It all started with a cow.
A bunch of them, in fact, grazing and lazing in a mountainside meadow
in the shadow of the Adirondacks.
“That’s the biggest cow I’ve ever seen,” said my observant,
“It’s dairy country,” said my brother-in-law, who was driving us on an
apple-picking color tour of his region of upstate New York. “There are
a lot of dairy farms around.”
I’m no cow fancier myself, but there were, I thought, a whole lot of
cows, for sure.
The next day found us in lovely Vermont, which in the words of that
same companion is kind of like “Wisconsin with mountains."
Cows galore, that is. Big black and white Holsteins, along with the
ever-beautiful Green Mountains, now alive with the red-gold hues of
I was glancing at one of those tourist maps that show different places
and events in the area when I saw it. While it might not be the
raison d'être for every one of those bovine buddies, it surely gives
them something to aspire to as they stand around.
Ben and Jerry’s.
The gentle ice cream giants have a factory just outside Waterbury,
Vermont, where they churn out (pun intended) a quarter million pints a
day. They also offer factory tours.
It was a cool, cloudy Monday in a state where every city--even the
busy ones like the capital--is kind of in the middle of nowhere. So, I
figured it might be a little slow in ice cream heaven. Heck maybe I’d
get the scoop on B & J’s without much delay. Maybe two scoops, even.
The combination of the fall foliage season and the lure of lots of ice
cream combined for long lines of fans hoping for a glimpse--and a
taste--of their favorite.
We got our own first taste of Ben and Jerry’s back in the early 80’s,
before they became a nationally-known brand. We were visiting in the
northeast and I had been sent to the local market for ice cream.
Instead of returning with the requested Häagen-Dazs, I showed up with
a bagful of of wacky flavors like Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia.
She thought I was a genius, maybe for the first time.
Maybe for the only time, in fact.
We enjoyed the tour, especially the sample room. I even got an answer
about the cows, as the guide noted that the company “employs” 40,000
cows belonging to a family dairy co-op in the northern part of the
“Model employees,” he quipped. “All out standing in their field.”
But even more enjoyable was experiencing the way the topography and
scenery evolves as you travel across and down through Vermont. From
meadows and cows and distant mountains to close-up mountainsides mixed
with racing streams and deep, deep forests, the state is a back-road
dream. Our sense of adventure was heightened by repeated “Moose
Crossing” signs, along with one warning that there might even be a
bear here and there.
I’m asked, from time to time, whether there’s a part of the country I
like the best.
I can honestly say I’ve liked them all on this extended east coast
foray. It’s been kids and grandchildren on the beach, American history
lessons in the Chesapeake basin, the warm welcome of a cousin living
on the edge of the Civil War battlefield called the Wilderness, the
excitement of sailing with a sister and brother-in-law on beautiful
Lake George, and some wonderful wandering through the land of maple
syrup and Robert Frost.
But best of all is the fact that we’re doing it. We’re going to some
of the places we always said we’d go, seeing some of what there is to
see, and dreaming of the next time we hit the road together.
Dreaming, too, of the long road ahead and the way home.