the Bug Art! John Hamson created nine pieces using bugs as a medium in the late 19 and early 20th centuries. The Fairbanks museum owns all nine and displays seven.
This Abraham Lincoln portrait contains 6399 insects and was made in 1916.
This is a close up of another bug picture to help you see the bugs better.
Our last adventure in Vermont was Elko’s favorite – Dog Mountain!
This is 150 acres of dog heaven – trails, ponds and other dogs, and no one wearing a leash!
There is also a Dog Chapel where people leave pictures and remembrances of dogs they have loved.
I left a note about the dogs we have known and loved: Anna, Toby, Shoeless, Ravi and the “blond girls.”
Vermont will be in the rear view mirror tomorrow when we head south to Massachusettes, but the reason for the road trip was worthwhile. We’re glad we came!