Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, October 23, 2017

Vermonster 2017 - Day 3

Day 3 started with a chilly descent, because we always end the day with a big climb.  And what goes up must come down.  No fear though, we warmed up quickly on a long steep climb, because what goes down...

And this pattern would repeat over and over throughout the day.

When SadiB, my alter-ego on ridewithgps mapped out the day, it was clear that it would be a tough one. I had wanted to take a more westerly route than last year, but the trick was to find a place to stay within a reasonable distance from Woodstock. A friend has a place near Prospect Mountain, but every route I came up with to go there was too long and also involved more main roads than I'd like. At some point, while scanning the map, I realized Mount Snow was a reasonable distance. As a ski resort, we might have some hope of finding reasonably priced accommodations in October. Sure enough I found a B&B that had a large room that could take 5 people for not a lot of money. John and I had ridden all around the area before and had a few must-do roads both north and south of Mt. Snow, so I mapped out the final two days as one route, taking in roads we knew with just a few new-to-us sections. The climbing ratio was the typical 100 feet per mile. So it seemed a 75 mile day would be long, but doable.

However when Kait broke it up into the individual days, she pointed out that 75 mile day had well over 9000 feet of climbing.  It should have been obvious to me since ski resorts are on top of mountains.  At least the next day would have a lot of downhill! Since Kait expressed so much concern about this day, I jokingly subtitled the route - Kill Kait.

But she had nothing to fear. Kait has done a lot of mountain bike racing this year and she was much stronger than last year. She was chewing up the climbs on our rides this summer, so I had no doubt at all that she would do fine on this ride. It was actually me that I was worried about. With my injury filled year, I wasn't as fit as I wanted to be.

Fortunately for all of us, the fine weather and beautiful scenery pushed those doubts into the background... for a most of the day.

The climb up from Felchville goes past an area known as the Alps. On the route profile, it appears to be our longest climb for the day. When we reached the turn, the guys wanted to stop at the store for a quick drink. I was climbing slower than everyone else, so I said I'd just roll on and they would catch me soon enough. However, they took a longer break and then skipped the sign-posted detour and hoofed it through a construction site. This gave me plenty of time to reach the Alps without getting caught. When I uploaded John's photos, I didn't recognize this construction site, because I'd taken the detour around. It took a while to figure out why I didn't remember this obstacle! Sticking to the pre-planned route, regardless of signs or conditions, can make for interesting photos and stories!

We had a great lunch in Ludlow. Unable to resist, I ordered the Vermonster sandwich. Climbing out of town, I had regrets, but it wasn't about the big sandwich. It was my choice of roads. I'd taken us up a paved road that was quite busy. Twenty years ago, this road was much quieter. I quickly made a mental note to fix this before by taking an alternate dirt route out of town. This correction has been made on the route posted below.

Once off that busy road, we could again enjoy beautiful colors and great ridge top views. Well when we reached the top... It was a bit of a slog-fest to get up there.

We spotted these bikes wanted and bikes for sale signs. I joked that we could stop and ask what they'd give us for our bikes. We were getting pretty tired at this point and it was tempting to trade them for some magic beans.

Instead we pressed on. Fortunately we had a lot of descending after all that climbing and we had a great downhill run into West Townsend, where we found a little store. We devoured snacks and drinks here in preparation for our climb up to Mount Snow. We knew we'd need some extra energy for the last section.

Daniel left us here, for a nice gentle downhill ride to Brattleboro. 

It was shortly after this stop that I ran over some glass and suffered a cut in the tire that was too big for tubeless sealant to handle. Fortunately I had a tubeless plug, I quickly inserted the plug into the tire and added some air. For any of you who have wondered about the whole tubeless thing, let me just say how awesome it is to have flats just magically fix themselves without any delays. But when you do hit something bigger and the sealant can't fill it, it is so easy to just insert a plug in the tire. No pulling off the wheel and tire and replacing the tube. Just stick a plug in and add a little air. No drama! I am sold and am now converting all my bikes over to tubeless!

After crossing the Townsend dam, we found ourselves on tiny forest roads. These were new-to-me. It was gorgeous, but at times I worried if, despite the map showing as a through road, that it might not really go through. I tried not to let on that this was uncharted territory and was very relieved when we popped back out onto a known road.

By this time, darkness was closing in and my energy was running low. My lights seemed to be struggling along with my legs on some of the hills. Kait was soldiering along, unfazed by all the climbing. Caleb was showing off his kid-watts. He gets most of his training from pedaling his kids around in a bike-box. Jamie, the youngster in the group, seemed to have boundless energy, and John as usual, was fresh as a daisy.

About 5 miles from the finish, we reached the top of the final climb. We had a quick regrouping and put on jackets and then started to roll down hill. I was in front following the route on my backlit GPS. I thought we'd all started together. About partway down a hill, I noticed I had missed a turn, but I hadn't seen any road, and this road was freshly paved and really nice. I zoomed out the GPS and saw that the road we were on would intersect with the planned route in 1/2 mile, so we should just press on. The problem was John and Jamie weren't with us. Apparently they hadn't started up when we did after cresting that final climb.

I figured we should continue down to where we'd intersect with the route where we would meet up. However when we reached that intersection, as it were, what we saw was a very gnarly trail. Ah, so that's why I had missed the turn in the first place. It wasn't a road. We waited a while, but no John and Jamie. I surmised they had turned down the trail. But John would know there was no way I would have taken this trail even in daylight. So he would know we had gone down the road. It was getting cold and I had no phone signal, so I couldn't use my stalker app to see where they were, nor could I call or text them.  I felt we should get to the inn, and they would be along soon.

Sure enough they took that trail, with Jamie eating it up like an excited puppy. They came in a short while later and we were all relieved to be reunited and to have survived such a challenging day.

The inn was great, as was our dinner. 

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