Tag Archives: Vermont Motorcycle Rides

Enchanted Kingdom: Northeast Vermont Motorcycle Ride

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Vermont’s unmaintained Class IV roads offer access to truly off-the-beaten-path scenery and long-forgotten historic sites as well as enchanting along this Vermont motorcycle ride. Photos by Susan Dragoo.

It’s all scenic. It’s all charming. And it’s all green … except when it’s not, and then it’s even better.

A few days into a trip to the lush forests of northeastern Vermont, we were reminded of Sedona, Arizona. The connection between these two dramatically different climes may at first seem nebulous, but Vermont’s consistent beauty called to mind the time we visited an outdoors outfitter in Sedona and asked, “Which are the most scenic trails?” The jaded clerk responded with a sigh, “All of them. They’re all scenic.” His tone let us know there was nothing to be gained by pressing him for further details. We would have to make our own choices from the seemingly infinite good ones available.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Burke Mountain’s ski lift sits idle in the summer, when the resort is popular with mountain bikers riding the nearby Kingdom Trails Network.

Likewise, trying to narrow down the best scenery in Vermont is a fool’s errand. It would be difficult to make a bad choice. Our adventure riding journey to the state’s Northeast Kingdom took us into what may be some of Vermont’s most remote territory, lending itself beautifully to the pursuit of riding motorcycles down dark, green, tree‑­canopied lanes and over roads the likes of which Paul Revere might have traveled in colonial days.

See all of Rider‘s Northeast U.S. motorcycle rides here.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Willoughby Gap is Burke Mountain’s most iconic view.

These are Vermont’s northeastern highlands, dubbed the Northeast Kingdom in the 1940s by a former Vermont governor in recognition of the area’s distinct culture and geography. The region lies within the southernmost range of the cold boreal forest of spruce and fir, birch and aspen, which stretches to the Arctic. It’s a place of long winters and short growing seasons where ponds, lakes, and villages nestle in valleys and twisting roads follow clear streams between small granite hills and mountains. Adventure in Vermont, like the New England states themselves, comes in tight and tidy packages, so the remoteness here can be surprising to the traveler accustomed to the vast, open American West.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Remnants of a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps camp at the summit of Burke Mountain.

It was mid‑­September, on the cusp of the imminent explosion of fall colors for which this place is famous. Still, there was plenty of sensory stimulation. Besides the inexplicable feeling of navigating these woods in a late summer shower, leaves were beginning to carpet the trail like gold doubloons cast forth from some cosmic seeder. Pungent scents of cut evergreens, vegetation at the end of its cycle, and earth, freshly disturbed by our tires and dampened by the rain, filled our heads with aromas fit for expensive candles sold in artisan shops. Days that started with fog and mist and ended with afternoon showers added mystique and urgency to move along yet held us in the moment, hoping it would never stop.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Riding in the Northeast Kingdom is an experience of lush, green forests and nearly infinite backroads.

Eric Milano, owner of MotoVermont (see sidebar below), led our group of a dozen riders from all walks of life. Most were successful in business and seeking another way to enjoy the outdoors. Sailors, skydivers, scuba divers, and racecar drivers, they were here to learn the nuances of adventure riding versus railing through the woods with their hair on fire, replaying the antics of their younger selves.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
An adventure bike is the perfect vehicle for enjoying it, and MotoVermont organizes great tours to get the most out the area.

Our business, D.A.R.T. (Dragoo Adventure Rider Training), is often invited on such tours to coach guests not only on the finer points of riding well over difficult terrain but also the philosophy of leaving behind a legacy of responsibility as we explore on adventure motorcycles, a term that can apply to most any off‑­road‑­capable two‑­wheeled machine with enough legs to make it between fuel stops.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Descending a rocky ledge lends the perfect opportunity for a little fun.

