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Tour of SCORCHING ROASTING Vermont

by Pamela Blalock

 

Riders on TOSRV-East, an annual event that covers 100 miles of Vermont's famous route 100 from Rawsonville to Waterbury (aka Ben and Jerry-ville), experienced the highest recorded temperatures during the month of June in Vermont ever. Just as the original TOSRV is known for its dramatic thunderstorms, TOSRV-East (Tour of Scenic Rural Vermont) has also become known for its erractic weather conditions. It has been called the Tour of soggy rainy Vermont thanks to quite a few years with torrential downpours. I've often referred to it as the Tour of Several Restaurants in Vermont, since I usually manage to ride about 20 miles before seeing a cafe or general store where I must stop and try the homebaked bread or brownies or panncakes or ... you get the idea. But this year, some made it the Tour of swimming in rivers in Vermont thanks to the all time record highs on Saturday.

John and I, on our tandem, along with Jamie and Lindy, on their tandem, and Dave, Mark, Osman, Gerry and Jim on singles, decided to do a longer route starting about 33 miles from the official start, and staying in an air-conditioned, black fly and mosquito free motel, rather than the barn in Rawsonville, where the real masocists spent the first night.

We rose at 4:30 AM, packed up gear, pumped up tires, and rode over to Dunkin Donuts for a light snack and then started to bake, uh I mean ride at around 5:45. The air was quite sticky and the temps were already past 80F. I've been in New England for almost 5 years now, and I can't remember starting a ride this early in the morning with temps so high, since moving. Heck I don't remember rides in NC this hot, but maybe that's because Saturday's heat killed off the memory cells with that data !

We rolled out with the group for the first ten miles or so, but the longest covered bridge in Vermont drew us away, while we stopped to take pictures and read the history. We continued onward and upward toward the official start in Rawsonville. We had managed to send bags up to the start with a rider who had stayed at the motel, but planned to drive to the start, so there was no rush to get to Rawsonville before the sag left (not that I really minded carrying overnight gear).

The official starting time for the full tour was 7. The mini tour, which covers about 60 miles a day, started at 7:30. As we passed the start at about 7:45, we began passing a few of the late starters from the mini-tour.

The first major climb is over Terrible Mountain, which isn't so Terrible going north. It's about two miles long in that direction and reaches 9% at the top. We caught quite a few of the mini-tour riders along this stretch. Cresting the top, we took a breath, and began the 5 mile descent into Ludlow. I've reached my all time record high speed of 67 mph on this descent, but the headwinds today would prevent us from breaking that record. The bottom part of the hill only tops out at 10%, but the smooth straight, relatively traffic free road makes it ideal for seriously high speed. We hit 61.0 near the bottom.

We coasted into Ludlow for the first real feed stop of the day, as we downed banana pancakes and Belgium waffles smothered in maple syrup. We enjoyed the air-conditioned comfort of the restaurant, but route 100 and Ben and Jerry's ice cream called, so we resumed our journey. The next 15 miles are deceptively and gradually uphill. (This isn't obvious until the return trip.) The slight upgrade and the headwind that did nothing to cool us, only blowing hot air into our faces, and made this stretch of road discouraging as we seemed to just crawl. Missing my full 8 hours of sleep, I was also feeling drowsy, so when we reached the first checkin point at the bottom of the climb up Sherbourne Pass (Killington), I decided I was ready for a cold bottle of sparkling caffeine. Refreshed by the Diet Coke, and a headdunking, we continued on.

Maybe after climbing Mt. Mitchell last month, or climbing 7 gaps last weekend, I'm getting used the the hills, but this climb didn't seem as hard as I remembered. (I suppose I should give some credit to my RAAM-qualified captain, who lives for hills. ;-) We reached the top of our climb, where Route 100 plunges down to the right toward Pittsfield, while route 4 continues on up past the ski areas. The descent was also fast, but nothing like Killington. I think we hit 49 on a little bump while we were airborn !

We rolled through Pittsfield and onto one of my favorite country stores in all of Vermont, the Stockbridge General Store. Just before reaching the store, there is a small steel dinosaur sitting off on the right side of the road. He points the way to an outhouse down the hill. The store has a covered porch with tables and chairs, and usually has a few chairs out on the lawn, along with a hose for parched cyclists to soak themselves down. I ran water through my hair for some time, but was informed that Jamie held the record for the longest and most times under the hose so far. We then headed inside to order veggie and cheese sandwiches on homemade bread.

John and I were both contemplating finding a barber to shave our heads that day. For the past couple of years, I've kept my hair very short, but this year I've let it grow out a bit, and the heat was really making me rethink this decision. Just before leaving the store, I soaked my head again. We remounted and headed on for Waitsfield and Richard's Special Vermont Pizza.

The climb up through Granville Gulf was pleasant, but the shade I had hoped to be rewarded with there was only in the southbound lanes. We continued to bake, and tempting as it was to stop at Glen Moss Falls for a shower or walk through the stream, we pressed on northbound.

