Saturday, November 5, 2011

Travels through Rupert and Shaftsbury, Vermont

November in Vermont is a study in shades of grey. The maple, birch, beech, elm and ash trees stand bare without their leaves, which now carpet the forest in a deep, dense mat. As we ride along, the mountains loom through the branches of the trees. The mountains themselves are only green in the patches of pine trees that remain green even when dusted with snow.

Today is rare for November in Vermont - the temperature is in the mid-50's and the skies are clear. Even the sky this time of year loses some of its brilliant color, and instead shows patterns of grey and light blue.

We started our trip today on familiar roads:  Dorset West Road to Route 315 into Rupert and Salem, then NY Route 22 into Hoosick. We turned back into Vermont and onto Airport Road in Shaftsbury. Shaftsbury is a warren of dirt roads, some 2 lanes wide and populated by houses at regular intervals. Other roads are more suitable to 4-wheel drive vehicles - or adventure motorcyles like ours. Mike thought Trumbull Mountain Road went straight through to East Road; I thought it probably did in the early 1800's, but now was unused except for hiking. The dirt road gradually narrowed and became filled with ruts, we passed a horse farm and then rode past meadows and forest without houses, until we finally turned around in a gravel driveway at what looked like the top of the mountain, afraid the road would disappear altogether. Later that night we looked at the map, and I was right - Trumbull Mountain Road is no longer a road suitable even for an adventure bikes.

We turned right onto Peter Montgomery Road, and stepped back in time. There were no houses, no cars, no signs of people. The dirt road was perfect for the motorcycle, but narrow even for a small car.
This is one of my favorite types of motorcycle riding, because Mike slows down to navigate the twisty dirt road, I can glimpse old stone walls, the remnants of stone basements, and unused logging trails through the bare branches of the trees, and the only sound is the wind. Some people might become frightened - am I lost? How do I get back onto a 2-lane, paved road? What happens if we break down? Mike grew up in Vermont, and likes to remind me that all of the roads end up someplace. His philosophy is that you keep going, and eventually you'll come to a familiar road, or at least a road with a sign. We're only 20 miles or so from home, but it's easy to imagine we're the only people for miles and miles.

Eventually we come to an intersection, and once again Mike turns right, remaining convinced that we'll end up on East Road. East Road is one of the original roads in Bennington County, connecting Bennington to Shaftsbury and Arlington in the days when people traveled by foot or horse. This time Mike was right:  5 minutes later we came to East Road, turned left, and headed toward Arlington and home.

Tourists may prefer traveling in Vermont in the height of fall foliage season, when the sugar maple trees show off bright orange, deep red, and sunny yellow leaves. A sunny fall day blasts the senses with color while late fall/early winter days like today are muted, quiet, and almost brooding knowing that the deep cold of winter is waiting to make its entrance. Just the kind of day to explore little known roads on the bike.