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
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
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.