Posts Tagged ‘Burlington’

The roads along Lake Champlain are mostly flat and very inviting.

The roads along Lake Champlain are mostly flat and very inviting.

We stayed in Ferrisburg, Vermont for the second year in a row. The house we rented is on a small peninsula, called Long Point, jutting out into Lake Champlain. The house has a “dock with a rock.” We would park ourselves on the dock and jump the 8-10 feet off the rock into the water. Or, add a few feet at the base of the tree above the rock. It was a great way to get into the water. Looking west, we had great view every night of the sun setting under the overlapping New York Adirondack mountains.

Many days I spent swimming and kayaking…and biking with and without the family. I kept my rides shorter though, since this was a family vacation.

Route 7 cuts north to south through Ferrisburg paralleling Lake Champlain. I found it to be a sort of natural dividing line for many of my rides.

Toni’s Ride

I brought my wife for a ride hitting the southern part of Ferrisburg. Riding away from the lake towards Greenbush Road, route 7 was three miles away. Turning south on it, we rode along the busy rode turning left onto Little Chicago Road. Lying next to the lake, the roads here are considered flat to experienced riders with gentle rolling hills. I brought my wife down Little Chicago Road and saw by the smile on her face how much she appreciated these great roads. The road takes a ride swing to the right before ending. We took a right towards Kingsland Bay State Park. The road climbs a little making my wife groan from the added effort. I reminded her how easy she has had it so far and assured her that this was just a minor obstacle. We then descended gently along farmland and large estates with deep front lawns. This was Vermont at its best and most gentle. Arriving at the entrance to the park, two horses greeted with a whinny from the field next door. We took a quick little loop into the park on the gravel road to see another view of the lake.

Back at the entrance, the road turned sharply continuing the circle back to Little Chicago Road. We follow what soon becomes Hawkins Road that leads us over Little Otter Creek, an offshoot of Lake Champlain. The road temporarily turns into a thin strip of land with a little bridge over the creek. Fishermen stand on either side lazily fishing off the bridge. The quiet road turns once again. There is little traffic here along this meandering road except for a bus full of children traveling to a day camp we just passed by.

Back on Little Chicago road, we are doubling back but still enjoying the route. I see my happy wife chugging along. I feel bad we forgot to grab our water bottles but make up for it with a water stop when back on route 7. The way back is mostly downhill and faster. Now that we have water, Route 7 doesn’t last that long and the roads back from there provide us a good warm down.

Getting back, swimming and kayaking await. Then lunch. Then a trek to the Bolton Potholes. What a great day.

Boy’s Ride

I decided to bring Frankie and Carl in the opposite direction…away from route 7. We headed north towards Charlotte and Shelburne along Greenbush Road. We were soon at our biggest hill and I coached both boys to not get discouraged. It was already hot out and we were making a big effort. At the top we were rewarded with a long downhill towards Charlotte’s center of town where the speed limit is 25 mph. (We should know. Driving through it, we have been warned to slow down by the residents.) Frankie and Carl both quickly came up with the same personal goal…to go faster than the speed limit. Hitting 27 mph, Frankie felt triumphant. (Carl’s bike computer was not operating and had to rely on reports from Frankie.)

Crossing the center we were passing by beautiful houses just off the intersection. Some were for sale and I was back in fantasyland thinking about buying one on the spot so we could stay forever.

I stand beside Carl along a public beach on Lake Champlain.

I stand beside Carl along a public beach on Lake Champlain.

We were picking up speed again and I was getting the boys to draft behind me. We were heading towards an underpass and our speed was climbing past the 30 mph speed limit here. Its a tight “S” turn in the road but that just makes it more fun. We right, left and then right again under the short tunnel then I looked left for the turn I knew was coming up fast.

Frankie and Carl waited at the turn while I took it fast knowing it was there. A short hill slowed our pace as we followed the quiet road towards the lake shore. A picturesque house with an iconic red barn sat on the bend in the road. We turned left following the road that led us back along the shore of Lake Champlain. Houses dotted the roadside before the view totally opened up to the lakeshore and the Adirondack mountains of New York State. A park straddled the street with the parking on the left and the beach across the quiet street. Docks sat out in the lake like little islands and I wanted to stop for a swim. Instead we stopped just for the view.

A small covered bridge stood between us and the road ahead. We took pictures before heading forward. This spot makes the whole ride for me and I was loath to move on too quickly.

Nice homes greeted us along the road and I was wondering who could own such great estates. Could it be someone famous or just rich. I’m a conservative by nature believing anybody can make it in America, but I am no stranger to envy.

