First, we went on a bicycling Vacation in Northern Vermont on 9/19/93 to 9/24/93. Actually, we arrived on 9/18 and left on 9/25. We decided to do this because it was a very different sort of vacation, and we wanted to see the fall change of colors in New England, and get some exercise on our vacation.
We left Dallas in the morning and made a connection at LaGuardia in New York City arriving in Burlington, Vt on a small business class prop plane. Burlington airport is a very small regional airport. We picked up luggage and called the Holiday Inn near the airport where we had reservations. They went a van to pick us up. It turned out the van driver used to live in Plano, TX a few years ago and knew where we lived! We were happily surprised. Our room was nice and we settled in then Anne called Inger Dybfest, Anne's roomate from college who she hasn't seem in many, many years. After a while Inger came walking into the lobby and Anne and Inger had a happy reunion. We loaded into Inger's car and headed into downtown Burlington. We parked and walked a very nice shopping area in downtown and headed toward Lake Champlain. Burlington is right on the lake. Anne and Inger talked and talked and caught up on their lives.
We headed back to a nice restaurant for dinner. Inger left a message for Dick, her boyfriend, to meet us and he caught up with us just after we had ordered. We met Dick, had dinner, talked a bit, and headed back to Inger and Dicks house and talked some more. Inger dropped us at the Holiday Inn later with a promise from us to stay the next Saturday night at their house.
We had breakfast at the Holiday Inn and went for a walk. The van was to pick us up at 2:00pm. But they were late and didn't arrive until about 3:00. We were waiting in the lobby when Court and Taylor arrived to pick us up. We loaded up and headed out to the "Inn at Montpelier" in Montpelier, VT. The trip didn't start out so great. The van broke down about 10 miles from Burlington. Backroads had just had a new transmission put into the damn van and the new transmission burned up almost right away. We all stood around and joked and took pictures while Taylor hitch-hiked back to Burlington to get a new van and arrange for the broken down van to be towed back to Burlington. We arrived at the Inn quite late. We were supposed to get fitted to our bikes in the afternoon, but since we arrived so late Court and Taylor moved that to Monday morning. The whole group met just before dinner and introduced themselves. There were 26 people on this trip, which is their maximum number. Most everyone was 40 years old or over. There were only 4 of us in our 30s, nobody younger, and a few folks in their 60s! There were distinct groups, one group from California, one from the pacific northwest, one from Denver, one from Oklahoma, and us from Texas.
The food was terrific. Anne had Salmon, Stewart had Fettucine and pesto sauce. Both of us had peach crisp and Ben & Jerry's. The B&J's was a recurring theme throughout the meals. Imagine that!
The biking was intense. As the first day, we had breakfast then went outside to get our bikes and be fitted. We picked up our handlebar bags, our helmets, our water bottles, then got fitted to our bikes. These bikes were great. They were fitted to us according to specs we had sent into the office a couple of months in advance. We asked for drop handlebars and toe clips. Most everybody else had asked for straight handlebars and about half asked for toe clips. The bikes had index shifting, end-of-handlebar shift levers, granny gears, wider tires than our bikes at home, and a wonderful feel. Stewart brought his Vetter trip computer, and spent a few minutes installing it on the bike and configuring it. Anne's bike needed the seat adjusted, didn't have a pack on the front, and didn't have a bungee cord on the back saddle harness. She was quickly fixed up.
We had to check out from the Inn at Montpelier before we headed out for our >30 mile trip to the Inn on the Common in Craftsbury Common, VT. It appeared that we were falling behind. Where was everybody!? We eventually headed out into traffic. Montpelier is the capital of Vermont. But it is not a city in any sense. It has the feel of a very small rural town. We headed out into downtown traffic, went about 2 blocks, turned left, and headed into the country. Traffic was as heavy here as we were to experience through the entire trip. Imagine getting on a new bike, with directions that nobody was familiar with stashed in a clear plastic pouch that was difficult to read, heading into traffic toward a turn that no-one could quite figure out. We were really lucky nobody got hit by a car or truck. The people in Montpelier were very forgiving of us.
