“If you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader. Go sell ice cream!”
State 42: Vermont - June 15, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Williston, VT refreshed and excited to get on the road again! Yesterday, we toured the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, and we could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead. Today, we drive 11 miles Southwest to Shelburne for the Cross Country Couple's “Roadside Attraction” for Vermont; "The Worlds Biggest Jack". I am not talking about the machine that lifts your car, or the playing card ranking below a queen. I am talking about the game of Jacks!
Also known as Knucklebones, Tali, and Fivestones, Jacks is a game of skill and coordination believed to have been developed in Ancient Greece requiring a rubber ball, a friend, and of course jacks! Painted stop sign red, consisting of nine separate fire hydrants welded together at the base, and conveniently located across the street from the fire department, the world's biggest jack will inspire you to grab a friend, and have a game night. Now if I could just get the world's largest rubber band ball from Florida, and the Jolly Green Giant from Minnesota (click here) I would be able to play the worlds biggest game of Jacks.
After departing the World's Biggest Jack, we drove 31 miles East to Waterbury for the Cross Country Couple's; “Can’t Miss Attraction" for Vermont; Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. I know…I know… Technically this too is a factory tour. According to Trip Advisor, Ben & Jerry’s is the number one tourist attraction in Vermont attracting 300,000 annual visitors, and that sounds like a "Can’t Miss Attraction" to me! Besides I have yet to meet a person who does not like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. So if you are ready, let’s go indulge to together.
Founded in 1978 in Burlington, VT, Ben & Jerry’s is an ice cream company founded by childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who met in a middle school gym class. In young adulthood, the two found themselves at one of life's crossroads. Cohen had dropped out of school, and Greenfield was unable to get accepted into medical school. What should two young men with fading prospects do? The answer is obvious! You enroll in ice cream school! In 1977, Cohen and Greenfield took an ice cream making course at Pennsylvania State University Creamery. With a $12,000 investment, the educated ice cream dynamic duo opened their first parlor in a renovated gas station in Burlington, VT on May 5, 1978. Cohen has a condition called anosmia; the loss of smell and taste, and compensated by adding larger chunks of ingredients to the ice cream to satisfy the need for texture in his food. Cohen’s chunky over compensation was a instant hit with ice cream lovers. Ben & Jerry’s would go on to revolutionize the ice cream industry by pioneering unique flavors in which the world would fall in love.
From its inception, Ben & Jerry’s has been a socially responsible company committed to giving back to the community, and making the world a better place. Social advocacy issues the company cares about include: racial injustice, democracy for all, supporting GMO labeling, LGBT equality, climate change, fair trade, rSBT opposition, peace building, refugees rights, and getting the dough out of democracy. To thank the customers, Ben & Jerry celebrated their businesses one year anniversary in 1979 by holding a Free Cone Day: free scoops for all, all day long! Over four decades later, Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops throughout the world serve over one million free ice cream scoops during the annual celebration!
After parking Rosie, we made our way up a long steep hill, past the Ben & Jerry's bus and arrived at the Scoop Shop located just outside the entrance to the ice cream factory. Here I encountered the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Food" for Vermont: The "Vermonster". The Vermonster is a supersized ice cream sundae consisting of: 20 scoops of ice cream, four bananas, four ladles of hot fudge, three chocolate chip cookies, one chocolate fudge brownie, 10 scoops of walnuts, two scoops each of any 4 toppings, and mountain of whipped cream served in a souvenir bucket! The cost of the Vermonster is $39.99, and the worlds fastest time for its consumption is 2 minutes and 4 seconds. Nate and I are going for a world record!!! Wish us luck!!! On your mark… get set…. Wait! Wait Wait! Did you seriously think Nate and I were about to collectively consume 14,000 calories and 500 grams of fat in under 2 minutes??? Ha! Ha! Admit it! I had you going there for a second didn’t I? The Cross Country Couple's "Famous Food" for Vermont is still a little farther down the road. Please see the pictures below of our arrival to Ben & Jerry’s.
After paying $4.00 per person admission, I was led into a small theater to watch a brief movie highlighting the history of Ben & Jerry’s. Next, I ascended a staircase to view the production process of ice cream manufacturing from behind a glass enclosed mezzanine. Regretfully, pictures were not permitted, and adding insult to injury, they were currently making my favorite flavor; Cherry Garcia! Considering Ben & Jerry’s concocts 54 different varieties, the factory was a lot smaller than I had anticipated. As it turns out, only one flavor is made at a time, and the production of each lasts approximately 48-72 hours. Then, the entire plant and all of the machinery is meticulously sanitized for 8 hours for cleanliness and to decrease the risk for cross contamination. The next flavor is selected depending on demand, and the process continuously repeats.
