Last year when we came to Vermont, Chris and I scoured www.bikely.com, looking for potential bike rides. We came across the GMBC Double Ferry ride
And we thought that would be fun. But then I got a look at the hills on that route, and decided against it. But this year we opted to do it, and although, a biker almost killed her husband on Highlands Road, I'm here to tell you we both survived and saw some incredible scenery along the way.
First, we started out in Burlington at the King Street Ferry lot. We parked our car there, got the bikes down and headed down the bike path that runs along the water.
But first, Chris felt obligated to get a picture of me, and of course, I felt obligated to give the "We're number one sign."
These paths around Burlington seem extensive, and at some point, I think it would be fun to bring my comfy bike up here and explore them more. Although they refer to it as a bike path, it's really multi-use, so of course you get the two women, running next to each other, taking up the entire path, listening to their iPods. Luckily, a rider in front of us, shooed them over, so we didn't have to deal with it. Basically, though, you can't make good time on the path.
Eventually though the path veers from the water and that's where we ran into our first problem. This SLBarnes guy who posts these routes on bikely is a great guy for going through all the effort of getting these rides out there for others to use. Though, I often wonder if he's actually ridden all of these routes. For example, on this one, after we cross route 7 for the first time, make the quick right onto Swift street and then a right onto the bike path, he has left off two key directions:
1) as soon as the bike path enters the park, it splits at a "T". Riders need to go left.
2) when the bike path enters the woods, there comes a point where you can go straight, or where a path comes into yours from the left, (basically, you could make a hard left to get on to this new path and you should!).
The first one, luckily, there was a map nearby that we were able to look at and figure out which direction to take. For the second, after going the wrong way, luckily we ran into a mother and daughter on the path, who gave us basic directions and we were able to find Spear Street.
Spear Street is a nice street, decent shoulder, not high traffic, but some good hills as you climb into the bluffs above Burlington and head into South Burlington where there are some beautiful homes with the most amazing views. At one point, we came across an overlook with excellent views.
You're on Spear Street for a while, and it's one of the first roads I can remember with some true rolling hills, but there is some definite climbing involved.
Next, you make a right onto Hinesburg Road, and silly me, I thought, "Okay, we're heading back towards the water. Shouldn't be any more climbing on this side of the lake." Wrong!
I'm pretty sure I'm giving the we're number one sign in that shot too. Honestly, I was tired from the day before, and I just didn't realize it until about this point but the worst was yet to come.
Now the really cool part of this ride, you coast down into Charlotte, and take the ferry across Lake Champlain to NY. We had about a fifteen minute wait for the ferry (enough time to hit the restroom and munch down some dried figs I had grabbed at the last minute at a produce store on the way out of Stowe - good thing too because I would need all the energy I could get!).
It cost us $9.50 for the two of us on the ferry plus our bikes and it was money well spent. An enjoyable 30 minute ride.
Kim and Chris on Ferry
Charlotte Harbor from the Ferry
Bikes Resting on Ferry
Essex NY from Ferry
Well, that was a great break with some beautiful views and thanks to the group from Vermont and NJ who took our picture but for us it was back into the saddle again.
Okay - now I remembered from last year that just outside of Essex proper, there was a major hill (mountain) that we needed to climb and I had been psyched/dreading it for a while. It wasn't long though into our ride that we came upon it and all I can say is man. Chris normally waits for me at the top of hills but this time, even he didn't wait to the top but at some semi-flat area, about 2/3rds up we stopped for water before continuing our climb, and continuing and continuing. But damn! I made it - really I did! Slow, and in my granny gears (the easiest ones a bike has) but I got to the top of that hill (mountain)!!
As we rode down the hill, we found the second problem with the directions. They tell you to make a right onto Burhman Road (dirt) but the sign says Highland road. It's about 1.5 miles of compacted dirt, and then crappy pavement but we kept going.
Then all hell broke loose - and here's why.
Do you see that big mountain? That's the one to which I just spoke. Do you see those two after it? Well, I hadn't remembered those. I didn't know they were coming and when they hit, they broke me ... for a time. Seriously, I'm not ashamed to admit that I sat on the side of the road and cried, not able to face another hill ... for about a minute.
Then I got pissed. Boy, did I get pissed. Just ask Chris because he took the brunt of it again. And as he came back down that first hill, and walked his bike up it (the second time), I pedaled, and I pedaled and I pedaled. And I made it.
Then we saw that second hill, and I got pissed again but I did it.
And to give you an idea about some of these hills, breaking, on the downhill, I hit over 41mph. On my bike. With a flimsy helmet as my only protection. As they say on the Tour de France commercials, imagine jumping out of your car at 45mph with nothing on but your underwear and you'll get an idea as to what it feels like to crash on your bikes going at that speed. After the exhilaration wanes, the fear sets in, and that's what goes through your head. In all honesty, I've been known to say the Sh'mah on some of those downhills.
But we did stop for some pictures.
View from Highlands Road
Another View from Highlands Road
Finally, we hit Rte 71, after talking to a nice man mowing the side of the road, who assured us that it was downhill from there on (and he was right - woo hoo!) We coasted into Port Kent, realizing we missed the 12:55 ferry and would have to wait for the 2:15 (it was about 1:30), and all we wanted was a cold beer and some food. Unfortunately, the snack shack didn't serve beer but they did make a decent burger and onion rings and told us where to store our bikes while we waited for the ferry.
This ferry cost us over $10 for us and the bikes, I honestly don't remember the exact amount but it was $9.90 but a 4% gas surcharge that went into effect on July 1. We departed a bit late because they were trying to figure out how to load a car carrier on to the boat (in the end, they told the driver to wait for the next ferry) and it was a sixty minute ride back to Burlington. There was a snack shack on board, but instead of ice cream I opted for a cup of coffee.
View of NY from Ferry
That Coast on the Right - That's Where We Rode
Chris on Ferry - Taken With Cell Phone
After we got off the ferry, we hitched the bikes to the car, changed (I had to buy a t-shirt supporting Vermont's only professional baseball team, the Lake Monsters, as I forgot mine), and headed out for the second part of our day - the Burlington Brewery Tour.