Ride Around Vermont

Local ride
Sat May 22, 2021
~ 1322 miles

Following a fun and successful 400 miler last weekend to get my feet wet, I wanted to crank out a SaddleSore (1000 mile day) as my next step in building saddle time for the Big Dance in June. My planned route for an in-state Ride Around Vermont was close to being complete, so I spent some time during the week tweaking plans and finalizing my schedule. I emailed the Iron Butt Association with a request to preview my intended ride since it involved doing two laps around the state, in case they had any preferences or suggestions for obtaining proof of the route.

route plan map for Ride Around VermontThe basic premise of an in-state certification ride is, of course, to ride at least 1000 miles in under 24 hours, while remaining within the geographical borders of the state. Rather than drone up and down interstates to simply log miles, I’ve been more interested in riding as close to the state borders as possible, to enjoy a more varied tour and sample the flavor of each state. This does present extra challenges in the form of lower speed limits on secondary and local roads, plus obtaining dated business receipts (DBRs) while sometimes far off the beaten path at varied hours of the day and night, to provide evidence of the ride.

I’d managed to identify mostly 24-hour gas stations (with ATMs for backup) at seven points around the state of Vermont that should allow for direct fastest routing while covering the necessary miles for certification. I had a call with Howard at the IBA to discuss the ride and he informed me that my satellite track on SpotWalla.com would serve as primary documentation for my route, since it would involve many additional twists and turns along the borders in areas where there are are no businesses at all, let alone in the middle of the night (looking at you, Northeast Kingdom!). Despite being thus freed from the burden of receipt paperwork, I was determined to go through the process anyway, partly to ensure the ride could be thoroughly documented in such fashion, partly from habit, but also to keep myself in practice.

Vermont state lineWork kept me busy all week, and I was scrambling Friday evening to get the bike packed and ready for a super early departure to make the two hour staging ride to Vermont. I got to bed way too late and after a couple hours snooze, woke again at 00:15. Ah, perfect practice for riding on low sleep! I donned my LD Comforts while sipping coffee and managed to leave the driveway on time around 01:00. I’d neglected to fill my tank yesterday, so stopping off at the local station killed 15 minutes, but then I picked up the interstate system and rolled north and west via 495, 90, and 91 to my starting point in Brattleboro.

I’d chosen a Dunkin with Mobil gas pumps as my start location, though there were a couple other choices along the Canal Street/US 5 strip. The Dunkin was closed, but the pumps were left on 24 hours for late-night motorists – a convenience I would see repeated in other corners of the state during this ride. As everything was fairly quiet at this hour and not much else to do, I snapped a couple photos, chugged a protein shake, and filled up my tank to get my first receipt, starting off the trip clock at 03:16.

starting gas station in Brattleborostarting receipt

I’d chosen a counter-clockwise direction for my loop, with the intent of covering the 200 mile stretch of I-91 interstate that makes up most of the eastern edge of the route in darkness. I’d be able to keep my speed up, relatively speaking, on the wide-open highway, with a bit more chance of seeing any nighttime critters that may choose to cross my path. I made liberal use of the bike’s aux lighting, and the stretch passed quickly and without incident.

The sky was lightening up before I even left the interstate, and I pulled into a scenic pullout just north of Barnet, nosing between some “Overlook Closed” barricades and parked construction vehicles to get a couple misty photos of the Connecticut River as it approaches a major bend from the east. A lovely spot with a view of a dam in the mid-ground there.

overlook near Barnet VT

A couple more miles and I exited onto I-93 south toward the New Hampshire line. There is only one exit in Vermont, so I was alert not to miss it and ruin my in-state ride so soon after the start. A quick half mile on VT 18 and a turn onto some 20 wooded and curvy miles of US 2 through the village of Concord, following the Moose River a few miles, with plenty of signage to watch for its namesake.

wooded highway 2Moose Crossing sign

VT 102 sign with sunrise over mountainsAs US 2 brought me back down into the Connecticut River Valley, I began to catch glimpse of the far-off White Mountains of New Hampshire through the morning mists. Route 2 took a right turn over the river, which marks the state border, so I kept heading north along the west bank, following VT 102, part of the Connecticut River Scenic Byway that I proceeded to follow for miles and miles. The sunrise over the Whites with the river in foreground was spectacular.

