This year's summer trade show is going to be held in Somerset, NJ. Since I've never been to the North East and since a bunch of our vendors are within ten miles of each other in Massachusetts, Paula and I and our youngest, Maria, left a few days early to visit vendors and see some sights. My parents, saints that they are, are watching the other six kids for ten days while we're gone.
Before even leaving Denver we learned that when United tells you that a plane is delayed until 1:40 they really mean 2:00 and that the time they are going to make up en route will be taken away again when you get stuck in a holding pattern over Newark. We also learned that Maria can be very good on the plane until you get stuck in a holding pattern, which wasn't a problem because everyone else on board was whiney too at that point.
We also learned that Avis thinks their entire operation is something to apologize for even though they installed a baby seat in our car for us.
Once we got to our hotel we learned that the future lawyers of our country who were all staying at the hotel for the bar exam, are pretty much clueless about law, if the way they were talking about the tests they were taking is any indication.
We also found that because Maria's sleep schedule was messed up from the plane flight she thought that staying up until two was perfectly reasonable. That's two AM.
On Thursday we drove from New Jersey to Massachusetts, passing through five states (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) in the same amount of time it would take to get from our house to a border in Colorado. In New Jersey they don't have rest areas, they have service areas and on the entire five hour trip we only saw three mileage signs. You know, the ones that tell how far it is to the next series of towns. One of them was completely useless because it looked like this:
Exit 20 4 miles
Exit 21 5 miles
Exit 22 6 miles
I guess that's great for all the natives who have memorized what exit numbers go where but for us foreign types, it wasn't much help.
I also learned that I don't know New England Geography very well because I didn't think we had to go through New York City to get from New Jersey to Massachusetts. The $8 toll on the George Washington Bridge proved me wrong. The blue in the picture is the sun shade in our car's windshield. It was very hazy and we could barely make out the tall buildings on Manhattan Island from our car.
While driving through Connecticut Paula talked about the town of Mystic, one of the many historical locations sparsely scattered through New England, so I decided to stop since it would be hard to say I'd really BEEN TO Connecticut if all we did was drive up highway 95. Mystic was founded in the mid-1600's and was a major (?) sea port in its day. Now, it is home to large landlocked anchors and a maritime museum featuring the oldest wooden whaling ship still afloat and an annual marathon reading of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Herman wrote the book, he doesn't do the reading because he's dead. Instead, an impersonator reads the preface and the final chapter before the climax of the event which involves spearing a great white cake with a harpoon. Actually, I'm not sure they do the last part but they should.
After our Magical Mystic detour, we found our way to the bridge leading to McVan which has been closed for over a year proving that even Google Maps isn't omnipotent. After a slight detour we were able to take a tour of the McVan factory and fulfillment center. I didn't realize this before, but McVan manufacturers most of their items in house. They import a bunch of rosaries and crucifixes from Italy but the US ones are really hand-made.
The wood for the crucifixes is cut by a machine and then the wood is hand-sanded, prepped and stained right there. They also mint and mold their own medals and are one of the few vendors who don't use lead in any of their pewter products. So when your baby decides that that crib cross looks really tasty, don't worry, it's lead free. They also do their own plating and rosary assembly.
After a great lunch at a local pub, we drove ten minutes down the road to Alviti Creations. Before getting there we were warned that the area was “Thickly Settled.” In the middle of town? No kidding. After this “Here's your sign” moment, we got to Alviti which is housed in a huge old Mill building.
Laurie took us on a tour and we learned that they manufacture just about everything in house. They start with rolls of brass which they punch into round plates and actually mold these plates into chalice cups and ciboria bowls and then they solder all the detailed beadwork and molding onto the product before running it through the plating process. We have been buying metalware from them for years and I had never actually thought about how it gets made.
They also do restoration work which I think we are going to start offering as a service on the website.
After leaving Alviti I looked at the map and decided that since Attleboro and Plymouth were only about an inch apart we had plenty of time to go see the famous Plymouth Rock before meeting up with Paula's sister, Sister Elizabeth, at the Pauline book store near Boston. This little side trip taught us that the locals in Plymouth aren't really too keen on letting you see their rock. We didn't see a sign pointing out the way to the famous rock until we were off the freeway, miles into Plymouth and about a block from the parking area.
Since the parking meter only had eight minutes left on it, we did the “express” tour of the area. Here's the Mayflower II (the sequel – even MORE starvation and misery). And here, here is the reason for our visit and something mentioned in every history text and probably the biggest event to happen on the East Coast of the US up until that point. I say the East Coast, because the Spanish had already been in America for about a hundred years, built Universities and churches all over the place but the landing at Plymouth eclipsed it all. Here is Plymouth Rock:
Now I know why it isn't promoted more. It reminds me of those roadside tourist traps along the interstate: “THE THING! WHAT IS IT?????” It turns out that “THE THING!!!!” is an unidentifiable mass in a poorly lit room and that Plymouth Rock is a non-descript brown rock with concrete poorly poured down the middle of it to cover a crack.
After checking off this bit of Americana tourist history, we drove to Boston to visit Paula's sister at the Pauline motherhouse. At the mother house we realized that bringing a baby along was a great way to become instant friends with everyone. Maria spent the entire evening and the following morning being adored by all the sisters.
It was an interesting time to be at the motherhouse because the Superior General of the Pauline order was there assisting with a leadership transition and there were also a bunch of sisters visiting from different locations on retreat.
The facility is huge and harkens back to a time when there were probably over two hundred sisters living there. The printing facility is partially empty now because costs have forced the sisters to contract out their printing and binding. Some of the space is now being used to house treasures from various churches that have been closed.