Sunday, October 5, 2014

Miles and miles of beauty


Passing under the majesty of Mt. Mansfield, somewhere around Jericho

With the completion of last Saturday's Vermont Fall Classic 200k (and the 114k for those who chose the shorter route) another brevet season comes to a close. And what a way to end it! It was a spectacular day with temperatures in the upper seventies and clear skies throughout.

Departing from Burlington in the cool of the early morning

Hints of morning fog hung low in the fields as a large group of riders departed from Old Spokes Home at 7:00am. There was no mass rush to get out on the street and the beginning felt almost hesitant, but start we did, and it was fun as usual to ride out in the mixed jumble of bikes and faces, some familiar, many not. 

Emily
I've noticed that as time has gone on and I've ridden more of this kind of ride that I am more relaxed about the whole thing; preparation, starting, getting to controls, etc... Now that I have a pretty good sense of what to expect I'm less anxious about the details--given that I've covered the basics. I still run through my night-before checklist and give my bike a look-over for any neglected tune ups. I'm a little less competitive about the whole thing at this point. Sometimes I think I'll try to make a particular ride a best-time effort, but in the end tend to fall into the company of other riders and am much more focused on just being out there and having a good day. 

Matt and Tyler

Such was the case when, within just a few miles, I'd fallen in with Emily O'Brien, with whom I had the pleasure of riding this same ride two years ago. She rides fixed gear which slows her down on hill climbs and also means I can keep up with her. Somewhere in the first few hours Tyler and Matt also fell in and we had a little group that stuck together for the rest of the ride. Other than riding the spring 200k pre-ride by myself its been a long time since I've ridden a brevet alone and I have to say I enjoy company. 

Given the range of weather that might have been on tap for the day, the cool morning leading into the hot-ish afternoon was tailor made. I rode this same ride two years ago when it was overcast and raining much of the day. Although that ride was great, I was stunned by the views and scenery I missed last time out. Coming around the untouched backside of Mount Mansfield was something of a revelation since I live within an hour of where we were riding. I experienced a certain wonderment at just how beautiful and dynamic this state we live in can be. Overlay the peak fall foliage and the experience was top-notch.  From broad mountain valleys, to small twisty tree lined back road and later open farmland vistas, the ride covers a wide spectrum of classic Vermont backroad beauty.

I remarked to Emily about how Velouria had written such a glowing post about her ride experience in 2012 and how little of the mountainous drama was actually visible that day. Not that I doubted in the least that it was a wonderful experience for her, but I wondered what she'd have made of the ride were she doing it this year. Much of the ride felt new to me. Going into the day I thought I remembered the lion's share of the route, but in fact most of it was unfamiliar, and that was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Coming down the back side of Shaker Mountain Road 

It was a wonderful day. Our little gang took some nice rest stops, particularly as the afternoon became hot, and then a bit latter after climbing over Shaker Mountain Road and descending into Starksboro village. At The Lewis Creek Farm stand we found canned dill pickles and rapidly split a jar between us. I drank the leftover juice and munched on the garlic pieces... I couldn't resist, in fact I kinda wanted to buy another jar, but we had to move on. Perhaps I wasn't fully up on my salt intake?

Stopping at the Post Office in Starksboro

A welcome rest in the cool shade at the Lewis Creek Farm, with dill pickles on offer

Somewhere along the second half of the route my right crank started to make a distinct click with every revolution. I wasn't too alarmed since it didn't seem to be accompanied by any noticeable movement, and I didn't have either a pedal wrench or crank extractor to do any real work on it anyway, so I just kept going. A silent bicycle is a experience of grace, while a noisy bicycle can be a vexing irritant. Luckily my riding companions didn't seem overly bothered by my monotonous click click click. I determined that it was simply a loose pedal when I was able to check it out later.

Greenbush Road in Ferrisburg as the sun was starting to set

Noticing that we had to keep moving if we were going to make our controls, we picked up the pace a bit for the last couple of hours home. We were now traveling north along the shores of Lake Champlain and the long rays of the setting sun bathed the scene in golden light. We reached the penultimate control at the covered bridge in Ferrisburg (or Charlotte?) just as the sun was setting. After a few photos we moved on and kept the pace up until we reached the finish at the Old Spokes Home. By this time it was dark and it was good to have lights, although I hadn't imagined we'd need them coming into the day.

Sunset over the Adirondacks

Pausing before the last push back to Burlington

Not an especially swift ride, but no sweat, it was a fun day

Brevets are satisfying on many levels. They provide the framework to do a ride that is certainly longer than anything I'd do on my own, they typically favor back roads and great scenery, and there is just enough of a competitive element that I feel challenged and happily tired at the end. There is also the camaraderie and simple fun of being out with like minded riders riding bikes. Its good stuff. As I remarked to a friend it was "a spectacular ride through amazing foliage in good company for a long time on a beautiful day".