Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ice Cream and Granite ... Yup, We're In Vermont!!

A short trip south of Burlington landed us in Montpelier (the Capitol of Vermont) in the Elks parking lot.  We have the most spectacular view of their golf course.  No hookups (and no cost) with beautiful scenery!!

First stop ... Ben and Jerry's Factory so I could complain about the icky "Coffee Toffee" ice cream that I had a feeling was a replacement for my all time favorite "Coffee Heath Bar Crunch".  The tour guide rattled off some excuse about the Hershey Chocolate company not conforming to THEIR standards.  I doubt Hershey has to conform to anything ... they're pretty big fish in the candy market.  At any rate, I'm so sad to announce that they have sent my Coffee Heath Bar Crunch to the graveyard on the hill, without even a how-do-you-do!!
Since most of their other varieties don't really flip my skirt ... and since Barbara swears BlueBell ice cream is SOOOOO much better, I think my Ben and Jerry days are coming to an end.  They tried to ply us with Strawberry Cheesecake ... which wasn't bad ... but I fear they have lost three customers.
After the fastest tour ever at B & J's, we headed off to the granite factory.  I wasn't sure about this one ... what could a granite factory make??  Tombstones???  Well yeah ... that's exactly what they make, mostly anyway.  It's called Rock of Ages, which is what granite is.  Lava from a volcano that was contained, and when cooled, turned into beautiful grey granite.  
Loaded on a school bus, we drove up the hill to the actual quarry.  What an amazing site THAT was!! I'm hanging on with my toes while dangling my camera over the chain link fence to get this shot.  They use the pond water in cutting, which is why the right pond is green with granite dust.  The one on the left hasn't been used in some time.  The green one is over 85 feet deep.
They take a section at a time, cutting huge blocks loose, then cutting those into manageable sizes that the cranes can lift.  A one foot square block weights 168 pounds she said, so you can imagine how many tons these weigh!!
Holes are drilled every few inches across the top, as this machine is doing here.  Looks like they had a hydraulic hose break recently ... see the oil spray on the wall?  Once done on three sides, they cut that line, leaving just the bottom connected.  Holes are then drilled in towards the back and loaded with primer cord for a shocking blast!!  That breaks the block loose.
Looks like there was an "oops" here ... this block fell and broke.  Can you see the little guy at the end of the small broken section??  That broken piece is as tall as he is!!  
Here's a picture they have on the wall inside the factory, showing exactly how the blocks are cut and lifted.  Pretty amazing to see THIS!!!  If you come through Vermont, you've GOT to stop and see the Rock of Ages quarry!!
All those blocks extracted are marked with their exact location and placed in their "Walmart" shopping area.  That way buyers making huge monuments or buildings can be sure the pieces they buy come from the exact same spot in the pit so the colors match.  This is one small section of the factory floor where cut blocks purchased by buyers are further cut into headstones, or monument stones, carved and then sandblasted in rooms on the sides.  
From here on, it gets rather somber, for those who may not want to proceed further.  I mean really, most of these are headstones you will see in the local cemetery ... or maybe a cemetery near you, since lots of mausoleums are cut and transported all over the U.S.  There is a huge lift overhead that transports the stones to the tables for carving.  This one has just been brought in.  Before we left, we made a not-so-quick stop in the Gift Shop.  Guess what I found??  Beautiful smooth slabs of granite to place on your counter for making candy or pastries ... at a fraction of the price I expected.  There is a beautiful 20"x30" white one sitting in the back of my car as I type!!
Some of their most unique work is at Hope Cemetery in Barre (pronounced Barry), a few miles away.  In fact, this type of granite is called Barre Granite.  Each quarry only has one color of granite.  This one has the best grey on the planet.  Pink comes from Quebec quarries and black from neighboring states.  All of these statues were hand carved by artists at the Rock of Ages plant, a craft that is passed down from father to son.  They will carve anything you request, for a price.
Apparently this gentleman liked race cars.  There is also supposed to be a corvette and a harley, but we didn't see them.  This cemetery is HUGE and probably the most well kept I've ever seen!!
Chain links ... ever seen THAT in a cemetery??  They are just beautifully done!!  So much so that now the only granite allowed in this cemetery is Barre granite.  It keeps it's beautiful white/grey color, even in the weather, unlike other types of granite headstones that deteriorate.
This one was interesting ... it had a glass wind chime, plus this glass bottle tree.
Here was a cello lover ... or maybe a bass fiddle.  Every size and shape imaginable is here, including many busts of the occupants.
This mausoleum had a beautiful brass door with a lady carved on it.  I don't want to say you have to be rich to have something like this, but I think she said the smallest was around $30,000.
Many were very sad ... this soccer ball belongs to a 13 year old boy.
Many of the headstones here are not large ... some are as small as this one for Mr. Chandler who died in the World War at age 19.  
It's a cemetery you could spend hours in, reading all the names and dates, but we had one more stop to make before dinner, and that was to the Vermont State Capital.  Montpelier is not the largest town in Vermont ... in fact it is rather small.  Their capitol building isn't the biggest either, but is definitely one of the prettiest I've seen.  By the way, all the walkways, most of the government buildings and ALL of the curbs around here are made of granite and they still have over 1400 years worth of granite left in the quarry.  
Not only that, but it's such a nice area with beautiful grounds, that there were many children playing on the grass.  When's the last time you saw THAT in Sacramento??    Really ... I could live here!!
Dinner at Panera's netted Barbara and I free pastries and all three of us full stomachs!!  Back at the rig, I tried for TV, but there are too many gorgeous trees surrounding us.  This morning the golf course is a misty scene right out of Red Riding Hood.  Heading further east today into New Hampshire.  

No comments:

Post a Comment