Bullwinkle was here
Cabot, VT was only about a half hourâ€™s drive from St. Johnsbury. We would be traveling the same highway to head back west as we did on our eastbound journey into town. On the eastbound leg of this journey we had spied two things that caught our interest. The first was a turnout on the highway that promised a scenic view. I had been expecting to see a lot of these on this trip. I figured that the New England states, wanting to prevent near death experiences from people just pulling over on the shoulder would have specific areas in which they could pull over to take pictures. This was the first one of them we had seen. We would have pulled over yesterday, but as it was dark, I didnâ€™t think anyone would believe how great the foliage looked if the pictures all looked liked the inside of coal mine.
The Green Mountains of Vermont
The second thing was a â€śMoose Crossingâ€ť sign. Moose are a pretty scarce sight in Colorado. Although they are coming back, sign warning of their presence are somewhere between non-existent and uncommon. But, not so in Vermont. They were all over the place. The signs I mean. We still hadnâ€™t seen a real moose, at least not here in New England. As you may recall from the Quechee Gorge part of this blog, we had a very long and protracted moose sighting in Colorado, at our friendsâ€™ cabin.
Margo really wanted to take a picture of a road sign that demonstrated that the Moose was a pedestrian in Vermont. She thought our cabin friends would get a kick out of it. The problem with that is that as soon as you got close enough to tell that the yellow, diamond shaped sign was warning of the moose crossing, you were whizzing past it. It didnâ€™t strike us a prudent to lock up the brakes, pull over, and either reverse or run back a quarter of a mile, for the sole purpose of bagging a picture of a sign. I was pretty sure that if this was witnessed by one of Vermontâ€™s Finest, the reason we would provide would not earn us a good natured chuckle. And good oleâ€™ Juan, back at Thrifty Car Rental, had made a point of telling us that if Thrifty had to pay some sort of fine for us, with respect to a moving violation, there was a stiff penalty. I really didnâ€™t want to give Juan the satisfaction.
The reason for the Scneic Overlook sign
But, our eastbound trip had yielded a sign and I watched as we continued east for itâ€™s twin on the westbound side. I found it, and made a mental note of itâ€™s general location. Now we could just slow down when we got in area and keep a sharp eye out for the shape, knowing that in all likelihood it would be one warning of Bullwinkleâ€™s presence.
To think we ignore them during the summer
We bagged our moose (crossing) first. We noted its approach and passed it slowly as not to spook it. Then we quietly pulled over. Then Margo exited the car. She crept cautiously back to the sign, camera ready for a quick shot. She then leapt into action, getting in front of it, aiming and releasing the shutter. She nailed it with her first shot, negating the need for another shot. Within seconds we were driving down the road with our quarry safely stowed in a memory chip.
The only downside is raking
The Scenic Overlook proved to be worth the trouble, but I couldnâ€™t help but think how much prettier it would have been a week earlier and under a sunny sky. Of course the other part of my brain whispered and it could have been buried under a foot of Vermont snow, and you stuck in a hotel or airport. So, I wasnâ€™t complaining. Margo and I both took a few shots together. Then I worked my way down a few hundred yards to get different angles and a shot of a house. Margo decided to release the tripod from the trunk, and use it take a picture of both of us together. There had been little traffic, and it might have been a long wait for other leaf peepers to assist us. After a few practice shots to line everything up, she was ready for me.
The picture looks sooooo much better with me in it. My hair sticks up on one side and even my smile does not seem to warm up the picture. But, there we are, together and with the glorious foliage a back drop.
Which way is the wind blowing
We continued through the overcast weather. We got a little bit of rain, but not much. It was not long before we turned off onto the little highway that took us into Cabot. Ten minutes later we were pulling into the parking lot of Cabot Creamery. Cabot Creamery makes a variety of products, but is most famous for itâ€™s cheese. When we were in Quechee we stopped in their outlet store there. We didnâ€™t buy anything, as we knew we would be heading to the source today.
Luck served us again when I purchased our tour tickets.
