Monday, August 27, 2007

Orleans, VT, the first line of defense

We are now in my home village of Orleans in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the Green Mountain State. Some of you are probably wondering, where the hell is Orleans, Vermont? Well, if you were a French Canadian coming down from Quebec, you'd first find the shopping plazas of Derby, then the beautiful Memphremagog lakefront of Newport, then, the interstate would bring you to the Orleans, VT exit. Once French Canadians encounter the high percentage of rednecks, guns, and former hippies, most of them decide there is no reason to go any further into the United States. That's right, Orleans is the first line of defense against the French Canadian invasion!!

Those of us who have grown up in the Kingdom have a lot of pride in where we come from. Lots of us show our pride publicly with our bumper stickers.

Others have purchased the modified version of the sticker.

On a more serious note, the village of Orleans exists primarily because of the Ethan Allen mill. The mill was built on the Barton river that travels through the town. The mill whistle is a town staple. It blows when it's time to go to work, to leave work, to take breaks, etc. The whole town hears it and can tell time by it.

I had to introduce Laura to the local grease pit, the B&W, for burgers, fries, and onion rings on our first full day in Orleans. After going weeks without a burger and fries, this place hit the spot. It's open only in the summer and is constantly packed with softball teams, families, and workers. Tough to find a more enjoyable diner experience than the B&W (don't ask what it stands for).

The most popular tourist destination in the area is Lake Willoughby about 8 miles from Orleans. The glacial lake is the deepest in the Northeast Kingdom and surrounded by the cliffs of Mt Hor and Mt Pisgah. The Mt Pisgah cliffs are popular ice-climbing cliffs in the winter and the cliff overlooks are a big hiking destination in the summer. For years, I have maintained a geocache at the top of Mt. Pisgah. Here are views from the south beach of the lake (actually a nude beach, which typically surprises tourists). Mount Hor is on the left and Mount Pisgah is on the right.

During the week and a half that we were in Orleans, there were two major events going on. One was the building of a new 3 million dollar Willoughby Falls bridge. The original bridge was found to be inadequate years ago and to solve the problem, the state placed a military bridge over the old bridge to allow large logging trucks to get by. Now, the state finally decided to fund a new bridge. While I was there, the 5 15 ton, 110 feet long steel beams that were to be the basis of the new bridge were brought into town and put down. This task isn't as easy as it sounds. Each beam required a large 18-wheeler which couldn't maneuver through the small streets of Orleans. The town closed down main street for a few hours to get the beams in. At least a couple of the trucks decided to turn around at the interstate exit and back about 3 miles to the bridge.

To take these beams off the trucks and place them for the bridge, a huge 275-ton Grove Model 5275 was brought into town. This crane is huge and it can still do about 55 mph on the interstate.

The bridge is scheduled to be done by the end of this year.

The second big event was the Orleans County Fair. The final day's big grandstand event is the demolition derby and we got there just in time to see the lineup of cars.

There were 6 heats, separated into 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder vehicles. The last 3 cars standing in each heat advanced to the final heat at the end of the day. Each heat contained 12 to 15 cars with a few cars dropping out due to engine issues before they even got into the arena. Those cars would get to participate in the consolation rounds (set up for cars that wouldn't start in their first heat or that got stuck up on to barriers) later in the day. The winner of the 4-cylinder final would win $800 and the winner of the 6-cylinder final would win $1000. The event was amazing as cars slammed each other good, mud got spun up on the crowd, and tractors were brought in to clear the field when it was done. Here are some pictures from the action.

Here's the end of one of the heats.

Finally, here's a classic picture of the Northeast Kingdom countryside... recommended in most of the "1000 places you have to visit" books. It truly is a beautiful part of our country.

Laura and I are off to Colorado to visit friends and then up to Yellowstone to work for a couple of months. We will continue to keep the blog updated with our travels. Eventually, in November, we will travel to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos) and return to the USA broke.


Greg said...

YAHOO. Guess who gets the first comment on the Orleans - NEK entry.
Good thing you warned me on our boat trip today that the blog was back on. Again great enjoyment to read ... even though we live here in the Northeast Kingdom of VT.

All you say is the gospel according to the honorable VT GOV Jim Douglas,also a NEK enthusiast.
EXECPT ........ shopping plaza-S- in Derby. I think this should be "truthenized" a tad. Two grocery stores, two drug stores, an auto dealer, several eateries, two motels, a furniture store, dollar store, two small retail stores and three gas stations all - mostly in seperate but sometimes adjoining locations --- seems like a lot .... in fact perhaps the second most concentrated retail in NEK ..... but "plazas". Italy has plazas, NEK has here and there. So no shopping here flatlanders.

Missing fact -- and just who won the OCF demolition derby this year? Yep-er niece's youngest son Andrew. Car was so squished that when it got hit in the back-end, the back hit his head rest and he also had to sit on one butt cheek. So that's squished.

From You Red NEK friend and owner of the Miss SoAB boat [thank you Laura],
Mr. C

Jeff Coburn said...

Fact 1:
I only eat at B&W once a year; this year I couldn't eat for 24 hours because of a churning stomach. Now that's good grease.

Fact 2:
I live near where the new bridge is going in, and every night people gather there to see the progress. Now that's good entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Tony says---the B&W sent me to my first and so far only heart attack; the new bridge had better not screw up the rainbow fishing at the falls or it wil be blown up faster than Bubba can say YEEHAW.

Greg said...

11 days without. I'm getting withdrawal symptoms here. And I know where yo momms lives and works. Do get on the stick. A phot of the Lodge at Old Faithful will do nicely.

Stink = ing hot here at 79F, very little and infrequent breeze and 100% humidity.

A good dip for a dip in Lake M. Where are you?
1700 EST 9-7-07

Bill said...

Some of us locals refer to the B&W as "Bugs & Worms". Not exactly fine cuisine, but ok for a stop once or twice during the summer.

Bill said...

Some of us locals refer to the B&W as "Bugs & Worms". Not exactly fine cuisine, but ok for a stop once or twice during the summer.

Wanda said...

Well written article.