After walking back down another staircase, I was led into the tasting room! Oh boy this is going to be good! I could not wait to see what flavor they were sampling today! I had a serious hankering for Cherry Garcia! I made my way through the masses up to the front counter, and saw the sign displaying the flavor to be sampled: Broccoli Cheddar Chunk; broccoli ice cream, kidney bean chunks, and a cheddar cheese swirl. Are you serious??? Albeit certainly not my first choice for ice cream flavor, I do love broccoli, so I was willing to give it a shot. By the look of the scrunched up faces surrounding me, I do not think the others on the tour were feeling quite as adventurous. Just then, the tour guide approached the front counter and announced the last tour group had finished the last of the Broccoli Cheddar Chunk. No one appeared to be heartbroken! The tour guide turned the sign around while chuckling, and displayed the flavor to be sampled; Americone Dream; vanilla ice cream with fudge covered waffle cone pieces & a caramel swirl! Although the ice cream was rich, flavorful and so very tasty, I found the waffle cone to be mushy and unpalatable. As a vegetarian, I would have preferred to have sampled the Broccoli Cheddar Chunk!
After our tour ended we were led down a long corridor displaying pictures of Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Hall of Fame! Because your asked for it! Because you demanded it! Here are the top 10 best selling flavors in the Ben & Jerry line up!
How did your favorite flavor score? I was surprised by the variety which took the number one spot! Nate’s favorite flavor; New York Super Fudge Chunk did not even make the list. However, my favorite Cherry Garcia came in at 2nd place confirming I have better taste in ice cream than Nate! Ha HAAAA!
After exiting the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, I was walking down the sidewalk on my way back to Rosie when the most unusual sign caught my eye. The sign read: “Follow Me To the Flavor Graveyard”. I followed the eerie signs down a gravel path behind the factory, and past five huge storage tanks labeled: MILK, CREAM, and SUGAR. The signs directed me up a steep hill, through a child's playground, and past a huge solar panel farm. Far off in the distance I discovered a white picket fence with an archway. Long at last, I had arrived at Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. Let us all lower our spoons for a moment of silence. Please see the pictures below.
Erected in 1997 on a hill behind the factory, the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard provides visitors a place to mourn the passing of the Ben & Jerry’s dearly de-pinted flavors. When you revolutionize the ice cream industry, inevitably there will be those who fall out of flavor so new and exciting varieties may emerge. At the time of our visit, 287 flavors have gone to the great beyond, where calories are never counted, and an endless supply of ice cream is available to all! The graveyard immortalizes 34 of the discontinued flavors on granite head stones each inscribed with a cute and comical poetic epitaph. For example, the tombstone of Holy Cannoli; Creamy Ricotta and Pistachio Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Cannoli's and Roasted Pistachios, reads:
Now in front of the pearly gates, Holy Cannoli sits and waits. What brought its ruin no one knows, Must have been the pistachios.
Unlike people, ice cream flavors can easily be resurrected if enough ice cream aficionados write Ben & Jerry’s. Due to popular demand, the deceased flavor "Wavy Gravy" (1993-2001); A caramel & cashew brazil nut ice cream with a chocolate hazelnut fudge swirl & roasted almonds, was raised from the grave, and re-emerged for a limited time in Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops in 2005!
In 1969, Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross authored the groundbreaking book entitled, “On Death and Dying” where she proposed her theory of the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. During my visit to Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, I saw visitors displaying each of the stages.
To my right, a woman stood over the grave of Vermonty Python; Coffee liqueur ice cream with chocolate cookie crumb swirl & fudge cows. With arms fully extended and looking up into the sky, she screamed “NOOOOOOOO!”.
To my immediate left, a man stood over the grave of Sugar Plum; Plum ice cream with a caramel swirl. He shook his clenched fist in the air, and said, “Damn you Ben & Jerry’s! Damn you!”
The next row over, I saw an older woman standing over the grave of Crème Brulee; Sweet custard ice cream with a caramelized sugar swirl. She was on her phone constructing an email to Ben & Jerry’s promising to buy cases and cases If they agree bring back Crème Brulee!
In the far corner of the graveyard, a middle aged couple sat on the grass at the grave of Schweddy Balls; Vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum & loaded with fudge-covered rum & malt balls. The wife said to her husband, “I just can’t leave yet. This stone is all I have left, and I am so very sad”.
The next stone over, I came upon the resting place of my personal favorite flavor; White Russian; Coffee ice cream with Kahlua coffee liqueur. It had been many years since I have partook in Ben & Jerry’s White Russian, and memories of pints from the past joyfully replayed in my head. I did not need to taste the flavor again; I was just grateful for the fond memories.
If unable to venture to Vermont in person, you can take a virtual tour of the Flavor Graveyard by clicking here. Please see the pictures below of our visit to Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard.
After departing Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, we drove 72 miles East to Littleton, NH where we found a Walmart to spend the night.