My favorite time of year. Last weekend was cloudy and wet, this week was cloudy and wet – and then …
Be sure to click for the full size version. Pretty much captures why I love living and riding in VT.
We had 40 riders start the VT Fall Classic last week. And, as a rider from Washington DC pointed out, it seems that it will not be a true ‘classic’ unless the weather offers up a challenge.
I rode the short course with friends, and in my haste as organizer I DNF’d before I even left the parking lot. My hot pink brevet card was sitting on the counter at the Old Spokes Home, where I was staging sign in and registration. Realizing this at the first control I accepted my fate but still enjoyed the ride. Any day on a bike is a good day, regardless of speed, time, and finishing status.
It has become harder and harder for me to write about this course and this ride. I developed the original route as a personal ‘birthday ride’ for myself over the course of 3 years, initially started during a time when my wife and I were adjusting to being new parents, and dealing with residual medical issues. There was alot of adjusting and pain (mental and physical) in those days, and my riding time plummeted from previous years. Getting on the bike was a gift, but one with the stark realization that my fitness was gone – and riding dirt roads with steep grades over long distances was something I was going to need to really work at – which continues to be an ongoing process.
After a few unofficial, non event scouting missions of both halves (there are almost 2 distinct north and south rides tucked within the long course) I launched the first official RUSA event in collaboration with the NERds to great weather and good roads in 2010. We’ve since grown the number of riders, tweaked the course and controls a bit, and have had rain and cold at some point during the rides ever since.
The 2012 edition proved promising from the start. A large contingent of riders converged on Burlington from ME, MA, VT, NH, NY, Washington DC. I ran into Lovely Bicycle! and her troupe on Saturday afternoon as they were exploring the Old Spokes Home (the start and finish of the ride), and I met up with more riders later that evening at a very crowded Farmhouse Taproom. Small groups were able to sit together and share food and drink, and eventually folks parted ways to rest for the late(r) (7am this year, instead of 6!) start.
Sign in went smoothly. We had quite a few folks who showed up ‘day of’. Hank Stokes volunteered at the start and finish (Huge Thanks to Hank!) and made sure everyone got off to a good start, and was at the finish with hot coffee and pizza. Bikes ranged from a few carbon racing machines, some classic and classy steel rigs, modern Indy Fabs (Ti and Steel), a couple of Rawlands, a pair of Velo Orange, and I think we had a mountain bike. We also had a rider complete the long route on a fixed gear.
At 7am I sent everyone off, and a small group of us left a few minutes later. The route rolls out of town, where eventually the road turns up, and we start to mix in dirt. I drifted between a few sets of riders near the back of the group, and enjoyed the morning fog and fall color, as well as the company of friends from Maine. I spent much of the day with Greg, who convinced a friend to ride – although he thought he signed up for our Cafe Cruise… a much different experience than the Classic.
For our little group, the rain held off until just afternoon, as we left our stop at the Village Cup. We covered the last ~22 miles in various stages of downpour and solid rain. At some point I got separated from Greg and others, and after soft pedaling and standing under an oak tree I just couldn’t wait any longer as I was getting cold – so I finished solo. I was about 7 minutes out of the time limit, had it mattered. I changed into dry clothes, wolfed down some hot coffee and pizza, then got picked up by the wife and girls, so I could snag our car. I made it back to Old Spokes, relieved Hank from volunteer duty, and waited and welcomed 200k riders in from the wet.
Despite the rain everyone returning was pleasant and had smiles on their faces, many excited that they finished, and offering compliments on the course. By about 7:15pm we had accounted for all riders, and for the first time ever running an event I was able to get home early.
40 starters (50, had all that preregistered been able to make it)
10 riders officially finished the 123k route within the time limits. Another 4 finished after the cutoff. And 3 of you finished on time but walked off with your brevet cards, or didn’t turn them in…
12 very wet riders finished the 200k route.
Got out this Friday – Saturday with Greg for a sub 36 hour overnight. I left BTV at about 8:30 am for a meet up in Waterbury. Traffic was a bit crazy getting out of town, and I ended up getting stuck in 3 different construction lines. I rolled on familiar roads to Richmond – taking in Governor Chittenden’s lovely dirt descent past the horse farms with views of Camel’s Hump. From Richmond I followed Cochran’s, Duxbury, and River Rd. to Waterbury, where we met up on the green. A quick snack from the food vendor in the park and we were rolling again on River Rd. towards Middlesex. We took a dirt detour up Lover’s Lane and used the abandoned bridge over the river / gorge in Moretown. Lovely view, and the rock formations were very clear with low, end of summer water levels.
We started to feel the warmth of the day on our way to Moretown, and made a stop in the general store for water and an ice cream sandwich. We pressed on south, taking the wonderful Pony Farm Rd. to avoid traffic on Rt. 100 in the valley. Pony Farm rolls along to the east of 100, is quiet, and offers some nice views to Lincoln Peak, Mt. Ellen, and a backwards glance towards Camel’s Hump. We stopped to check out the North St. bridge when the road changes its name, and then wandered into Waitsfield on pavement and a very busy Rt. 100. Seems rush hour in the valley is between 3 and 4 pm.