A high priority for adventure riders is respecting landowners and other trail users, helping to ensure trails stay open. There is more than enough joy in smelling the roses (and other flora) while tackling technical trails with natural obstacles. Adventure riders see no need to run loud pipes, ride at breakneck speeds, or travel off trail, risking damage to adjacent lands and hard‑­earned relationships.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Respectful behavior on roads and trails helps to ensure continued access.

Our first day together was dedicated to enhancing rider skills, and the second was spent applying them over some of Vermont’s most remote backroads. Many are Class IV roads, barely maintained byways kept open mostly by locals who traverse their craggy, narrow tunnels on snow machines during winter and by motorcycle the rest of the year.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
The mountains of the Northeast Kingdom offer some of the area’s most iconic scenery.

Our troupe traveled west out of Burke Mountain Resort, stopping off at Cafe Lotti in East Burke before turning north and entering the woods and our first Class IV challenge. Cafe Lotti is a homegrown hangout set in a typical aging Vermont building which has no doubt fueled generations of local folk and travelers alike with a belly full of breakfast and a hot cup of craft coffee or tea. It is the perfect meeting spot for adventure seekers of all types, from mountain bikers to adventure riders to cross‑­country and downhill skiers.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Whether crossing a burbling stream or stopping for Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, there’s plenty to see along the trail.

We left town westbound and turned north into the woods, winding our way past drop lines – pieces of tubing strung between taps in a forest of maple trees like webs from a giant prehistoric and overactive arachnid. Eric stopped at the entrance to a steep, rocky uphill and explained the best options for a successful path of travel. Rain had turned the rocks into slippery entrapments like greased turtle shells, ranging from tiny spotted tortoises to 6‑­foot sea turtles.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom

Most riders made the climb without incident, but one or two forgot their training and sat down or, worse, dragged their feet, losing control and learning the hard way why adventure riders stand up. Steering, suspension, and sight are all improved by standing tall and proud, and this mild lesson was a graphic illustration of just how important it is to do so in the rough.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Vermont’s deepest lake, glacial Lake Willoughby, boasts distinctive fjord-like rock formations and is a popular summer attraction.

The onset of rough terrain was the portal to this enchanted Northeast Kingdom, a region mentioned in Patricia Schultz’s book 1000 Places to See Before You Die, which boasts that when the foliage flames in autumn, this may well be the most beautiful place in America. Indeed, it should not be missed. A few years back, we made the trip by motorcycle during the peak of fall color, and years ago, Bill traversed Vermont by bicycle on his way across the northern tier of the United States, a solo journey that permanently pinned this place to his psyche and keeps us coming back.

Our rugged upward trail eventually turned down, and the trail from the top was no disappointment. Sketchy ruts through mudholes, strategically dispersed to reward good judgment in not rushing, kept us on our toes. Most of these roads shed water well and remained rideable, but caution was of the essence. The road continued to undulate throughout the 100‑­plus‑­mile clockwise loop that would eventually take us back to our starting point.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Roadside stands along the way offer a variety of goodies, including fresh eggs.

But first, a stop at Devaney Farmstand near the intersection of Hudson Road and Town Highway 29 outside West Charleston, Vermont. The clouds opened and rain came down in full force as we dismounted and climbed a stairway, ducking into a loft room where lunch had been laid out for us by Bob and Sharyl Devaney. Calzones, fresh corn on the cob, and apple pie awaited. We gobbled down the fare as rain drummed on the roof. Maple syrup, candles, fresh jams, and pies of all kinds added their fragrance to the shop, and antiques and other local trinkets were neatly displayed for anyone wanting a souvenir.

Our timing was perfect. The sun began to peek through the clouds as we said our thank‑­yous and goodbyes to the Devaneys and fired up our machines. A short ride on twisty pavement led us back to the reason we were here: more Class IV roads. After skirting the fjord‑­like Lake Willoughby, a glacial lake dotted with vacation cabins and summer camps, Eric turned right onto a barely noticeable two‑­track trail that climbed steadily toward the mountain top.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
It wouldn’t be a trip to Vermont without a covered bridge. The state has 104 historic covered bridges, and many of them are still in use today.

