Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Saturday, August 2, 2014

When Roxbury Gap Is the Bailout...

This is what every week has been like for me this summer...
Monday - unpack, do laundry, recover from weekend. Figure out what Big Event is next.
Tuesday - 100ish km social ride from Ride Studio Cafe
Wednesday and Thursday - Various appointments with doctors and physical therapist
Friday - Pack and load up for weekend. Drive to Big Event
Saturday - Big Event
Sunday - so-called recovery ride, then drive home
Wash, Rinse, Repeat...

I'm not looking for sympathy. Really. It's a pretty sweet life. It's just my excuse for why I am months behind on any ride reports! We are so busy creating content that we just have no time to post it. I'm hoping to open the floodgates with a few posts soon, but will not make any more promises.

One ride report at a time.

We'd heard about the Irreverent Road Ride last year, and it made it's way onto our short list for this year. The words irreverent and road were combined to convey the fact that the word road might be a generous description for some of the route. A large part of the route was on lovely scenic quiet dirt roads, quite rideable on a road bike with reasonable tires. But there were some sections connecting these roads that would be a proper challenge, both physically and technically difficult. This sounded very appealing to us.

With very few exceptions, all of our big events this year have been on dirt and on our tandem. We do have a great time dispelling the myth that, "This can't be done on a tandem." Admittedly, this year we may have scaled back a little in the gnarly-factor and may not be going quite as fast as last year, but we still surprise most folks with what we can do on tandem. And I have high hopes of returning to proper form someday. I know John looks forward to my being less nervous on twisty descents!

So with the Irreverent Road Ride route loaded into our GPS, we packed up the tandem and drove up to Waterbury, VT on Friday night. Then after a not so complete night of sleep in a motel room, one floor below a number of heavyweight gymnasts who seemed determined to practice their floor routine all night long, we headed over to a park-n-ride lot for the early morning start. We arrived to find our hosts for the day, Hubert d'Autremont and Adam St. Germain, setting up a tent and laying out maps with oodles of options. They had discovered some truly impassable sections on the pre-ride/arrowing mission, and the various cue sheets and maps offered a plethora of different choices. Looking at the tandem, it was suggested that we might pass on taking in Braintree Gap. Normally this would be like waving a red flag to a bull and make us even more determined than ever to ride it. But I listened as they told not just us, but everyone else too, of the seriously technical descent with major dropoffs, that would likely involve lots of walking. To seal the deal, the bailout option was Roxbury Gap. Yes, that's right. The whimpy route goes over Roxbury Gap. If you know anything of the gaps in Vermont, this statement alone would be enough to make one think twice. We, along with a few others, decided to take the easy out option of the 4 mile/1200 foot climb up Roxbury Gap on dirt, followed by a nice, completely rideable, albeit steep and sometimes bumpy descent to Warren.

As they talked about the various options, they also mentioned the very first section, which they called the Squirrel Catcher. They said folks should use this section as a preview of the other technical stuff. If this put you off, you might want to pass on Braintree.

We had been chatting with a few friends, including the gals from Firefly, out on yet another adventure. We also saw our friends, Jon Doyle and Geoff Cisler, who had camped out the night before, and surely had an infinitely better night of sleep than we did. We started talking with Bob Bortree, who we know from the hillclimb circuit. Bob is a mountain goat and a local who knows all the roads. He suggested skipping the squirrel catcher right off the bat, and heading up the paved Duxbury climb and bombing down the dirt Stevens Brook Road, which we know well from older editions of DROVES. Since we'd already made the decision to skip the Braintree dropoffs, we decided to follow Bob's advice, for a few feet at least, until he pulled away and disappeared up the climb. Jon and Geoff chose to join us for the day, while it seemed all the others were at least willing to play the squirrel catcher game.

There's nothing like starting a ride with a long steep climb, right off the bat, with no chance to ease into it. We tried to roll along gently, but you have to make some effort on the climb. After doing our best to noodle up the climb, we made the turn onto Stevens Brook, and let the tandem do its thing on the descent. We rejoined the main route part way down and continued on next to the river for a while before starting our next climb up Moretown Common and then up Moretown Mountain Road. Somewhere along the way, we were caught by a couple of fast guys, and expected the see the others go screaming by at any point.

Partway down we took the turn onto the ominous sounding Devil's Washbowl. No sightings of Satan having a bath here, but we did see plenty of lovely scenery along the way.

Soon enough we were at the bailout - head up Roxbury Gap, or aim for the unknown. Maybe next year I won't be such a whimp!

Hanging with Geoff and Jon

Don't go there!

Adam and Hubert had painstakingly arrowed the route, with these lovely little signs stapled to posts and trees

After climbing and descending Roxbury, we decided to head down into Warren for breakfast. We blew right past the charming store at the base of the gap, that would have saved us a few hundred feet of climbing later. I wasn't paying attention to the cue sheet at this point, and didn't realize the route didn't actually go all the way down into Warren. Still, we had a lovely brekkie at the Warren store and then got bonus climbing. 

In the irreverent nature of the ride, we decided to be a bit creative with the route ourselves and headed out of Warren on a dirt road that we know from DROVES. However, we soon found a bridge under de-construction, which explained why we'd not seen any cars for a while. Fortunately we had no trouble getting past on bikes, taking the wooden footbridge off to one side.

Were the Braintree dropoffs like this one?

We had another fabulous descent, past another "Road Closed" sign. Jon and Geoff stopped for a nature break while we continued on. We said we'd ride back up should the road be truly impassable. Again, there were no issues for the bikes and soon we were in the village of Hancock. 

Next up was the climb over Middlebury Gap, followed by a lovely descent into Ripton and a well earned stop at the store. We've done this climb oodles of times, but somehow misremembered quite how long the descent into Ripton was. Jon drafted us down the mountain, but Geoff took a little recovery break near the top. We regrouped and then saught out refueling at the store a little ways past the turn. Here we spotted a photo of the owner seemingly holding a fisher cat. We had to look carefully to determine that the weasel was, in fact, stuffed!

Beautiful blue skies started to cloud over as we rode along the Natural Turnpike. Adam and Hubert had warned us about some loose gravel on one of the descents, and that warning was not for naught. Everyone made in through and we continued to press on, hoping to beat whatever storm was headed our way.

We reached the store in Jerusalem just as the heavens opened. We took another well-earned refueling break, and hung out on the porch, hoping the storm would pass. We spotted a few sucker holes - blue sky openings that tempt you to head out, but then close down soon after. Rumbles of thunder and flashes of lighting made the porch plenty enticing for the time being. Was this actually Devil's Washbowl? After a while, it became obvious that it was simply not going to clear up anytime soon. The official route had one more 1000 foot climb, but the persistent lightning persuaded us to pass on tempting fate by climbing up into the clouds, and instead we enjoyed an amazing 20 mile descent back to Waterbury. We had no idea such a road existed in Vermont! An irreverent road?

Geoff, a little wet, but still happy.
Jon, looking forward to the ride back to the campsite
We got in before dark and were surprised to find quite a few cars still in the lot, evidence that more adventure was still taking place out of the course. Given the dwindling light, we hoped they all had lights or would arrive soon.  I later saw video evidence that they had an awesome ride and all made it back to the start. Next year, we will have to try more of the gnarly bits!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful write up! I'm already looking forward to more adventures. see you both on the road, soon, i hope.