Our training in Texas had not prepared us for the hills! Described as "rolling hills" some were quite intense. We pushed really hard that first day. Not knowing what to expect, we approached it from the point of view of getting to Inn on the Common as quick as we could. This actually turned out to be a mistake. We arrived at the lunch spot way ahead of everyone else. So we sat around waiting for the lunch to be laid out. The weather was pretty cold. It had frosted hard on Sunday night, and was in the 40s on Monday morning. It heated up into the mid-50s and there was a pretty good breeze all day. It was generally cold! We had both brought long tights to wear over our biking shorts and wore them the first day. Additional layers added warmth and the hills helped to top it off and make us positively toasty for most of the trip (except for cold weather runny nose. Everyone was hunting down kleenex from the beginning).
Lunch was good and our whole group sat around the lake where we lunched and talked and ate. Afterwards we got back on our bikes and headed out. Lunch was at the 24-25 mile mark so the rest of the trip was "downhill" both from a distance point of view, and from a real point of view.
We arrived at the Inn on the Common in Craftsbury, VT by climbing a mile-long uphill stretch that left us both _very_ out-of-breath, hot and sweaty and swearing at these damn hills! The Inn was wonderful. Craftsbury is a very small town that you wouldn't expect to have such a wonderful Inn. Our room was directly over the kitchen. The smell of garlic and fresh bread was overpowering. Each room was different and our room had 2 entire walls of windows that looked out over the commons areas. The owners and operators, Penney and Mike are ex-New York City residents who moved here to run the Inn. They were classic New Yorkers snipping at each other, and, when we asked about coffee, Penney said "There's the coffeemaker, the coffee and the water, go ahead!" and we did! This place had a croquet court, clay tennis court, scenic overlook (remember that big hill?). The overlooks had lots of adirondack chairs sitting at the right places. They also had a pool that Stewart used to soak his feet and knees. It was cold! Our room had a king size bed, two dark green overstuffed leather chairs, wonderful dark wood furniture, and a nice bathroom.
Anne strained here knee in the morning and was having a bit of a problem with it. Penney saw here limping around and hustled her into the kitchen for some ice and sent us both to our room to put Anne's knee up with the ice on it. Anne took some Advil and took it easy and by the next day her knee was back to normal (amazing recovery actually).
Dinner was, once again, wonderful. We all arrived in the room where cocktails were served at 6:00pm. Cocktail hour was different from what we expected, more a real, formal cocktail hour. Men arrived in coats and ties, woman with dresses or very nice clothes and lots of makeup. And these folks knew how to drink. They got pretty rowdy before the meal started at 8:00pm (so late!). Dinner started with the chef coming out in his whites and making a meal presentation that everyone cheered and clapped at the conclusion. We then ordered and ate, and sprinkled it with wine and conversation that was fun and interesting.
Anne had duckling, Stewart salmon, and both had apple w/cranberry crisp desert. Very good food. We finished about 9:30 or thereabouts and headed to our rooms. It was really too late for dinner and everyone commented on it later in the week (and we moved dinner to 7:00pm at the next Inn).
We stayed at the Inn on the Common tuesday so we didn't have to pack and get everything ready to be moved to the next Inn. So we got up and had a leisurely breakfast. Anne characterized this as "B personality" day. We got out on our bikes a bit late. We had decided that, since Anne's knee was bothering here, we would bike to the lunch spot and shuttle back to the Inn. Since the lunch spot was 2/3 of the total trip, it seemed a good way to get a bit of a break and be fresh for Wednesday. We headed down the hill which had the effect of making us pretty chilly, then a sharp left at the bottom of the hill, in downtown Craftsbury, and up a looong uphill climb. Pretty intense. We passed people walking their bikes up the hill. At the top neither of us was cold anymore, and Stewart took off his jacket, down to a T-shirt, to continue. Beyond this hill the trip was rolling hills and wonderful weather. We were starting to get the hang of this! At the top of one of the hills we stopped for a few minutes as a break. The view was over a valley with hills and mountains stretching out as far as we could see. A small house sat just off the road and an older fellow was wandering about around it. He started out toward the mailbox and came on out to say hello. Bill Dunkee had moved to Vermont from Conecticut a few years ago. He liked it there but had to install a generator to provide power in the winter when there was power problems and a satellite dish before his wife felt comfortable there. Even then he said the it got pretty isolated in the winter. He also said that it was really, really dark at night. There are big coyotes that come around at night and tear things up and eat anything they can find. He wanted us to come down to his house and get a better view of the vista but we declined. We enjoyed taking with him and vice-versa it seemed.
