Priorities in the right place?
When mapping out the first summer of living on the road, we made big plans to see historic and educational sites along the way. High on our list were Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, and Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. However, when it came time to visit these revered sites, we talked ourselves out of it.
Last night we camped in a commercial RV park near Waterbury in north central Vermont. This was not by accident since Waterbury is home to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Since nothing says “historic and educational” like a Ben and Jerry’s factory tour, there was no talking ourselves out of this visit. (To be honest, the weather was too hot while in Washington DC and Charlottesville to leave T&E in the trailer so we canceled our plans for Mt. Vernon and Monticello.)
It’s Monday morning when we arrive at the Ben and Jerry’s (B&J’s) factory and it’s already crowded with other tourists seeking to round out their education. We’re towing the Airstream so the attendant directs us to the shady RV lot. We’re headed to New Hampshire this afternoon so having the Airstream with us provides a cool and comfortable place for T&E while we do the tour.
We pay $4 each for two adult tickets and are ushered into a screening room with about 30 other visitors. We see a 7 minute film describing the history and corporate culture of B&J’s. We learn they only use locally-sourced milk from hormone-free cows and non-genetically altered ingredients from fair-trade certified farmers.
After the film, we head upstairs to a viewing room that overlooks the factory floor where we see ice cream being made. Our guide describes all the steps and takes questions at the end. I ask how the density of B&J’s ice cream compares with their competitors like Breyer’s. I learn that Breyer’s pumps so much air into their ice cream that a pint of B&J’s contains as much ice cream as a quart of Breyer’s.
Finally we head back downstairs for the part of the tour that everyone is looking forward to: the ice cream sampling. I’m wanting Coffee Heath Bar Crunch but it turns out we have no choice. The ice cream sample is a flavor currently in product development and not available in grocery stores. I’m beginning to wonder about this…
Ha Ha. Turns out the sample is Super Chocolate Chunk and it’s quite good. Cindy and I think it’s ready for production.
While the samples are being handed out, our guide tells us more about what it’s like to work at B&J’s. Turns out, all employees are given 3 pints of B&J’s every day. I ask her what in the world she does with all that ice cream. She’s rather thin so she can’t be eating it. She tells us she and her family all have a freezer full. She also tells us employees barter their pints for goods and services with other merchants in Waterbury. She mentions pizza in particular. I wonder how many pints a pizza costs?
We finish the tour and exit into the gift shop (or “Profit Center” according to my sister the banker). We browse through the many tie dyed t-shirts and ice cream bowls and cups bearing the Ben & Jerry’s logo. We’re almost tempted to buy the combination lock set to keep others out of your pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but since we don’t have any teenagers around, we don’t really have a need for it.
We grab T&E from the Airstream and head up to the B&J’s Flavor Graveyard to see the headstones of discontinued flavors. I can understand why most are no longer around, but not my former favorite:by