July’s activities here at Klondike were similar to June’s – our daily walks, Sunday morning breakfasts at the Klondike clubhouse, and helping with small jobs throughout the resort. It was also a time to better know the friends we’ve made since getting here. One evening, we enjoyed happy hour with Carl and Rose at our place and another time on their back deck. We share very similar tastes in wine and are getting introduced to new varieties.
Another afternoon, we sampled different flavors of tea with Lou and Anne and later enjoyed some awesome smoked ribs that Larry fixed – he’s getting closer to preparing ribs as good as our favorite ribs place – Corky’s.
Last month we wrote that we’d painted the window sills and trim on the second floor of Klondike’s clubhouse. The first floor only has about a dozen windows with just a small section needing paint but we decided to spiffy up that area by cleaning the sills and ledges thoroughly, touching up paint on most of the window trim, and finally changing the yellow on the two sets of double doors to the cream color used throughout that room. It took us just part of the day but sure did make a difference.
Three special events occurred during July: our road trip to Vermont; several of Lucille’s family members gathering at Klondike for a long weekend; a day trip to New York City.
First the Vermont road trip – St. Johnsbury and the Moose River Campground, where our Georgia friends and fellow dulcimer players Bill and Jann were hanging out for a couple of months. We caught up on our happenings over a delicious dinner they prepared. Day Two we re-visited Rock of Ages granite quarry in Barre, with a stop first at the visitor center and watching a short film on a history of the quarry and its products. We signed up for the optional tour of the 600-foot deep quarry, high atop an overlook, watching the workers below drill and prep huge blocks of granite to be blasted from the sides of the mountain. The granite in this location alone covers an area two miles by four miles by ten miles down, enough to last thousands of years still. They also own quarries throughout the US and Canada where they mine different shades of granite and some marble. Our guide suggested we visit the granite bowling lane on the premises and nearby Hope Cemetery to see some fine examples of sculpted granite monuments, quarried from Rock of Ages.
The granite bowling lane was an experiment to come up with a solid and more durable material than the typical wood lane. It was a good idea but shortly discarded when it was found to be too slippery once it was polished enough for the balls to go down the lane. It was so slick, there was no telling where your ball would end up – a potential dangerous projectile. We tossed around the rubber bowling balls at the granite lane – certainly entertaining.
We also took a tour of the manufacturing plant where an elevated walkway overlooks the different stages of processing the granite after it has been quarried – quite interesting. Hope Cemetery had several typical mortuary monuments but some of the more unusual ones were an airplane, a race car, a soccer ball and two blocks of granite linked by a granite chain.
Time for lunch and based on a recommendation, we drove to downtown Barre and enjoyed lunch at the Ladder 1 Grill. The Victorian Firehouse, build in 1904, is home to the restaurant as well as the Firefighter Museum.
A quick stop at the Joe’s Pond Craft Shop to pick up some local crafts, an ice-cream fix at Abbi’s and then a final stop to visit the Birdman of Cabot before we got home – a very pleasant day touring with friends.
Edmond Menard is the Birdman of Cabot. Having learned his craft over 35 years ago from the original Birdman, Chester Nutting, he obtains the white cedar used in the creation of his birds from Nutting’s daughter’s property. He harvests what he needs and freezes the wood to keep it moist until he’s ready to carve that piece. From a single piece of wood, using the fan-carving method of woodworking, he may create a duck or hummingbird or chickadee, or even a pelican holding a bird in its mouth. He gave us a quick demonstration and made it look so easy. We left his shop with a duck of our own and a hummingbird to give to Larry’s brother Brian, who is also a woodworker but specializing in laser-cut pieces. If you are in the Cabot area, be sure to stop in to see him – he’s quite the artisan.
Lucille’s cousin Rita and her husband Gordon live in Island Pond, north of St. Johnsbury. We spent an enjoyable afternoon visiting with the two of them – it had been eight years since we’d last been at their home. While enjoying an early supper with Rita at the Pond’s Edge Pub and Grill overlooking the pond, we spotted a loon and two chicks swimming – how cool!
