VBT (originally Vermont Bicycle Touring, though now that they offer tours all over the world they only use the initials) offers bicycle tours from Inn-to-Inn - they plan the tour, make all reservations, provide guides, transport luggage from Inn to Inn and monitor riders periodically from a van in case of troubles along the road. Riders peddle at their own rates and are usually offered two or three different length rides for each day that all arrive at the destination Inn. I went on one of VBT's tours several years ago in central Vermont and really enjoyed it. It was the last week in September and was a little before the peak in the fall colors. At the time of that tour one of the others I considered was the Vermont Northeast Kingdom tour. This tour travels through the northeast corner of Vermont, the most rural and undeveloped part of Vermont consisting of rolling hills, farms, small villages, lakes and a few resorts. Again I chose the last week in September but being further north this hit the peak in fall colors almost perfectly.
The following is a diary of my trip: (click on any picture for a
larger image, use back to return to this diary)
|Sep 26||I drive to Albany, Vermont and the Village House Inn (stopping at Dartmouth
College to see my daughter). On arrival I am greeted by the tour
guides and most of the other riders who have arrived earlier. I meet
Tom with whom I will share a room during the tour.
The group has 14 riders from all over the US (California, Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, and New Jersey). Most are couples. Two of the single guys are old college friends. Only Tom and I came without a partner. One of the couples are on their honeymoon and are ridding a custom-made tandem that played a prominent supporting role in their wedding. Nearly all have been on VBT tours before, some as many as a dozen. All are experienced bikers (as opposed to my first tour when one rider had never ridden over 10 miles before!).
We have a wonderful dinner and most of us walk around town a bit before bed.
|Sep 27||Breakfast is at 8:00 but most get up earlier for an orientation on their rented bikes. Since I brought my own bike, I spend the time checking over my bike, loading it (water bottles, pump, rear "trunk" bag, ...) and finishing packing my luggage. They will load the luggage on the van after breakfast. We all eat a rather large breakfast to prepare for out morning ride.||
The VBT van and bikes
|Today's ride has 21 and 42 mile options (21 mile option is to ride
in the van after lunch). We ride through Newport on Lake Memphremagog
(which spans with Canada).
There is also a 4.2 mile optional extension just before lunch, up a
hill for a nice view of Lake Memphremagog.
Lunch today is provided and served at Prouty Park, on the beach of the Lake just outside Newport.
Marina on Lake Memphremagog, Newport
|After lunch we ride from Newport to Westmore on Lake Willoughby.
We have 4.6 miles of dirt roads. My thin road tires are not very
good on dirt, but these roads are quite smooth - better than many of the
paved roads - no cracks or potholes. However, we have about 1 mile
of newly graded dirt with about 2-3" of soft dirt. Going uphill the
tires sometimes slip, but the 0.5 miles of downhill is the real problem.
If you use brakes, the wheels lockup and you go into a skid. We have
do just touch the brakes but keep the wheels rotating. I ride most
of the downhill with by shoes unclipped from the peddles in case I go down.
Brownington has a nice church and an colonial period stone building
(now a historical museum), but best of all we get paved road.
We get our first views of Lake Willoughby between Mt Pisgah rising on
the left (east) and Mt Hor to the right. It has a nice sand beach
at the north end just 0.3 miles from our Inn.
The longest route for the day is 46 miles (with the extension up the
hill before lunch). I add a few detours to reach 50.5 for the day.
Our inn for the next two nights is The WilloughVale Inn. It consists
of a large victorian inn overlooking the lake (on the east shore) and three
or four cabins right on the shore. The cabins have kitchens, fireplaces,
two bedrooms and a private dock. Tom and I stay in one of the cabins
while the rest of the group is in the Inn.
Before dinner many of use hiked to Pulpit Rock part way up Mt Pizgah
to enjoy the view overlooking Lake Willoughby.
We relax at the cabin before dinner and experience a spectacular sunset.
Stream along road
|Sep 28||On Tue, we ride north from Lake Willoughby toward Derby and the Canadian
border. We ride along beautiful ponds reflecting colorful trees.
Derby Line, on the US side of the border has some wonderful colonial
At Derby Line, I ride across the border passing through Canadian customs.
"Where are you going and how long will you be staying." "I just plan
to ride around town a few minutes and then back across the border." "Ok,
I ride around town awhile. This is Quebec. I am surprised
that the street names are almost all English words.
A beautiful stream flows under the bridge on the border.
I ride back into the US and ride through US customs, even though there
are several opportunites to turn onto side streets before the building.
US Customs asked for no ID either - just asked if I was a citizen and where
I lived in US.
To celebrate the spirit of cooperation a US citizen donated money to
build a library (lower floor) and opera house (second floor) that spans
the border. A line painted on the floor shows the border. In
the Opera house the audience sits in the US while the performers are in
A pond south of Derby
|From Derby we ride through green farms and trees turning bright colors to Seymour Lake.||
Finally we return to Lake Willoughby for our second night at the WilloughVale Inn.
The longest route today is only 45 miles, but I by riding into Canada
and a small detour along the east side of Seymour Lake, I am near 60 miles
for the day and so I continue along the east side of Willoughby before
returning to the Inn to reach 60.5 miles for the day.
I relax at our cabin at the end of the afternoon, enjoying the views
along the lake shore.