Eventually we descended again and crossed an old bridge leading onto a magnificent, fast gravel road following a river through the canyon. Although tempted to open up the throttle, good judgment kept our horses in check, and we ran at a brisk but reasonable pace. Riding right is critical here, as some turns are blind and, as remote as these roads are, we still saw other users. Respectfully, we would hold up five fingers to oncoming traffic if there were five or more riders behind us, then four, three, two, one, and the sweep rider held up a closed fist to indicate he was the last one. Trail etiquette is critical to maintain good relationships with the locals who hold the power to shut us out. We happily demonstrated good stewardship and appreciation for the privilege of exploring their home turf.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom
Riders take a break at Devaney Farms after a filling and delicious lunch.

We hit pavement just as the rain began again and made our way the last few miles to the resort. Parking under the canopy, we shed our outer gear and immediately began to relive all that had happened in a short couple of days. New friendships had been made and lessons learned. Everyone left with a quiver full of new skills and a renewed appreciation for our freedom to ride, perhaps not by lantern light warning the colonists of the British invasion, but with our own versions of enthusiasm as we explored the Enchanted Kingdom.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

SIDEBAR: MotoVermont

MotoVermont specializes in adventure motorcycle tours, training, rentals, and retail sales. Tours range from day rides in Vermont to week-long adventures farther afield, including New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, and other locations. Training events are typically 1-2 days in length with a focus on balance, mastery of bike controls, preparedness, and courtesy. Rental options include the Yamaha Ténéré 700, Kawasaki KLX 300, and Yamaha XT250.

MotoVermont founder and operator Eric Milano is a Backcountry Discovery Routes ambassador and a member of the development team for the NEBDR route. He spends much of his time developing tours and organizing events for adventure motorcyclists. MotoVermont has a retail store in Milton, Vermont, or you can meet them at one of the many rallies and events they attend throughout the Northeast. For more information, visit the MotoVermont website.

SIDEBAR: Burke Mountain Resort

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom

Burke Mountain Resort offers a comfortable stay with great views of Burke Mountain or Willoughby Gap from every suite. Located three miles from the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center, the resort has 116 suites ranging from studios to three-bedroom suites.

Guests can enjoy pub food, craft beers, and cocktails at The View Pub on the second floor, with large windows looking out to Willoughby Gap. Edmund’s Coffee Shop, located in a cozy timber-framed room with stone fireplaces, serves breakfast and coffee. The resort also includes on-site retail shopping opportunities at Bear Essentials and Vertical Drop Retail, with products ranging from basic groceries to home décor and outdoor gear. Other amenities include a heated pool and hot tub, a family arcade, and a fitness center. For more information, visit the Burke Mountain Resort website.

Vermont Motorcycle Ride Enchanted Kingdom Bill Dragoo Susan Dragoo

Bill and Susan Dragoo own and operate Dragoo Adventure Rider Training (D.A.R.T.) in Norman, Oklahoma, and are widely published writers, especially in the field of adventure travel. Learn more at BillDragoo.com and SusanDragoo.com.

The post Enchanted Kingdom: Northeast Vermont Motorcycle Ride appeared first on Rider Magazine.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Perceptions | Being a Good Samaritan Motorcyclist

Perceptions Being a Good Samaritan Motorcyclist
Would you accept an offer of help from this man? Are you sure? (Photos by the author)

Each of us has likely been advised not to judge a book by its cover, but my experience as a motorcyclist confirms that those of us who ride are routinely judged in that manner. It doesn’t help that media and pop culture frequently portray motorcycle riders as noisy bad-ass bikers or reckless crotch-rocket squids.

But that’s not who I am. Friendly, slight of build, and respectful, I am the definition of non-threatening. Have a question? I’m all ears. Need a hand? I’ll help.