Didn’t see any moose, but a forest rat crossed my path at exact velocity for an intersection, had I not applied adequate braking. Turned out to be the only deer I spotted all day.

sunrise over the Whites and the Connecticut River

This is a great stretch of motorcycling road. Plenty of nice curves, river and mountain views, farms and woods. I kept my wheels ticking an upbeat tempo down the pavement while taking in the beauty around me before the world awoke. Though I didn’t take the photos, I began to spot examples of the regional architectural feature peculiar to Vermont known as “witch windows“. Plenty of otherwise cool old barns, farmhouses, and former community halls, etc.

cool old three story hall

riding next to the Connecticut River

Ride Around Vermont

My GPS track records tell me that I’ve been through Canaan VT at least once before, notably during a long stressful final day of the 2019 IBR coming from the Gaspe peninsula en route to South Carolina. I vaguely believe that. šŸ™‚ Beautiful wide valley farmlands, framed by soft rolling hills greeted me on my approach into town. This time I got to stop for a few and look around.

Welcome to Canaan sign

gas station in Canaan VTThe 24-hour gas station was right at the junction with VT 114 and Route 253 coming down in from Quebec via Beecher Falls, a couple miles northeast. Twern’t much to look at, but the gasoline flowed just fine and an accurate receipt was forthcoming. I took an extra couple minutes to stroll across the street to stretch my legs and look at their nice war memorial on the common, waving to a couple locals walking their dogs.

Canaan receipt

Wallace PondAfter a bit of refreshment, I struck west on VT 114, passing by the lovely Wallace Pond, which straddles the international border. You can often see Canadian flags waving on the opposite shoreline here, but things seemed quiet and devoid of decoration in the early morning of this almost-post-pandemic timeframe.

The pavement on 114 is getting a bit rougher these days, but still a great ride through an isolated countryside, paralleling the border for many miles with some very fast sweeping curves and plenty of moosey-looking wetlands. Turning southwest, I followed it down into Brighton and turned right onto VT 111, enjoyed more wooded curves and a gorgeous close-up drive by Seymour Lake in Morgan.

Lake Seymour Morgan VTApproaching the town of Derby, I saw a few signs of some type of public event happening out on this rural farm road later today. There were even guys putting orange cones up the middle yellow lines. Whatever it was, I passed right through this time around, and I idly did calculations in my head to estimate what time I’d be through on my next lap, thinking it would likely be over by then. Maybe some type of equestrian event (?). I zig-zagged through town onto US 5 and topped off fuel at a Sunoco alongside I-91 for my third receipt (no pic with odo).

Vermont landscapeI followed a guy on a cruiser at a very…slow…pace…through the busy town of Newport, on the shore of Lake Memphremagog, which also straddles the international border. It’s no metropolis, but after having my way with Vermont’s roadways all morning, had to grit my teeth a bit through this minor gauntlet of traffic lights and weekender traffic.

Finally, after crossing the bridge and picking up VT 105, I was able to breathe again and enjoyed the typical Vermont pastoral scenery with the Green Mountains lurking.

Vermont landscape

VT 105 under contructionVT 105 is another great motorcycling road and very enjoyable, until the last seven miles or so into Richford, which were under construction and scraped down to mostly dirt and gravel. It was a smooth ride, but there were some deep gravel piles to watch for, so I reduced speed a bit and rode quite attentively.

Richford seems a nice enough little town with lots of historic buildings in the small downtown area, but most of the storefronts that I saw passing through looked closed down, whether from pandemic or general hard times I know not.

Welcome to Richford bridge arch

Swanton receiptMy route continued to hug the state’s northern border, with great riding following state routes 118, 120, 235, and 207. I finally emerged from the wilderness into the more populous town of Swanton, where I picked up my next documentation receipt at a modern station next to I-89.

