Champagne Camping (Part 2)

Central VT loop
Sun May 29
(~198 miles)

We enjoyed another great night’s sleep on the borrowed air mattresses – boy what a difference they make from the thin rock-hard ThermaRests! The beautiful weather was forecast to continue for todayl, and we had the Killington Vermont Gaps Ride on the agenda.

Sunday morning campground view

After a leisurely morning breakfast – another spam-and-egg bagelwich for me, oatmeal for Char – and companionship around the campsite, everyone was geared up and ready to roll by 0900 for today’s ride through the Green Mountains. Jim elected to go on four wheels today and find some mud to dirty up his Jeep, and Dean and Tanya were doing their own thing, so it was just five bikes in the group today.

Across the street from the gas station is the famous “Reverence” whale tails sculpture that everyone sees while passing by on the interstate, so I headed over for a couple pics while everyone was still fueling up.

sculpture Reverence

Riding the Vermont gaps is one of the more fun and twistier riding experiences in New England. This route hits them all twice, roving back and forth east and west, climbing north like a ladder, enjoying the forested landscape all around. Once again Char and I found ourselves in lead position. Today we crossed west over the interstate first, through downtown Randolph proper, then VT 12 south to Bethel.

White River along VT 117

We ran into a bicycle road race being held in the area as we cruised VT 107 west to Stockbridge along the White River, then north on 100. There were a couple one-lane construction zones where we had to stop for a bit to wait for cyclists to pass by, and we shouted encouragement as they pedaled past us.

We took VT 73 west to cross the Green Mountain range for the first time today via Brandon Gap, stopping at the scenic pulloff at Mount Horrid Overlook, for a few photos.

Turning right on route 53 to begin “climbing the ladder” of gaps northward, the riding was pretty, but slow with local traffic and a few one-lane construction zones clogging up the narrow curving roads.

After a passing glance at Lake Dunmore, the route dumped us out on US 7 for a couple miles, before turning back east to head back up and over Middlebury Gap on VT 125. Some of our group had never been to Texas Falls before, so we pulled in there for a half-hour break to enjoy the cool air coming off the water-carved rocks in the gorge.

Texas Falls

Bearing north on VT 100 again at Hancock, we enjoyed familiar scenery and curves for several miles. Seeing signs for Moss Glen Falls coming up quickly on the left, I quickly pulled in to gauge the group’s interest. I’d been by this little park many times and have spotted the falls from the road, but never stopped before.

The consensus was to enjoy the falls, so we took yet another pleasurable break out of the saddles, stretching our legs for the 100 yard walk to the big cascade. Char and I spotted a smaller waterslide close to the parking area and slipped around the hand railing to check that out as well. It’s apparently known as “Little Moss Glen Falls” and isn’t always running. There were more visitors here than at Texas Falls, but it wasn’t yet crowded by any means. The cooling mist felt great on what was becoming a hot day.

Bob at Moss Glen Falls

Deep thoughts

Getting back into the groove on 100, we eventually got separated while passing slower vehicles, but came together again when it was time to turn west onto Lincoln Gap Road, just before Warren village. There are some nice twists on the way up over Lincoln Gap, though you have to be ready for the (well-groomed) gravel section. It’s only a mile or two, but comes up quickly if you’re having too much fun. There’s a second shorter unpaved section on the way down into Lincoln as well, but our speed was tempered by traffic at that point anyhow.

Next up was the leaning-ist pass of the Greens – Appalachian Gap via VT 17. It’s about 2.5 miles of the nicest, twistiest mountain road in the whole region, repaved just a couple years ago.. And we lucked out with no traffic ahead of us (after being sure to pass a couple cages on the approach!). It felt good to lean deeper into some tight turns, though I was feeling somewhat out of practice as of late, for this kind of riding. We pulled into the small lot at the top to relax for a minute after the quick sprint up. The view here is probably the nicest one you’ll get (from the road) out of all the gaps, though it seems perpetually in danger of getting overgrown.

App Gap view

front of Warren StoreThe ride down the eastern slope has some nice curves too, though one of them had some sort of slippery seam covers over bridge joints right in the apex, causing a couple rear wheels (and our hearts) to squirt sideways! Shortly after reaching the flats, we pulled up to the Warren Store for a lunch break.

Though always busy, the popular general store/attraction wasn’t mobbed, so we were all able to order some delicious deli sandwiches quickly. It did take the better part of an hour to actually get all our food, however. Like many places lately, they seemed to be a bit short-staffed and operating with a limited menu. We snagged a picnic table and extra bench out back to enjoy the shade and view of the brook babbling on by.

view of brook at Warren Store

wildflowers at Warren StoreAfter a relaxing outdoor lunch, the group split up, with the Woodsoms electing to head directly back to the campground to chill out, while the rest of us reversed course to follow the route back up over App Gap. After descending those nice curves on the western side, we took VT 116 south from Bristol and ran Middlebury Gap again in reverse direction from this morning. Now we turned south on route 100 and it was time for a coffee stop to stave off the early afternoon sleepies!