Our last stop in the area was visiting the Stephen Huneck Gallery and Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury. Stephen created Dog Mountain, Dog Chapel and the surrounding acreage so folks can celebrate the bond they have with their dogs. There are trails, dog ponds and agility courses for your four-legged friend – a very pet-friendly place where you are apt to be greeted by either home or visitor dogs freely roaming the property, the chapel and the gift shop. Stephen was a very talented artist – his sketches and woodcarvings are found throughout the property. We visited the Dog Chapel – there’s a doggie door for the four-legged visitors and regular-sized doors for the two-legged kind. The pews are wood with larger-than-life hand carved dogs at each end forming the pew’s sides. The chapel is graced with thousands of pictures of deceased pets – we added Shelley’s picture to this pet memorial. Sadly, Stephen passed away in 2010 but his wife continues to manage Dog Mountain. Funding is always an issue - contributions are appreciated as are purchases from the many cool items for sale. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop in, or visit the gallery and chapel via their website.
St. Johnsbury is also the home of Maple Grove Farms. When we were last there in 2004, tours were allowed in the plant but no more….We walked through the small museum and visited the gift shop, sampling and buying maple products, of course! Maple Grove Farms started in 1915 when Helen Gray and Ethel McLaren began perfecting maple sweets on their farm. Business grew so much, they moved to the existing brick plant. Maple Grove Farms is the largest packer of pure maple syrup in the US and largest manufacturer of maple candies in the world. During our travels across the nation, we often see their product line carried by local grocers.
Besides doing some sightseeing, we got in a couple of dulcimer practices and got some new tunes from Bill and Jann. Time to move on to our second destination in Vermont – Habitat friends’ Tom and Diane’s home in Bridport. Our ride there was primarily on back roads and quite pleasant and scenic, but the scenery is nothing compared to what we saw when we got to Tom and Diane’s – their home overlooks Lake Champlain – wow! We had a million-dollar view overlooking the lake and nearby New York state. Had we not had things to do and places to see back in Massachusetts, we’d still be there, not just because of the awesome view but because they are fabulous hosts.
Tom gave us a tour of Champlainside Farm, started by his father many years ago, and turned over to Tom, who eventually passed it on to their son Tim. This is a huge dairy operation – we barely scratched the surface of its operations. Here are a few facts we learned during our tour:
· The barn has 530 milking cows, with most of them going through the milking parlor three times a day.
· Milking continues 21 hours a day, shutting down to wash the system for an hour each shift.
· In addition to the family members, there are nine fulltime employees, one whose primary job is to calculate and prepare the proper amount of feed and nutrients to be fed to the cows daily (we nicknamed him ‘the chef’.)
· Each cow averages 84.6 pounds of milk per day, for a total sold of 39,400 pounds/day.
· 12,900,000 pounds of milk sold last year.
· 499 total young stock.
· 52% of all calves born are heifers.
· Crops cover over 1,300 acres within a five mile radius.
· Barn is scraped three times a day – over 3,000,000 gallons of manure annually.
This is a business and as such, has specific goals – to continue expanding the business in an environmentally friendly manner; pay down debts and build a stronger balance sheet; make good choices in good years to help weather the bad ones; and most importantly, continue striking a good balance between work and family. We thank Tom and Tim for taking the time to give us the tour and let us peek behind the scenes of how those gallons of milk we buy at the store have their start.
Another afternoon, we visited a dairy farm of a different sort – one with robotic milking parlors. Imagine a cow determining when she wants to be milked – this we had to see! Tom and Diane drove us to Clark Hinsdale’s robotic dairy farm in nearby Charlotte. Four milking parlors service his dairy herd but only one of them is open to the public, with a catwalk across the barn where the dairy cows eat and bed down when not getting milked. Here is a link explaining the process more in detail.