We arrived at lunch which was held at a beautiful lake. The weather was _wonderful_ once again in the mid-60s. These lunch spots also had outhouses that everyone gratefully took advantage of. It was such a necessity that everyone started joking around and cornered one of the Oklahomans in there with 10-15 people with cameras trying to "capture the moment." Slowly everyone else got onto the bikes and headed out. We waited for the shuttle which ended up taking a long, long time. Once we got started we found out that Rose, a test pilot for Boeing in Seattle, was having a "magic day" and had decided to take the 50 mile option to the Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT. So we had to track her down and see if she was OK. After a few wrong turns we caught up with her. She was tooling along smoothly. We stopped her and gave her some lunch. She ate her meal and continued on. We arrived back at the Inn much later than everyone else. Too bad, we had hoped to arrive back earlier than everyone else and look around.
Dinner was, once again, fabulous. Everyone started noting, though, that the choices were _always_ chicken, fish, or beef. We _never_ got a vegetarian or pasta choice after Monday. Pasta would have been very good.
We had to get up and pack today. Bummer. After a good breakfast we went back and packed and brought out our luggage. Stewart headed in to settle our liquor bill. Boy, that bill adds up quick! And, as we discovered, it isn't itemized. Aha! a money making opportunity. Oh well, it was very good red wine (from Australia).
There were lot of downhills today. Stewart developed a theory. If you really want people to come back on a bicycle vacation you'd make the first day pretty hard, probably the second day also, then the third easier, fourth easy, and the fifth one that makes you feel gooood. Well, whether by design or accident, it worked out that way. The biking was pretty easy but had some tricky turns. We headed to Stowe, VT, a snow skiing mecca. We both noticed that, today, the smell of manure was particularly strong. There was one part of the trip where the electric fences ran along beside the road not 1 foot from the pavement. And some pretty nasty looking cows closely watched us as we biked along. You definitely didn't want to get forced off the road here by a big truck (and _never_ take a pee on an electric fence). We started using our 2-way personal communicators on Wednesday. These really worked good. We were able to keep track of the turns better and Anne could stop and take pictures much easier. We got ribbed a lot about the high-tech junk we brought along. But that's OK we were communicating better than them. One of our guides, Taylor Greenleaf, who gave us our "Route Rap" every morning, started making everyone suspicious. Anne coined the phrase "Taylor-speak". In Taylor-Speak "rolling hills" means "vertical climb" and "beautiful, beautiful lake" means "mountainous area". Everyone started paying close attention to what he said at breakfast to decode what to expect during the day. We biked into Stowe by way a a tremendously long mild downhill (long as in 3 miles or so). Then right at the church and onto the "Stowe Recreational Path" which winds through the town. It is a great path stretching through the hills and forests. From the path we eventually arrived at the bottom of the mountain that led up to Edson Hill Manor. 1.5 miles that felt straight up. Both of us geared down and quickly into the granny gear range, then down to the bottom. We were struggling to make any progress and remain upright. Then, when we thought the hardest part was over, we turned onto the dirt road that was the Edson Hill Manor entry. Past the stables, up a small hill, down a small valley, then straight up over an extremely intense vertical incline to the manor. Once again, somehow, we were first, and had even beat the van! Well, we needed to break to rest up from that hill. The van showed up and started unloading and we checked in and took our stuff to our room. These rooms were very nice with tons of room and fireplaces in every room. The fireplaces were already setup and ready to light.
People started showing up after a while and we sat around outside in the adirondacks and talked. We also explored the Inn and surroundings. It was here that we decided to call home and pick up any messages. Anne found out that her mom had had a car accident on Sunday and spent the evening off-and-on calling home to find out what had happened. The folks next door to us, Chuck and Joan started their fire and promptly set off their smoke detector. It screamed on and off for a long time. Apparently their chimney wouldn't open all the way and the smoke kept slowly creeping into the room. They eventually disconnected the detector. We discovered the next day that other peoples smoke detectors also went off and eventually got disconnected.
