Craving an adventure, I came up with the idea to ride from our cabin in Wheelock to Burlington, to visit my son Max at school. And since one day of adventure wouldn't be enough, I decided to then take the next two days to ride the 160 miles or so back home to Bow. This post will be about day one.
On Sept 12th my wife Amy dropped me off in the middle of the woods at the camp and drove the two hours back home. I was totally committed now, I only had my bike and the gear I was carrying. I had to get back home by my own power, no matter which route I decided to take.
I had three days set aside, and the Cannondale Slate was set up with everything I needed to spend a few nights in the woods. The plan for the first day was to ride the 81 miles to Burlington, eat dinner with Max and pamper myself with a night at a hotel. To map the route I simply Googled walking instructions from Wheelock to Burlington. I have found that google has a sense of humor. It has provided me with some incredibly fun routes, and almost always includes some challenging sections. This route looked interesting enough so I decided to just use it as a rough guide and take the day as it unfolded. My only time consideration was being able to get to dinner that night in Burlington.
The next morning I got up bright and early, excited for the day ahead. I ate a quick breakfast and cleaned up the cabin. Soon after hoping on the bike I realized that I had made a rookie mistake. I had forgotten to import the map from google into the Gaia app that I use to navigate. I didn't have enough phone service to do the import either. Then I tired just using the Google Map app, and realized it sometimes lost all information. And with no phone reception I couldn't reload the route. So for the time being I had no navigation. Not the way I wanted to start.
I was a little concerned that I only knew the next few miles by memory and that I could be riding blind for a while, but eventually I got signal and figured out how to use what I had.
These next pictures are the first few miles out of the camp. These "roads" actually show on any GPS. Most have been rebuilt by loggers and are different from what the GPS says. To get through this stuff with a bike and gear is pretty challenging, but it is a lot of fun. For me, the key is not being in a rush. You can't be when you don't know what is coming next. This type of riding is much more about taking your bike along on an outside adventure, rather than going for a bike ride. All the rules change. Outdoor skills and gear selection play as much of a part of a successful trip as riding ability. And I love combining the two.
The dirt roads in Vermont are almost endless. And many of them are in very remote locations. Navigating in this manner over long distances has always given me a completely different view of what Vermont, and much of New England, really looks like. It's hilly, rugged and beautiful.
My goal was to follow as much of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail as I could find. I thought I had the trail outside of Wolcott, but turns out it dead ended at the River and I had to run around. After finding the trail as I came into Morrisville I had a pretty easy time of it. I was surprised to see the trail went right behind the Lost Nation Brewery. This is one of my VT favorites, but it was too early to eat, let alone start drinking. Their beer is excellent, and the food there is really good as well. I sadly headed on, brainstorming on how to time it better the next time.
I followed the trail to its end in Jeffersonville then went Route 15 to 104 heading West. When I got to Fairfax Falls I headed south through Westford and Essex Junction, taking as many back roads as possible towards Burlington.
I have found the Cannondale Slate 105 to be a trusty companion on these rides. It's my first gravel bike, and is better on trails than you might suspect. Getting the gear right is half the battle. In a future blog post I'll get more into what my kit consists of.
After a long, but very enjoyable ride I rolled into Burlington. Rather than dirtbag it, I decided to stay at the Willard Street Inn. It was a nice place to rest up before another long day of riding. Everyone there was super friendly and they even let me lock my bike up inside a storage area. After too short of a visit with my son I crashed in a very comfy bed!