When I’m riding, I make a concerted effort to be an ambassador for everyone who rides. I stop for people crossing the road, let other vehicles pull out, and give extra space to those with dogs or horses. Off the bike, I hold open doors, especially for old folks and families with kids. I leave generous tips for waitstaff. I say hi to people in uniform. Honestly, it doesn’t take that much effort, and if non-riders get a good feeling about someone they meet who is riding a motorcycle, the next time they think about a motorcycle they’ll be able to associate it with something positive.

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Consider a couple of cases in point. Rides in my home region of Massachusetts often find me at Quabbin Reservoir. One particular day in March, the sky was cold blue crystal as I motored through the reservation. Water cascaded over the 400-foot-long stone spillway, indicating that the reservoir was at capacity. I continued up Quabbin Hill Road and, at the rotary, curved right toward the Summit Tower. From there I could enjoy splendid views of the valley and the mountains beyond. The unpaved parking area was a muddy mess, so I parked at the paved road’s edge behind the lone car there.

As I walked up toward the tower, a little girl, probably five years old, turned sharply at the sound of her name, looked back at me, then scampered to hide behind her parents. I offered a friendly hello, but my presence was clearly met with suspicion.

Though I gave them space, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation: The girl was asking her mother for a quarter so she could look through the coin-operated binoculars. “Sorry,” her mom said, “I didn’t bring any quarters.” A hopeful look at her dad was also answered with “Sorry.” The girl’s expression switched from anticipation to disappointment.

Can a quarter change one person’s perception of another?

I had a quarter. I fished it out of my pocket and held it up for the mom’s approval. Looking a bit surprised, she nodded her consent, so I offered the coin to the girl. The youngster flashed a grin and thanked me.

“My daughter is a few years older than yours,” I told her parents. “She always liked looking through those binoculars.” They smiled. Twenty-five cents had changed me from someone best avoided to someone with a daughter.

Stopping to be a good Samaritan has long been my practice, although it has not always been met with appreciation. Several summers ago, while riding in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom, I came upon a minivan parked on the shoulder. A tire was flat, so I pulled over to see how I could help. A young woman and her kids were in the van. I parked my bike ahead, removed my helmet and, keeping back what I considered a respectful distance, offered to help. The driver held up her hands: No! She didn’t know me or whether my intentions were honorable, so I couldn’t blame her.

My family was expecting me back home in a few hours, and I could have just left, but my fatherly instincts were telling me this young family was vulnerable. Another dad who rides once shared with me his story of simply staying on-site until proper help showed up, so even though this driver didn’t trust me to help, I decided to wait until help she did trust arrived.

Sometimes the good Samaritan arrives on a motorcycle.

“I’ve got a family and I’d hate to think of them stranded,” I told the driver, keeping back at that respectful distance. “I’ll just stay here by my bike until a cop arrives.” She was looking right at me but didn’t respond. I went back to my bike and reached into the tankbag for a snack.

It was sometime later when a Vermont state police cruiser, with its distinctive green livery, came into view. I waved my arms and the lights flashed on. The trooper pulled over next to me and got out immediately.

“What’s happening here?” he demanded.

“I saw the van had a flat and stopped to help,” I explained. “The lady said no, but it’s just her and the kids, so I decided to stay until help she trusts arrived. My family is expecting me home in Massachusetts, so I really need to go now.”

The trooper pointed an authoritative finger at me. “Wait here.” He walked to the van, spoke briefly with the driver, then came back. “Thank you for staying,” he said. “Ride safely.” The lady waved at me from the van. I waved back and she smiled. The motorcycle guy had changed from an untrustworthy character to that thoughtful dad who stayed until help arrived.

It rarely hurts to be friendly, especially when we’re out riding motorcycles. That way, people who do not ride might appreciate that those of us who do aren’t outlaws or hooligans by default. They just might realize that motorcyclists aren’t all that different from them. We just prefer to ride.

