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by Pamela Blalock


The Tour of Scenic Rural Vermont (TOSRV-East), now in its 22nd year has sometimes also been referred to as the Tour of Soggy Rainy Vermont and even the Tour of Several Restaurants in Vermont for reasons that will become obvious later in this article. This ride, which is put on annually by the Greater Boston Chapter of AYH, has become one of my favorite cycling events.

After doing brevets throughout the spring, where I have to keep an eye on the clock, and keep stops to a minimum, it is really nice to do a pair of back to back centuries, where my main goal is to get from breakfast to snack to lunch to snack to ice cream to dinner to dessert and finally to bed, with a hundred or so miles or riding through beautiful valleys and farmlands in Vermont.

The ride officially starts at The Rafters in Rawsonville, VT, and goes 100 miles north along Route 100 to Waterbury, home of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. The next day, it returns along the same route. A rider certainly doesn't need a cue sheet to find the way, but the cue does offer recommendations for good places to stop and eat, or stop and shop along the way. Not that a rider could go wrong, stopping at any of the hundreds of country stores and delis and gift shops on the route.

Jamie King and I had such a good time riding the tandem on Tour of New England, that we decided to do this ride on the tandem too. A small group of us decided to forego the primitive facilities in Rawsonville, and stay at the comparatively plush Motel-6 in Brattleboro instead. Lindy (Mrs. King), Dave, Kenny, Osman, and Jim planned to start to ride in Brattleboro, traveling 30 miles up route 30 over Bald Mountain and quite a few other nasty hills before reaching Rawsonville. Gerry, Jamie and I decided to drive to the start in Rawsonville and carry sag bags for the others.

I hadn't spent very much time on the tandem since returning from the 600 km in BC, so it needed a bit of work. I spent Thursday evening putting the bike back together, replacing the rack and fenders, etc. The shifting was kind of sloppy on the 600 km, so I put a new chain and freewheel on, and the steering was becoming indexed, so I also replaced the headset. I've been trying to avoid putting any more money into this bike, since I've ordered a new one that should be ready in a few months, but I can't keep ignoring it if I'm going to keep putting so many miles on it.

Jamie and I spent a few minutes before the ride putting on his saddle, pedals, and the air horn that I now carry with me everywhere. (I found some of these at REI last week, so I now have several and won't have to move it from bike to bike.) We probably should have spent a little more time making adjustments, since we reached the end of the driveway and had to change things again. Despite shifting well on the repair stand, the first shift under load indicated that the new chain and freewheel had not solved the problem. In fact it was even worse than on the 600 km.

We tried tweaking the derailleur, but that didn't help. We started talking about what might cause the problem. I didn't think it was the pulleys since I had replaced them recently, but Jamie pointed out that other parts may have also worn out. I then thought about how may miles this particular piece of hardware had on it. It went to France for PBP 87. I moved it to the vitus the next year and it did BMB in 88, and almost every other ride I did that year. I moved it to the tandem last year. It was time to retire it and let it rest. The nearest bike shop was 23 miles away and on the other side of Terrible Mountain. I decided I would be making a purchase or two there.

We were happily riding along, avoiding the gears that jumped, when Jamie tried shifting the front derailleur and the lever came off in his hand. We backtracked on foot for a few hundred feet looking for the bolt, but no luck. Jamie, with a quick flash of brilliance, suggested that a water bottle cage bolt might be the same size, and sure enough it was. Unfortunately, the lever had turned and we lost some of the range of motion, so we could only use two of the three rings in front. We decided to go for the granny and middle ring, since we had this little mountain called Terrible between us and the bike shop.

We easily made it over Terrible, and while I was breathing hard, Jamie didn't worry that I might be giving birth as I had on a few hills a couple of weeks before. Without our big chainring, I knew we wouldn't set any records going down the north side, but I was wrong. The north side is two steps, with 9% at the top, then a level spot and 10% at the bottom. I usually roll over the top and coast until the flat spot, stand up and hammer, and tuck for the bottom. Last year, Steve and I reached 67 mph using this technique. Just coasting from the top down my computer displayed a top speed of 60, but the Avocet 50 on the front maxed out at 109.5. (Gee, I thought one of the great features of these was that they didn't register false highs:)

We had a great time at the Hatchery Restaurant in Ludlow, showing off our max speed, as well as enjoying blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. I put the computer back on the bike before breakfast was served and got a real kick out of the look on Lindy's face, when she rolled up and looked at our max speed. It really was priceless, especially since Jamie had told her that he was planning to ride down the hill no-handed!

