"It feels good to be lost in the right direction"
State 42: Vermont - May 30 - June 14, 2018
After departing New Jersey, we spent two weeks off the road in Eastern Upstate New York visiting with my Cousin Lisa, my Cousin Cruise and his wife Becca and their three dogs, and my Cousin Jenny, and her son Enver. We even stopped in Lake George to doggie sit so my Aunt Chrissey and Uncle Tommy could attend a wedding. After spending close to a year on the road seeing only stranger's faces, it was a pleasure to spend quality time with family whom I deeply love and greatly missed. Please see the pictures below!
We woke up at a Walmart in Plattsburgh, NY well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Today, we drive Southeast to enter the 42nd state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; Vermont: The Green Mountain State. The Green Mountains extend from the state's Southern border 250 miles to its Northern border. When the French laid claim to the region in 1609, they described the areas as “Verts Monts” translating in English to “Green Mountains”. Thus Vermont is the Green Mountains, and the Green Mountains are Vermont. It is tough to critique a slogan when its translation is the state's very name! What a great slogan embracing the very essence of the state! Will the natural awe inspiring beauty of the Green Mountains inspire the Cross Country Couple to call the state our new home? We cannot wait to begin our week of exploration in Vermont!
We entered Vermont at its Northwest border, and spent the morning exploring beautiful Lake Champlain, and the adorable city of Burlington. Just as Nate and I were about to depart for our next destination, we suffered a sudden and traumatic loss! June 14, 2018, will be immortalized as the day Michelle, our GPS, unexpectedly died! We tried to resuscitate her by checking her connections, but all of our efforts proved futile. Awww the humanity! Why God? WHY???
There is only one thing left for Nate and I to do. Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of our dear friend Michelle; our GPS. Michele first came into our lives a little over a year ago. After a lengthy process of researching dozens of different GPS’s, we specifically chose Michelle due to hundreds of positive reviews, Garmin's trusted brand name in the GPS industry, and for her ability to program Rosie’s height for avoiding low underpasses. Goodbye Michelle! Rosie, Nate and I will deeply miss you! In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Garmin's Research and Development Department, so they can hopefully make a $400.00 GPS that lasts longer than one damn year!
A GPS is not just a luxury to guide us along as we casually stroll around town. Our GPS is our very lifeline as we explore the back roads of America directing us away from low clearance underpasses, and from roads Rosie is banished from venturing! In addition to mourning the passing of a dear friend and invaluable part of the Cross Country Couple team, we now had a more pressing issue. We needed a specific model GPS with certain features not readily available in retail stores.
We called Garmin for assistance, and were informed our warrantee had expired a month prior! Aargh! Aargh! Aargh! I was not about to pay another $400 for a replacement GPS when the previous one only lasted a year! After spending an infuriating two hours on the phone with Garmin and escalating the matter up their chain of command, I finally found a manager with some sense of customer service, who agreed to mail a replacement at no charge! Yippee!
Here is where things get complicated! Since Nate and I live in a van, we do not have a permanent address, and getting mail is a royal pain in the ass! We explained the process of how we receive our mail on the road in a previous post, which you can read about by clicking here. In a nut shell, we use a mail forwarding service who sends our mail to a post office via general delivery. The biggest challenge is finding a post office willing to accept general delivery, as 90% do not! The nearest post office I could find willing to accept my forwarded mail was in Bar Harbor, ME, and I would not be there for another three weeks! Complicating matters even further, cell coverage is sketchy throughout the Green Mountain State, and we now must rely on Google maps on the iphone for navigation. In addition, I cannot plug Rosie's measurements into Google maps, and Vermont has over 100 covered bridges Rosie is too tall to fit through. EEEKKK!!!
After stopping by AAA to pick up a few complimentary road maps in case we lose our signal, we drove 45 miles Southeast to Shelburne for the Cross Country Couple's “Made in the USA” Tour for Vermont; The Vermont Teddy Bear Company. In 1981, Vermontian John Sortino made a very disturbing discovery! All of the teddy bears sold in the US were made in China and very poorly constructed. Confident he could construct a better bear, Sortino began making handcrafted teddy bears in his garage, and sold them off a cart in an open air market on Church Street in Burlington, VT. It took four days for Sortino to sell his first bear, and only sold 200 in his first year. Sortino stumbled upon the idea of mail ordering the bears after a tourist requested he ship the bear to her home. Today, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company produces 500,000 hand crafted bears annually, and has become the world's largest retailer of teddy bears via mail order!
After parking Rosie, we made our way towards the Teddy Bear Factory. Upon entering, an 8-foot tall 300 lb plush bear greeted us at the door confirming the Cross Country Couple had arrived at the correct location. Here is a selfie opportunity that doesn't come along every day! Please see the pictures below of our arrival at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company Factory.
I approached the front desk, paid the $4.00 per person admission fee, and was pleased to learn pictures were permitted. The receptionist directed me to stand in front of the nearby large wooden double doors, and they slowly creaked open moments later. Over the next 30 minutes, our guide took us through the entire teddy bear production process: design, hand stitching, stuffing, assembly, and finally shipping. Please see the pictures below.