I've always taken the detour off Route 100 into Warren Village and the Warren Store for their great handmade pastries, sesame noodles and wonderful sandwiches, but this has always left me too full to think of stopping at any of the inviting looking places in Waitsfield. Last weekend while taming a few gaps, John and I discovered RSVP, a great little pizza place on Bridge street, and decided to aim for it. Apparently we were a bit sweaty when we walked in, because when the waiter asked what we wanted, he offered to throw a bucket of water at us. Instead we opted for a garlic, onion and pineapple pizza. It was fabulous.

I must say I have really been pleasantly surprised that my stomach has been able to tolerate solid food in the heat this year. In the past, I've had major problems, and have had to resort to liquid diets. This is much better.

Just before leaving, I decided to alter my seat position a little, and while doing so, John noticed that his seat had slipped down a bit. While retightening, we managed to break the binder bolt. Fortunately, we found a replacement bolt in a nearby hardware store, and were on our way after a short delay.

The final long climb of the day is a series of three climbs up through Duxbury, past the "Lots of Balls" miniature golf course, where I've always wanted to stop and play. We'd have to forego that pleasure this year, thanks to our mechanical problem, if we wanted to get to Ben & Jerry's before closing time, so we pressed on and over the hill, with a spectacular descent into Waterbury, where we manged to follow our noses to the Banana Fudge Sundae awaiting us on the top of another hill.

The last climb of the day up to the hotel was also the steepest, and the only time all weekend that we used the granny. (Ourlow gear is one to one). John and I both commented that it was a hotel entrance that would make Lon Haldeman proud. It seemed on PAC Tour that our hotel was always the one in town with the steepest hill to climb to get to it!

We arrived at the hotel just in time to shower and get dinner - an all you could eat lasagna buffet. Having eaten our way there, and having just shared an ice cream sundae, we only made a small, but respectable dent in the buffet.

After dinner, patches were presented. For veterans, there are also 5, 10, 15 and 20 year patches. One rider was on his 22 tour ! This was my 4th, so next year, I'll get a coveted 1000 mile patch.

Those of us who started in Brattleboro, decided to start out pretty early again Sunday morning, to try to beat some of the heat, and get back at a not too unreasonable time. John and I turned in early and arranged a wakeup call for 4:30, again.

We hit the road at 5:30 with cooler temps than the day before. It was going to be a warm day, but not as humid as Saturday, although the sprinkles that splattered us leaving town made me wonder how dry we might stay. Leaving that early, we arrived in Warren before the store opened. John took the time to make a call back to Ireland. The 5 hour time difference makes these calls hard to coordinate. His brother, Gordon, is coming over this summer on a student visa and this was our last chance to put in last minute orders for delicious Cadbury chocolates.

After making Sprint-stockholders happy, we continued on toward the Hancock Hotel and blueberry pancakes for breakfast. We met up with the rest of the group there, but our lingering over two cups of cappuccino left us the last to roll out. Again, we hit a few sprinkles, but then all the clouds burned off and the temps began to rise steadily. The headwind from the day before had, amazingly stayed with us, so we could finally enjoy a tailwind.

There is a dirt road that goes through Sherbourne, offers spectacular views, a little more shade, and does cut off some of the climbing, and some of the descending of Sherbourne pass. We decided to go for the views, and they were great. Coming up out of Bridgewater, we caught Derrick, who had decided to take it a bit easier than some of the others. Derrick was from Arizona, so the heat wasn't a problem, but the 140 miles the day before was his longest ride to date. We chatted and enjoyed the gradual 15 mile descent into Ludlow, before the killer climb over Terrible. This was the reverse of the descent where we reached 61 with a headwind the day before. It's a two step climb, with a 10% part at the bottom, a flatter section, and a 9% climb top, lasting about 5 miles total. The winds shifted and we faught crosswinds going up. We reached the top, waved to the officials, and began the 2 miles descent. The winds tossed us about, and John commented that it wouldn't have been any fun on a single, as we really were getting pushed around from the side. We rolled on down to Weston, where we found a delightful little cafe for lunch. Derrick joined us a few mintes later.

The next 10 miles had some short steep tandem rollers, the kind where you fly down one side so fast, that you can coast up to the top, while the single riders with you are struggling. We had fun on this section. As we passed the turnoff for Rawsonville (and the official finish) we began our final 2 mile climb of the day, which was followed by a 30 mile seriously fun for tandems section back to Brattleboro. The climb out had not seemed so bad, but it really was uphill almost the whole way. We flew, hitting our top speed of the day on one of the early steeper descents, but then just kept hammering along at 25-30 mph almost all the way into Brattleboro, where we took a quick dip in the pool, and then headed over to the Steak Out to graze at the salad bar, gobble down tons of shrimp, a main course, and then shoe-horn in some dessert, before the drive home.