In 2016 I bought an off the grid cabin in Wheelock Vt that I have enjoyed immensely. I go to the cabin to write, to create and to just enjoy the fresh air and silence that surrounds it.
In the summer I usually bring my bike and spend the day riding the beautiful and rugged back roads of the area. Then at night I make a feast, drink some great craft beers, smoke a little weed and enjoy the silence and simplicity of being off the grid.
I’ve contemplated duplicating the entire weekend experience as a fun little business. With Cannabis now legal in VT I figure that more and more people who are into the outdoors (and weed) will appreciate a business that is open and transparent about it. In order to figure out how it might work, I invited a few friends up for an experimental weekend in May. We had a really great weekend and I learned what I needed to in order to move forward. Even though I haven’t yet…
One of my guests was George LaPierre. George is a badass gravel rider who usually rides a single speed on multi-day bikepacking events. He broke out his new Trek gravel bike for the weekend and then wrote the following report of the events.
I have a lot of other projects going on, but would still love to do a few of these a year. If you have any interest in bringing a group up (I can do between 2 and 8 people) then shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see if we can set up some dates.
And now, Georges report.
Weekend in the Kingdom
A few months back I decided I had enough of Facebook. It was nothing more than a colossal-time suck, and I was seeing more ads than updates on friends. One good thing was that it helped put me in touch with my friend Nate, who wanted invited me over to ride fatbikes at the KTA winter event. After about 30 minutes searching for the Nordic center (it had been moved since that last time I was there, and I refuse to ask for directions….until I am really late) I met Nate and we cruised out on great conditions, as long as you didn’t get too far off the track. We talked about summer adventures and bikepacking, and while sipping on a post-ride beverage, Nate told me about his idea to have a “bikepacking-tour company out of his camp in Wheelock. I thought it sounded like a great idea, and told him I would love to go on some test rides with him.
Two months later, after signing into facebook again for info, I headed up to Nate’s cabin after work to go on the inaugural “Tour de Kingdom” with Nate and his friend Matt. A few more people had agreed to go, but life got in the way so it was just the three of us. Amy, Nate’s wife, had prepared some incredible soup and an impressive spread of local VT cheese, meats, and beverages to welcome us. She had also made, from scratch, pub cheese that I still dream about, and three kinds of cookies for dessert. After a dinner fit for a king, we sat down by the light of the propane lanterns to discuss the next day’s route.
Nate spends a bit of time at the cabin, and had been scouting out 3-4 different options for our tour. They varied in length from 42, 64 and 76 miles, if I recall correctly. We couldn’t commit to one, so we decided to leave the options open and see how we felt in the moment, a plan which worked out great for us. We headed to bed, full, happy and mellow, listening to the wind thrash trees all around the cabin. I slept great!
The next day we were up around 5:40, milling around and getting things ready for the day. Nate had brought up some local bacon, eggs and some potatoes to make hashbrowns. I wouldn’t need to eat again until about three hours in to the ride! We had leisurely breakfast, complete with two rounds of coffee, and then headed out. Matt and Nate were discussing the snapping noises they heard during the night (which I slept through completely) and we soon saw the results. Right off the drive we saw two trees down that we managed to drag out of the way. About 2 miles down the rode there were two, much larger trees (roadblock size) that we had to crawl over and under to continue. Nate phoned Amy to let her know she wouldn’t be able to drive back up, and we planned on using Matt’s arborist knowledge to clear them out after the ride. We encountered windfall throughout the entire ride, and luckily the trees were cleared away when we got back.
We blazed down the 3 mile hill up to the camp into town, spun a bit of pavement and then headed right back up again on a quiet dirt road. The hill kept us nice and warm, which was great for the persistent wind we encountered when we rode along the ridgetop. The first section of the ride was undulating dirt roads, with a nice downhill onto some pavement and a quick lollipop out to see the “Museum of everyday life.” It was well worth the trip! I am not sure what impressed more, the version of “Starry Night” produced with bells, or the violin, and case, made entirely of matchsticks. The museum is full of stuff that you never thought you would see in a museum, but when you see them altogether in one place, they make sense. After eyeing all the curios and snapping pics, we headed out again to explore more dirt roads. Up was the flavor of the day, and we headed around a few smaller ponds that I don’t remember the names of, until we popped out in Glover, VT just in time for lunch. We stopped at Parker pie, and I would be hard-pressed to think of a better mid-ride lunch spot. Great pizza, several Hill Farmstead options on tap, and a great patio to hang out on. We checked out some Canadians and their motos before we headed out, but our bikes were a better choice for the day.
