Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

DROVES 2015 - Day 2

DROVES - Day 2 arrived with bright sunshine and much warmer temperatures. However, most folks seemed cautious and arm warmers and vests were still prominent as we gathered around the picnic table, getting ready for our attempt on Radar Road. It seemed that fresh memories from a very chilly descent to Lake Willoughby just couldn't be shaken. Nevertheless, as we mingled about pumping up tires and checking brakes, there was no denying that it was indeed significantly warmer. Some people even threw caution to the wind and stripped down to just shorts and short sleeve jersey. Still, being sensitive to cold, I traded leg warmers for knee warmers and kept my arm warmers on. I also carried my wind vest, just in case sanity left me and I climbed up to Radar and needed it for the descent.

As a special treat, Dave and Nancy came down from Waitsfield to join us for the day. We'd met them serendipitously at a Luka Bloom concert last year. While awaiting the start of the show, we discovered that we had more than musical taste in common, as Dave runs many of the Vermont brevets, and his sister and brother-in-law run Red Hen Baking Company, a bakery/cafe in Waitsfield that we love. We've kept in touch and when I sent out FB invites to come join us for rides and dinner, they decided to do just that.

By popular demand, the plan for today's ride was to take in some of the roads used on this year's Rasputitsa route. Several of us had planned to ride the actual event, but then had to miss it for various reasons. The roads used were all quite familiar to me, including the Cyberia section, a class IV road that was covered in snow on race day. We've been riding this particular class IV road for 20 years now, and it has lots of meaning and history for us. I am proud to say that I have even climbed it on single speed multiple times. It varies in condition, some years being washed out and rough while it can be (almost) glass smooth at other times. Part of the adventure is you never know!

Eddie, feeling fresh after climbing Burke the day before.

We call this Cristine's house. Years ago, she joked about buying it and restoring it. It's in dire condition, but the view is awesome! I think Neil is going to call a real estate agent. We'll just stick with the Bike Barn!

Once up and over the Class IV road, we'd ride up the Victory Bog, and then join up with Radar Road. There's an abandoned Cold War era radar installation on a spur off this road, reached by winching oneself up a ridiculously steep road for an hour. The road is gated off, and technically we are trespassing to climb up to check it out. But we've seen lots of other folks doing the same thing and have never been given grief, so we keep risking it. It's such a cool spot. We've even spotted cars on top, unsure how they've gotten through.

This spur road, despite technically being closed and deserted for years, has changed a bit over time, sometimes appearing to have fresh pavement and new gravel maintenance, while at other times, looking truly abandoned. The route up to the Radar installation is out and back, so it's purely optional. I had already decided that I'd climbed up there plenty of times in my life and would just save my back and energy for other rides.

Did I mention it's steep? The climb is like Burke, but without the view. It's partially gravel, partially paved, has some switchbacks and NO view. Well, not unless you ignore the spooky signs and warnings about asbestos and climb up to a rickety old tower.

Still, for some, the allure of another hard climb was too much. Ted had been up many times and always brings back loads of cool pictures. It's one of his favorite rides. Cris and Domi had ridden up with us on a very memorable day where I got stung in the backside just before the climb. They were eager to show off some climbing fitness on this day. John and I had also climbed to the top on other trips, including one even more memorable ride where we blew out a front tire on the way down. All the tall tales served to entice everyone except Nancy to go to the top.

Nancy sanely chose to continue back with us. Now, the first time we did this route, we approached it from the opposite direction and had to pass under a gate a few miles from town.  (Ted had warned/reminded us this gate was at the bottom of a screaming descent.) Coming in from this direction, I'm not sure where the sign is that suggests the road does not go through. I don't recall seeing it or passing a gate.

However, the big earthmover blocking the way, made the road closure ahead pretty definitive. Fortunately, it was no problem for us to get around on bikes. Once past the landslide, we had a bumpy descent back to the main road into East Burke. We didn't stay on pavement for long, preferring the quiet dirt road alternative instead.

Once back at the barn, Nancy and I hung out and enjoyed a nice lunch while John hopped on his single bike and headed back out to meet the hillclimbers.

Once the whole crew was back, we made a beeline for ice cream. Sadly, all the restaurants in East Burke have closed down recently, but the ice cream stand does a booming business with the mountain bikers who swarm the town on nice weekends. The line was ridiculously long, but worth the wait.

Back at the barn, we broke out more snacks, before folks started working on their contributions to dinner while making a big dent in the beer we'd all brought up. Ted then built an excellent fire and we sat around telling tall tales and listening to Neil and John act as DJ and play the most obscure music each could find.

Another glorious day riding Dirt Roads Of Vermont with Exquisite Scenery!

Photo courtesy of Eddie Medina.

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