The post Perceptions | Being a Good Samaritan Motorcyclist first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Favorite Ride: Vermont Border Run

Vermont Border Run
The landscape around Lake Willoughby is stunning.

A few years ago, Rider published my article about riding Vermont Route 100 from south to north, ending at the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the U.S./Canada border. Someone wrote a letter to the editor asking how I got back. U.S. Route 5 runs along the east side of Vermont, and it happens to be another one of my favorite rides. It has all the elements of a great motorcycle road: beautiful scenery, fine curves, light traffic, and nice places to stop along the way. For this ride, I am again starting at the Massachusetts border and heading north, but it can also be run in reverse.

Vermont Border Run

Scan QR code above to view route on REVER, or click here

I cross from Massachusetts into Vermont just south of Guilford, and the road almost immediately plunges into the woods, curling back and forth around the trees, a preview of what’s to come. First, I pass through Brattleboro. With 12,000 residents, it’s the largest town I’ll encounter today. Downtown consists of about three blocks of century-old brick buildings. It’s a little congested, but as soon as I clear the roundabout at the junction with State Route 9, everything eases up and I’m into rural Vermont in search of coffee.

Vermont Border Run
Just one of the many wonderful curves on U.S. Route 5.

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Putney General Store bills itself as Vermont’s oldest general store. It has creaky floors, good food, and – most importantly – good coffee. Properly caffeinated, I’m on my way, and U.S. 5 reveals its true character: rising, falling, and curving through the landscape. I lose myself in its rhythm.

Vermont Border Run
These petroglyphs are believed to have been carved by the Abenaki hundreds of years ago.

In Bellows Falls, the falls don’t bellow anymore. The river was dammed in 1802 to aid with upstream navigation. Down near the river, a mysterious row of faces is carved into the rocks. The petroglyphs are believed to have been carved by the Abenaki hundreds of years ago. Curiously, a couple of the faces appear to have antennae. Evidence of an extraterrestrial visit? I ponder the question as I head out of town.

Vermont Border Run
The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge is the longest two-span covered bridge in the world.

U.S. 5 resumes its swooping, twisting, and turning as it tunnels through the trees. Nothing is too tight or unexpected, just a wonderful ride, and I drink it all in. There is a zig and a zag in Springfield before the enjoyment continues to the American Precision Museum in Windsor. It’s housed in the Robbins and Lawrence Armory, where they developed the concept of interchangeable parts in the 1840s. One display in the museum is a belt-driven machine that turns gunstocks. As the blank for the stock spins, the cutters gracefully move in and out. The accompanying video is mesmerizing. In addition to many machine tools, they also have Bridgeport milling machine serial number 001 – if you’re a gearhead, you’ll understand its significance.

Vermont Border Run
The American Precision Museum houses tools from the birthplace of modern manufacturing.

Past Windsor, the road resumes its rhythm as it carves up around a golf course. All along the way, I pass small farms with their quintessential red barns. Some have stands selling fresh veggies, and I pick up some tomatoes and sweet corn.

White River Junction, where the White River joins the Connecticut, has long been a transportation hub. The arrival of the railroad in the 19th century cemented its status. Today, it’s at the junction of Interstates 89 and 91 as well as U.S. Routes 4 and 5. All the amenities are near the highway interchange, and it’s easy to miss downtown, but with several restaurants to choose from, it’s a great spot for lunch.

Vermont Border Run
One of the many small farms along U.S. 5.

A sign in the window at Dan & Whit’s General Store in Norwich declares, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!” Whether you are looking for an alarm clock or beer pong supplies, they have it. The paint department? It’s in a room behind the deli. Keep going and you’ll find a huge hardware section. The variety of stuff crammed into the space is remarkable, and it’s easy to get lost among the hams and hammers and hammocks.

