Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

DROVES - Day 1

A few friends joined us in East Burke over Memorial Day weekend for the 2012 version of DROVES - Dirt Roads of Vermont Epic Sojourn. As noted in the previous blog entry, DROVES is an informal gathering of friends who like exploring Vermont's dirt roads. The crowd this year included several past participants, Jake Kassen, Emily O'Brien, Dominique Codere, Cristine Lamoureux, David Lafferty, Emily Searles Lafferty, David Wilcox, Ted Lapinski, and first-timers Matt Roy and Mo Bruno-Roy. Brian and Andreas joined us for half the day on Sunday.

Some folks stayed at the Village Inn, while the rest of the gang stayed at the Bike Barn. We met each morning in front of the general store for our rides.
The gang on Day 1

David and Emily

Emily and Jake

David Wilcox, pretending this is hard work!
Ted Lapinski

Mo Bruno-Roy and Dominique Codere

Cristine Lamoureux
Matt Roy

Brian and Andreas (joined in the fun on Sunday)

Our theme for this year was to explore parts of the Bayley Hazen Military Road. John is always thrilled to find the correct, as he calls it, spelling of his last name, and we have quite a few photos of him standing in front of road signs and monuments with the correct spelling. Many years ago, on a cycling trip in the Northeast Kingdom, we stumbled upon the Bayley Hazen store in Peacham and the Bayley Hazen Road. So we started doing some research and planned to someday do a group trip in the area. After Hurricane Irene damaged so many roads in Southern Vermont last summer, we decided the time was right, so we changed the DROVES format this year from a point to point ride, to a series of day rides based in one place. We booked the Bike Barn and reserved a few more rooms at the Village Inn, and then put the word out.

We've done a fair amount of exploring in the area, between our fall Vermont vacations and race weekends. We've done the Crafstbury ride a few times, and had ridden the military road from Wells River up to Peacham and back, as well as lots of exploring dirt roads all around East Burke. Using the Northeast Kingdom Cycling map, I plotted a route from East Burke down to Wells River to get to the monument at the start of the military road. The first day would include heading down to Wells River on this new section (to us) and then back up to Danville and over to Burke. The second day would head back over Stannard Mountain to take in the section up to Craftsbury. We'd have to save the upper section to Hazen Notch for another trip.

I headed up to Vermont a week before to check out our new section and determined that I had not sent us down any hiking trails and that the route was indeed glorious. I think our friends would agree with my assessment.

It started out a bit overcast on Saturday morning, but those clouds burned off my mid-day and it got quite toasty. Given all the climbing, everyone appreciated the cooler start.

Vermont dirt roads are often far smoother than paved roads in Massachusetts. Mo, David and Matt lead the charge up the climbs.
Our new baby. We literally finished building the new Seven Cycles 007, the day before. It performed flawlessly and has earned 4 thumbs up! We will post more about it.

Cameras got lots of use this weekend.

Our group split before reaching Wells River, as some opted for a shorter day to save something for the rest of the weekend. David and Emily led half the group back thru St Johnbury, where they stopped at a Farmer's Market.

Matt, Mo, David, Ted, John and I continued down to Wells River where we feasted on gas station hamburgers, burritos (well some of us) and drinks. Then we began the featured section on the Bayley Hazen Road.

Ted and the little people at the Bayley Hazen monument in Wells River. I seemed to have gotten a weird angle and perspective here, but this is my favorite photo from the weekend!

Mo has the reputation for not being able to resist petting cute dogs, but she seems to like petting cows too!

The sun came out and it got quite hot. We took another break for cold drinks in Danville, before making the final push back to East Burke.

The typical view of David Wilcox, as we chased him up yet another climb!

No ride in Vermont would be complete without a few covered bridges.

We had 4 covered bridges within a few miles

It was definitely hot by the end of the day. We hit the East Burke General Store to replace some lost salts, and the the local Ice Cream stand to get a few more calories.

It was a tough, but beautiful ride. We will definitely do this one again!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DROVES - Dirt Roads of Vermont Epic Sojourn

Updated for 2013 -

For the past several years, John and I have spent Memorial Day weekend climbing and descending some of the finest dirt roads Vermont has to offer. Over the years, friends have found links to our routes, guessed our starting times, and ridden the same roads at the same time. We love riding with other dirt-road loving folks.

We will be staying in East Burke, and starting rides at 8AM in front of the General Store. We usually ride as a social group and regroup at the top and bottom of the big climbs.

Friends are welcome to join us, with the following disclaimer: This is not an organized trip. You are just riding the same roads we are at the same time! These roads are often steep and hard-pack dirt. While not technical, the surface can sometimes be loose, especially if the road grading monster has been on them recently. We recommend 28mm or fatter tires, but folks have gotten by with smaller, although they have tended to puncture more than others!

