Posts Tagged ‘Lake Champlain’

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.


Vermont Vacation

“Roads to Die For”! I kept repeating that over and over. We were staying south of Burlington, Vermont in Ferrisburg along Lake Champlain. Around here the roads are mostly flat allowing me to get rides in without being away too long from the family. While riding I wished my friends were with me to enjoy these great roads. When riding, I wasn’t riding for speed. I was too busy enjoying the roads to let them go by too fast. Taking photos, noticing what was around me, taking it all in!

See July 6, 2014 Ride

See July 8, 2014 Ride

This area offers awesome roads that stretch out and lure me in. While riding, I see mountain and lake views, farm houses and barns, covered bridges, tree lined roads that sweep around a wide bend begging me to keep going. Most times I wanted to keep going to see where the next road would take me. Many of the roads I rode on were part of the Champlain Bikeway—a series of connected peaceful country roads that I could access just 2 miles from where I stayed.

We stayed on a small peninsula on Lake Champlain with a dock facing west offering great sunsets every night it seemed. Next to the dock is a large rock where the kids and I jumped off all day. Some days we stayed on that doc all day, other days we visited three different swimming holes or downtown Burlington. I jumped in that water from morning until it got too dark to see the water…when I wasn’t biking or jumping into a swimming hole.

I can’t wait to go back.

vermont swimming

Burlington is on the shore of Vermont's Lake Champlain. Both my wife and I agreed we could easily live there.

Burlington is on the shore of Vermont’s Lake Champlain. Both my wife and I agreed we could easily live there.

Friday, September 27 my wife Toni, Joe and I set off for Burlington, Vermont for Parents’ Weekend. My stepdaughter is attending Champlain College.

It promised to be a beautiful weekend with bright blue skies. Starting out though we had just crossed over into Vermont and the morning fog hung over the highway and valleys offering a wonderfully unique landscape that promised to burn off with the afternoon sun.

It was already a great day. Turning off 91 onto route 89, we were cutting diagonally northwest across Vermont. The ride gets even better. Looking from side to side, valleys and mountains offer “epic” views. The 3-1/2 hour drive to the college was very easy. I was enjoying the rolling painting God offered up. It was fall and the color wasn’t quite at peak, but it was still inspiring…

Inspiring me to get the heck out of this car. I had my bike in the trunk and I couldn’t wait to take it out. I wasn’t sure if that would happen though. Our weekend was tightly scheduled.

We stopped at the rest stop for a break. The weather was much sunnier now. The fog had lifted. The warmth of the sun was making the day a “10.” The earlier we got to the hotel, the better chance I had to fit in a ride.

We stopped in Waterbury, Vermont (near Stowe) for lunch. We had been there years before with all the kids during summer vacation. Parking the car in the center of town, we decided on the same place we had lunch those few years earlier.

Downtown Waterbury Vermont

Downtown Waterbury Vermont

The three of us sat down and I pulled out my smartphone. These darn things have some real benefits. Looking at the map, I noted that we were about 25 miles away from our destination. Better yet, route 2 was just outside the restaurant, and, our hotel is on route 2! That settled that.

Pulling the bike out of the trunk, I pulled out Olivia’s laptop to get it out of the way. I made a point of returning it to the trunk. Despite that I would wonder throughout the whole ride if I indeed did just that. I had changed in the restaurant bathroom already and filled up a water bottle. Saying good-bye to Joe and my wife Toni, I was joyfully on my way.

See Friday, September 27 Ride

The weather was pleasant with bright sun and clean, cool air. It was somewhere in the low 60’s and my arm warmers were all I needed. Route 2 follows the highway all the way into Burlington. Along the way, I spied many mountain tops, rocky cliffs with lookouts, farms, and a green metal bridge I always wanted to ride over every time we drove along the highway. The road was mostly flat, especially by Vermont’s standards with a few hills thrown in along the way. The highway in no way subtracted from the beautiful scenery. I couldn’t have been much happier and texted my wife that I didn’t want the ride to end. Nothing like a “stolen” ride on a beautiful day…in the fall, in Vermont! Road rides don’t get much more awesome.

