Vermont Gravel Expedition: Discovery Rediscovered
I am very lucky in that much of my life unfolds while riding bikes. The spring and fall always include travel to some sunny place in the European cycling heartland and for this I am thankful. Although I love the opportunities to travel with my bike, the summer weather in my Canadian home is so reliably good and the riding so deeply satisfying that I seldom choose to leave home in the summer.
Not long ago my lovely partner decided on a whim that she wanted to do some exploring. Having had enough of flying this year and reluctant to go too far from home in the heat of summer, I pitched the idea of an eastern road trip. Because we travel so little in the summer there are many fantastic places in the east that we seldom visit. Using the right combination of nostalgic photos, storytelling and exaggeration (yeah, I think I remember telling her that all the roads were going to be flat …and that the wind would be at our backs … oh, and that the beds would all be soft) it really did not take much effort to convince her of the wisdom of my plan.
High on our list were beer and gravel riding so it was pretty much a given that we would end up in Vermont. We ended up in Vermont. We drank beer. We rode bikes.
Admittedly, I love planning rides. Sitting with a glass of wine I have been known to go a long, long way down the rabbit hole with a few paper maps and the heady combination of Strava heat maps and Google street view. Vermont (unsurprisingly, as it turns out) is a bit of a backwater. Though the gravel-whisperers talk Vermont up the Strava heat maps are surprisingly cold and google street view is disturbingly viewless. Not for the first time in my life the internet turned out to be a bit of a letdown.
In the end, we did this the old-fashioned way. We packed the car full of the latest gravel finery and drove to Stowe, Vermont. Instead of relying on late-night wine and computers I woke up early, drank enough coffee to be coherent and then wheeled over to a local bike shop. In less than 15 minutes I had 4 days’ worth of great advice scrawled across a local map …and all I had to do was promise to bring some beer back to the shop before closing!
So, this is normally where a guy like me writes down a bunch of stuff about a bunch of routes with the goal of encouraging people like you to …well, to do what exactly? What this trip in Vermont did for me was to remind me that just showing up and asking the locals before going exploring can sometimes be the very best way to experience a new destination. So, I guess a call to action is in order …GO OUT AND EXPLORE SOMETHING!
Now that we have that over with I should also mention that although we enjoyed some fantastic beer while in Vermont we also had the good fortune to stumble into a cidery while in a particularly sun-addled state. Do yourself a favor while you are exploring and take in more than just the roads and the beer. The cider is mind-blowingly delicious.