Leaving Norwich, there is a change. The hurry is gone, and I glide effortlessly around the curves, passing by narrow valley farms and through the villages of Thetford, Fairlee, Bradford, Newbury, and Wells River. In Barnet, there is another perceptible change as U.S. 5 parts ways with the Connecticut River and starts following the smaller Passumpsic River. The curves are tighter, the hills are closer, and at one point, U.S. 5 slips between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-91 for a bit.

Vermont Border Run
There is a “North Country” feel here close to the border.

In St. Johnsbury, State Route 5A splits off as it passes the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. Both 19th-century edifices were built by the Fairbanks family. Their Fairbanks Scales Company changed how commerce was done, and the family spent much of their fortune locally. Fine Victorian architecture lines both sides of the road here.

After Lyndonville, U.S. 5 cuts through the landscape to West Burke, where I follow State Route 5A toward Lake Willoughby. The lake is the crown jewel of this ride. Nestled between Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor, it resembles a Norwegian fjord. The road runs up the east side, perched precariously between lake and ledge.

Vermont Border Run
With the border just ahead, it’s time to turn around.

Past Lake Willoughby, there is a “North Country” feel. The rivers flow north toward the St. Lawrence River, the landscape is more open, and the trees seem shorter. Route 5A reconnects with U.S. 5 in Derby Center and heads for the Canadian border at Derby Line. There, within sight of the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, not far from the border, is a sign that declares “End 5.” Just beyond is Quebec and a large sign that says “Bonjour.” It’s time to head back. Maybe I’ll take Route 100.

The post Favorite Ride: Vermont Border Run first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Dirt Roads: An Appreciation

pavement ends sign
When the pavement ends, a new kind of fun begins. Photos by the author.

Andy follows me across the border from Massachusetts into Vermont. We’re riding along a dirt road that cuts through dark, deep woods overlooking the Green River. As my Kawasaki hums below, the final stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” repeats in my head:

These woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

It’s a warm August morning, not a snowy evening, but Frost’s silken words apply. For two days we are riding through the very landscapes that inspired Frost’s extraordinary descriptions of ordinary things. As the crow flies, Vermont is about 160 miles long north to south, but we’ll cover 321 miles before reaching our destination of North Troy. We’re on the Vermont Puppy Dog Route, which links unpaved roads from the southern border we just crossed all the way to the northern border with Québec, Canada. 

Stowe, Vermont
Your humble scribe stops to take in an early morning view near Stowe, Vermont.

This isn’t off-roading. It’s dirt-roading. Especially in Vermont, roads like these came about because someone had a destination in mind. They follow rivers along a path of least resistance, or hug the edges of pastures and fields, or take the shorter, steeper route up and over the mountains. They have names like Church Hill Road, Rabbit Hollow Road and Elmore Mountain Road. We’re not blazing new trails or attempting to conquer untamed hilltops, we’re just choosing roads no one felt the need to pave. And since they are often the only roads to certain locales, they take us through areas we’d otherwise miss.

Vermont motorcycle ride
Early morning sun begins to burn off the fog over this beaver pond somewhere in southern Vermont.

What my “Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer” depicts as dirt roads can vary in width, surface and state of repair, but these roads are maintained for public use. Some are graded hard pack wide enough for two pickups hauling horse trailers to pass with room to spare. Others are so narrow that one vehicle must give way for another to pass. A few are bumpy, graveled but navigable two-tracks. You might not want to ride your pristine Harley Ultra on these roads, but you don’t need a dedicated dirt bike either. Any scrambler or adventure bike is up to the task.

As we discover, sticking to dirt roads can present snags. In southern Vermont, the route comes to a locked gate, so we find another dirt road that returns us to the route a few miles on. Farther north, a farm road abruptly ends at a single-track trail of deep mud and big rocks. We backtrack and look for another gray line on the map. As Andy likes to say, it’s all part of the adventure.

covered bridge Vermont
Nothing says Vermont like a dirt road and a covered bridge.

