Sunday, November 17, 2013

95 Chilly Wet Miles to Montpelier Family

[began writing Tue. Nov. 12, about the date Wed. Oct. 23rd.  Finished today Nov. 17th]

Well, here we are ... Nearly 3 weeks behind on my log, but it'll have to do!  I'm sitting now at coffee shop in York, PA waiting for my cousin Tim to meet me from Harrisburg.  Snow this morning, which turns out to be much easier than rain to deal with!  I've also given in to blogging from my phone because it's most often available to me when there's time to write.  Just like writing by hand or with a typewriter leads to different styles, we'll see how it goes!

So the adventure left off in the Green Mountain nat'l Forest near Weston, VT on October 23rd.  Got up around 5:30, packed and rolling by 6:30.  It's nice being up before most folks, and with the glow of the moon I barely needed my flashlight to light the road.   Because I was up on a significant hill, I had the joy of coasting for a good mile downhill.  Well, joyful in the lack of pedaling, but freezing to my fingers and toes, from the wind chill of such dazzling speeds.  Ha, no, I never go super fast, especially in low light.  But I got down into the valley and on my way.  Sun eventually rising over the hills.

The first town I came to, I stopped into a gas station to warm my toes and charge my phone.  Now that I'm navigating with a phone, it's crucial to keep it charged.  But there are also plenty of places with no service, so I need to somehow keep the map available, too.  Haven't yet been clever (wise) enough to set myself up with a backup paper map.  The gas station attendant informed me that the night ahead would be the first night that Killington ski resort would be making snow at the top of the mountain.  Part of the reason for my hurry!

Now a 50% chance of rain means that with conditions like the previous day's, 50% of the days following had rain.  It doesn't necessarily mean it will rain half of the day.  If fact it could mean that it will rain most of the day.  Which was the case on this day.  When I started in the morning, I wanted to believe there would be no rain, so I hadn't put any of the covers on my bags or shoes.  When it started sprinkling, after daylight came, I immediately pulled off the road under some dry cedars, and got everything covered. Except I couldn't locate my rubber shoe covers, and since it was only raining lightly I figured I'd get away with none.  When I pulled into the next town, my feet were quite cold, and the general store I stopped into had neither a seat, nor an outlet, nor public water, nor a friendly employee!  So I kept on going, and luckily found this lovely bike shop near Killington with very sweet folks working there, and they were happy to let me sit to warm my chilled feet.  I got some snacks and rubbed the feeling back into my toes, while enjoying the coming and going of friendly locals just stopping by to chat.  I left them my CD and gave up on the rain letting up, and pushed onward.

The bike store proprietor reminded me of a more level and direct route past the ski mountain - which I knew about from googlemaps, but it's always nice to have human confirmation of such things.   Routes with names like "river road" or "creek road" are always promising because it usually means a steady climb or steady descent at the grade of the river. So the river road shortcut worked out nicely, though the rain got harder.  Back on rt 100N, with a wide shoulder, I at least began to get in a good pedaling groove. I saw a trucker stopped taking a picture of a huge skiing bear statue, so I pulled off to offer to take his picture with it.  When I asked, he responded with neither words nor gesture.  Puzzled, I asked again, this time he kind of made a motion, but still no real communication.  Finally I gestured taking a picture, and he spoke unintelligibly and gestured his agreement that it was a good idea (and why hadn't I gotten the message earlier?).  Took his picture and he seemed pleased, and I got back on the road.  Shortly thereafter, I saw a bearded cyclist ahead in the far lane, with saddle bags (maybe touring, maybe commuting), and he crossed over 4 lanes of traffic in the pouring rain to end up right next to me.  We slowed down, and he said, "just wanted to say, Way to go brother!" and we high-fived without barely stopping, then he was on his way.  A little stunned, but very glad for such enthusiastic encouragement, I turned behind me and thought, wait, I'd like to know that guy!!  But on we biked ... So if you happen to read this, thank you bearded biker man!