After breakfast, we made the trek over to the bike shop. As we rolled the beast in, Jamie asked the mechanic if he ever worked on Winnebagos. We asked for a bolt and a derailleur, and proceeded to do our own repairs, borrowing an occasional tool. The people at the shop were great, allowing us to do this, and also seemed amazed by our competence handling the bike. We had a little trouble getting the lever working again, and getting the cable rethreaded. Bar-cons are finicky. But an hour later, we were back on the road. It was a convenient delay, since the rains came and went while we were in the shop. All the other riders were treated to a great soaking rain while ascending and descending Killington.

We were joined in the shop by Dave and Osman, who offered help and sympathy as we wrestled with the bike at times, and then offered great company for the rest of the ride. When we finally pulled back out, it was quarter to noon, and we had only ridden 23 miles. Making Ben and Jerry's before closing, and stopping at our other favorite stops might be tricky, but we'd try. Apparently we were a bit trigger happy when we left, since Dave kept getting his tongue wrapped around his hub, trying to stay with us on the flat and gently rolling section that followed. We decided to set a little more reasonable pace, but then got into a discussion of tandem climbing ability, and challenged Dave to a sprint up Killington. I offered Jamie a 6-pack of his choice if we beat Dave, and we were off. Well Dave must have been faking before or recovered quite well while we pulled him through the wind for the next 5 miles, because once challenged to outclimb a tandem, he was off like a shot. We took it relatively easy, and arrived at the top half a minute or so later. Of course since tradition holds that the first rider has to buy sodas for everyone else, I wasn't too bummed about losing the sprint and I think we still disproved the tandems climb slow theory.

The white-knuckle descent down the north side rolled out gradually before coming to the famous Stockbridge General Store. Just before the store, there is a small welded together dinosaur (non-child eating variety) and an outhouse. In addition to these two things, the store is famous for its homemade bread and pastries. I enjoyed a delicious turkey sandwich and a bit of sunshine as I lounged around in one of the many Adirondack chairs scattered about on the front lawn. But the next food stop was calling, so the four of us waddled back to our bikes and pointed them north.

The little climb up Granville Gulch past the waterfall would burn off some of lunch making room for more food at the Warren Country Store. Warren is just off of Route 100, but has always been one of my favorite stops along the way. This place is well known for its sesame noodles, and pastries, and that's exactly what I decided to chow down on. While here, I picked up a couple of noisemakers. I had forgotten to replace the regular horns after my last trip, and the ride seemed kind of quiet, so I purchased a couple of whistles for added fun. The store has a large open deck next to a stream, where we enjoyed our afternoon snack. The sun teased us for a while, threatening to make an appearance, but hesitating. The weather was not quite what any of us, who had paid attention to the weatherliars™, had expected. Highs were predicted in the 90's with lots of sunshine. The cool overcast skies were actually a welcome relief.

The sun did poke out for a while along the next part of the route, and our two-dimensional riding partners from that parallel universe that only exists during sunny hours made an appearance for the first time that day. They are very shy though and pointing them out often makes them disappear, so I sort of held my breath and refrained from talking about them.

The next little town of Waitsfield has all the charm one would expect of a Vermont community, and next year, I may bypass Warren, so I can stop there. There are just too many good places to stop!! Soon afterwards, we made the left hand turn to stay on 100, and climb over the Duxbury Hills. There is a small miniature golf place on one of these hills, miles from nowhere, called Lots of Balls, possibly named for the guts it took to locate the place there. We might have stopped for a round, if it weren't closed for graduation, and we weren't so close to missing the Ben and Jerry's reward at the end. Instead, we flew down the hill, and beat Dave in the final town line sprint for Waterbury. We continued up the hill past the Holiday Inn and reached B&J's 15 minutes before closing. My mother's voice in my head told me a Banana Split would ruin dinner, but I managed to justify a chocolate chip cone. I knew I would need the energy to climb to hill into the Holiday Inn. It appeared to be the worst climb of the day. We hadn't used the granny since Terrible, but would definitely need it for Mount Holiday. We have to find a new inn for next year!!

We arrived at the hotel just in time for the start of dinner, all you can eat spaghetti and broccoli, finished off with delicious carrot cake. I got a chance to meet some of the other riders I hadn't seen all day, due to our mechanical problems. They had indeed endured several downpours. We bragged about our dry ride and our 109.5 mph max on Terrible!

