Massachusetts to Virginia, sort of

In September we rode to Burlington to see Leah and Nick. This month we cross paths with Keith and Leeann and their three boys near Lake Placid. All these Alaskans are on the east coast. When darkness sets in up north, it’s time to go south.

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Leaving friends behind, we have good intentions of making a large detour to ride a section of the TATR. We make it about a mile before changing our minds. It’s cold and rain is in the forecast. Instead, we point east, towards the shores of Lake Champlain. The lake creates a micro climate and we know it will be warmer here.

It is.

A short ferry ride delivers us to Grande Isle. It’s an oasis of farms and orchards and baked goods. There’s nothing not to like, and we stuff our bags full. Tyndall’s seat post bag easily swallows a half peck of apples. Cider donuts are tucked in the spaces veggies aren’t.

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We promise ourselves to not buy anymore food for another day, knowing full well something else will appear that we can’t resist.

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For a bit, we go north, connecting the lake’s islands. But with winter licking at our heels, we soon turn south. Amtrak helps us make the journey to DC in a day. The Vermonter’s roll on bike service is exactly that: roll on. No box needed.

Soon, we are tootling west on the C&O Canal trail. It’s pleasant and flat and an easy way to exit the city.

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The wind whips up in the afternoon, blowing down the Potomac, bringing rain.

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I ride on, peering out from under my hood. One, two, three, four, five other groups of touring cyclists pass us going east. All bundled up against the weather, most with smiles on their faces.

We pick a tent spot near the river, beneath big trees. The wind dies down, only to return late in the night. A branch falls, it’s pointy end falling just so, coming through the rain fly and the mesh inner of the tent, and landing on Tyndall. It’s light. He is uninjured, but startled. I sigh and rollover. Something else to fix, more patches to sew.

From the Potomac, we make our way to Rixeyville. We’ll be here for awhile, spending time with his parents and scheming up plans for the future.

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With fresh tomatoes and eggs every day, it’s a good place to be.

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Of Acorns and Owls and the Adirondacks

It’s a mast year for acorns. They fall all around. Today my helmet provides protection from any clumsy mistakes, and from the nuts falling from the sky. My wheels spin out on patches going uphill. These guys are everywhere this year. Someone says something about making acorn flour, but that sounds like a lot of work.

We left my parents house this morning, the colder temperatures chasing us to warmer climes. I filled Tyndall’s frame bag with volunteer cucumbers the size of my forearm from the compost pile. I filled mine with chocolate chip cookies. 

I ride down the road, squinting through the mist with teary eyes. It was a good visit. This statement doesn’t do the last six weeks justice, but it’s the best I can do today.

We ride south and west, connecting state forest and conservation lands, following as many of these signs as we can.

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They always lead to the best riding.

Massachusetts has made an effort to save the land. It shows.

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We watch the sunset from a fire tower, sharing the moment with a man on his way home from work. Stuck in traffic on Route 9, he came up here to savour a moment away from the hustle and bustle. He tells us about camping at Phantom Ranch and about his job as a landscape architect. A new moon chases the sun down the western horizon. Owls hoot, calling out to one another through the forest. For this trip, I packed two books. I snuggle in and begin reading, relishing the feel of the paper in my hands.

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I have family south of Albany and we’re going there. Across the Connecticut River, through the Berkshires and across the Hudson. Cucumbers and chocolate chip cookies gone, we fill up on apples and baked goods.

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We ride railways and canalways, going north and then west.

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Leaves crunch under my tires. To connect to the Adirondacks, we ride paved roads. Most are quiet. Some are not. All have road kill: possum, porcupine, skunk, squirrel, racoon, woolly bear catapillars with short brown strips, or none at all. Our collective need for speed is killing these creatures. Perhaps it’s the grey sky instigating my melancholy mood.

The edges of Hurricane Matthew reach the southern edges of the Adirondacks. We take shelter at a picnic pavilion in a town park. I put the cozy cabin rentals up the road out of my head and am thankful for the roof tonight. We’ll stay warm and dry.

The rain passes and the cold sets in, driven by a fierce north wind. We put on all our clothes and make slow progress down the road. Instead of riding, today we hike, trying to warm our feet. The fire tower on Mt. Snowy gives 360 degree views. I linger until it feels like my whole face is frozen, savor a bit more sun, then beat feet down the trail, chasing after Tyndall.

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We ride through hamlets and villages, most businesses closed up for the season. Ice cream cones and baked goods are in short supply.

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Not to worry though, Stewart’s convenience stores provide for all a bikepacker’s needs. Closed campgrounds the perfect place to tuck away in the evening. We find abandoned fire wood and toast ourselves to perfection before jumping in the tent.

Near the summit of Blue Mountain a lady tells Tyndall he has leaves in his hair. We joke we’re not moving fast enough anymore to stop the foliage from settling on us.

With a whole day of rain in the forecast, we savour two perfect fall days. Just as the drops begin to fall, we arrive at the Saranac Lake Library. Inside time on a rainy day can’t be beat.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.