May 13, 2023
Meg's mom visited us for Mother's Day weekend to continue the tradition of the Meg-Lyneé National Golf Championship. This year, they're touring in two previously-unseen states: Vermont and Maine. Since any good golf tournament includes beers afterward, I latched onto the tournament as an opportunity for Meg to dump me on the shoulder of a random dirt road with my bicycle, Bill the Moonshiner. Ostensibly she hoped to see me at Hill Farmstead Brewery later that day; practically speaking, she was abandoning me on the side of a random rural dirt road.
My starting point for the ride was hardly inspiring: a somewhat-wider-than-usual patch of shoulder, smack in between a disused railroad track, a major two-lane highway, and Interstate 91. Fortunately, all I had to do was ride up a single (not that big) hill and I ended up on a cozy little dirt road, wending its way between farms in the St. Johnsbury hills.
The ride began slow; it seems the area around St. Johnsbury is unusually lumpy, even by Vermont standards. No mountains (yet), but lots and lots of hills. It felt like something in between the Shire and rural England, which I suppose is just a decent description of Vermont.
But despite the hills, the ride was lovely. Very few cars, and those I did see invariably waved and said hello as they passed me. The temperatures rose from the low to mid 60s, made extremely comfortable (even a bit warm!) by the constant sunshine. Fluffy white clouds straight out of a child's sketchbook occasionally made me appreciate the sunshine even more. As my ride rose in altitude, the buds on the trees appeared to move back in time: from fully leafed-out, to somewhat coyly peeking out, all the way back to "just a bud." The ride's color palette was a mix of obnoxiously emerald grass, vivid golden dandelions, and the electric green of not-quite-leaves buds.
After my relaxing backroads ride, I eventually made it to Wheelock Road, the major thoroughfare of my ride. I was a bit concerned that the road would be busy on a Saturday morning, but fortunately it's still a dirt road (though a very smoothly textured, packed one). I ended up seeing seven or eight cars on my 7 mile ride on Wheellck.
After Wheelock, I headed back onto the back roads. After a beautiful ride through a Christmas tree farm with a view of Stowe (which you can apparently see from literally everywhere in the NEK), I ended up at a crossroads.
On the left, the road appeared to continue into someone's driveway. On the right, an ATV trail, so barely maintained that grass sprouted straight out of the centerline. Naturally, the ATV trail was my route. So I proceeded along a delightful stretch of something I really appreciate about Vermont: class IV roads.
The road varied between "ATV trail" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Road quality held steady until I found myself fording a minor creekbed. I pulled myself out of the creekbed, mounted my bike... and my GPS informed me I was off track. Apparently I should have turned left about 20 feet back.
"What!?!?!" I exclaimed, uttering no profanities and speaking out loud to myself in a totally non-crazy way.
I checked the map, and confirmed the worst: the creekbed was my turn.
And then I found myself Moonshining my way down the creekbed, alternating between riding on the slightly-too-soft creek edge (which would frequently crumble into the creek itself) and just cruising straight down the creek itself (which was sometimes a decent surface, and sometimes a boggy mess of quicksand).
Brilliant Vermont stuff. Eventually I made it past a house (how the owners access it in the winter, I'd love to know), and the "road that's actually a creek" deteriorated into "creekbed winding its way through a grassy meadow." I snapped an obligatory pic for the blog and continued.
After that, the grassy meadow deteriorated into "wider creekbed of exclusively quicksand" which nearly ate my entire bicycle front end. A few dicey jumps over pools later, I made it to my final major obstacle: a collection of downed trees right over the largest muddy pool yet. So I picked up Bill and hiked my way into the woods. Fortunately I was wearing sandals, which made the mud comparatively easy to clean off my feet.
After the Muddy Tree Basin boss fight, the road quickly recovered back to "actually a dirt road". One vestige of the creekbed remained: a slight trickle of water down the right side of the road. So I did what any reasonable mud-streaked individual would do: I accelerated downhill at full speed right through the water, washing as much mud as possible off of my drivetrain, my frame, my tires, and my face. The temperature was approaching 70, the sun was bright, and I'd just hiked my bicycle through the woods, so I didn't mind a quick shower.
After that, it was just a couple of miles up to Hill Farmstead, where Meg promised to meet me. So I did what any reasonable person would do: I hung out at Hill Farmstead for about 3 hours, sipping amazing beer and reading a book, until Meg arrived with lunch and exciting tales of the Meg-Lyneé National Golf Championship.