Monday, July 18, 2016

When the Pavement Ends the Fun Begins

This post was almost titled "R&R" Rest & Relaxtion, Rinse & Repeat, Rock n' Roll. You get the idea. Why would R&R be required for someone living the #CBL? I don't go full auto velocb just for fun. My ADD combined with so much life makes it near impossible to just be at peace. Or at rest. My wife and I take one real vacation a year together. Just the two of us. No kids. No pets. No work. That is pretty rare these days. Don't get me wrong I love the kids. Love them. They are really my whole world. But you need to step back and just have moments where you can soak in silence. Leave the list behind and just have no agenda. VT is one of those places that just work for me. I love it up there. Its the combo of the mountains, dirt roads, rivers, hippies. What is not to like?

We have been going to the same place for about 11 years. We have had a few gaps in our annual trip but we have tried to keep it consistent. We have always brought bikes. Our first time up there with the bikes we had the weirdest ride I can really remember. Other than the time we got lost in Santa Cruz on her bday (New Year's Eve) and were rapidly losing daylight. That ride was one of those tests of wills. Are we going to have to camp out over night in the woods? Can we make it to the Highway without falling off a cliff? Can we make it back to the B&B riding full ninja on Hwy 1 without being killed? You know the type of rides that make you feel alive!

My wife and I have a long history on bikes together. She is a natural. I always say if she biked as much as I do she would be way stronger than I am. She is a beast on the bike. And has zero fear. This has ended poorly on a few occasions of course but she keeps riding. And is always up for anything. I love dirt or gravel or what ever you want to call it. The term gravel is obviously more elegant than dirt and people instantly know what you are talking about. But it isn't really an accurate term. Riding gravel sucks. Have you ever ridden on gravel on train tracks? Yeah it sucks. Ever ride over big chunks of gravel on a power line trail? Yeah its terrifying. In VT dirt roads are everywhere. And they are used by everyone. So they are nice and packed down and in great shape. The loop we go on each year includes a bit of dirt and a bit of pavement. Its about a 20 mile loop. We ride at an easy pace. Unless my wife sees another woman on a bike. Then she goes into full hammer mode and we have to chase the woman down. Is this normal? See what I mean. If Pam wasn't a baller businesswoman she would be a competitive cyclist. I know she would. She just has that fire.

This year we got up to VT early on Friday. We wanted to get a hike on Equinox mountain in before it got dark. It was so nice just hiking and being alone. I don't get to hike much. But when I do it is almost as good as mountain biking. Sure its slower. But its nice. I love being able to just get enveloped by the woods and pick my way through a trail system. We both probably didn't have the best footwear for the hike but YOLO. I was wearing hemp boat shoes which did get interesting on a few slippery rocks but hey when in Rome wear hemp right? The next day we got up and had a good breakfast. I had been checking out some local cycling routes and hatched a plan in my head. For the record I did not download a file onto a Garmin. Why would you do that when you have a gps in your brain? Honestly, I can look at some maps and just remember the route I want to take. It doesn't always go 100% according to plan but that is what a nice local mini-mart is good for.

We rolled down River road at warp speed. The descent from Manchester to Arlington via River road is so nice. You just fly down these beautiful flowing roads then pop out into cow country. Oddly VT cows don't smell as bad as other cows. I don't know how this is possible. We came to our first dirt sector and my wife says under her breathe "scary, Chipper." It takes my wife about 45 minutes to warm up on a bike. At first her shoulders are up by her ears, she is very tentative and can barely reach the hoods. All understandable for someone who doesn't bike regularly. But then something magical happens. She just melts into her bike and becomes a beast. We got to Arlington and pulled over in front a sign that said New York 7 miles. I asked if she wanted to ride to NY? She laughed. But then said let's do it. I had seen on a map that there was a nice dirt road that runs parallel to 313 on the other side of the Battenkill River.

A decade ago we had ridden this same dirt road and had such a weird experience. It was like something you would see in some 80s horror movie. Full Hills Have Eyes type of experience. The funniest part of that ride was when we came across a lady in the middle of nowhere selling Barbie heads on a card table. Suffice it say we beat it out of there fast. This time was different. When we pulled off 313 there was a ton of people standing around in bathing suits and with inner tubes in their hands. We rode to the sign that said Pavement Ends. Now you are talking. I got a bit confused as the road looked like it was someone's driveway. Pam asked why we were stopping. I said I wasn't sure where the road went. She said follow me and dove down the dirt road. A budding trail wizard has clearly been born.

