Across Vermont

We were planning to commute from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, to Windsor, Vermont, all in one day, visiting three cities in Connecticut and two in Massachusetts on the way. However, most of our stops dragged out longer than expected, either because our one-and-a-half-year-old would not cooperate, or the places were very inviting and disposing to a proper walk. As a result, we could not get to the first item in the Vermont todo list the same evening, and had to postpone that until the following morning.

Windsor

The morning was a bit gray and murky, so we leisurely packed our things and headed towards the American Precision Museum in Windsor. Located in a strange kind of place, and surrounded by a small water cascade, a tiny forest, a power substation, and a dirt road, the museum is nonetheless well within the city limits.

The artless entrance and importunate cashier aside, the museum was very much worth the visit. The exhibits feature all sorts of mechanical and engineering machinery, including measuring devices, drilling and milling machines, typewriters, screwmakers, and so on.

As we circled around the exhibition hall, we could see the more and more elaborate design and a definite shift towards more durable materials and electricity-powered engines.

In fact, some of the models are not only unique because of their respectable age, but because they were among—or even the—first in the product line, as indicated by the serial number.

Non-industrial items were also quite interesting.

Upon visitors’ requests, someone from the technical personnel gladly demonstrates how some of the machines work. A few of the locally manufactured items are scattered across the improvised workbench.

Various posters and engravings aptly convey the industrial process, urge, and ideals of the eras past.

Jenne Farm

Perhaps August was not the best time of year to be on the photo-hunt for the natural beauty of New England: the foliage has already paled off but has not yet put its fall finery; and the weather is still hot but already rainy. And though constrained by a number of circumstances to choose August, we still tried to see the best of New England’s flavors and capture them on camera.

In quest for northern scenery, we decided to track down Jenne Farm, one of the most photographed farms in the U.S., properly hidden among the forests of central Vermont.

As I mentioned, the weather could be better for the pictures; but still, Jenne Farm was a lovely place to be.

Woodstock

To continue the rural theme, we went north to make a near stop by Billings Farm, at the outskirts of Woodstock. The place gained popularity because most of the animals at the farm can be patted and photographed. It was probably interesting for our little one to see the sheep and horses, while it was more entertaining for me and my wife to find out how the milk cows are kept and taken care of.

In fact, the milk-breed cows look a bit like camels.

Stowe

Away from the farms, we proceeded north to the highest mountains of Vermont. Because only a few mountain peaks are accessible by ground vehicles, most people do not bother driving up those winding hilly roads to appreciate the scenery that this part of the state is famous for. Coincidentally, the staff of ski resorts that would otherwise be idling in the summer time are living off of devoted height-lovers who agree to pay generous ticket fees for an opportunity to enjoy a cable ride to, and from, the mountain tops. And even though I consider us neither devoted height-lovers nor wealthy travelers, we did do the gondola skyride in Stowe.

Unfortunately, the thick fog and overcast afternoon sky could not possibly result in bright pictures with clear distant overviews. Still we tried to capture the best angles we could.

What made the process of photo-taking even more difficult were the tiny openings in the predominantly plexiglass windows of the cabin, all speckled with scratches from ski gear.

With the much soothing sense of fulfilled duty, we set our course to Burlington, where we were going to finish off the long day.

Burlington

If there is one word that best describes the look of Burlington, it is probably “nice”; if there is one word that best describes the people of Burlington, it is definitely “weird.” A town of hipsters, roller-skaters, musicians, and vagabonds, Burlington is nonetheless fun to observe.

As for the city folks, however odd they are, we did get the unexplainable “home” feeling while being among them. I guess that is because my wife and I grew in somewhat wild surroundings as well.

The wickedness of the place further shows in some peculiar art.

To cap it all, the town has a cozy dock area on the bank of Lake Champlain.

Montpelier

Having spent the night at some cheap motel on the outskirts of Montpelier, we stuck to our plan and went for the improvised tour of Vermont’s capital first thing in the morning. As with most other state capitals, Montpelier was small, nicely built, and fairly quiet.

After the mandatory seeing of the Capitol, we continued on with our exploration of Montpelier and its half a dozen small streets.

Graniteville

We really wanted to see the Rock of Ages granite quarry the day before, but were not able to wait for the guided tour without having to sacrifice one of the other items in our itinerary. After some consideration, we decided to drop Middlebury and instead go to the quarry the following morning.

Rock of Ages quarry has one of the world’s largest supplies of granite, which has only been partly excavated so far. The granite-processing factory is only minutes away from the quarry and is also an interesting place to see.

How the factory manages to track down the thousands of monthly orders in this mess remained a mystery to me. Nonetheless, the Rock of Ages’ customer base is enormous, and a great deal of tombstones, pedestals, and other memorials seen throughout the country have been, and are being, manufactured there.

Several most typical samples of the production are presented outside.

As per cynical estimation of how many people die on a daily basis and thus stimulate the tombstone production, the size of the quarry might not be so impressive; yet trying to envision the amount of effort required to extract as much stone as appears missing from the huge granite deposit will surely put everything into place.

In the old days the miners used dynamite to blow up large sheets of granite and utilize whatever whole pieces got left. That created a lot of waste.

With the advent of the biochemical research, special substances have been formulated to allow for very precise and safe microexplosions in place of outdated  risky techniques. So, to break off a manageable chunk (usually, around 25 tons), the workers drill small grooves around the perimeter of the stone and fill them with the pre-dozed mix. Once complete, the chemical reaction is initiated, which forces the entire plate to snap off a foot in the air and land back in the same spot.

The loose granite block is then mounted by a special hanger and placed onto a truck. There is a special person who controls all of the operation of the quarry, and another one who operates the crane.

For safety reasons, the miners spent about half of their time not working, which of course makes the whole business less financially sound. However, because of hard labor and risks associated with the job, most workers are very well paid.

Since granite is much firmer than, say, marble (3 and 7 on the scale of strength, accordingly), the granite dust is a lot more dangerous and causes terminal illnesses over time. On site, the granite dust is neutralized with water, which is why there are tangles of pipes reaching to every drilling spot, and greenish-colored basins accumulated at bottomlands.

Before we left the Vermont border behind, we had a few more moments to look around and reflect on the pristine beauty of mountain forests and splendor of undisturbed lakes we had absorbed over the last two days.

The hill-rambling fogs and low-hanging clouds add mysterious and almost austere colors to the palette of Vermont.

It seems that people there know how to live in harmony with nature.

Below is the usual map of our navigation through the state.

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2 thoughts on “Across Vermont

  1. You got awesome and very interesting photos.

    What got most interest to me was Granite. Why? Because Granite is our national stone! In our country it is widely used also on memorials or better said war memorials. Our war memorials are art pieces – everyone, because our people suffered from the war, losing men who were in their best at ages.

    Some example that You could get an idea.

    Comparing war memorials

    Happy travel and blogging!

    • Thanks, sartenada.

      You too shared a very interesting post on war memorials. I believe that various materials—not only granite—have been used to create the works presented in your pictures. It is probably for the same reasons that you point out in your post: memorials can be expensive, so often times cheaper materials are selected.

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