Burlington to Stowe, VT

After packing up, we biked back into Burlington, and stopped at the Wyndham Hotel again for breakfast. We took the bike trail again for a few miles to get us through to the east side of town. I was riding with Colleen, Karina, and Bruce. Around mile 18, Richard and David Butler caught up to us, and I continued on with them. Karina joined us as well. The route was punctuated again with lots of short, steep climbs. The lunch stop was at a park in the city of Waterbury.

Feelings of regret about the tour ending soon seem to creep up once in a while this week. This was especially evident during a point in the ride leading up to lunch. Although we were on fairly quiet country roads, for several miles during the route it ran parallel to Interstate 89. David Butler turned to us and said, “You know what that is over there? Reality.” Although we had ridden near, and even on, Interstate highways before, it was a fitting metaphor for the moment.

About a mile outside of Waterbury, David, Richard, Bruce, Karina, Colleen, and I stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory and took the tour. The tour is not too involved, but worth it if you happen to be in the area already. First, there is a short video on the history of the company. Then, you walk through an area overlooking the factory floor, and watch another video that explains the production process. Finally, you go to the tasting room. Only two flavors per day are made in the factory, and those two flavors are what are offered in the tasting room. The flavors for today were Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Brownie Batter, both of which were excellent.

It was only another nine miles to get to our destination of Stowe, for a short day of 48 miles. However, there was another option today, a climb up Smuggler’s Notch, which several of us chose to take. We had to go a couple of miles through town to get to the road that leads to the Notch. This road then is pretty flat for about four or five miles. It got very steep all of a sudden as we approached the lodge and access roads for the Stowe Mountain Resort ski area. We got pretty separated on the ride through town, so it was just Richard and I at this point, but he pulled ahead of me pretty quickly as the climbing started. It leveled off a bit for a while, then had several short, steep ups and downs. Near the end of this section, Marisa went by on her way down, and yelled to me, “Good job; you’re almost there!” As the final stretch of the climb approached, the road narrowed down to about a lane and a half. Right at this point, I passed Richard, who was on the side of the road with a flat tire. I asked if he needed any help, and he said “Keep going!”

The final mile and a half or so of the climb is a series of extremely steep switchbacks, at times with grades of 15 percent or more. If you are familiar with Sycamore Street in Pittsburgh, it’s like doing the twisty section of that three or four times in a row. During a couple of the steepest sections, I was barely moving, as I forced my cranks around one stroke at a time. But, I made it without stopping. As I got to the top, Jeremy and Mary were there in one of the vans, cheering us on. One after the other, within a few minutes of each other, came Colleen, David, Bruce, Karina, and finally Richard and John Kirtley. As it turned out, just after I passed Richard, he found that his pump was broken, so he waited for the next person to help him, which was John.

After the photos and high fives, we all turned and headed back downhill. We took if very slow and cautious through the switchbacks, except for Bruce. Around the second or third sharp curve, he came flying past me, then came very close to Colleen and David, nearly out of control. As he tried unsuccessfully to navigate a hard right turn, all he could do was ride off to the left side of the road into the weeds, where he managed to stop safely. He was very lucky that there wasn’t a steep dropoff on that side of the road, or that there wasn’t a car coming uphill.

We all intended to re-group at the bottom and go for a celebratory snack in town. But, Colleen and I saw Molly at a shop along the road towards town. Colleen wanted to wait for Molly, so I tried to catch up to the rest to tell them to wait at the corner. By the time I got there, they were already past the corner. I rode up the street a bit, and David flagged me down. He said Bruce and Karina went off in search of coffe, and he, Richard, and John found a place for ice cream. So I joined them, but it was off of the main street a bit, so Colleen and Molly never found us. We ended up eating way more than expected; I just ordered ice cream at first, but when David got an order of french fries, I suddenly felt I needed a cheeseburger and fries. So after that, I got my ice cream (with bananas added) for dessert. By the time we got back to camp, we had turned this short, easy day into a 78-mile day.

Dinner was provided at the campground by a local catering company, just a couple of brief hours later, so I uncharacteristically only made one trip through the line. I wanted to get my laundry done tonight for the last time, but both of the the campground’s washing machines were out of order. So we had a large contingent heading into town. Marisa had called a cab, but we ended up waiting over an hour for it to arrive, until we finally just called and cancelled it. The caterers were making a trip back to the camp to get some of their gear, so we flagged them down and asked for a ride. They said they could take us to their restaurant, so we agreed, with about half a dozen of us squeezed into their truck’s cab, and another half-dozen hanging on for dear life in the pickup bed. As soon as we got there, somebody called the taxi company again, and they arrived just as we were ready to leave about an hour and a half later, around 9:30. While there, I had a local porter; it was okay, but not as good as the one in Lake Placid.

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