After summering, I mean suffering through the empty, cold, windy farm land without so much as a bacon flavoured gel, I see signs for the Frontier. Which sounds very adventurous, but is actually just the French word for border.
It’s not far from the fields to the crossing, which at de Rousse is usually a very short affair. There is no pedestrian crossing so I line up with the cars. The usual questions, nothing really about the fact that I’m on a bike. Still, the Officer is very agreeable, and it’s about as pleasant and cordial an interaction as I could expect.
Onto US soil technically now, it’s time to open the throttle. My route led me almost 100km to the border, then its open throttle through the Champlain Parkway to Burlington, VT, which is a very bike friendly destination from Montreal. This time of year I count a total of two other riders – a father and son duo heading north, father looking like he’s covering the rear guard for his son’s training ride.
There’s a great outpost for soup and sandwiches halfway down the Parkway, but I just diesel on through. Not interested to lose any time today waiting for condiments or garnishes.
I made a quick pit stop across the border, but it was a mistake to pick up two little cheeses which sit like dairy dumps in my stomach. Curse you Babybel. I thought you would be a healthy choice.
Part of the reason for not stopping is that I need to train myself mentally not to stop on Trans Portugal. It’s so easy to lose five minutes here, ten minutes there and before you know it a whole static hour has passed.
This time, I’m packing enough food and hydration for 4 -5 hours riding. This way I can be sure that instead of enjoying waiting in queues in very, very slow Portuguese stores I’ll be putting pedal to the metal instead. I figure even at the lowest point of expectation this should yield an extra 5-10km covered in the same time.
It’s still grey and very windy but somehow knowing I’m getting close to the end helps me spin through the state. The last final clicks heading into Burlington are definitely sketchy for bikers – crappy shoulders, super steep and short rollers and a lot of gravel and lumpy bits strewn everywhere.
By the time I reach the intersection to turn for my hotel I’m knackered. Winooski is going to be a fun place to get lunch if you’re a half drunk student, otherwise it’s kind of less than engaging. I find a decent Thai restaurant, lock my bike and clomp inside.
I’m super cold when I sit in the restaurant for some reason, so I get my winter jacket out, pull on my tuque and eat my fill of very tasty Thai food, finishing with the world’s thinnest slices of mango. I think they used a ginger shredder (think Sushi ginger).
The restaurant doesn’t have Wi-Fi but there are three very helpful young ladies who direct me to the ridiculously close hotel. I’m very happy to be rolling to the hotel, even though it’s only a crummy Day’s Inn. When I get there, there is a full-on kids birthday party in progress which I am denied entry to, even just for cake, and resort to heading to my room for a well-earned shower and nap.
I love being in the US for great home delivery food service, so after nipping out for water and other hydration options (think beer) I order a burger and salad, which is ridiculously cheap and delicious. Watching ESPN documentaries, I relax and get ready for day 2.
Legs feel great, I put my “butt saving” regimen into action (that’s another story for another day) and relax and get ready for day 2 some more. Someone told me it’s better to let your tender bits air after a long day in the saddle but it’s chilly in the room because I like the door open to keep the airflow. Makes me think about my roommate from the last Trans Portugal who liked to wander round our shared room sack and rod hanging freely. Hey, I’m not judging – just give me warning first next time!
It’s lights out by 10pm, with the idea being to get up by 5am or thereabouts. By some rides this is pretty light-weight, but it’s a good warm-up for Saratoga Springs in a couple weeks, and yes, that race in Portugal.
More to come…