At the crossroads Lake Road soon turns to dirt but we instead turned right on Ferry Road to add a few miles and check out where the local ferry crosses to the New York side. The road turns left down a short but steep hill and I felt bad (for a second) about doing this to the boys. I am a sucker though for another great lake view. Stopping at the ferry landing, I noticed the sailboats sitting out on the lake, the small peninsula that is part of someone’s property that juts out into the water like a little baby finger. A comfy chair and table sit on the little strip of land and I was again imagining buying it with my millions.

We turned around and I coaxed the boys back up the hill returning to the intersection where we continued our ride home. The road turned into dirt briefly before returning us back near Greenbush Road again.

Family Ride

My wife and I wanted to take the kids on one of the Lake Champlain Bikeway rides, especially the ones on one of the lake’s islands. We took half the week trying to decide which it would be. Upon closer inspection though, I found these rides to be better for the older members of my family. These were routes, not trails and we would be riding on some roads with more traffic than I’d like.

We instead decided to ride the bike trail along the shoreline of Burlington. It starts just south of the center, follows past the aquarium, along neighborhoods, state parks, and undeveloped coastline.

Best yet, it eventually juts out into the middle of the lake along a causeway that was formerly a railroad bed. Along the causeway trail there is a gap where a bridge once stood. At one time, the bridge would rise to let boats through. Now, bikes manage to cross the gap by taking the bike ferry. From there, the trail leads to South Hero island.

I wasn’t sure how far we would get when we parked the van near Oakledge Park but I looked forward to finding out.

Following the road to the park entrance, we turned away from it heading north. Along the shoreline, families were sitting along a small but popular beach. Just after that where the trail turned right, a miniature “stonehenge” stood reminding my wife of the “stones” from the series Outlander.

The bike trail promptly emptied onto a street in a small neighborhood. We followed the painted arrows on the road leading to where the trail reemerged.

We crossed by the marina where I stopped at a small bike shop administering to customers using the trail. I got more information about the cost of taking the bike ferry and decided right there that we would most likely want to cross over to the island.

The trail followed the coastline I had ridden back on Mother’s Day weekend when I was here for a wedding. We passed by a campground and state park with a wide beachfront. We crossed road through upscale neighborhoods. I had noticed in the spring that sometimes houses abut the lake, sometimes the shoreline is left undeveloped…all in a short span. It seemed like a nice compromise.

We passed a dog park, went over a bridge over the Winooski River where we stopped for the view. Frankie wanted to jump off it I am sure. The trail from there leads to a raised platform over a marsh. At the other end of the marsh is a popular spot for kitesurfing and I was reminded of the kite surfers at Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

The trail leads into another neighborhood where the trail leads along the side of the road, crossing into Airport Park.

Along the trail, I had been intermittently riding with Joe, pushing him along when necessary or letting him ride with his mom, Toni. Frankie, Eleni and Carl road up front. I would catch up to them when necessary, either pushing Joe or leaving him behind with his mom.

At Airport Park, the trail turns into gravel and enters a wooded area as it heads towards the causeway. I was getting excited hoping the distance wouldn’t be too great to the island. The farther we rode, the less I wanted to turn around early. The trail was mostly flat of course but the gravel tends to slow the bikes down. I got behind Joe and pushed him along. Entering the causeway, I could see the island in the distance seemingly connected by the thin thread of the trail.

Lining the trail was white marble slabs. Vermont is well known for its marble quarries. Seemed like an extravagant expense for a bike trail but I liked the white outlines on both sides of the trail.

As soon as we biked into the sunny causeway, I wanted to take a swim along its banks. We chose a very large tree pointing at it horizontally at an uninhabited island and stopped for a swim and some pictures. We all climbed out onto the large tree limb jutting out over the water. I walked up to where the limb forms a “V” and jumped through the opening. Frankie and Joe followed me down.

I could see the trail extending like a ribbon of white arc its way to the island. I took off for the ferry with the family. We had gone a good amount of miles but I wasn’t willing to turn back now. This was too cool. The swim and the lake air helped keep us cool on this sunny day. When we arrived at the ferry, I was ahead of Toni and Joe far enough to have bought the tickets already when they arrived.

The ferry is a small boat. Half of it is dedicated to bikes while the rest is for passengers and crew. The crew were very pleasant and helpful handing out cold water bottles to all of us for a small donation.

We were first on and last off on the short ride to the other side. The boat does an arc out away from the causeway and around to the other end of the gap. My kids petted the crew’s golden retriever on our way over with Joe being most interested in him.

The ferry’s crew gave us directions to the closest places for lunch. It was already 1:30 and we were plenty hungry. We chose a food truck that lies at a local farm three miles away. Half that ride is on the trail, half is on roads.

On the trail again, we were warned at the ferry that there are potholes along this part of the trail. We weaved around the holes on our way to the road. I was distracted by some great spots along the shoreline peaking through the vegetation.