We were taking part in a tour only about ten minutes after we arrived. We spent that ten minutes looking around the gift shop. But that did not last long. We were called up pretty quickly. Our group was about 15 people, and as with Maple Grove, our first stop was to watch a short video. It told the Cabot story. Basically the dairy farmers in the area were producing more milk than they could sell. So they got together and formed a co-op. This was Cabot Creamery. The creameryâ€™s job was to create a market for their milk by producing products from the milk they would sell to it. This worked out well, as Cabotâ€™s cheese is now sold across the country and they have many other products as well. The video told us that their cheddar cheese has won many awards at cheese competitions. Who knew that cheeses competed? But they do, and evidently Cabotâ€™s can kick ass and take names. I wanted to try some of this. I like cheese, and am very fond of a sharp cheddar.
I couldnâ€™t wait for the sampling part of the tour.
Our guide moves fast
But first we got to see some of the production. Our guide led us from the Video Room, into a long windowed hall, in which we could see some long metal bins with cheese curds in them. Our guide didnâ€™t do a great job of telling us what we had missed in the cheese making process, but I knew from watching â€śDirty Jobsâ€ť on the Discovery Channel, that milk had been poured into these large vats, and an enzyme had been added. The enzyme had broken the mild down into curds and whey. This was where we were at now. There were three large vats, each in a different stage of the process. One was still had the enzyme working on the milk. One was in the process of having the whey (the liquid part) drained from the curds.
The other was completely drained and workers were raking the curds forward to be further processed.
We watched workers rake and the machines stir the curd-whey mixture. It was interesting, thinking how this unappetizing conglomeration could some how end up looking and tasting like cheese. Our guide explained that curds were raked into a press that squeezed the curds together. This machine compacted them into squares, then packaged and sent to their cooler to be aged. Margo and I listened and watched the machines, and tried to take pictures. It was hard to capture anything of real meaning, but we tried. Earlier, after the video but before this portion of the tour our guide had asked for questions. I started the ball rolling asking why their cheddar was white. Almost all of the cheddar in Colorado is orange.
She only had a partial answer. She explained that all cheddar cheese starts out as white, and must be dyed to get the orange cheese color. The only reason that they dyed some of there cheese is that it would not sell out west, unless it was orange. No explanation as to why us westerners had become accustomed to orange cheese. I suspect a Cheesehead conspiracy of sorts. We all know how obnoxious those Packer fans are.
Stirring the Curds and Whey
Our tour ended and we were led back into the gift shop. This was both a delight and a curse. Margo and I were hungry. We had sacrificed breakfast on the Alter of Schedule and were now paying the price. So with a dozen different kinds of cheese, a couple of kinds of cream cheese dips, and a few crackers to play with we began a tour of the gift shop.
We sampled if not most, certainly many of the cheeses. Flavored (Jalapeno or Pepper) cheeses donâ€™t appeal to me. But, they had several flavors of sharp cheddar. I quickly discovered a favorite. I was called McCadams Adirondack Wicked Sharp Cheddar. It was a deeply sharp cheddar. Most yummy. I later found out that McCadams is a sister company to Cabotâ€™s and is based in upstate New York. I went back to that stack of cubes, time after time. After the first taste I knew there was no way we would be leaving without some of that to sample at home. Margo agreed. We ended up with about $40 worth of cheese. This included 8 oz of the Adirondack and 8 oz of Cabotâ€™s Private Stock Extra Sharp. This was supposed to be Cabotâ€™s finest, and it was pretty tasty. We again decided to have shipped to us back home. I was really looking forward to that order arriving.
Do robotic cows give milk? This one moves blocks of cheese
The place to be for fine cheese
We were still doing OK on time, but we had pretty much done all that we could do. Oh, I almost forgot to mention why the gift shop was a curse. It had nothing to do with all of the tempting goodies. It was here that Margo and I discovered that tour buses make up a significant portion of the business of the same attractions that Margo and I would be doing today and tomorrow. These tour companies cater to the elderly, which I have nothing against. I hope to be an Elderly one day. But when they disgorge 50 people apiece, these buses can turn a leisurely gift shop experience into a day at Space Mountain. I didnâ€™t come to Vermont to visit Disneyland. By the time we had finished out tour there were two buses in the parking lot. Some were on a tour, and some were outside, but at least half of them were competing for space with us in the gift shop. We conceded to their greater need and numbers and made our way to our car. Our next stop was back in Waterbury, Cold Hollow Cider.