Houses on Lake Willoughby near Inn
|Sep 29||Today we ride from Lake Willoughby to East Burke where we stay at the
Inn at Moutain View Creamery for the next two night.
Today is cloudy and so the colors are more muted but there are still
Tomorrow they predict rain. A large cold front is coming in from
the west with lots of moisture.
A church in Barton
|The Inn is in an old creamery that once produced butter and cheese
for the owner's hotel on Fifth Av in NYC. The dining room still has
the old steam engine that once turned the churn as well as a small grain
The farm also has the largest barn in Vermont and one of the largest
in the US. It is topped by a weathervane with a 1/2 full scale cow.
The rooms are beautifully decorated.
Before dinner the group was treated to a horse-drawn cart ride around the farm grounds over trails that in the winter are used for cross-country skiing.
Inn at Mountain View Creamery
|Sep 30||We awake to heavy clouds but it is suprisingly warm probably over 60.
The leaders give us options. Tonight we will be at the same inn and so
one option is to not ride at all but to look around the farm more, read
a book in front of the fireplace in the day room or catch a ride down to
the small village of East Burke for a little shopping (nice bookstore and
bike shop, ...) or a visit to the microbrewery. Other options are
to ride to Island Pond (26 miles) and shuttle back in the van, ride to
Island Pond and straight back (52 miles) or complete 64 mile tour returning
past Lake Willoughby. Lunch will be provided back at the Inn.
Most elect the 26 miles option with a few choosing to ride back.
Only Tom and I plan to try the full 64 mile ride.
Before breakfast is over it begins raining and by the time we begin riding there is a steady rain. The steady rain continues throughout our ride broken only by periods of intense downpour. The wind is also strong and gets even stronger after noon. Fortunately by early afternoon (1:00 or so) the rain gets lighter and the wind reduces some but by then the temperature drops to the low 50's.
1/2 mile into the ride, I make my only navigational error of the trip turning right when the directions said left. All my other detours from the route were intentional. I ride nearly 5 miles before discovering my error and have to back track, adding to the length of my wet ride. Less than 2 miles into the ride by bike computer (speedometer, odometer, ...) quits due to the water. It occationally comes on again for a few seconds and then quits again. For some reason it starts again about 23 miles (estimate) later and works perfectly for the rest of the trip even though it rains harder.
Back on course, I am enjoying the ride despite the rain. I am wet but warm. The colors look even better today - either due to area or just more development - of course the lack of sun mutes them, otherwise it would be spectacular.
Early in the ride I spot a moose, the only one seen by anyone on the tour. None of the other riders are nearby to share this with. Today's route is the best for moose with lots of swampy, muddy areas - especially today in the rain. It is a calf, probably a yearling. I see no horns so perhaps it is a female (do they call a female moose calf, a heifer?), or do male calves not develop horns in the first year? I look around for a cow but see none. Perhaps yearlings are independent of the mother by this age. I don't feel like lingering to look too long in the rain. I watch other marshy areas as I ride but see no other moose.
I get a snack from the van at Island pond and decide to omit the ride around the pond, especially since I already added extra to the ride due to my error. I ride on toward Lake Willowughby in intensifying wind and rain. As the temperature drops about 1:00, I stop under some trees to add more clothing for warmth (pull-on half arms and half legs under my raingear).
As I ride past our previous inn on Willoughby, I see Tom's bike. He has gotten too cold and decided to get the van to pick him up.
Just as I ride into East Burke (1 miles from inn) the sun comes out. The rain is over and clouds with a few holes drift by for dramatic lighting effects.
The long route today was 64 miles but with my error and skipping the
ride around Island Pond, I get in 68 miles today.
|In the late afternoon the leaders take us up Mt Burke in the van.
It is a very steep drive (which the leaders claim to have done by bike
- 45 min up, 4 min down). There is a fire tower on the top which
offers wonderful views over the valley. The sun shines through holes
in the clouds illuminating a local shower.
After dinner, we take group pictures - two for every camera.
|Oct 1||We wake to fog and 41 degrees. It warms to the upper 40's after
breakfast but we begin the ride in fog. By 10:00 the fog has cleared
and we have bright blue sky with only a few wispy clouds. The route
today is 54 miles, riding from East Burke through Glover, Greensboro, and
Craftsbury back to our starting point at the Village House Inn in Albany.
To reach my goal of 300 miles for the week, I decide to detour from Greensboro
through Hardwick and along route 14 to add a few miles. I finish
the day at 63.4, for a total of 305 miles for the week.
Most of us stopped to tour the Bread and Puppet Theater Museum in Glover.
This "hippy" group makes satirical comments on world politics through paper-mache
puppets. They appear at various parades and festivals around the
world with their puppets; some requiring several people to manipulate them.
After use the puppets retire to the barn museum at their Glover farm.
The site is located by looking for the multicolored bus across from the
barn on route 122 a little east of Glover.
I buy lunch at Willey's Store in Greensboro and eat it in the town green
across the street from the store and a pottery shop. On the way out of
town I stop by the Caspian Lake on the edge of town.
I arrive back at the Village House Inn, at 2:30, just as several of
the tour members leave in a stretch limo for their shuttle to the airport.
The Inn offers a couple of room that tour members can use to shower and
change clothes. I reluctantly put my bike on the car-top carrier
and begin my 6 hour drive home about 3:30. I stop off at Dartmouth
College to have dinner with my daughter, a freshman at Dartmouth,
Covered Bridge outside Lyndonville