The trail ended onto a flat gravel road. We turned right as our captain and first mate explained to us and took the left at the stop sign. It was little over a mile to our lunch but some small hills were in our way. Joe and Eleni were getting a little tired. Eleni’s butt hurt from the bike seat. I pushed both along switching back and forth between them until we got our last small downhill to the farm.

Vermont Burlington Ride

We were greeted by a small country store with burger shack alongside. Evidently the guy running the food truck built a semipermanent structure for his burger business. We ordered and the kids checked out the animals and free-range chickens roaming the grounds. I checked out the store buying fudge and later maple-creamy ice cream.

Now I had to get my family back to the car.

I pushed Eleni and Joe again over the small hills, then back onto the trail where Frankie promptly fell off his bike into the vegetation. It was one pothole too many for him. Luckily it was a soft landing.

We took the ferry back and made plans for our return. I would go ahead with Frankie and Carl. Toni would stay back with Eleni and Joe. I told her when we got back to the car, I would let her know. She could find a place to stop and use her smartphone to “drop a pin” with her map app and email it to me. I would drive back and pick them up.

With the two boys, we were moving fast. We blew through the gravel trail but the distance was starting to wear the boys down. Crossing over the bridge, I saw that clouds were moving in. It was a good week for weather but isolated thunderstorms would pop up from the Adirondack mountains and cross over the lake. Sometimes it would be just south or north of us, or sometimes right on us. This one was north of my position but heading for my wife and kids.

I pushed the boys to get back to the car but they were getting tired. They did great doing 30 miles with me, but I was getting a little anxious by the time we got to the van. I called my wife telling her we were back. Toni didn’t know how to email me the pin, but Eleni did and sent their position to me.

My phone’s GPS, was leading me through downtown Burlington. Stop lights and downtown traffic along with the thunderstorm moving in kept me uptight. When I was within a few miles of them, I had Carl let them know how close we were getting. It was starting to rain now and their was the thunder of course.

A half mile away, the GPS let me down a street I didn’t expect. Thank God for technology. The rain was picking up when I pulled over to the side of the road to them. When I got there, I had been more worried then they were. I hastily put the bikes on the van and we were done. I figured they had ridden about 25 miles. A new record for Joe.

And a great family experience.

My Hilly Ride

From the lake house, I traveled the 3 miles up to route 7 again, this time deciding to take a left away from the lake and try out some of the farm roads. On the way up route 7 I met another biker, Doug, formerly of Connecticut.

After retiring, he moved to the coast with his wife where they lived for 6 years. They then moved to Vermont where they have lived for the past 11 years. He is not that much older than me so he must have retired early. He was telling me how much he loves Vermont. No crowds, or lines to wait in. Its beautiful country at a slower pace. And, he rides regularly doing some races, mountain climbs or the casual ride along the backroads around Lake Champlain. He loves it here.

I think I know exactly what he’s talking about.

He was turning right onto Little Chicago Road, where I typically like to ride. We parted there as I turned left instead onto Middlebrook Road. As I did, Doug told me “its nice, rolling terrain, enjoy.”

What  a difference a turn makes…Doug was right…Rolling hills abound. Little Chicago road is emblematic of the roads along Champlain…mostly level with mild, gentle rises and falls. Middlebrook Road starts right away with a long rise leading up to farmland. I was feeling pretty good and took the next hill with enthusiasm. I was intrigued by the difference of the road from one side of route 7 vs. the other. I hadn’t had a hard ride lately and my body wanted this. I jumped on the bike pedals enjoying the first hill. To my left I see a small mountain, bumping up out of the landscape. Having planned my ride from my cell phone’s map, I knew I going that way eventually. I could see what I was in for and was looking forward to it.

I knew right then that I wanted to come back next summer. These roads were already challenging me. In my head, these roads were “juicy” and full of character. I wanted to try every direction. Take every turn. Experience everything all at once.

I only had so much time though and when the road stopped at the “T” I went right instead of left by mistake and soon found myself back at route 7!

I turned around and took the correct route going back up a small hill I foolishly went down. Getting back on track, I rechecked my map and made sure I wasn’t going to take the wrong road again. I was chasing the clock and possible thunder storms were chasing me. We’d had one here and there almost every day.

Monkton Road in Monkton was the second of three roads I was taking on this side of route 7. I was climbing and descending along the back roads and loving it. I was watching the clock though and looking for my turn…that seemed to be around the next corner. “Okay,” I thought. “It must be just ahead.” “Ok, now?” Roads usually look longer on my map app. I was thinking I misjudged this when my left turn finally came. I was a little beat from one hill after another, but felt renewed with knowing I was on my way back.

There was that mountain on the left now. It was one more climb before I was descending into North Ferrisburg where I was beating the speed limit. I spied some roads to the right that I wanted to ride another time. Another summer vacation?

It started to rain just as I crossed route 7. Two miles back to our rental.