In a shameless attempt to hide my lazy writing the last few weeks and get some more views per story, I hereby re-present a tale from bike rides past:
It’s 4 degrees at 7:25am when I leave the Auberge parking lot and head up the barely paved road towards the highway to start my ride. That’s Celsius for you Fahrenheit folks. As in cold on a bike! I have a winter cap on, thermal layer, arm warmers and a jersey. Surprisingly the only part of me not cold is my feet – I have only one very long wool sock on each foot, and it stands up to the day real well.
It’s great to be on the road finally – I left Montreal at around 5am and with a quick stop for breakfast and a quick stop for more coffee it takes little time to arrive. My plan is simple – leave the car parked at my room for the night, ride all day, crossing the US border into Vermont, climb up to Smuggler’s Notch and then down into Stowe for lunch. Sounds easy enough right!
It’s pretty quiet on the road this hour; the shoulders are fine enough and the light is bright and clear, and the wind is still pretty light. It doesn’t take long to reach the border which is a good feeling, since it’s the first psychological milestone on the ride. It’s a tiny boarder with one lane each way and I stand like a lulu at the gate waiting for it to open, which is doesn’t, so I go around and ride up to the window and wait some more. Finally a border agent arrives, takes a quick scan look at me, asks me where I’m going and for how long, and waves me through. Boo ya, off we go!
This is a great time of year to ride Vermont; the leaves are just starting to turn color – later this year than last – and the 108 is pretty much empty of anyone except local traffic and the occasional tourist. It’s a perfect way to see and smell the country – the cows, the fields, the apple trees, really quite beautiful.
It’s a peaceful hour and a half before a quick pit stop for snacks (trail mix) and fluids (Starbucks iced Cappuccino in a can – think thousands of syrupy calories!). I cut the coffee with water and off again after a few minutes standing in the sun watching some ladies and their daughters set up for a Breast Cancer weekend fund raiser.
Williamston is the start of the climb to Smugglers; the grade seems benign enough, but I reckon it’s pretty steady average 12-14% and much steeper at the top of the Notch. It’s nice to spin through the altitude and the cooler weather is welcome on this part of the ride. Legs feel great and I’m thinking the big yoga workout on Friday morning really is coming into its own now. I love the fact that my body is doing what I ask of it.
Arriving at the top with no fanfare or celebration, I call home to let my wife know I arrived in one piece. Then I drop down the other side into Stowe and look for lunch. Stowe is not really to my liking – it’s all spread out and only really accessible by car, full of Chi-Chi restaurants and not much of a hipster vibe. No locals only here. But still I find a burger bar (Blue Donkey, which checking Yelp back at home reveals what my taste buds already knew – that it’s the best rated joint in town) on the main strip into town and stop and stuff my face (minus the fries). I sit out in the warm sun (the only one person out there!) and refill my bottles ready to head back. I had planned on lolly-lagging but the face I arrived early spurs me on to tackle the return trip sooner.
The long climb back up the Notch is really not so bad, despite the head-on headwinds now blowing at 30-40km/hr. I’m not sure why, but they really don’t inhibit my progress, only making my eyes sore, since I’m still too cheap to shell out three hundred bucks for the POC glasses I want.
There’s a nice long downhill back to Williamstown where I wave at a group of riders taking coffee. It’s about twenty minutes later that I realize I’m the hare, and they chase me down and overtake and ride up the road 100 meters. It’s so immature of me, but I can’t help but chase them and linger a couple lengths back until I realize they have only one strong lead rider and overtake the group again. This goes on for a while until they connect to me again. This time I slow down and chat to the group, from Montreal also, and hear about their adventures.
Unfortunately one of their group has cracked badly, so they all have to slow up and work together. I say my goodbyes, but maybe have made a new riding friend – one of the ladies was super strong and very interested in riding to Stowe, so if you’re reading this let me know.
Back on my own the wind is now out of control hard to ride into. It’s kind of irritating me now, but what can I do? It’s suffer time, legs and body feel great, but sick of the wind. I’m across the Canadian border easily as well – only odd question was asking it my bike had any repairs in the US – uh, nope.
I knew the last hour would be harsh, and it is, but I suffer through and finally arrive back at my Auberge; 4 hours exactly on the clock. A quick run for beer and food and then I’m done. Lights out, what a ride! Looking forward to finding some more routes through Vermont – it’s a great location to multi-day ride, so watch this space…