Just outside of town, I was already stopping to take a photo.

Just outside of town, I was already stopping to take a photo.

Just starting off, the views were already worth the ride.

Just starting off, the views were already worth the ride.

Every time I saw this metal bridge from the highway, I wished to ride over it.

Every time I saw this metal bridge from the highway, I wished to ride over it.

I felt like I did when I was riding in Oregon. I stopped multiple times to take photos. I kept a moderate pace—I was appreciating the ride, but the day as well. My gaze wasn’t fixed on what was ahead, but what was all around me. A few steeper hills reminded me that the french fries I had at lunch were a poor idea despite how good they were. Getting to the hotel, I was on schedule and very happy. I saw a few side roads I would have jumped on if I had the chance but was happy with what I was able to do.

I found my old an unusual bikes in Burlington. Here is a well take care of Schwinn, with a cool bike seat.

I found my old an unusual bikes in Burlington. Here is a well take care of Schwinn, with a cool bike seat.

The next day we went to downtown Burlington, stopped for breakfast at the Skinny Pancake for some crepes. Then we walked through the Saturday morning farmer’s market taking in the unique wares it had to offer. It was an even better day. Around noon I said to my wife “shouldn’t we get going back to the college for the hike?” We had a group hike planned for parents and their families. It promised to be easy and enjoyable on such a beautiful day. Olivia said “I’m not going on a hike!” I started to see red. Then my wife said she was bringing Olivia shopping for some cold weather clothes. My mind quickly started churning and my attitude changed on a dime. “That’s fine. Take me back to the hotel.” It promised to be a fine afternoon. Everyone else was going shopping. I was on my own! I was going biking! What the heck was I complaining about?

Getting back to the hotel, I quickly pulled out my phone again and found the fastest way out of civilization. Taking route 116 south, I was off the busy strip and heading to open country in no time. Compared to much of Vermont, these roads were not nearly as rural. I was circling around towns like Chittenden and Shelburn that also border Lake Champlain. This part of Vermont is more populated than the Northern Kingdom of Vermont that I usually visit. Still, these roads were perfect for the ride I wanted.

See Saturday, September 28 Ride

The day was sunny and warm. I left my arm warmers in my back pocket and never needed them. The roads were again flat for Vermont. I had some hills and some steep hills. But I happily did without the mile-plus hills that are nearby. This part of Vermont has the lowest point (Lake Champlain), and highest peak (Mt. Mansfield). That can make for some really long, steep hills. If they were nearby, I didn’t see them. I didn’t have that kind of time.

Five minutes into my ride on Saturday, I was already on excellent roads.

Five minutes into my ride on Saturday, I was already on excellent roads.

A great view of the peak Camel's Hump in the background.

A great view of the peak Camel’s Hump in the background.

On the last half of my ride, I forced myself to stop for only one more photo on this perfect day.

On the last half of my ride, I forced myself to stop for only one more photo on this perfect day.

I was again in my glory. The fall color was close to peak, the roads were rolling along lazily. I picked roads by instinct and seemed to choose well. I’m not sure how hard that would be around here anyway. My original plan was to head straight to Hinesburg along route 116. Not far into my ride I found this road angling off to the right—Cheese Factory Road. Looked like a good choice to me. I prefer not to ride on main route roads anyhow if I can help it. It was all I hoped and led to other great roads close to Lake Champlain. Soon enough I decided to turn towards my original destination, albeit via other back roads. Finally hooking up with the intersection I was looking for, I turned back onto 116 with an intent of taking it all the way back. That changed when I found an alternative on my phone that would swing me back farther up the road.

All-in-all it was one of the best road rides all season. Great roads, perfect temperature, blue sky…I wished my friends were riding with me but I made do. This was fall road riding at its best!

Getting back I was right on time. Experience and a little bit of luck will do that. We were heading off for a short cruise on Lake Champlain—Joe, Toni and I. Olivia abstained. “I already did that,” she explained.