You can download the gps tracks from RideWithGPS. We have ridden all the routes at some time in the past. The GPS tracks should be accurate. However note that RideWithGPS auto-generates cue sheets that are about 90% accurate. I have not gone thru the cues to verify or correct. So don't count on the cue sheets.

There is a great map, Cycling the Northeast Kingdom, that is available in East Burke.

These are the rides we are planning to do. If you plan to join us, send us an email.

South Bayley - Saturday
Short option
North Bayley - Sunday
Short option
Willoughby - Monday
Walden Stanton - another short option for the Gnarnia Crowd. It has about 1/2 mile of big gravel on a climb, and a stream crossing that was a bit more than ankle deep last week
Burke Mountain  - If you haven't had enough climbing

Monday, May 21, 2012

Misguided Angels - Flèche

Warning: It was a long ride. This is a long post! But it is mostly photos...

Last month I blogged that my favorite randonneuring event is the Flèche Vélocio. This past weekend, The Misguided Angels had an awesome flèche ride. The team this year included members from several previous teams. Dena and I have now done 4 flèche rides together. Norm and David had each been on one flèche (with me) prior to this one. This meant that everyone was quite familiar with the drill. Although it would be a first meeting for Norm and David, which means they would have plenty to talk about over the 24 hours!

This route had some striking differences from my previous routes. First, it had some complicated travel and logistics. It was much more urban, and it was much flatter than any previous route.

We had a new finishing point in Portland, Maine. As Dena and I discussed various route options, we came up with the idea of taking the ferry out to Provincetown and riding on the Cape overnight, heading thru Boston and up the coast to Portland. My previous experience on the cape involved lots of traffic. So the idea of riding along traffic-free cape roads in the wee hours was appealing for me.  

Of course, what we neglected to think about was that riding downtown to catch a 5:30PM ferry might be a bit stressful! Fortunately we all survived our journey, and boarded the ferry right on time.

Ferry service for the season actually started that Friday. So our timing was perfect. Being the first day of the season, the boat was full, but the weather was good, and the crossing was fairly mild. No episodes of sea-sickness.

Although Norm doesn't look so good here as we are departing the Ferry in Provicetown.


It was quite a bit cooler than in Boston. I was shocked to see Dena put on leg-warmers! It may have had something to do with our freezing cold 300km the weekend before, or my numerous emails warning of cold temperatures overnight. Norm stayed true to form though, and kept his knees exposed - even at 40F.

David and I share a need of extra insulation and we were both well bundled up.

We got off the ferry and looked for an open restaurant where we could get a quick meal. It wasn't gourmet, but the servings were big, and we got out in relatively short order, rolling out of town at 8:15PM.

We had plotted out our route, using Dena's memory of many previous rides to P-Town, and the Rubel map. Apparently I had selected a few roads near the beginning that looked interesting on the map and in reality were definitely interesting as one climbed a bit and turned to dirt. I've got a reputation to uphold.

The route profile looks a bit choppy, but it is important to point out the scale, sea level to 226 feet! Amazingly most of the tough climbing was at the beginning and later close to the end. We did manage about 15 miles of lovely flat bike path along the cape, but still managed to hit the highest elevation point of the ride while on the cape.

The is some construction going on currently on the Sagamore Bridge, which has been making the news for the traffic backups. Fortunately we crossed it around 1AM, and had no traffic issues at all. We should have planned a control on the far side of the bridge at the 24 hour McDonald's, but instead we had planned to press on to Plymouth.

Norm and Dena decided to reject my dirt road going up to Plymouth, and instead suggested heading up Long Pond Road. Just as the road crossed the highway, we spotted an open gas station with a Dunkin Donuts, and headed in.

Sadly the Dunkin Donuts was not actually open or stocked, but we managed to find some interesting convenience store food. I found a delicious turkey club wrap, inside a hermetically sealed package. It really was better than it looks!

Norm went for Hostess cupcakes. Yummy!

Norm checked us in on Facebook, and I finally thought to ask David if he was on FB.. So at 2:30 in the morning, in a gas-station convenience store, much to the shock of our young friend, Dena, two fifty year olds friended each other on Facebook, using their smartphones!

The descent from that control was the coldest of the journey, and even Norm was chilly.  Dena finally zipped up her jacket. Dave and I tried to keep the shivering under control and not crash our bikes. We all hoped for some climbing. We got a little and fortunately dawn also started to break, and the temps slowly rose. The first open shop was a Dunkin Donuts in Abington, which we made our next control. Just imagine a vacuuming sound accompanying the above photo. Much food was consumed quickly, and we were soon back on the road and heading for Boston.

