After returning from Hawai’i we had a couple weeks on the east coast to hang out with friends and catch some of the Phish summer tour before leaving NY for good on July 14. We got our first taste of bike touring with a little trip in Vermont and around Saratoga Springs. We caught a ride up to Manchester, VT and immediately ground our way over the Green Mountains to meet up with our friends Austin & Elyza for the Frendly Gathering music festival. We had done very little climbing on previous tours and this one started off with about 1,700 feet of elevation gain right out the gate.
Imagine our chagrin when we got to the festival address only to find out that this was where we would get our wristbands and the actual festival was another seven miles, straight up a mountain. Yup, we weren’t having any of that and loaded our bikes up on the old school bus shuttles they provided. No shame, none at all. We would have had to push our bikes up a steep-ass ski slope to where we’d camp, but we met a sweet couple who were asking about our bikes and they insisted on pushing them up for us.
We had a great time hanging out with our friends and listening to some excellent music in this beautiful setting, but before too long it was time to pack up and roll the bikes back down the slope for our next leg. The bus had taken us up quite a bit, so our Sunday out of the festival was a nice 13-mile coast down 1,740 feet to Jamaica State Park.
When we pulled up to pay, Brandy couldn’t get out of her pedals and toppled over right on her knee. She was bleeding all over the place and we were concerned that she might have really hurt her knee, but luckily it felt better the next day when we again tackled the Green Mountains.
Up and over the mountains we went back to Manchester, an expensive conglomeration thriving on the hyper-consumerism of suburbanites spending their life savings at the outlet stores. Really. We met some locals who work in the stores and people spend an INSANE amount of money in these stores. We’re talking a decade worth of clothing spending for me in one spree. Whatever, people can spend their money how they want. I choose to take a mini-retirement and travel the world for a couple years. Others go for a Lexus and a Gucci bag. I think I got the better deal, but who knows. The locals told us about a great spot to free camp just outside of town on a lovely little creek where we could take a dip and watch the lightning bugs winking about. I’ll take it!
The first half of the next day was a perfect ride. We wound down completely empty back roads to Arlington, VT where we got a delicious breakfast and hopped on the perfect highway that took us into NY. It twists through a mountain range, but followed a beautiful river and is mostly flat the entire way despite the great mountain views on both sides. Shoulders are wide, but it didn’t matter because there was hardly any traffic. The river also provides several great opportunities for swimming along the route.
The next half was not as nice. It was hotter than hell and humid and we were already getting tired when we got slammed by a steep, sunny hill with tons of traffic whizzing by. Luckily we found another swimming hole a few miles further on, right about where we planned to camp. As brooding storm clouds menaced overhead, we went on a wild goose chase for a place that had been recommended. Luckily a kind jogger offered up her yard and we got into the tent just in time for a massive thunderstorm to tear through.
We had camped only a few miles from town so we casually rolled into Saratoga Springs the next day and on to our first Warmshowers hosts, who turned out to be incredibly cool and made us feel right at home. Our last day of riding before Phish gave us some big hills, but we only had to go 18 miles on back roads to the campground, so it didn’t destroy us.
The long weekend was a whirlwind of Phish shows, partying, friends and the debacle of trying to run the shuttle bus between the campground and venue. After that stressful and tiring weekend we decided to skip the Philly shows we’d planned to hit and chill out in NYC for the week.
The nice thing about riding up huge hills on one way of a round trip is that you’ll be flying down them the other way. The ride to the Saratoga train station would have been breezy and uneventful, but Brandy got bitten really hard on the ass by some jerky bug. Ha! The last train of the day was sold out, so we grabbed a six-pack of Dogfish Head and set up camp in the forest next to the station.
After a week saying goodbye to friends and another weekend of shows, we hopped on a train to Toledo and finally left NYC for good.
We had intended to ride from Toledo up to the farm where our friend Colleen was living, but we were annihilated by insane headwinds and she had to pick us up a few miles short of our goal. I discovered that I despise headwinds. They tear into your soul as they buffet you and push you back. There is no downhill to reward you for your effort, just endless grinding with dust blowing in your face. You slowly lose your sanity and are driven closer and closer to fury each time the wind subsides slowly so you don’t notice, and then blasts you with a gust to remind you that you are nothing but an insignificant spec daring to challenge its great power.
A short and lovely visit later and we were back on the bikes and good ol’ Amtrak to wrap up our Phish summer tour in Chicago from which we would jump off to a month riding around Wisconsin.
Loaded miles: 220.4
Loaded feet climbed: 7,884
Loaded feet descended: 7,280
Unloaded miles: 28.9
Unloaded feet climbed: 518
Unloaded feet descended: 518
New counties bagged: 11