The next phase of the ride was beginning as I set out on VT 78 to cross over Lake Champlain to the Alburgh peninsula and thence south along the Champlain islands. After a good six hours of forested curves, it was a nice change to ride lakeside for a while. There are some nicer roads to ride on these islands, but I stuck with US 2 to keep making good time.

I’d neglected my breakfast (never a good thing for me or those around me), and was really looking forward to picking up a delicious sandwich from the Hero’s Welcome general store in North Hero for an early lunch. Alas, after parking, donning a mask and entering to peruse the deli menu, the ladies told me that sandwiches would be forthcoming until the bakery delivered bread around 10:15. Darn it! They’d be closed on my next pass, so I’d have to get my fix on a future trip.

I continued on, forgetting that I’d meant to use that sandwich as a receipt opportunity, and I passed on by the gas station waypoint I had for a secondary option in South Hero. Ah well, the spotwalla track will cover me. I enjoyed the ride back over the lake, mountains in the distance.

Lake Champlain view from US 2

Back on the mainland once more, I picked up I-89 for a few miles south to skirt most of Burlington. Having been frustrated in the past by the traffic on US 7 south of Burlington through Shelburne, I’d picked out a parallel road called Spear Street on the map. While straight and boring, it turned out to be a good alternate route to avoid congestion before zagging back over to route 7.

Snake Mountain Sandwich Shoppe storefront windowForking right onto VT 22A through Vergennes, a pretty little village, I was really needing to find some solid food – the Clif Bar I’d been nursing just wouldn’t cut it anymore. I spotted Snake Mountain Sandwich Shop at the four corners in Addison and decided to check things out. This was a neat little general store with penny candy jars, baked goods, and a deli counter making sandwiches of nice healthy portions.

I decided on a roast beef/turkey/chipotle mayo sub, and wolfed half of that massive thing sitting on their front porch, before tucking the rest away in a saddlebag for later. It was delicious, though I probably would have eaten my tires at this point if I had something to season them with.

The ride continued for a while due south on 22A, more farms and rural scenery. Whether it was time of day or just because I was in the more populated half of the state, there were noticeably more vehicles on the roads in western Vermont.Ā  Luckily there are laws on the books in this state that allow for passing slower vehicles on double yellows when safe to do so. I’ve heard it was originally intended to allow passing slow farm machinery, but all’s fair in the Green Mountain State!

receipt in Fair HavenIn Fair Haven, I pulled in for my next receipt at a Mobil station.

Evidence secured, I hopped on the divided highway US 4 for a few miles east to clear my way around a bend in the state border. I exited onto VT 30 south at Castleton Corners and enjoyed some more great curves following this great road down the Mettawee River valley. I picked up US 7 again in Manchester and made a fast run south along the western edge of the Green Mountain National Forest to hit my southwestern corner in Bennington.

receipt in Bennington

I swigged a five-hour shot to get my early afternoon energy levels up before striking east on VT 9, a nice riding road where you can also make pretty good time. I pulled over briefly at the popular Hogback Mountain overlook and general store to snap a quick photo.
Hogback Mountain overlook
Creamery Covered BridgeIn Brattleboro, I diverged onto some neighborhood side streets to cut back down to canal street. I spotted this small covered bridge in a park I passed and figured a trip to Vermont should include a pic of at least one. I later learned the Creamery Bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in town and was closed to traffic in 2010.
first lap receipt in Brattleboro

I’d completed my first lap around the state in about 10h 30m, a bit slower than projected, but within acceptable deviation considering the gas/lunch stops. I wasted no time in getting on the move once more after taking a few more bites of my deli sandwich, which I would continue to do at each receipt stop. I wanted to make the most of the daylight hours, especially through the woodsier parts of the ride and blasted back north on I-91 for the second time today.

Ā Without stopping for photos this time, I thoroughly enjoyed my second run up the Connecticut River Byway and then across northern Vermont, collecting receipts at Canaan, Derby and Swanton once again. That stretch of road on 105 just begs for pitcher-takin’ so here’s my afternoon shot on a gorgeous sunny day, just after a passing sprinkle.