Norm and Dena and I live very close to Boston, and are all pretty comfortable riding in city traffic. David, on the other hand, lives in the Berkshires. But he coped with our urban route quite well. We didn't go downtown, but we did head up through the various parkways south of town and did technically get into the Boston City limits and even managed to catch a brief view of the skyline. I accidentally threw in a completely gratuitous hill near Boston College, but did manage to pick a nice route up through Arlington and passing within a few hundred meters of Dena's house. I had suggested prior to the ride that we could ditch some clothes there, but Dena feared she might not leave if we did that.

We arrived at Barismo in Arlington to find the hours had changed and it was not yet open. Fortunately Quebrada, just across the street was open and had awesome pastries.

We rolled out of Arlington up the Mystic Valley Parkway and back across Rt 128 where the roads became a bit quieter, that is until some state patrol man blared out something unintelligible on his PA. The only words we really got were single file, and since we were riding in single file, I must assume he was complimenting us!
Our next leg was a bit longer than planned. We should have stopped in North Reading to refill liquids.  I'd marked West Newbury as the next stop, but hadn't looked carefully enough to determine where the CBD was and we bypassed all stores, which meant we didn't find food and drinks until Amesbury, where we had a great meal at the Hollow Cafe.

Norm really was much more lively than the photos show. For hours on the cape, he gave Dena a history lesson on the Peloponnesian War, proving that it doesn't really matter what you talk about in the wee hours, just talk.

I think Dena was thrilled that Norm wasn't talking about the Peloponnesian war!

David seemed to be enjoying himself as well.

But it was here that I got a bit fuzzy. I had printed out the schedule for each control with distances, and we had been ahead of schedule for a while. But when I looked at the next few, I saw that I had labeled the final control 22:00 and 24:00, and somehow panicked that I had miscalculated and since we were suppose to finish at 20:00, so I must have a 4 hour mistake in there. Our route was longer than required and I had put in an optional shorter finish, but we'd still have to ride from there to Portland, where we were due to stay with Dena's aunt.

Now at some point, I looked at the GPS and saw we had 7 hours to do 130km, which we should have no problem doing, but I still couldn't reconcile the times on the schedule. Please don't anyone tell the university that gave me a math degree that I can't do conversion between metric and statute distances and 12 and 24 hour time and some simple division!

Even knowing the 7 hours and 130km, I was still feeling under pressure to keep up the pace. And then the road got icky. A friend had recommended a more inland route, and sadly we found ourselves on a high speed busy road for a long time. My reaction to these conditions is to get it over with, and I put my head down and hammered. When we reached Dover, I was stressed and David was cooked.

It was also getting quite warm. We took a quick break there for cold drinks and popsicles. At some point, I redid the math and realized we were well ahead of schedule. Good thing. David needed some recovery time.

We left Dover and once we crossed the Maine border, we picked up the Eastern Trail. This is part of  the East Coast Greenway. It is signposted in southern Maine, and started out along lovely quiet backroads, and was welcome after our busy road.

Once things were quiet again, I finally remembered to get a few on the bike photos!

David is coming back to life.

Dena hasn't stopped smiling all day.

I have food smudges on my cheek.

And Norm must be cooking alive. He barely wore more than this when it was 40F!

The only bad thing about the Eastern trail was how rural it was. When we finally spotted this coffee shop, I worried it was a mirage!

But it was real. It had great comfy leather sofas, and a basket full of salty potato chips, and awesome espresso drinks, which we took with ice!

When mapping out the route, I had used various paper and online maps, and the links to the Eastern Trail, but somehow got us on a wee section of narrow path. It was only a few feet. We could see the bridge ahead so we continued on.

Although Norm looks in doubt!

For the last 30 miles, we were mostly on a dirt pipeline trail. It was awesome.

And well supplied!

The final 1/2 mile to Dena's aunt was up a mountain, but we were so thrilled to be there!


After taking brisk showers in the outdoor shower, we devoured a great meal, made by Dena's Aunt Donna, and headed off to bed at 9:30PM.

We were all awake by 6AM, and headed off to a local bakery for breakfast #1, followed by the ride into The Good Egg, for brunch with the other teams.

Our train wasn't due to leave until 3PM, so we did some shopping in the Old Port.

I wonder if the shop for Adventurous Adults has bikes and lights and racktop bags?

But being truly adventurous types, we headed into the candy store instead where I bought enough Jelly Beans to survive the 2.5 hour train ride back to Boston.

Leading up to the ride, I was a bit stressed and kept saying never again. During the ride I said never again. The next morning I said maybe, and a few hours ago I said definitely, but it has to be on fixed!