Cycling Stratton, Vermont

18 October, 2017

For the past few years my fiance and I have been returning back to the land that kindled our journey to living in the woods, Vermont. Last year we endured a rather wet autumn camping out in Jamaica State Park shortening our journey's length. This year we wanted to try something different and after all the months of training, I decided to take us up Stratton Mountain, the highest point of the Green Mountains in the Southwest of Vermont. It was a task I set my mind to, and while this trip was filled with lots of highs, it also had it's lows at the end of the journey but nonetheless it was a trip full of new surprises.

When we arrived, we settled into our cozy quintessential Vermont cabin and started planning our first ride through Stratton Mountain. We were so excited about last years routes that we had expected this trip to be similar, but the routes I downloaded by Stratton Resorts website had given me very little knowledge of terrain or expectation of what was to come.

We set out for our first ride at Stratton Resort, we enjoyed the views from above and as we continued on highway roads we met a great descent that almost frighted us by how steep and long down it was. As I speed down, I was wishing that we wouldn't have to climb it back up to our car, little did I know at the time. As we easily reached the bottom we turned into a road that was a great heart pounding climb, the kind that made you want to throw up. This, we thought, was only the beginning of the ride so our spirits were willing but as we reached the top we were relieved onto a descent, making a turn into back country roads of gravel along the Winham river. Shaded by trees, we could see ahead that we had no climbs ahead of us.

We cycled through gravel effortlessly, covering miles of quaint cabins neatly tucked into the woods without a single car to disrupt the tranquility of the natural environment. We were loving our stretch through the woods and didn't want it to end. However, as we started to head back to our starting point we eased into the stretch climbing through dirt roads and farm. By the time we reached the last climb, we had to push ourselves onto a mile of 15% grade road, our legs and lungs were officially shot. I can't remember that last time my legs actually felt like they were on fire only after 3,900 ft of climbing but I did it without stopping, meditating on my breathing as everything in my body felt like it was on fire. I was proud of myself and my partner as he meet me at the top, all those months of spin climbing intervals had payed off. Once we got back our cabin, I prepared a bowl of gluten-free pasta bolognese and bathed in scorching water that helped me relax into a 9 hr sleep.

The next morning was an early start. We were so tired from our grueling ride the day before we decided to cover flatter, off road trails with the occasional hike. We returned back to a trail we did the year before in Jamaica State Park, were a 20 mile loop on trails and country roads would lead us to our favorite local burger spot, Honeypie. We developed a love relationship with this particular area of Vermont for the gourmet farm to table food, local roasters, and village market offerings that catered to tourist that wanted to indulge in an authentic Vermont experience.

Once on the White River trail, we were careful to notice beds of rock that were covered in early autumn foliage. To much of my amazement, my Dolce seemed to handle the off roading well. While the bone shaking and bumping along left me sore on my hands and shoulders, I was surprised how much control I had on my stability and handling. I was loving it, every challenge, every rock, every downhill rocky slope I had to push myself over, some moments scarier than others but once I did it without a fail, I felt that I had achieved something great.
All the smiles, laughs, and scary bits paused in the last five miles of our journey. When passing through a park for a nature break, I hurried to catch up to my fiance ahead of me but didn't notice all the dark tree shade covering the pavement and other things along it. Without noticing I had hit a speed bump, not your everyday neighborhood speed bump either. At 15mph, I flew over my handle bars, hitting the left side of my body first then onto my chest and belly sliding down the road with my helmet grinding the pavement till I stopped. I was crushed with pain and bleeding. Catching my breath, I cried out for my fiance who came rushing back to help me, checking if anything had broken. All was in it's place, luckily. 

Once we got back to our cabin, my fiance cleaned my cuts, scratches, and assessed if I needed to get a concussion exam or stitches. I no doubt had whip lash and everything was in pain but I was grateful that the severity of my crash was very mild. I was also grateful that my helmet had saved my face, teeth, and head. It could have been worse.

Fortunately, the end of our short holiday in Stratton was not all trauma. Most of the riding we covered was exactly what we hoped for and more. While packing up our last night, I layed on the couch icing my hands and knees, reminiscing on the scenery that stole our hearts and the history we made cycling in Vermont that kept calling us back. Will there be a next year? Perhaps...

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