We continued on after lunch heading from Parker pie on to Barton and our longest pavement stretch of the day. We were supposed to hit more dirt road, but we were “enjoying” the pavement so much we blew by the turn and after looking at the map, Nate figured out it would be about the same distance, so we just kept trucking on Lake Willoughby road, until we hit Lake Willoughby. It always strikes me how unique that lake is when I am at the northern end; it seems like it belongs out West or in Europe, and during our ride there were so few people around and so little traffic we got the view pretty much to ourselves. We continued on to the Willoughby General store for our last pit stop for a while and to make our final decision on the route. We loaded up with food (candy bars and the like) and headed up Hinton Hill road. I had never thought about what was above the ridge to the East of the lake, but we found that there is a LONG hill. The reward for climbing it was one of the coolest views of the lake I have seen. We stopped at the Sentinel Rock viewpoint, took some pictures and brushed up on our local history before heading up, again. At the top we stopped after seeing a lone beagle that looked just like the one we saw on the flyer at the store, and called to let them know we saw it. It took one sniff of us and decided to high-tail it into the woods, but at least we tried.
The next portion of the ride was a looonng downhill. All that hard work we put in to get up was blown away over the next few miles, but after the elevation loss, we headed onto the “Adventure” portion of the ride. We started off on a dirt road, that turned into a class IV road (with a stream running down the middle of it), then into a VAST trail, past a house with the family and friends having a few cold ones in the back of the truck, who were kind enough to wish us “Good luck going that way!” We continued on through some of the soggiest and squishiest surfaces of the ride. There was still a fair amount of snow left, which was actually easier to ride on than the quicksand-like mud. Each of us experienced how quickly the wheels stop spinning when they sink up to the hub in goo. I was lucky enough to save myself from going over the bars, but sunk my left foot in up to my mid-shin. Luckily, the route was taking us mostly uphill, so the fun was compounded with elevation gain. We eventually popped out onto an actual dirt road, and started to make good-ish time again on the rolling terrain.
Right around mile 53 we noticed we were on the Rasputitsa course again, and stopped to check out Job’s Pond state park. Another out-of-place geological feature that you would expect to see in Colorado rather than VT. A few pics and we were off again, hoping to make good time and get home to some amazing Mexican food prepared by Amy. We were flying after the VAST trail slog, and got to the Sheffield road, which was going to bring us right back to our starting point, although at the bottom of the 3 mile uphill to the cabin. We kept climbing, and climbing, and Nate asked if we would mind if Amy met us with the truck along the road. Neither Matt nor I even hesitated, as we were at mile 75 of what we thought was a 76 mile ride, but we still had 2 miles of down and 3 of up in front of us. Nate spoke to his wife and we were saved, but still had a ripping downhill in front of us. I tried to keep up with Nate, but couldn’t hang with his moto skills, and we flew down Sheffield road into Sheffield proper. We regrouped with Matt at the bottom and got to experience the first half mile of the hill before we saw Amy heading down in the truck. We loaded up and hopped in, extremely happy with our decision as we realized how much steeper the hill was when you were looking up it.
After cleaning up and changing into warm clothes, we played .22 Battleship before sitting down to a feast, I repeat feast, of Mexican food. Slow cooked pork, beef, homemade pickled onions, guacamole, rice, beans, fresh tortillas and more. It was not hard to force myself to eat three plates, and I was thinking I could eat more, but then Amy brought out her chocolate stout cupcakes. I was done. Nate and I split one, and then we split another. We sat out on the porch sipping some broken spoke and rehashing the day. To top everything off, Nate got a good bonfire going just as the stars started to jump out of sky. It always amazes me how many stars you can see without light pollution, but this was even more impressive. All in all, it was an awesome weekend with good food and beer, great riding, and even better friends. I highly recommend it to all, and hope to head back soon.