Dinner was good food but a stuffy and annoying waiter made it a bit less enjoyable. Dinner was at 7:00pm on thursday which everyone appreciated. Afterwards it was back to the room for reading, a fire in the fireplace, and eventually sleep.
Today it rained hard all day. We decided to forego the biking and head to the top of the mountain (neither of us can remember the name!) for some hiking. There is a 4 mile hiking trail at the top with wonderful vista views over Stowe. We were very glad to have our Gore-Tex jackets today. Court and Taylor drove 4 of us to the "toll road" where they were going to drive the van to the top. But it was _really_ steep and muddy, so we backed out and headed over to ride the gondola. We rode the gondola to the top. About 100 yards up it disappeared into the clouds and fog that got heavier the higher we got. At the top we couldn't see 50 ft. So we all had a good laugh, took some pictures, wandered around for a few minutes, and headed back down. We shopped in town in the rain for a few hours, had some lunch, (with Catamount Amber and Catamount Gold beer) and caught the shuttle to "Ben & Jerry's" ice cream factory at the edge of town. We signed up and took the tour, read their "mission" and ate free Wavy Gravy ice cream. Then we waited around for the van and shuttled back to the Inn where we stayed this night also. Dinner was good but not particularly noteworthy. The rain was relaxing blowing through the trees and hitting the roof of the little bungalow that our room was in. We left the windows open slept like a rock.
We got up to a beautiful day. The rain had stopped sometime in the middle of the night. It was clear, cool and only a bit chilly. "Brisk" would be a good word. We packed a bit before breakfast and headed over to breakfast. Breakfast was rowdy. Everyone was feeling the last day. We ate and Taylor gave the "route rap" then we went down near the pool for a group picture. Court and Taylor had gone out and had a bunch of T-shirts printed with "Vermont Ain't Flat" that depicted a bicycler traveling hilly countryside. We all had either bought our T-shirts to borrowed them for the picture. Every couple had a camera and wanted a picture, so Court got one of the employees at the Inn to come down to the pool and stand there and, one at a time, take pictures with all of these cameras. She was very gracious about it and slowly worked her way through them while we all group-posed.
Court had the good idea to pose for an "action shot". So we all gathered on a hill and posed for a picture of a bicycler being pulled up a hill by a large group with a rope. It was pretty funny. Backroads has a very colorful and artistic catalog. Hopefully one of these pictures will make it into the catalog. Court had high hopes!
We went back to our room and finished packing up and sat our luggage outside the room for pickup, then onto our bikes and onward.
Down the major hill and onto the Stowe recreational path, then on into Stowe and out into the countryside. The riding was wonderful. The weather was sunny and warming as mid-day approached. We biked north to lunch at a picturesque lake. We ate lunch and talked and joked for a bit, took a few more pictures, and headed south back toward Montpelier. The trip friday was 42 miles, the longest ride of the trip. But it wasn't particularly hard. We must have been getting used to the exercise, because everyone was enjoying it more than usual. And the distance didn't seem like much of anything. We both felt that 42 miles could have been much more with little effort. We arrived back at the Inn in Montpelier about 3:30pm. Backroads had arranged for us to meet there and load the bikes back up and change. We went down the street to a local health club and showered and changed and brought our clothes back to the van. Everyone else had apparently arrived, packed into their rental cars and left. It was a quick, quiet dispersal. There were 6 people, Anne and I were 2, that Court and Taylor drove back to Burlington.
We had canceled our reservations at the Holiday Inn so we could stay with Anne's old roomate Inger. They dropped us at the Radisson and we checked our luggage. Anne called Inger and left a message and we walked around town a bit. We eventually made our way back to the Radisson and parked waiting for Inger to show up. She found us there and we headed back to her and Dick's house where we spent the evening talking, eating a fine pasta dinner (how did she know?!?), being entertained by their kids, and drinking wine. The next morning we awoke and headed to the kitchen where Phillip announced that "Inger had a car accident!" Our flight was very early in the morning, so Dick dropped us at the airport before he headed over to the hospital. We flew through Boston on our way to Dallas, where we picked up our car and headed home. We called Inger and Dick later that night. She was already home and OK. We were worried because we had to drop by the wrecked car and pick up our camera and it was wrecked _pretty_good_.
Home again. What a good vacation!