Stopped in Hancock and Granville, still sprinkling, but in the groove.  A couple delicious sandwiches were eaten, because gluten free bread is now a normal thing in Vermont!  Actually I think Granville may have been where I got some hot coffee and used the wifi in a cozy cafe bookstore.  Without service in these little mountain villages, I decided to write my directions down on paper (connected with wi-fi).  A fellow i got talking with asked what route I was taking to Montpelier, and explained there would be a tough climb to go over the Roxbury pass, but here was a case where I trusted googlemaps to be taking me the most level route.  Another couple people seemed concerned that I would be crossing Roxbury mountain, so it seemed to be helpful collective knowledge!

At one point, still on rt 100, I started to wonder if I was in fact on the right road.  It was along a beautiful creek and the traffic had greatly diminished.  I was headed upstream, as it seemed I had been doing all day!  And it was perfectly scenic.  I startled a great blue heron in the creek (Mad River), and he took off straight in front of me.  He soared gently up the curves of the narrow clearing that contained the road and river, and I watched him until he was out of sight.  Actually I kept an eye on the water, hopeful I'd catch him again.  Herons are absolutely my favorite bird.  As my left knee began to feel more and more strained, along with my confidence in the road, I exhaled heavily and began a loud wordless chant to keep me going up the river.  With no one around, it felt great to sing to myself and the trees.  Shortly, I came to the turn I had been waiting for.  I'm still not great at knowing how far I've pedaled, especially when going uphill.  So I was now on the right road for sure, plunkton, but I was still going up!  And my knee still hurt and I couldn't feel my toes for real, and the rain was still going off and on, in spite of the sunshine that was breaking through the clouds to light up the forest around me and offer glimmers of hope!  I kept singing my chant, and adding words too. The song definitely got me through this section, and I was writing and singing it for the rest of the day's journey.  ("Straight up ahead is where you are going; straight up ahead is all you need to know ....")

Finally to a high level spot, sun becoming more prominent as it got lower in the sky, I decided that I was risking frostbite if I didn't warm my feet.  I resolved to stop at the next house I passed to appeal for a warm room to sit in for a minute or 3.  I pulled into a quaint driveway with a yippy dog, and immediately saw just around the corner a co-op food market and community space!  So no enjoyment of the kindness of strangers, but salvation indeed! The shop was of course laden with gluten free treats and healthy things.  An excited worker-owner convinced me to take a good deal on their last 4-pack of gluten-free beer.  Not that I needed the weight or had the space, but it seemed like a great thing to look forward to at the end of the ride.  So sat in the upstairs community space of the old church, snacking and rubbing life back into my white toes.  I was really regretting my footwear choice, because my soccer flats were thin and held cold water against my feet.  That would have to be a gear upgrade in Burlington.

So I happened to be on the Roxbury mountain road, and a couple old hunters told me it would be a tough climb!  But I of course was going along the side of the valley, riding north with the sunset sneaking below the clouds, ahead to my left.  [finishing blog 11/17]  It was pastoral and finally not raining for good, and the climbs were gentle.  As I pulled up to a crossroads, a local cyclist was just turning around to go the way I was headed.  She slowed down so we could chat and ride - turns out I was in the Mad River Valley, where apparently everyone gets out walking and biking on the roads!  I think it was a Sunday afternoon, so that may have had something to do with it.  Anyway, this cyclist (I can't remember your name, if you read this, thank you and drop me a line!) told me I would soon be down the hill to rte 100B, and it would be easy riding from then out.  Very welcome news.

As it got dark and I put my lights on, began curving eastward to follow the river to Montpelier.  It was fully dark when I was on the country roads that paralleled the highway and the river all at once, about 1/2 mile away from them.  Still chanting and singing - finished adding enough words to get me through the ride!  It became a song in the following couple of days when I added a banjo part, and the two were wed.  But yes, it was flat and dark, and I was propelled forward by the thought of dinner with my friend Twylla, one of the most shining humans to ever walk this earth.  Plus she'd be giving me a ride up the hill her home outside of Montpelier!  Maybe 2 hours riding in the dark, in total.  Making it to the 3 Penny Taproom, I was even a few minutes earlier than I had anticipated.  I stretched for a while waiting for Twylla, and we sat in the very warm restaurant and caught up a bit and my toes again regained feeling.

The following blog entry will detail the ensuing 2.5 weeks spent in Montpelier and Burlington.  Oh, I hope I can remember everything!!  Thanks for your patience as I catch up to the present day!

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