DROVES 2013 will not be soon forgotten. For many reasons: the hills, the dirt, the bike build, the rain, the epic rain, the cold, the snow and the fun.
This was the 5th year that we've hosted this informal un-event over the Memorial Day weekend that we call DROVES - Dirt Roads of Vermont Epic Sojourn. It's an un-event. Word magically spreads among friends that we will be heading out to ride some dirt roads from a certain location and a certain time. Friends then find the routes on ridewithgps and show up and ride along. No entry fee, no releases, just friends out riding.
The first three years, we rented a house near Ludlow, and rode up toward Waterbury on as many dirt roads as we could find (100 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing) on the first day, where we had booked another place. Then we did a short ride (50 miles with 5,000 feet of climbing) on Sunday, and returned to Ludlow along different dirt roads on Monday (another 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing). After Hurricane Irene took out a bunch of our roads, and one critical bridge, we relocated to East Burke and changed the format to be 3 days of loop rides from one place. This also coincided with our discovery of the Bike Barn, which we now have reserved for Memorial Day weekend for life!
This year, friends started asking about space at the barn early and we had filled all the rooms there in mid-winter. There are lots of other places to stay in the area, and some other friends took advantage of that.
As usual, May is a frenetic month, with various brevets and the Flèche. But this year things got even more crazy. John and his teammates (Matt Roy and David Wilcox) from the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance team were getting new bikes for rockin' some dirt road events, like Dirty Kanza, Green Mountain Double and D2R2. Matt had secured some pretty sweet sponsorship from Seven Cycles for frames, SRAM for wheels and components, Clement for tires and Rapha for clothing. John's Seven Cycles frame came hot off the welding torch Friday afternoon. Matt was bringing the brand new SRAM components and Clement tires up to Vermont, and the bike build would provide entertainment for all before being put to the test on some of Vermont's finest and steepest!
The weather decided to cooperate with this plan, in that it was due to be miserable on Saturday morning, so the lads wouldn't be too bummed to miss riding time while they were building up the bike!
In fact, the forecast was downright dire, and then got worse. Northern Vermont had been getting heavy rain for a few days, and it wasn't forecast to let up. And the temperatures were predicted to fall. As we packed, we even saw mention of snow! Snow on Memorial Day - the unofficial kickoff to summer! What is happening?
Shortly before leaving to pick up the new bike frame, I got email from our tandem friends, Paul and Wanda, who looked at the forecast for Vermont and decided to pass on the 8 hour drive from Western New York, and get some hopefully drier riding in at home. They would be missed.
I packed leg warmers and long sleeve jerseys. At the last minute, I grabbed my winter jacket - thinking that it would make a good off-the-bike jacket, ha!
We headed over to Seven around 2PM, with oven mitts, to pick up the still warm frame, and then drove over to Somerville to collect our friend, Constance Winters, who was getting a lift up with us, in our little Honda Fit. We already had the tandem and my Honey on the roof, John's new Seven frame was inside, wrapped in a blanket, along with front wheels, our clothes and such for the weekend. We put Constance's Rawland on the roof, and then used a shoe horn to wedge her and her gear into the car, and headed north.
It was still quite warm, high 70's or 80F, in the Boston area when we left, and not yet raining. We were wearing shorts. We stopped in Concord, NH for a bite to eat, and noticed the temperature had dropped substantially. Then it was up through Franconia Notch where we picked up some rain. When we arrived in Burke, rain was coming down hard, and it was about 40F. Time to change out of those shorts!
We greeted our friends who were already at the barn, Cristine and Dominique were preparing some dinner, as was David. Ted helped us unload bikes and make short order of it. Soon after we arrived, Matt and Mo showed up with the wheels and components. Wine and beer was flowing freely and there was lots of oohing and ahhing as the 11 speed road hydraulic levers were unveiled.
In no time, the frame was transformed, and had wheels and handlebars and derailleurs attached. But the next order of business was to swap the hydraulic brakes to what John refers to as normal, Matt called moto-style, and most Americans would call backwards!
Jake and Emily arrived during this chaos. And now the house was full of folks obsessively looking at weather forecasts. Actually that's not true. I think most of us had a been there, done that attitude. We've all put in long miles in really poor conditions, and were happy to just chill a bit - or stay warm! - on Saturday. The forecast for Saturday morning was for 105% chance of seriously heavy rain, and temps below 40F. So we said we'd play it by ear for a ride on Saturday and the lads could get some sleep and do the big brake swap Saturday morning. With that decided, more glasses of wine were poured!
The original plans for the weekend had called for South Bayley Hazen on Saturday, North Bayley Hazen on Sunday and Willoughby on Monday.
- South Bayley-Hazen 90 miles - stores in Wells River and Danville
- Peacham-Danville 66 miles - stores in Danville
- North Bayley-Hazen 83 miles - stores in Craftsbury and Wheelock
- Almost Craftsbury - 61 miles - store in Wheelock
- Willoughby Lake Loop 45 miles - store at the Lake
- Radar Victory Loop 40 miles - no services. Big climb to radar installation
- Victory Loop 30 miles - no services
- Reverse Victory Loop 30 miles - no services
- The Gnarly Option with real gravel and a river crossing - 54 miles