The dirt road was probably one of the nicest I have ever ridden. We rode along the Battenkill under a canopy of trees for the 7 miles. There were tons of people tubing and kayaking on the river. I joked that we should go skinny dipping. I wasn't really joking. We popped back out on 313 and took a left and voila there was the New York State sign. We took a ton of photos. Then did the same with the Welcome to VT sign. As we were heading back up the road on 313 I just couldn't believe what a perfect day we were having. The road ticked up a bit and I could hear the sound of a truck shifting down. I hear Pam getting nervous and shout "We have to get off the road" I sort of laughed but saw a wood bridge on the right and dove into it. Any opportunity to ride a wood bridge works for me. Now for those not savvy with wood bridge riding. You go from the light of day to darkness. Especially if you are wearing dark sunglasses. Typically wood bridges have wooden slats across them. They usually run length wise. Some have bigger gaps than others. This can cause some spectacular crashes.

Pam went in fully blind and rode through like a boss. To say I was impressed was an understatement. Like I said she gets stronger and more confident as the ride goes on. We got back onto that dirt road and headed back to Arlington. What was clear to me is the tubing/kayack people had displaced the sketchy hill people. Everywhere we turned there were happy tubers and kayakers. Tubing the Battenkill with my wife and kids is now on my bucket list for this summer. We had one more exciting moment on the ride. And one more moment that Pam impressed the hell out of me. Like I said these dirt roads were amazing. As smooth as VT cheese....hahaha couldn't resist a bad pun. Worn down. Not loose at all. But I of course found the only potholes on the whole road. It happened when we were riding side by side and chatting. I hit the first one and it deflected me towards Pam. I used all the body english I could to get the bike back under control and to not body check Pam. But it was tight. Like lock your bars together tight and die. She screams in my ear. "HEY"""" But she literally didn't even blink. Totally held her line like a boss.

Afterwards she said " I thought you were going to grab onto me like a drowning victim" "That's what I would have done..." hahaha darling I would literally crash my face off before I would take you down with me intentionally. We laughed and laughed. We started playing a game called New York or Jersey. Its kind of like Matt Roy's game Nanny or MILF but involves tubers in American Flag shorts and poor life choices. Oddly most times it came up PA. But wow this place has been overrun in the short ten years we have been coming here. This is why I love riding on vacation. You see parts of a new place on a bike that you just wouldn't see otherwise. You talk to so many weird locals. And interact with so many weird visitors like yourselves.

We stopped in Arlington to refuel and grab something to eat. I introduced my wife to the joys of mini-mart food. And then we found a "deli" and had sandwiches. I tried to steer her away from the diet coke and the veggie wrap (rap?) with banana peppers. But a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I had a half turkey on wheat and water. Arlington is the weirdest little town. I really love it. A Church that has been converted to some kind of shrine to bad Rooster art, Satanic cats, bikers, gun shows. It has it all. And it has a tank. We found the tank a few years ago. Pam always climbs on the tank for a photo op.

This year's tank photo op was a bit sketchy. It was a very hot day so climbing on the tank was no easy feat. But once on the tank we got a classic Tank Girl photo. I am not sure what the appeal of the tank is but it is always a highlight of our ride. It was getting a bit late and I knew Tank Girl was getting bonky so I opted to avoid the two punchy climbs on our usual route and take us back by the river and up River road. It worked out great as we dove back into the shade of the canopied dirt roads and avoided the searing heat of mid-day. As we climbed out of the dirt a sport rider went flying by us descending Sunderland road. I could care less about chasing down any riders. But as it was another lady I had a funny feeling Pam was going to go into hammer mode and try and chase the rabbit. Low and behold I hear her chain slam onto the big ring and Pam swings by me and goes into full TT mode.

I sort of laugh and just hop on her wheel and think about how long it will take to reel in the rider up the road. The women has a pretty good lead. Maybe 1/4 mile. But the road is very flat. And Pam is a hammer. Low RPM grinder. We catch the women in 5 minutes. I say high as we go by. Nice lady. Pam asks if we have dropped her nemesis. Ah yeah I say. She says "thank god cause I think I puked up a banana pepper.." Hahah OMG. This women needs to race cyclocross. Seriously. The climb out seems easier than past years. Not sure why. Maybe cause we are having so much fun on the bikes. Or maybe the veggie wrap was laced with EPO. What a fantastic weekend. Literally just what we needed. Thank you VT for being so damn weird. Never change.

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