South of town we had enough of the traffic and stopped for a break at a gas station. Sour gummies and ice cold water hit the spot, along with a long sit in the shade. Temps hit 82 or more, and the pavement riding due south wasn’t much fun between the garbage truck that we leapfrogged about 10 times along with all the folks in a hurry. We finally had a respite as we started climbing through Granville Gulf, and the temps started to drop as we neared the ponds at the top. We found a burst of energy down the back side and made good time to Hancock where we sat for dinner at the Hancock Hotel / Restaurant. A quick stop in the general store across the street for some camp snacks and to camel up with some water (I wanted to avoid treating if we could), and we started climbing up Middlebury Gap on 125.
On our ascent we picked up some discarded paper and cardboard on the road and stashed it to help start a fire. We climbed to the Texas Falls entrance road, made a quick stop by the overlook, then rode further into the woods along the brook on a quiet, but sometimes steep forest road. We walked a bit of the loose rough stuff – Greg was on his Pacer with 28s and was having traction issues that he didn’t want to muscle through late in the day. A few campsites appeared close to the road, and after about ~44 miles from our meet up we found a nice meadow camp site, high up in the hills.
Setup went smoothly, except for the rocky ground that I had to stake down my Tarptent into. Greg hung in his Hennessy Hammock in the trees – so only had to deal with crossing a stinky / slimy ditch and clambering over downed trees. We built a fire, snacked, and gathered downed wood while watching the stars and chatting until sometime after 10, when the wind whipped up and changed direction, now blowing directly into my tent front door. I didn’t have the mental energy to re-pitch the tent, so I battened down the lines and snuggled in. I slept fitfully – feeling like the tent was trying to fly away with me on several occasions, and then listened as the rain came down for a few hours.
In the morning we made breakfast as we broke camp, packed gear and then headed north further along the forest road. We found several much nicer camp sites that we’ll keep in mind for another visit – and several areas large enough for group camping. At some point we came to the end of our road, realized we should have made a turn into the woods, and back tracked. We followed a VAST trail (marked as a 4×4 trail on USGS maps) for about 2.2 miles and crossed Texas Gap, topping out at 2200 feet in elevation. This was one of the more memorable moments – we were riding in the woods on a sometimes single track (Greg on his pacer with fenders and 28s!), far away from anywhere with the smell of fall in the air – although the leaves have only started to change – and we came upon a moose. It bolted before we could get cameras out – but it was 50-75 feet off trail from us.
We eventually connected to a dirt road, which we hoped to follow to the valley. This of course meant climbing a bit – but it was easily graded, until we came to a missing bridge. We heard a generator running – but with no one working on a Saturday morning we clambered around and down through the construction and started our descent on West Hill Road. We had a ripping ride to the Clark Brook trailhead where we stopped to note some more campsites and Greg paused to clean the mud from his fenders. This stretch from our camp back up through the Gap and down to the valley is one of the most memorable parts of this trip. Lovely dirt roads, some trail, wildlife, and a feeling of isolation from the world.
After we reached the valley and VT 100 we made a quick stop at the Granville General store, which was celebrating its one year anniversary – so we enjoyed free coffee and donut holes. Warmed and fueled with second breakfast we started a climb back over Granville Gulf. For the rest of the ride we’d get showered on a bit – not enough to want to put on rain gear – but enough to keep the camera stowed and the arm warmers and vest on. Our return north followed most of our journey south the day before – a stop for third breakfast in Warren, then a soup stop at Red Hen for lunch as we parted ways. Greg took off for points east and home, and I arranged to meet the family in Richmond so we could get dinner and run a few errands outside of our usual haunts in Burlington proper.
~10,000′ in climbing
Pave, dirt, gravel, forest road, single track
camp fire, exploring, spending time with a good friend.
An excellent way to spend less than two days.
Bike riding down. Car riding, plane riding, and general moving about (along with eating cafe food, drinking too much coffee, and putting on the pounds) is way up. Taught 3 sessions at a conference in the DC area. Incorporated my business. RUSA schedule has been submitted, information on 2012 VT Brevets forthcoming when we have approval.
Been back and forth to Boston (work and visiting my sister who was presenting at a conference), heading to the cape for work, then off to W.NY for work and family. We finally hired painters to tackle a few rooms in our house that we just couldn’t get around to wrapping up. Kitchen, hallways, and bath are now colorful. Added some new light fixtures to the bath while we had the walls messed up.
Fall has come and is nearly gone. Leaves down. Garden prepped for expansion (doubling again!).
Bikes need loving, collecting dust. Legs and lungs need the same. Haven’t felt really good on the bike since my 200+ mile trip through the ADKs in August. Just this week my lungs seem to be full of green slime that I cough up in the mornings, likely caught from a certain 3 year old. Looking forward to getting back to our regularly scheduled program. Focusing on family, work, and daddy time. Need to re-boot.
Wil put up a nice report on our overnight.
Peak color. Pave, dirt, trail. Some hike a bike too. My favorite time of year.
