Lake Champlain and the Northeast Kingdom

I woke up to the sound of rain on the skylight. A 10% chance of rain, my foot. But if I’m going to do this touring thing, I have to be ready for all conditions, so I sucked it up and got dressed. It’s a good thing I did. Other than a couple of brief showers at the start of the ride that weren’t hard or lasted that long, I saw no rain for the rest of the day.

After a Green Mountain coffee (I really should’ve seen that coming), I started heading toward Lake Champlain on Rt. 17. I planned this route simply as a way to get from the hostel to the lake, but it soon became one of the biggest highlights of the trip in itself.

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This road connects Rt. 100 and 7, going past the Mad River Glen ski area. It’s a little bumpy, but not bad. Best of all, it’s tight, twisty, goes up and down hills… If I hadn’t had my coffee, this road would’ve woken me up for sure. What a blast.

After that, it was north up Rt. 7 to 2 in Burlington. The GPS took me a back way past the University of Vermont, then across the bridge into North Hero, right in the middle of the lake.

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Unfortunately, I caught up to traffic just being released as the drawbridge went back down, so I was stuck behind slow idiots and the idiots who wanted to go faster but couldn’t. Even worse, there was nowhere to pull over, despite the pleasant scenery, so I was stuck in a line with the lemmings for a while. I eventually managed to pull over at the North Hero fire department and had a snack while I let the lemmings go by. From that point on, it was a pleasant ride to the top of the island.

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From there, I headed west, along the Canadian border. I ended up behind this guy. His license plate is a Canadian ham radio call sign. When he pulled into a store, I followed, said hi, and introduced myself as KJ1H. We talked radio a little, then we went our separate ways.

I continued west and grabbed lunch at Jay Country Store. This place has everything, like real country stores do in rural areas. I had about two hours left in my planned ride. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover when you’re allowed to go a reasonable speed. It was time to improvise a new route.

So I kept going roughly along the Canadian border, then turned south down Rt. 102 along the Connecticut River, the border of New Hampshire. Soon after turning onto 102, I was afraid if made a big mistake. The road was awful, broken and rutted. Though posted at 50mph, I was down to 30 at times just picking my way through the mine field. Then I saw signs for construction ahead. How much worse was it going to get? Not worse, but awesome. The entire 11 mile “construction zone” was brand new immaculate pavement. So I enjoyed myself.

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At the end of 102 I continued on Rt. 2, again, far away from where I was on it before. It was fun, except for two miles that were torn down to loose gravel. There was nothing to do except turn on the flashers and wade through it, very slowly. But I got through, and was soon back up to speed. Several miles were full of tar snakes, and since the sun came out they were nice and slippery. It’s quite disconcerting to feel the front wheel, which was solidly planted before, start turning more and sliding out from under you, even for a fraction of a second. Rather than seeking the optimum racing line through the turns, I started taking whatever line would avoid as many tar snakes as possible.

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Rt. 2 took me straight through the capital of Vermont. While I’d hate to pass through most capital cities even on a weekend, Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the U.S. Aside from the state house, blink and you miss it. Since I was going right by, I had to stop for the gratuitous photo opportunity.

After a short hop down 100B, I was back on 100. I stopped at a convenience store up the road from the hostel, and a bike was about to leave with a very familiar looking engine – the same transverse V-twin as mine. After a quick chat with the owner, i learned It was a ’79 CX500, the naked version of my GL500. Then I was back at the hostel and grabbed a shower. Now I’m at the bar, watching Return of the Jedi, and typing this.

Fun times. I’m pondering a trip into Canada at some point. I was so close today. It wasn’t part of my plan to cross the border, but it still feels like a loose end. One problem with that is I don’t know French, and should probably learn a little if I want to go to Quebec. That, and buy the Canada maps for my GPS.

Anyway. I’ll ponder that later. For now, I’ll enjoy where I am. There’s a marathon going on tomorrow, and some runners are staying here tonight. I’m chatting with one of them, a Navy guy, and getting quite an education on submarines. Sounds like I’ll have to beeline it out of this area tomorrow morning to avoid roads closed down for the race. My route home will depend on how well I do with that.

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