On a motorcycle you already feel more involved in your transportation. When you ride long distances on dirt roads your connection runs deeper. There’s a different kind of mental focus than riding on tarmac. Our pace is slower, with posted limits typically just 35, and limited sight distances are the norm. Inclines and declines can be steep. Steering is more labor intensive, traction varies continuously and braking distances are longer. It’s actually a good way to practice braking control at the limit of lockup on my ’08 Kawasaki Versys, which lacks anti-lock brakes.

dirt road underpass
Dirt roads often go under railroads. The underpasses can get mucky.

We also encounter all manner of critters at close range. A bobcat scrutinizes us from its perch atop a stack of firewood. A fisher cat ambles purposefully across our path with its distinctive four-wristed gait. A docile, ungainly porcupine takes one look at us and promptly turns back. A barred owl perches high in a tree that is rooted low in a roadside ravine, making it head-high with me as it suddenly swoops into flight. 

Mid-state we find ourselves riding through horse country with stately manor homes and white-fenced pastures that remind me of Kentucky. Here we share the road with horse-drawn sulkies driven by nattily dressed people enjoying a trail ride event. (Ride slowly past horses…they often get spooked by motorcycles.) 

Vermont Puppy Dog Rout
Mission accomplished: Andy arrives at the northern terminus of the Vermont Puppy Dog Route.

As we near North Troy, Andy points out a gorge and we stop for a look. There are no signs, but the map describes this beautiful place as Big Falls State Park. In a few miles we reach the Canadian border. When we stop to reflect on our ride, Robert Frost again springs to mind. This time it’s the concluding lines of “The Road Not Taken”:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Go enjoy a nice long ride on dirt roads.

Lovejoy Brook Road
Lovejoy Brook Road follows Lovejoy Brook (imagine that) near Andover, Vermont.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Riding Vermont’s Route 100 From Massachusetts to Memphremagog

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
Vermont is still a state full of small farms. Photos by the author.

Vermont is a four-season state. It offers great skiing in the winter, sweet maple syrup in the spring and fantastic foliage in the autumn. Summer? Summer is for motorcycle riding. Vermont’s topography lends itself to incredible motorcycle roads, and State Route 100 is one of the best. Extending from Massachusetts to nearly the Canadian border, Route 100 traces the eastern flank of the Green Mountains, and it is as fine a motorcycle road as you will find anywhere.

I entered Vermont from North Adams, Massachusetts, where Route 100 zigzags through the quiet towns of Readsboro and Whitingham and loops around Harriman Reservoir before finally turning north. The first town of any size that I encountered was Wilmington, where I stopped at Dot’s Restaurant.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

Dot’s is a Wilmington icon. The building dates from 1832 and has been a diner since the 1930s. When Hurricane Irene hit Vermont a few years ago, the Deerfield River backed up and pushed Dot’s off its foundation. After three years and a complete foundation replacement, Dot’s has reopened, and the restaurant is every bit as popular as before.

In the morning, after a good night’s sleep and a great breakfast at the Gray Ghost Inn, I hit the road. Just north of the Gray Ghost, Route 100 twists and turns down to the river. The same storm that nearly destroyed Dot’s also wiped out this section of Route 100. By rebuilding it all at once, many of the off-camber and reducing-radius corners were fixed, yet the nature of the road was not compromised. The miles of new pavement made this section of the road a joy to ride.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
The Gray Ghost Inn is a family-owned B&B that caters to motorcyclists and offers up a delicious traditional Vermont breakfast.

North of Weston, Route 100 tucks in tight against a series of small lakes. With a few houses on the left and swimmers and boaters on the right, I felt like I was in the scene. The heat of the sun through the pine trees and the mouthwatering smell of burgers on a grill made this stretch a feast for all five senses.