I left the house a bit later than I wanted, sipped a coffee and had some breakfast at a local cafe, then took off for higher ground. I ventured through the Intervale, enjoying a glorious and misty sunrise. Stunning, was the sky and the sun.
As I started to climb out of the vale to pavement, I noticed a vehicle stuck on the tracks. I’ve seen lots of bizarre things happen down here early in the morning – so I can’t say I was surprised – but it looks as if someone ‘borrowed’ the truck for a joy ride. Windows were open, with stuff left on the seats. Glove box was closed. I made sure there was no one injured (abandoned) then called 911 and was connected to local police. After a chat I continued on.
From Burlington I ventured off to Richmond via Mountain View and dropping down Governor Chittenden Rd. The Winooski River Valley was covered in a fog, and the light had a silver quality to it. No views to Camel’s Hump, but an otherworldly feeling as I hit the lower dirt road and a horse started running alongside.
Some flat riding out of town to the east, and then I climbed Stage Rd. Wonderful dirt, steep, with only a few cars passing. I saw a Long Trail hiker emerge from the woods, heading into town.
Somewhere nearing the top I turned onto a signed hiking / ski / snomo trail. Some hike a bike for the first 100′ or so, then leveling out on old double track / logging road. I skirted a small pond (north of Preston Pond), dodged some soggy trail, snapped some pics, and pressed on for the overlook.
The overlook trail is a loop, connecting as a U shape to the main trail. I took the first turn for it, riding quite a ways until the roots, rocks, and gradient made it difficult to pedal. Typical of VT trails, this rolled along for a bit, then turned straight up. I’d later learn that I took the longer / harder way up… as my descent from the lookout was equally rocky and rooty, but much shorter, and I think more rideable (for me, with my limited technical mountain bike skills…)
Returning to the double track, I made my way to Notch Rd., where I had hoped to continue on to the Bolton Access Rd. via another set of trails. I was met with some serious ATV rutted double track, and upon exploring a bit found a crew clearing trees. Chainsaws running, and ATVs scurrying up the trail, I assume these folks were prepping the trail for winter snomo use.
Bombing down Notch Rd. led me back to the river valley, where I made my way to the Cross Vermont Trail. This stretch follows the edge of a farm field and a dirt road. In the field it can be wet, and flooding from Irene left the bridge damaged – but it looks like repairs are under way, and the trail was firm.
I followed my path back into town – climbing up Governor Chittenden Rd. past Catamount, eventually meeting up with the family on the waterfront for a fall day out…
Since my bikepacking trip I’ve been looking for some mojo. Lots of rain here in VT, lots of damage and flooding from the hurricane, and lots of cold, wet, weather settling in. I always go through some downtime as the seasons change… and being in the cold and rain for the VT Fall Classic last week seemed to reinforce that the body needs time to acclimate each year. Come spring I’ll be shedding layers in this morning’s temps…
Have to find some time for some bike maintenance. The Fargo’s rear derailleur was tweaked somewhere along the Fall Classic. Shifting suffered over the final 12 miles. My chain wouldn’t drop out of the largest cog without some persuasion on the pedals, and it never dropped down into the smallest. Looks like the replaceable hanger is bent – but no adjusting with cable tension nor limit screws seems to help. I’m likely to swap to flat bars and 1×9 for the winter – so it seems this fix will just speed up that process.
The Pugsley is going to get my Titec H-bars. I have cable ready and waiting – just need the time to focus. The bars on the Pugs will go to the Fargo for the winter. Also need to re-pack the rear wheel, and check all the bearings, etc. Want to be ready to roll when the snow flies.
The IF needs a cleaning. And I’ll mount up my spare wheelset with my trainer tires for indoor roller duty. This bike has been ridden maybe only a handful of times since the Fargo arrived. Sad, maybe. But I’m just digging the fat tires now, for pretty much everything…
I rode the VT Fall Classic Populaire this past Saturday. It was cold. It rained. The temperature dropped. We were hit with a deluge as we took off up the Notch from our first control towards the mountains and one of my favorite roads. It was windy. Did I say it rained? Dirt was in fine shape, if not soggy towards the end. The mountains were hiding in the low clouds. Fall color will peak in another week or so, but was a wonderful contrast to the gray along the route.
I’ll let the numbers tell the story:
Pre registered: 11
Did not start: 4
Did not finish: 3
Pre registered: 10
Registered day of: 3 (brave, to show up morning of!)
Did not start: 5
Did not finish: 5 (completed entire route, but well out of the time limit: 4)
First 114k finishers in @ 7h20m. (I was lanterne rouge and finished in 7h30m)
First 200k finisher arrived in an amazing 9h30m, which was an incredible ride, under these conditions. A group of three riders made it in just under the time limits @ 13h25m.
I focused on keeping moving to generate heat, and forced myself to drink. Food went down easy. Liquids were tough. The camera stayed tucked away for most of the ride – impossible to operate in my overmitts, and tricky at best in my liner gloves.
I’ve done this ride, and similar loops, many many times, and am always reminded at just how beautiful my neighborhood can be.