Rochester Cafe was on the route, but had just closed for the day when we arrived there. We spotted a tiny local bakery/bookshop across the street and headed across on foot to find sustenance at Sandy’s Books and Bakery. They were closing soon, but we had just enough time to get some drinks and vittles, enjoying them at one of their outdoor café tables by the road and watching the world go by as we recharged for the final miles back to camp.

outside table at Sandys

afternoon around the campfireFinishing our drinks, we moseyed back out in the heat to the bikes and finished off the final 20 miles, taking Bethel Mountain Road up over Rochester Gap and finally back into Randolph. After cleaning ourselves up, we got another campfire started and set about the camp business of making dinner.

For our final evening’s dinner, Char had packed us some foil-packaged MTR ready-to-eat Indian meals she’d spotted at an Asian supermarket near home. They were quite tasty, and I added some canned chicken to my spinach curry to make it a bit heartier.

Note: I’d originally thought we had curry the first night, but my memory has since been overruled! Previous post has been edited with important information about tacos.

Had another great evening round the campfire, discussing the day’s ride and mentally preparing ourselves to head back to our lives the following day.

night around the campfire

map of today's ride

Killington Vermont Gaps Ride

 


Randolph Center VT – Southeast MA
Mon May 30
(~225 miles)

packing up the bikeWe awoke to another glorious sunny morning and went about the now-familiar morning routines – it all comes back pretty quick after a few days. I made the coffee and my breakfast while Char started stuffing the sleeping gear and deflating pads.

For today, I stuck with oatmeal and a bagel with ghee (clarified butter) spread onto it. I’d only recently even heard about ghee, which is a great solution for having some butter at camp despite limited refrigeration resources. I’d been using it all weekend for cooking in the fry pan.

I felt that I was managing the WhisperLite stove a bit better than on day 1, but its limitations for flame control means that it is pretty tough to saute anything at low/medium heat. It’s a great reliable stove for reaching very high heat, but I’ll probably need to shop around for something a bit more versatile that can simmer.

After a last breakfast time spent together, everyone got themselves packed up and ready to go. I managed to herd everyone together for a group photo before anyone snuck off, and then it was goodbyes all around. We hit pavement right at 8:30 AM and took I-89 and I-91 down across the Massachusetts border, where I diverged onto back roads to avoid as much holiday traffic as possible. I zipped through Northfield and Warwick, then zig-zagged down to pick up MA 122 across the center of the state. Char, driving the Fit, stayed on the main highways and just dealt with the traffic from air-conditioned comfort.

spider in the car

Our hitchhiker

On unpacking the car at home, Char came inside to tell me about the HUGE spider in the car. Skeptical (and a bit uneasy), I went outside to look…yup, that’s a friggin HUGE-ASS spider. Must have been in the firewood we brought and had a nice camping trip along with us all weekend. Imaging THAT crawling onto your neck while you’re driving 75 on the highway!  We safely relocated Shelob’s spawn to a more natural environment, (though my personal first instinct is to reach for the largest heaviest object immediately at-hand). 🙄

 

 

map of ride home


Following up on my little camp chair disaster, it turns out that I’d inserted the backstay rods into the wrong pocket in the fabric.  When looking at the back of the chair back, the small fold-over edge flap is immediately noticeable due to the grey fringe material and is exactly the right size for the rod. However, the correct pocket is the tall black reinforced section behind and underneath the upper flap.

broken chair

No no no! This is the WRONG way. Note the “hidden” correct pocket just behind and right of the rod.

Apparently I wasn’t the first person to have done so – RockyMountainATV’s support team had actually had created downloadable PDF instructions for this chair, warning people about the issue since the correct method wasn’t immediately obvious. Perhaps they’ll start including that in the box so people will see it?

Their customer service was outstanding, however, and upon reaching out to them, I received a direct email letting me know what had happened. They refunded my money AND sent me a replacement chair. Great to see a company stand behind their branded products like that, and I’m again quite happy with the chair, once correctly assembled. 🙂

All in all, I think we’re in pretty good shape to get out for more moto-camping once we can secure a good hitch and trailer storage for the ST. The weekend was a great educational experience in addition to a wonderful time with friends, and we’re looking forward to more of them soon.

 

Champagne Camping (Part 2)

Ship of Fools

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