Sunday, June 24, 2012

Trip to Montague

Towards evening of the first day heading towards Hartland from Woodstock

A view of Cobb Hill --a cohousing community-- where we stayed our first night

Charting our route for day two

Nancy moving along on her 1984 Peugeot 

Feeling it a bit as we reached Brattleboro; we stopped for some iced lemonade and tea

A stop on the Northfield Mount Hermon campus. Overtoun is the dorm just to my left that I lived in for three years

Riding with Dan and Addie to their wedding!

Nancy and I had the great fortune to ride our bikes from central Vermont to Dan and Addie's wedding in Montague, Massachusetts this past weekend.

Earlier in the spring Dan, Addie, Nancy and I been discussing the possibility of doing a bike tour together, even considering the possibility of a trip to Europe or perhaps a journey around the Gaspe.

Maybe three months ago we got a call saying that they didn't think they'd be able to do the bike trip because, lo and behold, they were getting married at just about the time we'd talked of doing the trip. We were thrilled to hear their news and immediately started looking forward to the wedding.

As we started making plans the idea came about to ride to the wedding. As soon as we imagined the possibility we got excited about it and its been our plan for a good while now.

Our trip was perfect in almost all respects. We left on a Thursday and our expectation was to get to Hartland Four Corners to stay with our friend Alan and his two daughters. We had a great ride through the familiar terrain of the Granville Gulf down through Rochester, up through Barnard and then all the way down to Woodstock. The road leading up and out of Woodstock to Hartland was some of the most beautiful. Perfect hillsides and recently hayed fields. Lovely farms. Dark wooded routes on dirt roads.

We had a relaxing fun meal with Alan and the girls and felt glad to catch up. In the morning they were off to their day and we didn't dally too long before setting off.

We made an effort to get out of the Connecticut river valley and back to the interior of Vermont, so headed out towards Chester, via Mt. Ascutney. Again we had a breeze at our backs, bluebird skies, and tolerable temps. We enjoyed a great lunch in the lovely village of Grafton. Our progress was slower this second day as we were climbing often throughout the early part of the day and it wasn't until somewhere around Townsend that we started to reap some of the reward with a long cruise along the Saxon's river down to Brattleboro. We were a bit cooked by the time we reach Brattleboro but kept on going after a brief stop.

Our endpoint was Greenfield, MA and we followed the quieter roads along the Connecticut river that took us down through Vernon and then across the state line into Northfield. I went to Northfield Mount Hermon School and Nancy's father taught there when she was a child, so we both have some history in this area. We rode through the quiet Mt. Hermon campus and then travelled down through Gill to Greenfield.

To cap off the biking theme, on the morning of their wedding we had the privilege of escorting Dan and Addie to their wedding site along the Connecticut river in Northfield. They knew of some lovely dirt roads up through Turners Falls and we had a beautiful journey together.

The whole purpose of this trip was to attend Dan and Addie's weekend wedding celebrations and we thoroughly enjoyed being able to travel in this manner. Many folks complimented us for our effort but I kept thinking that the pleasure was really all ours and there was no real virtue in what we did. The weekend was marvelous and the memories of a great couple, great community, and a great celebration have lingered with us since.

Monday, June 11, 2012

'Round the Lake 300k

 Vivian and Josh awaiting the 6:00AM start at the Old Spokes Home. These two are remarkable riders and were first to finish.

Looking back across the lake at the Green Mountains

Evening with about 170 miles complete

My newly spray-painted 1984 Fuji Touring Series IV. I love this bike. 

My completed brevet card

Unable to feel that the 200k was sufficient to soothe the brevet curiosity, I signed up for the 300k.

This ride circled Lake Champlain counter-clockwise -- again starting in Burlington at the Old Spokes Home. It was fun to see some familiar faces there as everyone assembled for the start.

As I wrote previously, riding the 200k was a great confidence boost: I wasn't sure going into it if I'd be able to complete it, much less finish in good time and in reality did so without too much pain or suffering. Going into the 300k was a similar experience: Could I do it? Would I finish with time to spare?

The answer, again, was yes. In fact, the ride felt much like the 200k except the distances were just longer. Mentally it is something of a burden to be staring a cue sheet that has 80 miles or so between controls, but, as always, it seems breaking everything into parts is the solution. Look forward to the right turn on Rt. 22 in 9 miles, look forward to the potentially hazardous metal bridge at such-and-such a point all help to create mini goals the chip away at the bigger picture. There are also the stops in various towns to refuel and get more water that help break things up.

I find my experience on long distance rides alters my experience of time and distance in a really wonderful way; despite the relative slowness of a bike compared to a car, everything still keeps moving and changing and every mile covered is another mile closer to the next control or the end itself. Great distances slip away without feeling it the way one might if one were to drive the route while trying to imagine the experience on a bike.

Fellow rider Anthony rode with me most of the way up through the islands to Rouses Point--nearly touching the Canadian boarder--at which point he took off to catch the lead group and I began a portion of the ride on my own and noticed that I was just a little bored being on my own and knowing I had a long, long way to go. No sooner had I started to feel this then a few Canadian riders started to close in on me and provide some distraction for the next 10 or 15 miles. They kept passing me and I kept pedaling away. They'd stop, and I'd pass them, etc..  almost all the way to Plattsburgh.

Nancy and I did a cyclo-camping tour around the lake a number of years ago so I was familiar with the terrain and wasn't surprised when the hills started south of Plattsburgh.

Around Keesville I happened to pair up with a fellow named Les who was riding without an odometer. Navigating the route from the cue sheet without an odometer would be somewhat challenging, so he stuck with me and it worked out well. Later on a fast downhill he then lost his cue sheet (which had been taped to his bag) and at that point he would have been completely unable to follow the route. If we had been mismatched riders I would have resented his relying on me for the rest of the course, but we were a good pair so we rode the rest of the ride together. It is always nice to have some company through the long miles.

The New York side of the ride offered stellar views across the lake of the Green Mountains and a few lovely summer homes around Essex. There was also a bit of time in the hills that offered just a hint of the Adirondack feel.

The Crown Point bridge marked the southern most point of the ride and the welcome return back into Vermont. The bridge itself was recently replaced as the original was deemed unsafe and was demolished in a dramatic detonation about a year and a half ago. The new bridge is beautiful and captures the essence of the old one but with much more room for cyclist and pedestrians to cross.

Upon entering Vermont we had another 60 or so miles to go before the finish and we plugged away, enjoying the cooler temps of the evening and the beautiful sunset over the lake. Mike Beganyi again organized the event and was there to offer kind words, food, and drink at the end. Mike puts in a lot of effort and time to make all this happen and I feel much gratitude to him for facilitating such a great experience.

You can see some of Mike's photos here.