One of the most adorable displays featured teddy bears on a motorized belt going into one side of a miniature building, and each comes out the other side in shipping boxes. Every box has pre-cut air holes, so the bears can breathe while enroute to their new home. The process was so cute, I took a video, which you can see by clicking here.
Our tour ended in the Bear Hospital where Dr. Nancy practices. All Vermont Teddy Bears come with three identifying features: the words “Made in Vermont” in each of their eyes, patented plastic movable joints on each of their limbs, and an id tag on their butt. So long as one on the identifying features are present, each Vermont Teddy Bear is “Guaranteed for Life”. Please see the pictures below.
When Dr. Nancy receives a confirmed Vermont Teddy Bear, it is triaged and pertinent information is obtained including: patient’s name, age, fur color, known allergies, living will and permission to perform surgery. Hospital stays for bears generally take 3-4 weeks. No matter how severe the injury or deformity, Dr. Nancy has a 99% success rate, and will do her best to ensure your plush friend makes a full recovery.
The main injuries treated at the bear hospital include: "dog bites, wear-and-tear and sibling rivalry. Another point Dr. Nancy emphasized was Vermont Teddy Bears should NEVER EVER be placed in the dryer. Each bear is stuffed with finely shredded plastic from recycled bottles, which is actually a lot softer than it sounds. When you place your bear in the dryer, the plastic stuffing melts and severely damages your furry friend!
Occasionally, the injuries are too extreme, and a replacement bear is the only viable option. Dr. Nancy recalled one such case from a few years ago. The shredded remnants of a teddy bear arrived at the bear hospital in a bag after being mulched by a lawn mower. Unless you have a very spiteful sibling or absolutely awful parents, how does one manage to run over a teddy bear with a lawn mower? I can imagine how traumatized the poor child must have been seeing the cloth and stuffing of his dear friend shot all across his parents front lawn! Needless to say, a replacement bear was sent out in this instance. Please see the pictures below of our visit to the Bear Hospital.
For my final stop, I ventured into the retail shop to view the complete Vermont Teddy Bear Company product line, and one fact became evidently clear. Whether you are graduating medical school, getting married, starting a new job, getting divorced, joining any branch of the military, having a baby, having twins, having triplets, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, birthdays, National Nurses Week, a newly appointed Chief Justice, or plan on parachuting out of an airplane Vermont Teddy Bear makes a bear for everyone and every occasion! In addition, the store featured a seemingly endless array of accessories to customize your new furry friend. The average cost of the bears we encountered was rather steep at $50-$100! Although the bears were quite cute, I could think of a lot more worthwhile things to do with $100 than spend it on cloth and recycled plastic bottles. Please see the pictures below of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company Factory Store.
Not every one of the Vermont Teddy Bears have been a success. For Valentine's Day 2005, The Vermont Teddy Bear Company introduced the “Crazy for You” bear wearing a Straight Jacket, and came with commitment papers. Mental health groups across America found the bears to be extremely offensive to the mentally ill, and demanded Vermont Teddy Bear company pull it from production. Headlines all across America read, “Teddy Bear Raises Ethical Questions”, “Crazy for You or Just Plain Crazy” and “Crazy Teddy Bear Prompts Protest”! Vermont Teddy Bear Company responded by apologizing for offending people, but they would continue selling the “Crazy for you Bear” until its inventory was gone.
As a Nurse who works with the mentally ill, I can see how this bear is extremely offensive! Mental illness is a epidemic in our country, and those affected still suffer from a social stigma. The last thing America needs is a product tastelessly making fun of the mentally ill. What’s next? An AIDS teddy bear, with a syringe in his arm and condom in his wallet? Today, a “Crazy for You” bear sits behind a glass case in the gift shop sharing the story of how a traditional gift of goodwill ignited a firestorm of controversy across the country. Shame on you Vermont Teddy Bear!!!
A decade later, Vermont Teddy Bear wanted to create a bear for those whom have lost a limb. Having learned from their previous faux pas, Vermont Teddy Bear first reached out to the Amputee Coalition; a non profit whose mission is to empower people affected by limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support and advocacy. In collaboration, Vermont Teddy Bear Company and Amputee Coalition discussed the types of amputations, and how different types of limb differences could be represented in bears. In 2015, Vermont Teddy Bear launched “15' Limb Loss & Limb Difference Bear”, and 20% of the profits from each sale will go to the Amputee Coalition. In order to specifically match the amputee, each custom limb difference bear comes with the following options; above/below elbow, above/below knee, and multiple limb differences limb loss can be made with no additional cost! Please see the pictures below.
Approximately, 1.8 million Americans are living with amputations, and vascular diseases such as diabetes, and trauma from car accidents and war are the most common culprits. The limb loss & limb difference bear is well thought out, tastefully executed, and fills a need among a greatly overlooked segment of the population. Good job Vermont Teddy Bear!
After departing the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, we drove 13 miles Northeast to the town of Williston, VT where we found a Walmart to spend the night.