In Plymouth, I took a side trip on Route 100A to Plymouth Notch. This is where President Calvin Coolidge was born and where he retired after his presidency. Elected as Vice President in 1920, he happened to be staying here when President Harding died. His father, a notary public, swore him in as our 30th president at 2:47 a.m. in the front parlor of their home by the light of a kerosene lantern.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
Founded by Calvin Coolidge’s father, Plymouth Cheese makes some outstanding cheeses.

There are about 20 ski resorts in Vermont and more than half are near Route 100. I turned up Mountain Road toward Killington, the largest ski resort in Vermont. This multilane road with turning lanes, hotels and restaurants was a big departure from the rural landscape of the past 100 miles. It’s all designed for the winter ski crowds, but traffic was light today so I whizzed up past the golf course and the Killington Grand Hotel to the ski area parking lot. I hopped in the gondola to the summit and then hiked another couple hundred yards to the highest point. At 4,229 feet above sea level, the view from Vermont’s second-highest peak is outstanding, and I could see the Green Mountains rippling out in all directions.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
Swimmers enjoy the cool water of the Mad River.

North of Killington, Route 100 traces through the ripples. It is a fantastic motorcycle road as it dips and swoops through the woods and around the hills through Pittsfield, Stockbridge and Rochester, where I stopped for a maple milk shake at the Rochester Café.

This section of Vermont is known for the Gaps, the roads crossing the Green Mountains other parts of the country refer to as passes. In Rochester, State Route 73 heads over Brandon Gap, while to the east, Bethel Mountain Road crosses Rochester Gap. In Hancock, State Route 125 heads west over Middlebury Gap, while the dirt road to the east crosses Roxbury Gap. The partially unpaved Lincoln Gap heads out of Warren, and State Route 17, Appalachian Gap, leaves out of Waitsfield. I could spend an entire day happily zipping back and forth on these roads.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
Lower Podunk Road is two miles farther down Route 100.

Riding into Waterbury I came across the first traffic lights I had seen since Wilmington, 130 miles ago. The congestion was worth it though, as just past the final light was the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. Here I toured the factory, which ended with a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s famous ice cream. Out in back is a “flavor graveyard,” a mock cemetery with granite headstones for discontinued flavors, or the “dearly depinted,” as they call them. RIP, Cool Britannia and Urban Jumble.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
Hard to find and just plain weird stuff from yesteryear is for sale at the Vermont Country Store.

Stowe, the next town on Route 100, is in a beautiful location below the 4,200-foot summit of Mount Mansfield. Despite being a big tourist town, it does not have a chain hotel, and the accommodations run the full range of amenities and prices. North of Stowe, the landscape opened up to rolling hills and farms. The fields were larger and the forest farther away. The road was full of sweeping turns with a rhythm and flow that made me crack the throttle a little bit more and smile inside my helmet, enjoying a thoroughly wonderful romp through the open country and empty highway. Farther on, I stopped at the Troy General Store. This is what a general store should be; the wooden floor creaked as I walked and stuff was hanging from the ceiling. A sandwich was being made in the deli, and I could smell a pizza in the oven.

Near Coventry, at the intersection with State Route 105, Route 100 just ends. After 200 miles, I expected something more than a 100 END sign, but, disappointingly, there it was. It was only 10 miles to the Canadian border so I decided to head there. I rode through Newport and along the east side of Lake Memphremagog to the village of Derby Line.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
St. Mary Star of the Sea church rises above Newport and Lake Memphremagog.
Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
The beautiful church building dominates the skyline over the lake.

The “Line,” in this case, is the border between Vermont and Canada. It passes right through the Haskell Free Library and Opera House: half of the building is in Derby Line, the other half is in Stanstead, Québec. In the reading room, the border is painted on the floor. Upon request, the librarian took my picture, where I stood with one foot in the USA and one foot in Canada. I couldn’t go any farther north without a passport.

Vermont Route 100 motorcycle ride
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the U.S./Canada border.

Source: RiderMagazine.com