50.4 mi / 9.9 mph / 2342 ft. climbing
Home: The guesthouse at Rhonda and Glenn’s WarmShowers
We awoke to a beautiful morning, again joining Abigail and Hobart at their patio table, where they piled our plates high with blueberry pancakes.
But our thankful goodbye was the end of the good stuff for a while, as we were soon back on US-2, which continued to have small to non-existent shoulders, which pushed us into the travel lane, which had a surprisingly-shitty surface, so our need to dodge cracks and holes made us weave even further into the travel lane and unpredictably hit our brakes, which all made the asshole drivers even more mad at us than their default level.
And then there was the heat, again coming on strong early in the day, to amplify all those annoyances and frustrations. The one saving grace was that the low humidity continued, so at least the breeze on downhills was moderately-effective at cooling us by evaporating the thick layer of sweat we earned ourselves on the 90+ degree uphills. And the air also did the same for the 5lb. bags of ice whose remainders we rubbed on our skin after we filled our water bottles with the rest.
There had been a Cross Vermont Trail paralleling our route with everything else in the Winooski valley this whole way from Burlington, but everything I read about it indicated that the surface was very rough and not a lot of fun for loaded touring bikes even if you like unpaved surfaces, which Rett doesn’t. So I just figured the downsides (much slower riding, needing to walk long stretches, more-winding routes) wouldn’t make it worth the risk. But by the time we reached West Danville, the downsides of US-2 had revealed themselves to maybe even worse, so was it worth the risk to hop on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail at this point?
I saw an older couple unloading their e-bikes from their car, and asked if they could tell me anything about the trail here. The man’s eyes immediately lit up, and he described it as their favorite trail, that they drive an hour to ride. It would definitely add more mileage, but going our way it would be a mild downhill the entire way, the surface would be good, and the rock cuts and tunnels were exciting features. He then asked if he should go over to help convince my wife directly, and I said yeah, that might be a good idea! Suitably convinced but still somewhat wary, we got on the trail.
Of course he wasn’t correct about everything, but his mistakes actually worked out in our favor! The 0.5% to 1% railroad-grade downhill was much better than the brake-gripping 3% he’d mentioned, and there was far more cooling shade than he indicated. It added 4 to 5 miles to our route, but the relatively smooth surface allowed us to be pulled the whole way with zero effort, and the cooling woods and scenic path once again totally turned our day around.
The trail ended in St. Johnsbury, where White Market was a perfect stop. We bought some pre-made sandwiches and drinks, and sat for a time in their air-conditioned eating area for some midday relief. Then groceries and another bag of ice sent us out armed for the rest of the ride. For the final several miles, US-2 even got wide, smooth, consistent shoulders, letting us ride relaxed through the more remote-feeling forest.
Our destination was our second WarmShowers stay in a row, very unusual for us, but a surprising lack of other on-route accomodations at our distances, combined with the not-heavy usage of this route (Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route cuts across New England further south) meant a WarmShowers felt like a good choice.
And Glenn and Rhonda’s place definitely was a good choice! “Camps” (aka summer vacation homes) surround Miles Pond, but they were one of the few in the community who have settled into year-round living. We arrived to find Glenn in the water, working on his small sailboat. We soon joined him, making it two “unique” showers at our two WarmShowers hosts. It was a refreshment both necessary and entirely sufficient. We had great conversation first in the water (Glenn is a doctor with a lot of curiosity about things outside his field), and then up on their unique rock-enclosed putting-green dock, with some refreshing beverages.
Their property (equally gorgeous but quite different from last night’s stay) tumbles down to the water in stages, and we got our own under-garage half-in-the-earth guest room near the top (with the earth making it cooler than the main house and making our hosts slightly jealous!) We were on our own for dinner again, which honestly makes me feel like less of a leech, but shared in their dessert on their deck. Rhonda (a nurse), in a couple of brief anecdotes, unintentionally summarized for us one-nighters what it feels like to live in this community for a season, or a year: 1) the winner of the community calendar photo contest gets a free calendar as their prize, and 2) there is a boat-based band that floats by on the 4th of July called the “Pon Tunes”. Yup, sounds like a pretty great place, and once again we feel so lucky to get a glimpse inside simply because we’re idiots who ride our bicycles from pretty great place to pretty great place. Especially since Glenn and Rhonda themselves aren’t yet those sort of idiots; their cross-country ride is still in the early-planning Adventure Cycling-inspired stage, and hopefully we provided at least a little inspiration in exchange for their generosity.