September 28, 2003

Quechee Gorge

We had a wonderfully peaceful night in our cottage with all the windows open and the wind whispering through the trees. It started raining early this morning and kept up all day long with pretty heavy fall, about 2-1/4 Seattle normal (a measure I just created in my head).

We spent most of the day in the car. We drove south on highway 7 to Rutland, then east on highway 4 through Woodstock and on to Quechee (pronounced Kwee-chee).

Quechee is home to one of three Simon Pearce glassblowing studios. The site is an old grist mill that Pearce bought and converted to generate electricity with a hydroelectric turbine. Currently the site's electric glass furnaces are run from the power generated there with the excess being sold back to the local utility company. There are glass blowers and pottery turners working on the site so the tourists can watch them before they go upstairs and buy stuff. The products are quite attractive, but overpriced by at least 50% to my eye. The glass work in particular is all clear glass which I really liked in sharp contrast to the Seattle area's Chihuly-influenced unbounded riot of colors. I got a bad vibe from the place, though. Something about the mass-production methods coupled with individual craftsman pricing combined with the over-the-top self-promotion (Simon Pearce's name appears countless times) and the whole retail outlet as tourist attraction thing (a tour bus stopped in while we were there) all rubbed me the wrong way. Of course it could just be that I hadn't eaten yet.

Looking down into Quechee GorgeQuechee's other claim to fame is Quechee Gorge, a narrow gorge 162 feet deep. It's an odd feature because the terrain is lower at either end of the gorge making it seem like the river somehow sliced down through a whole hill. My camera doesn't have enough of a wide-angle lens to capture the effect. It's really not much of a natural feature by West Coast standards, but it's touted as a "natural spectacle" and "Vermont's Little Grand Canyon". I don't mean to disparage Quechee Gorge, it's a pretty spot, I just found the advertising amusing.

After leaving Quechee we headed north on highway 89 and stopped for lunch at Eaton's Sugarhouse in Royalton. The joint was jumping at 1pm and still serving breakfast. We both had pancakes (Becky's with blueberries, of course), as they seem to be the place's claim to fame. And justifiably so! They were big fluffy cakes served with real maple syrup. We both felt kind of sick afterwards from all the sugar, but I guess that's part of why it's called the "Sugarhouse".

After our meal we continued north on 89 to Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. The factory has tours seven days a week so we were able to take one on this Sunday. The place was packed! We had to wait about a half an hour to get on a tour. It cost three bucks and includes a movie about this history of Ben & Jerry's, the opportunity to look down on the production facility and see how the ice cream is made, and two small samples. Theirs is an inspiring story of a successful business with a social conscience. Even now that it's no longer publicly owned, but run by a big European conglomerate, they're still able to give 7.5% of their pre-tax profits to charity.

After the ice cream tour we backtracked a bit to the state capital, Montpelier, then east on highway 2 to St. Johnsbury where we are holed up at Holiday Motel, which is one of the more stuffy places we've stayed, and someone should explain to them that the word "soundproof" would mean that we wouldn't be able to hear people talking outside our room. They've got phones in the rooms, but they charge 50 cents for local calls. Bastards! It's also the most expensive place we've stayed so far at $79 plus tax.

When we got here I discovered that the leftovers of my lovely steak from last night had become waterlogged from ice melt in the clamshell box in our icechest :-( (what's the emoticon for the anime girl with tears gushing out of her eyes? That'd be about how I felt about that! Waah!) No more clamshell boxes in the "ice" chest without a waterproof wrapper.

Posted by jeffy at September 28, 2003 09:30 PM