Vermont landscape on route 105

I ran out and down the islands once again, this time remembering to stop in at the station in South Hero for a receipt, which was accurate. Turning back to the east to cross the lake, I was treated to one of those special magic moments – the kind where the answer to “why do I do this” is made very clear. The Vermont sky looked painted, simply aglow with enchanted-looking pre-sunset clouds of every shade of purple you could imagine. The spring green foliage and mirror-still lake completed the picture.

Lake Champlain magic purple clouds

There is very little chance I would ever be crossing Lake Champlain at sunset at all in the course of things, if it weren’t for embarking on a timed ride adventure like this, where the clock and chance decides what you see as you move a long. Sometimes you are stuck with blah, and sometimes you win. This was a win. Just felt very privileged to be there, in that moment.

Lake Champlain pre-sunset

I completed the crossing and the circuit down around Burlington and Shelburne again, back, to US 7. By now, the sun had started to undercut the clouds and was turning the western sky shades of brilliant orange. The distant Adirondack mountain ranges were magnificently illuminated in varying shades of orangish greys. I passed on by some of the best shots (regret), but snapped a couple when I could.

sunset over the Adirondacks from Shelburne VT

With the daylight fading, so was traffic and my run south was less impeded than this morning. I collected my receipt in Fair Haven without much trouble as night descended. I took the VT 30 curves a bit more carefully in the dark, passing slower traffic whenever possible to make use of my aux lighting. One yokel in a pickup not using his high beams didn’t take kindly to me passing him, and tailgated for several miles (NOW with brights on), while I calmly ignored him and looked for opportunities to get further ahead. At one point a racoon waddled out in front of me, requiring some hard braking and a swerve to avoid a bad day for all involved.

ending receipt in BrattleboroI was feeling the effects of the long day but could smell the finish line as I obtained my penultimate receipt in Bennington and rolled east on VT 9 once more. I finally pulled in to the little Mobil/Dunkin in Brattleboro to end the ride at 23:03, just under 20h for the two laps.

After a few minutes to stretch, I headed for home, another two hours of riding by interstate. I knew I’d probably need to stop at some point for a power-nap, and sure enough did just that a bit after midnight in a parking pullout off I-91 back down in Massachusetts. I pulled in, shut down the bike and grabbed a bit of ground next to the bike with a rolled up fleece under my neck. Because I wasn’t on the clock any longer, I allowed myself to rest without an alarm and it turned out to be about 20 minutes later when I awoke feeling refreshed enough to continue home.

This was a varied and very enjoyable ride. I’d recommend it to anyone, even just doing a single lap for a long day-ride, as it gives you a good look at the many different sides of Vermont state culture and landscape. Under half of the miles are interstate, so it is likely to take longer than your typical 1000-mile blast up and down the federal roads. It checks off many boxes for excellent riding: curves; forests, rivers, and lakes; farms, historic buildings, and covered bridges; White, Green and Adirondack mountain ranges all visible at one time or another. The IBA had suggested possibly doing a lap in each direction, and I seriously considered it. But I’d already had things planned out and felt like my route plan hit the various regions and legs of the journey at opportune times. Starting up I-91 ate away the early morning darkness at a higher speed with less chance of animal encounters. Later in the trip, it was good to have the relative remoteness of the Northeast Kingdom and the northern border regions behind me when evening fell once again.

Spotwalla track of the rideTrip Stats

Certified Miles: 1033

Total Miles: 1322

Certified Ride Time: 19:47

Door-to-door Time: 24:40

Delicious Sandwiches: 1

Critter Close-calls: 2

10 comments on Ride Around Vermont

  1. Hi Steve,

    Iā€™m getting ready to read your IBR pieces and decided to read this one first as a warm up šŸ˜šŸ˜ You write very well. I felt as if I was along with you in the ride around VT. Looking forward to reading about your 2021 IBR experience. šŸ˜ŽšŸ˜Ž

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