Sunday, July 10, 2011

Riding through the Green Mountains

What do you do on a sunny, warm July day in Vermont? Jump on the motorcycle and head for the mountains!

We started off on familiar roads close to home:  Route 11 over Bromley Mountain where our kids learned to ski and snowboard, and where both worked summers at the adventure park. Bromley opened for skiers in 1936, and it's been a local favorite ever since. Look to your right as you head north on Route 11, and you have awesome views of the valley ringed by Stratton Mountain and Magic Mountain ski areas.

Route 100 is one of the most scenic roads in Vermont and one of our favorites on the bike. Route 100 winds through the Lakes Region outside of Ludlow, past Killington Ski area (fondly known as the Beast of the East), and into the beautiful little town of Rochester.

We slowed down before entering Rochester to honor and respect David Segal of Emerson Motor Works who passed earlier this Spring. David and his family are well-known to the local BMW community, and hosted many a weekend picnic as well as the Heart of the Green Mountains Swap Meet in the fields along Route 100.

Rochester packs a lot into a small, picturesque downtown and it's also a jumping-off point for any type of outdoor activity in the Green Mountains. On a whim, and because I was starving, we stopped at the Rochester Cafe and Country Store for lunch. Like much of the town, the building stems from the mid-1800's, and it's warm, inviting, and full of local history inside. The huge blackboard that lists today's specials, local artwork and photographs on the walls, outside seating, and friendly waitstaff make this one of our new favorite stopping points. Plus, they make a delicious chocolate malt that hit the spot with our sandwiches packed with ingredients sourced from local farms.

Properly fortified, we set off north once again, looking forward to riding through Granville Gulf. You may wonder why a 'gulf' is located in the middle of Vermont in the midst of the Green Mountains - I know I did. Gulf is another term for notch, and Granville Gulf is a 7-mile stretch of Route 100 that winds through a protected wilderness along the Mad River. We shared the road with other motorcycles plus several bicycles, since this is a favorite road for everyone on two wheels. There are lots of places to pull off and hike, or wade in the river. Don't miss Moss Falls on your left!

If covered bridges and quaint Vermont villages are your passion, take a side trip off Route 100 into Warren. If my stomach hadn't been growling and churning in Rochester, the Warren Store was our original lunch destination. It's located right on the Mad River in the middle of Warren, and while you wait for the folks in the deli to make up your meal, browse through the eclectic store that is full of all kinds of things you'd expect to find in a Vermont country store - plus lots of the unexpected!

Since I was still stuffed from lunch, we skipped Warren and instead headed west on the Lincoln Gap. This was our first trip through the Gap on the bike, and what a ride! When you come up on a Vermont road that's closed to traffic in the winter, you know you're in for a treat. We dove into the Camel's Hump Forest, with nothing but trees on both sides, and even tree branches that arched over most of the road. What better way to beat the heat of a Vermont summer day than riding through a tunnel of trees at the top of a mountain? Lots of twists and curves along with some dirt sections and new pavement made the ride even more fun. We took our time navigating the challenging road so we had ample opportunity to gaze out over the mountains before dropping down into South Starksboro.

Once into Bristol and out onto Route 7, we headed south through familiar territory toward home. There are always mountains in the distance, but the valley opened up into fields and dairy farms. A stop in Pittsford for water and ice cream led to a chance meeting with another BMW rider and we swapped stories of favorite rides, the most comfortable seats, and rain gear. We slowed as we passed through East Dorset and the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show with its tent city for hunters/jumpers and everything that goes along with taking care of horses and their riders.

I love riding on the bike with Mike with nothing to do except enjoy the sunshine and the scenery. It's fun to travel familiar roads and see something new:  a stone wall I don't remember, a glimpse of a house way back in the woods, hawks circling in the sky. We'll definitely ride over the Lincoln Gap again; maybe in the Fall, right before feet of snow close the road for the winter.

Want to ride this route? Check out the map

Don't miss the video of today's ride!

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