After a quick shower, I rejoined the group by the pool for the passing out of patches. Those celebrating 5, 10, 15, and 20 year anniversaries were also rewarded with 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 mile patches. We had one 20 year rider, one 15 year veteran, and a few 5's. This is only my third, but I'll keep coming back, and someday earn my 20 year patch.

A small group took a walk around town in search of more ice cream before retiring to a cozy bed. 6 AM came awfully fast, but I rose and dressed and headed down for a breakfast of pancakes and French toast. I didn't think we were poking around too much, but we ended up being one of the last bikes to leave the hotel. Oh, well, barring mechanical problems, we figured we would catch most of the riders along the way. Predictions of rain in the afternoon caused most riders to want to move out quickly.

We spotted a few riders as we began climbing through Duxbury. We continued to blow away other riders' misconception that tandems climb slow as we caught and passed quite a few while going up. Once back on flat to rolling terrain, we began picking up riders and forming a little train with a tandem engine. Just after the turnoff for Middlebury we spotted Lindy, Dave and Kenny, and the town line sprints began in earnest. A few miles later, we spotted Stu, Robin and Rick off in the distance, and our speed increased another couple miles per hour as we attempted to reel them in. We caught them a few miles before Stockbridge, and Jamie, Osman and I decided to take it easy while Robin and Lindy duked it out going for the store.

Lindy, Dave and Kenny had planned to rendezvous with Charlie somewhere near Bridgewater, and do part of the BMB route back to Brattleboro. Charlie had done the district time trial Saturday, and had driven up to Brattleboro Saturday night. They would add 50 miles and three major climbs to the ride after Terrible. Jamie, Osman, Jim and I decided to take a much more direct and flat route back to Brattleboro. (I believe we have more functioning brain cells:) Our route would only add 30 miles, so we enjoyed a leisurely lunch stop, while Lindy, Dave and Kenny blasted through. I surprised most people by downing two veggie sandwiches. Yes, I do have a healthy appetite, especially when it's cool.

I wanted the extra energy to climb Killington, our last major climb of the day. We easily made it over, and rolled on toward Ludlow. Just before reaching the bottom of the mountain, the raindrops began to fall. I hadn't been rained on since April in Seattle, and we had been having entirely too nice a streak of weekend weather in New England, so I didn't complain. I just stopped and added my rain jacket. It was really just a heavy mist for the next 15 miles into Ludlow, where we spotted a bakery. I saw a yummy looking icing covered fudge thingie and a diet coke (to balance it out) Jamie went for the less sugar intensive crumb cake. We sat outside on the covered porch and watched as the rain began to come down harder and harder. More and more riders pulled into the parking lot with the same idea. I spotted a few without jackets, but most had come prepared. Let me just take a moment to say that it rains in Vermont, no matter what the weatherman says, it rains in Vermont. Take your rain gear!!!

I remembered the 80% off bin at the bike shop a block down the road and mentioned that I had seen some jackets the day before. I don't know if any of the less prepared riders made purchases or not. Our route diverged from the standard route at this point, as we scouted out unchartered territory (for us at least.) We continued straight on 103, all the way to route 5, which runs along the Connecticut River. I added my rain pants, and light gloves before we headed out along with Osman and Jim. 103 had a fair amount of traffic, but a nice shoulder, and a lot of downhill. Unfortunately, the shoulder wasn't prefect, and Jim suffered a flat. We munched on crackers, kept Jim company and even helped a little as he replaced his tire and tube in the pouring rain. At some point we noticed that despite the fact that we were standing still, the Avocet 50 seemed to think we were moving along at 50+ mph. I guess it got a little too wet. I've had the computer sitting on my desk now for a couple of days, and have accumulated a few thousand more miles. I'll be making a run over to REI tonight to take it back.

We reached route 5 which parallels the Connecticut River. Silly me, I thought a road next to a river would be flat. Actually my last 600 km should have taught me that this was not true. We hit some pretty good rollers, and one 8% going into Putney, but admittedly, nothing like Mount Terrible. We ended our day with 130 miles right back at the Motel 6 where we had stayed two nights before. Eight of us split the cost of a room in order to shower and have a place to wait for others to arrive. We munched on chips and cokes as appetizers before heading over to the Steak-Out for dinner.

Yes, I ate like a horse on this ride, and didn't gain an ounce. Now if this isn't incentive an inspiration for doing longer rides, I don't know what is.


BBS 400 km