Here is our condensed version….Each cow wears a pendant around her neck, which identifies her. She will then amble into the milking parlor where the computer reads the identifying chip in her pendant. A computer screen nearby displays the cow’s number, her weight, the amount of feed that will automatically drop into the trough that she knows will provide her a snack as an enticement to be milked, and how much milk she has produced that day. The robotic milking machine will clean her udder, and then with the laser-guided system, milking cups are attached to her teats. They will automatically disengage when milk flow ceases from that quarter. If one of the teats doesn’t have milk flow, the computer knows not to attach anything there. After the milking is done, the cups retract, are sanitized and ready for the next cow, the gate latch releases and out ambles the cow. If there are any problems, the computer notes them and will contact an attendant if necessary. We watched several cows cycle through this process. If one of them comes in too soon after milking to get more feed, the gate latch releases immediately and she’ll leave because no food will appear in the trough. Amazing!
Tom launched their boat Sunday afternoon and we motored down the lake for about ten miles, enjoying the cool breeze and their narrative as we passed Fort Ticonderoga and other interesting features.
All too soon it was time to head back to Klondike but Lucille’s family was starting to arrive within a few days and we still had things to prepare before our company arrived. First to arrive were cousin Marcel and wife Priscilla from Rhode Island. Our Georgia visitors arrived on Thursday - Mom, accompanied by Yvette and her husband Pat. We kept our meal simple that night – Big Y, a local grocery chain, has these huge rotisserie chickens. Add a couple of side dishes and we had a filling meal.
Friday saw the arrival of brother Ray from Connecticut and cousins Sue and Dy, their mother Alma and husband Bud, and Sue’s husband Verne. Half of the New York crew was going to stay in the fifth wheel on our site with some of the Georgia folk. Sue and Verne brought their travel trailer and with Verne’s good backing skills, they got snugged in next to us on our leased site. Another easy meal that night – pulled pork and fixins’. Larry had smoked a couple of pork butts earlier in the month – we shredded them before freezing. All we had to do was thaw them out, pop the meat in one crockpot, beans in another, and add a couple of veggie dishes.
Ray spent that night with us in the motorhome, along with our guest of honor, Lucille’s mother. Bright and early Saturday morning, Ray’s wife Tracy and their daughters arrived, bringing a scrumptious breakfast casserole. Ray and Tracy hosted breakfast that morning and by the time Marcel’s sister Mary Anne, her children Christine and David arrived, along with Rob, Marcel’s son, twenty of us feasted on several delicious breakfast dishes, pastries, and fruit.
Lucille ‘volunteered’ brother-in-law Pat to fix his signature low country boil (shrimp, taters, corn, sausage and spices) for dinner Saturday night. He had a bit of trouble getting the borrowed pot and propane cooker to heat the water fast enough but supplemented by some of the meal fixed on our propane stove, dinner was served, a bit late but still very much enjoyed. Sunday morning we enjoyed Klondike’s breakfast before saying good bye to some of the family. By Monday, all our guests had returned safely home. Campfires, ‘smores, and reminiscing – memories made over those few days and talk already about where we will gather next year.
No time to rest yet, though. Larry’s mother celebrated her birthday that Monday so we drove down to Cheshire to take her shopping, lunched at the Country Corner Diner in Bethany where Brian and Bonnie surprised her with a cake, then took a short tour of an assisted living facility in Cheshire. Our stop here was planned, with her knowledge – she realizes she is getting frailer and can use a little more help than where she is living now. We were all quite impressed with Elim Park and by the time we left there, she had agreed to add her name to the waiting list. We helped her fill out the application and are hoping a room becomes available while we are still in the area so we can help her move in. It helps that she knows several folks there already and has visited them in the past.
Our last major event during July was a day trip to New York City, organized by the Otis Senior Center. Several Klondikers were also signed up so we did a lot of visiting coming and going. The skies opened up on our way up and again on our way back but the weather cooperated when we got to the city and started our touring. Our bus driver was awesome – we knew he had over two million miles of driving experience but didn’t find out till afterwards he had never driven in New York City before – he maneuvered that behemoth coach on those streets like he was a native. We picked up a guide once we got near Broadway who gave us a running commentary of what we were seeing.
