Monday, June 25, 2007

Tina, Brendan and the Chocolate Factory

Or more accurately, the jelly bean factory, but they do chocolate too.

It's on long weekend trips that I really appreciate our Everyman sleep schedule - we still get stuff done we want to. Many times a trip wouldn't be possible otherwise, like Yosemite.

So, the summarized version of the day:

Markets at 7am, Walmart at 8am to buy some car stuff, home. (There will be a post about this with pictures.) Nap and leaving around 10am, arrive in Fairfield around 1pm due to vast amounts of traffic and a rather pointlessly expensive toll bridge.

Attempt to nap in a swelteringly hot car and fail despite bright shiny reflective window shades covering all windows. Spend the rest of the day with a slightly heightened sense of awareness that the next day will be a bit more tiring. Tour factory, get disappointed that there aren't any beans being made on the day. Discover Fairfield is really simply a mall for cars in the absolute middle of nowhere with about 5 houses and the jelly bean factory added on. Buy McDonalds and marvel at number of automalls.

Drive to Sacramento. Spend ages looking at various pretty governmental buildings and restored old buildings and boats swarming with tourists. Drive to Stockton. Better attempt to nap in the carpark of a Taco Bell beside the freeway despite Stockton's reputation for car thieves - I think we must have fallen asleep for about 5 mins each. Drive home and eat even more jelly beans. Feel like not eating jelly beans for a while.

But you don't want to hear about that - you want to hear all about the Jelly Belly factory! The Harry Potter jelly beans! The incredible cheese-fest of pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and other famous people done in jelly beans! The robot dance!

A large floating inflatable jelly bean man was anchored outside the entrance. A few kids took flying leaps and jumped on the 'feet'. I contented myself with sitting on one. (A large inflatable black 'foot', not a kid.)

To go inside the factory, we had to wear ridiculous hats (Health and Safety reasons, blah blah). So with a sigh of embarrassment and inevitability, we put on our hats and stood with the rest of the tour group. (Some people resisted for another five minutes but peer pressure and some staring from the guide won out.)

The guide led us down hallways lined with pictures made from jelly beans, and along a carpeted, enclosed walkway above the factory floor. (The carpet also had jelly beans on it.) At certain points we all stopped and watched videos from large televisions suspended above the factory floor, while the guide explained and made jokes and asked people questions. He also announced a blanket "no photos" policy.

I was extremely well-behaved and didn't take photos of the factory, as much as I wanted to. And Brendan hovered over me the whole time and threatened to take my cameras away if I even so much as stuck my hand in my bag to get one out...

The cuteness point of the trip was the robot dance: one of the four yellow packing arms was anthropomorphicized with a stuffed jelly belly figure on top, a voice and a little sign that it picked up and waved. It told us that its three friends would also dance, and so they did. At the end, they waved goodbye with 4 little flipper-like feet. Brendan and I both enjoyed this a lot. Apparently Ronald Reagan liked these jelly beans very much and used them in all his meetings, so the factory tour was filled with miscellaneous questions asked of the audience about obscure American history references to Reagan. And apparently Abraham Lincoln played the flute leading his troops into battle. Who knew??

As we left the factory, we were each given a small sample of the chocolate coffee-pebbles that they made, and a larger bag of jelly beans. Free stuff! We wandered back to the entrance and tasted various different flavours guarded and given out singly by an employee - Brendan tried a jalapeƱo one: the guy laughed and said, "keep chewing, keep chewing... there we are." as Brendan's face registered a look of surprise at the sudden burning.

Here is the 10kg of jelly beans (approx - 12 x 2lb bags - maybe more like 11 kg) we bought - an entire box of "Belly Flops"."Belly Flops" are beans that are too big, small or ugly to make the final cut. But they taste just as great and are a quarter of the price.

Kids standing in line next to us stared wide-eyed in open jealousy. Ah, the perks of being an adult - the money to buy things that you wanted as a child but the wisdom/ guilt to know how bad they are for you... (Anyone else ever dream of how many lollies you could buy with $100 as a kid?) We hope to make them last a year, but we'll see. So far the majority are well hidden from everyday sight.

We also bought some Harry Potter jelly beans with especially unappealing names such as 'vomit', 'earwax', 'soap', 'earthworm' ("Dirt with a hint of meat," said Brendan) and 'booger'. The tour guide told us that flavours were made by taking the original flavour and working backwards from there. I can only imagine who volunteered for the 'booger' tasting... and who volunteered their boogers.... Brendan and I sat in the carpark afterwards taking turns to feed each other one blindfolded and guess the flavour. We both voted the worst to be 'rotten eggs' - one bite and you were breathing out noxious sulphuric fumes! From L - R: Earwax, Booger, Sausage, Black Pepper, Vomit (was supposed to be Pepperoni Pizza but all their best attempts only produced 'Vomit'), Dirt (very realistic!), Soap, Rotten Egg, Pickle and Earthworm.

Driving out of Fairfield on the way to Sacramento, I glanced over and noticed another driver who'd forgotten to take his jelly bean hat off.

Sacramento was pretty. We looked at the State Capitol building for a while, and the centre of town. We also looked at the "Old Sacramento" area, full of tourists but some nice old wild-west stye buildings which had been restored. The yellow bridge is the main one into Sacramento - it's an old drawbridge which moves up and down to let bigger ships through.

I'm not putting most of the photos from this trip up though unless you ask, because they're singularly boring and mostly consist of landscape and freeway shots of nothing in particular. But I am making a little video-like slideshow of driving down our street, and the markets from this day for another post... look out for it.

See, average freeway shot. We are in the carpool lane which gives you a faster commute during business hours. Otherwise, its the "go at 90mph (160 kmph+) if you can" speed for some Americans, though we prefer to do much closer to the speed limit for safety reasons. This particular freeway has 6 lanes at that point, on each side.

Overall a good, if overly sweet, day.


Anonymous said...

Hi Guys, Interesting that you went to Sacramento... I was talking to Brendan about it and how I remember it being a nice place when Julie and I passed through 25 years ago!! .. maybe thats why you went? But looks like its still a respectable place... A giant bag of jelly beans.. ugh... you be needing that HIIT workout stuff to burn up thiose calories.. oh well they are vegeterian... grin. Wal

Anonymous said...

You guys rock so much for buying 10kg of jelly beans AND trying the disgusting Harry Potter ones!!!! Seriously, if I should ever have 100 dollars spare, I'll see how much sweets you can get for it. ;)

Brendan said...

For those worrying about the future health of our insulin levels, and future size of our stomaches, I should point out that we haven't even got through one of the 12 bags yet.

At this rate they'll last all year and we'll still have some left.

Wal: Sacramento was nearby Fairfield (the automall disguised as a town) so we decided to check it out after your comments on how nice it was, and because it's the state capital.

Nina: what's weird about the Harry Potter beans is that the underlying flavour is accurate (although I can't comment on earthworm), but it's mixed with the sweetness of the glaze and shell. Sweet dirt is a very odd thing to taste.

Tina said...

Nina - Moore Wilsons shop in NZ is the standard we use - 2kg bags usually cost under NZ$10. So I think you could probably get 20kg or more of lollies for $100. Which is at least a year's supply! :)

I'm thinking of sending Ida the rest of the HP beans (butshe'll ahve to share with Geoff), since we're unlikely to eat the rotten egg ones any time soon.

And yep, Wal, those jelly beans are definitely vegetarian.

Lingzi said...

where are the oompa loompas!!

Tina said...

It was closed for the day... but the tour guide was almost like an oompa-loompa himself.