We awoke early to a quiet house. Our host had either left or was sleeping late as we ate granola and pb & js for breakfast with our coffee. We didn’t have a plan for the day. We just knew we needed to get to Boston in a few days. Cody suggested we go to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. One of his buddies had recommended it, so that was our direction.
As we cruised out of town, we hit dirt roads and single track paths. Vermont was loaded with hidden gems. We stopped at a pub for our first round of beers, quinoa burgers and sweet potato fries. Crammed with food, we then rode the few miles to the Ben & Jerry’s for a cone. Reasonable.
Riding in the summer heat, with a full belly, up a hill did not prime me for the excitement I should have been feeling riding up to the largest ice cream factory in Vermont. Instead, I had a looming thought of puking up my ice cream as my stomach refused to take more abuse. We parked our bikes, and spent a moment people watching. A couple had ordered a mondo bucket, consisting of twelve scoops of ice cream with whip and topping. I shuttered. I got pralines, and Cody got some double triple chocolate fudge. We had tried the infamous maple and walnut flavor, and it was a’ight.
We discussed where to go next. Looking at the map, we decided to find a campsite somewhere nearby. We knew back up the road was Little River State Park, but had no idea what would be further down the road. This was an odd pitstop for me. Heading back always sucks, but we didn’t have a flow yet.
The ride had only lasted a few hours, but the day had gone by quickly. Our late start out of Burlington cut the day short, and as we were rolling into the campgrounds, the sun began to go down. We unpacked our gear, and set up camp. No fire tonight. The trees overhead were so thick, that you couldn’t see a thing once the headlamps went off.
It was our first night of camping, and amazingly I found the only guy who is more nervous when camping than I am. I have stupidly loaded up on water before bed for years, waking up in the middle of the night to piss, and this night wasn’t any different. I stepped out with the headlamp into the abyss, and frantically scanned every inch of the woods around me as my shoes got the splash back. Then crawled back into the tent to live another day.
We were awoken by the sound of our bikes crashing over, and the sound of our bags being torn. Cody and I looked at each other in the dark, frozen. Someone was stealing our bikes, or it was definitley a bear. I grabbed my light as he unzipped the tent. A racoon had knocked our shit over and was working his way into my saddlebag.
I handed Cody the only thing I had, a water bottle. “Squirt him!” I shouted. Cody shooed him off, got out of the tent, then laughed at me for thinking a water bottle was going to do it. The thief had wanted our trail mix. We then hung our packs in the trees, and dozed off giggling.
We awoke the next day wanting to get more time in the saddle. But, all our gear was wrecked, so we got back into town to do a quick load. We ate breakfast, and slowly repacked.
It had been a perfect, clear day. The roads were quiet, and we traveled by beautiful country farms. We filled our water bottles at an abandoned fruit and maple stand. We rode up and over gentle rolling hills. This section, though beautiful, felt as though it went on forever. We were 11 miles from Warren for an eternity, then suddenly pulled up on main street. The town felt empty, and closed, except for a cute sandwich and trinket shop. Pink Floyd was playing overhead. They had beers for us, and we ate on the patio.
As I ate my large deli pickle, motorcyclists pulled up and joined us on the patio. Their names were Jesse and Eric, and they had been riding the Vermont back roads. We wanted to find more gravel, and they knew the good spots.
As we chatted, they invited us to their cabin for the night. They had a few other buddies meeting them for a boys getaway near Lincoln. They would be happy to have us join, and had a great spot for us to set up camp. I hesitated because our day would be cut short again, but was very excited to get off the main roads for a while. Eric gave us directions, and said that there was a hill, but it wasn’t so bad. Just a short hill. It’s not that bad.
We parted, and headed towards Eric’s cabin. Then we got to the Lincoln Gap Road. The steepest paved mile in America. As we approached the base, an old man assured us, “only a mile to go!” I next remember laughing hysterically as I pushed my bike up this insane hill. Cody and I creeped up in our stiff carbon bike shoes. My extended reach dropped my head below my handlebars. We laughed the mile up.
Cresting the hill, we took a turn down a dirt road. We were cutting through thick trees towards a hidden cabin. We began to love Vermont. Eric invited us in, handed us beers, and showed us the camp spot. We were nestled next to a creek a few hundred feet from the cabin. We were crusted with sweat, and happily drank our beers as we set up our tent.
We heard dirt bikes pull up, and walked over to meet the boys. Eric had a dirt track on his property, and they let us rip around for a bit. After the whole crew was there, we grilled on the patio, and chilled around the fire pit. We all had stories to share, and got a chance to look at the maps for our ride in the morning. They all recommended we head to Ripton, and get on the Ripton-Goshen trail.
We walked the mossy cobbled steps down to the footbridge in the dark, crossing over to get to our campsite. We had ridden only 30 miles that day, but had long days ahead of us. With a relaxed hum, we crawled into our tent and laughed about all that had happened.