Our first stop was the National September 11 Memorial. Admission is free but you must have reservations for a specific time. Due to a lot of traffic, we were running about 45 minutes later than our appointment but we were allowed to enter anyway. The downside is that we had but twenty minutes to view the memorial before we had to get back to our bus. The memorial doesn’t have restrooms or bench seating or a gift shop yet – it is still under construction. We were able to see the two pools (Memorial North and Memorial South) in place of the Twin Towers – very impressive. Thirty-foot waterfalls cascade into the pools, and then descend into a center void. Names of the victims are etched in marble around these pools. We also saw the Survivor Tree - a Callery pear tree that had been planted in the World Trade Center plaza in the 1970s. After 9/11, workers found the tree, then just an eight-foot tall stump. It was nursed back to health and grew to be 30 feet tall, sprouting new branches and flowering in the springtime.
#1 World Trade Center is being rebuilt. When completed, it will be 1,776 feet, the tallest building in the US. #4 World Trade Center will rise 72 floors, 977 feet tall. Still under construction is the Museum Pavilion which will chronicle the events of the day, the background that preceded them and the national and international response that followed.
Lunch was in Little Italy at SPQR – which stands for Senatus Populesque Romanus, translating to “The People and Senate of Rome” and was the emblem of the Roman Empire. We were amazed at how quickly they served our group of almost 60 people. After the waiters took our orders from a choice of four entrees, salads and bread were served, and dessert following the entrees – a wonderful meal.
Next on the agenda was a harbor tour with Circle Line Tours – the narrator did an excellent job of explaining what we were seeing as we cruised for two hours. Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close was the highlight of this tour. We learned several interesting facts about the city, from both our hop-on guide and the boat tour guide.
You may remember the crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 January 2009. A flock of birds apparently struck its engine, which quickly lost power. Captain Chester Sullenburger II, a veteran military fighter pilot, successfully landed the plane in the water, with no fatalities. What is amazing is that landing on water is one of the rarest and technically challenging feats in commercial aviation. Circle Line Tours was one of those closest to respond to aid in the rescue. They always have a boat and crew standing by in case one of their regularly scheduled boats has a problem – what a blessing to the passengers and crew on this flight to have landed so close to their dock. Our guide pointed out the area in which this happened.
Some other interesting factoids about the city:
· The number one industry is tourism followed by the garment industry.
· NYC had 52 million tourists visiting last year, more than any other city in the world.
· NYC has the largest Chinatown in the US, having started off with just three streets. In the beginning, immigrant Chinese could only work in laundries or restaurants.
· The High Line elevated rail line used to be part of Nabisco Corporation to transport food products from the factory to the dock. It is now a public park owned by the city, used for walking or biking its completed sections. What a cool way to convert a defunct industrial line to something the public can enjoy.
· Speaking of Nabisco, did you know the Oreo cookie was developed by them 100 years ago?
· There are more townhomes from the Civil War period in NYC than in Boston. And there are more buildings built out of cast iron than anywhere else.
· The food industry, with 24,000 restaurants, is the city’s largest employer.
· The Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel wire suspension bridge. It was built in 1883 and remained the longest suspension bridge until 1903.
· During World War II, 5,400 ships were built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, employing 75,000 people.
· The observatory on top of the Empire State Building was not part of its original plans but later built to bring in more revenue. In the 1930s, more money came in from the observatory than from the building’s office rental fees.
· There are 11,000 taxis; seven million folks ride the subway annually.
And that was just a sampling of all that we learned that day! After riding around in the traffic, the most important lesson we learned is that we sure were glad we weren’t the ones driving! We arrived home about 15 hours after having left, tired but glad we went.
How quickly July went by, but it’s not surprising as busy as we were. We’ll slow it down a bit in August, maybe……