Vermont Dirt Tour

Roads firstly couldn’t be more familiar, the one at the end of the driveway and then straights and turns on the steady regular route. But proof that the landmarks don’t create the ride, we’re leaving our porch and big front lawn trees with the breath and sense that we won’t be looping back today, keeping on instead, placed into the going and therefore it’s all new.

Already rolling farmland though the early pebbly crowned roads will eventually yield to Vermont’s flatter smoother dirt highways that are as ordinary between towns as the blacktop might be anywhere else. General stores, cows staring or unhurriedly on their way behind fence boards. More stuff that might or might not be broken on the front lawns of every thirtieth far apart house than one might expect, then impossibly stately farmhouses until the woods encroach for a climb in the shade next to a creek up to a gap, as the passes are called here. Gliding through all greens tans blue but for the red barn flash, sounding loudly still summer silence.

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Today our goal is Grafton, sixty, seventy miles and then tomorrow fifty back west to Dorset before closing the triangle home the day after. Mostly dirt, bright bathed days long enough for the ride to be the main thing, but not so hurried that we can’t stop at a swimming hole or have the second ice cream of the afternoon or lay on the grass. We press our noses against the windows at a cheese factory trying to get a glimpse of the process, we stop to admire especially handsome doors.

Sipping cooling drinks in strangely called Jamaica, debate riding the final ten miles on a road so busy that we might see a car every few minutes versus a steep lonely climb to a abandoned track that would get us there.  Naturally we zag upward from the valley floor, blinking sweat and effort and daylight confidence. When the road deteriorates I’m elated, a proper course. Naturally it drops downhill into swirling bugs and a river washout and a lengthy bushwack that’s later a backtrack and a race against sunset to our Inn.

We make it in time to put on clothing with buttons for dinner. Though Margaret is keeping notes on lessons learned for future trips. I’m sure I’m not supposed to find learning ominous.

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That next day a leisurely after breakfast start, birds, no breeze but the trees’ embrace around what’s marked as a state highway, a sepia print from the 1930’s. Later we’ll wave at a couple driving their old timey car and it will complete the time travel illusion spent on a seasonal forest service ascent.

We decide that the midday spectacle of iteration after iteration of rusting Subarus and Camrys parallel parked interspersed with painted school buses isn’t an illusion but is instead a Rainbow Gathering, this year here. Confirmed by a disarmingly mellow guy with a Guatemalan cloth satchel, dubiously clean army surplus sleeping bag on his shoulder, holding a pit bull on a leash. We see others and maybe everyone wearing this uniform, though some are playing flutes as they walk and some have coolers. Two separate times we hear the joke, “Hey, you’ve got my bike!” Coast off the mountain.

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Swim in the charming quarry in Dorset, clink our silverware, toast. Tomorrow another tunnel of trees, endless grit descent, spread cultivated valleys and burnished iron railing bridges.

Margaret marks the first moment that she recognizes the road as we close on home, it comes when we cross a covered bridge that we usually see from the other side, rolling past. Liminality in shade and smell of the wooden planks. Not ten thousand miles away or at delirious altitudes, no deserts or blizzard tent huddle spork iodine air mattress enamel cup meals. Just resonant hills. We join hands for a second, there’s more pedaling.