October 07, 2022
Meg and I once again completed our longest self-supported bike tour yet: seven days of dirt roads, singletrack, surprisingly nice Vermont corner stores, and Heady Topper. I'm dividing this journey into seven posts, one for each day. This is day 7.
If you're trying to read these in backwards order (who am I to judge?), check out part 6 here:
If you somehow missed my post for day 1, check it out here:
Our final day of the trip. It's hard to believe we've been living in a tent, off of bikes, with no source of transportation other than our own legs, for a full week. The rain sounds heavy as we lay in our sleeping bags, hoping for bluer skies. But when I open up the tent, it turns out to be a mere sprinkle.
It takes us a bit longer than usual to pack up the camping supplies, mostly because of the impressive collection of slugs and spiders sheltering under our rain guard. But the rain lets up just long enough to get the tent packed away without too much extra water (or slug) weight.
We pick up our bear bag from Carol's shed, and say goodbye to our gracious host. She asks if we plan to take the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, but Vermont Transportation has been radio silent on the "late summer 2022" trail building progress. So we respond with a resounding "maybe."
We head downhill for breakfast and coffee at Greensboro's general store, Wiley's Store. After barely 100 meters on the road, the rain cranks up to 11. Fortunately the ride isn't far, so we park the bikes under an eave and sample the coffee, breakfast sandwich, donuts, and banana bread. The food is as excellent as you'd expect at a Vermont general store. And they sell Hill Farmstead bottles, a pleasant surprise.
The onslaught of rain continues, even after we respectfully drink an entire coffee and eat an entire donut. After a few minutes of continuing rain, we decide that with 60 miles of riding to Littleton, we should get on the road. So we set out towards Greensboro Bend.
The traffic is light. The rain is heavy. But spirits are high. As we cruise into Greensboro Bend, we notice an entrance to the rail trail. And surprisingly, the "closed" signs are face down on the road. Score! We hop on the rail trail with mild hesitation. Surely Vermont Transportation would announce if the rail trail was open?
As it turns out, they might not. We take the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail for most of the day. At every road crossing, I expected to see "closed" signs on the next stretch of trail... but that never happened. Some stretches of trail were a bit rough. None of them were as rough as the Ammonoosuc Rail Trail near Littleton. Overall, it was almost entirely graded, finished, and bridged over every obstacle. There was one giant dip in the trail under construction, with a giant backhoe parked at one end.
It turned out to be really fun on loaded bikes, and we got enough momentum going down one side to get all the way up the other side.
Before long, the sun comes out, and the world starts to warm up. We cruise along the sometimes-rough, sometimes-finished rail trail to Joe's Pond. But we finally run out of luck: near Harrington Hill, at a road crossing, we spot grading machines on the trail ahead, laying down smooth dirt/gravel surface. It's great to see Vermont building the rail trail, but slightly inconvenient that they're doing it at the same time that we'd like to be using the rail trail.
But it turns out to not be much of an obstacle. We take a quick detour down a dirt side road, but the next intersection is also blocked -- it looks like this grading process is a multi-hour ordeal, with multiple machines passing over the path multiple times.
So we continue on, and detour on 15 for a hot second, before finally rejoining the trail on Channel Road.
From there, the (finished) (preexisting) trail between Joe's Pond and St. Johnsbury is fantastic. We see a few people out on the trail for morning dog walks, bike rides, and runs. But it's overall just a beautiful orangey crisp haze.
Once we hit St. Johnsbury, it's time for second breakfast and lunch at the Cosmic Cup Cafe. This place slaps! My breakfast burrito is so good, I ordered a third breakfast -- a breakfast-themed poutine complete with sunny-side-up eggs. Meg's pan baguette with lox was allegedly good, but I wouldn't know -- by the time I thought to ask for a bite, she'd already finished it! My latte is much better than I expected, but Meg claims her "Kingdom Fog" -- a London Fog with maple -- takes the cake. Fortunately, St. Johnsbury is so close to our favorite mountain bike trails, and on the way to so many people we know, that we're likely to return soon.
After second and third breakfast, it's time for a beer! We hop over to Kingdom Taproom and nab some Hill Farmstead tap beer, because yesterday just wasn't quite enough. Last time we visited, we liked their outdoor space on the street. It's nice to finally check out their extremely cozy basement taproom, which feels straight out of an old English pub. I'm excited to visit again after a long day of skiing at Jay Peak in the dead cold of winter.
I enjoy my first nitrogenated Hill Farmstead beer, which fits right in with the clouds that start to cover that warm mid-morning sun. Meg has some other hippy-dippie local Vermont beverage, which was allegedly good. She drank it quickly enough that I didn't get to try it, though.
From St. Johnsbury, we have a choice. We can either cut across the hills and cruise directly to Littleton, or follow the river and ride a few extra miles to keep our hill ascents to a minimum.
We choose to be lazy and follow the river.
The Vermont dirt roads on our route turn out great. Much of our route parallels a railroad, which kept the grades relaxing. The roads are smooth, pleasing dirt. The cows and sheep and goats are cute. The foliage and views continue to gobsmack me around every corner. Traffic is nonexistent. We cruise under and above the highway at least three times, often spotting beautiful waterfalls in the highway median that I never knew existed, despite driving this highway countless times.
We eventually make it to two bodies of water that separate Vermont and New Hampshire near Littleton: Comerford and Moore Reservoirs. For the most part, the great dirt roads continue, though we can tell that near the border New Hampshire starts to leak in: more and more stretches of crumbling pavement appear, a poor substitute for the smooth, concrete-like dirt we've grown used to in Vermont.
We cross Moore reservoir on a relatively busy paved road, and it becomes immediately clear that we've entered New Hampshire. The roads expand, the cars get faster, and a gloom sets in, blocking out the last traces of sunlight in the sky. The wind whips up, and faint raindrops begin pooling on my glasses. A lone, haunting wolf howls in the distance. No wait, a wolf didn't actually howl in the distance, I got carried away setting the atmosphere. Anyway, the ride from Moore dam (which you can get very close to on a bike) to Littleton kinda sucks. The shoulder is wide, so I'm not too concerned for our safety, but damn there are a lot of trucks, and they are all going really fast, and they are all really loud. There's a back way into town with way more hills and dirt roads, but at the end of a 60-mile day, we aren't trying to add an extra 10-15 miles.
The skies open up and start absolutely dumping rain on us just as we turn off the main road onto the residential hilly streets of Littleton. As we reach home, the sun peeks out behind this passing rainstorm, and a rainbow appears over Franconia Notch. Seriously, I'm not messing with you, that's not me setting the atmosphere, it actually happened.
We just spent a whole week on bikes!
It's a lot to process. On one hand, it was a lot of work to plan out a route, find campsites, pack our things, and lug them up hills all across Vermont. On the other hand... with the exact same setup, we could live off our bikes indefinitely anywhere. All we'd need is a laundromat every couple of weeks. And maybe a little more discipline when it comes to eating 8 meals a day.
My biggest fear going into this trip was twofold: we'd either get mentally or physically sick of biking by the end of the week. Turns out, that didn't happen. The day after we finished this trip, we loaded the mountain bikes onto our car rack and cruised for a few hours around Kingdom Trails in Burke. Then we got home, ate some ice cream, and ascended Mount Agassiz on Bethlehem's new mountain bike trails. The weather was perfect, and with fall looming, it's hard to say when we'll get our last bike ride in for the year. Might as well keep going.
When we set out on this trip, Meg and I wanted to prove to ourselves that we COULD live off of bikes for as long as we need. I think we've accomplished that. And now we're already floating ideas of a month in Europe next year.