Bike Tour Day 1-Making the Most of a Sunny-ish Day

Monday was Memorial Day and the first day of our Vermont Inn to Inn bicycle tour. We were downstairs at the Brandon Inn enjoying pre-breakfast coffee when our tour arranger, Seth, came in to give us the pre-tour orientation. We had already studied the cue sheets and maps, so it was more of a Q&A session, with the addition of a 3-D topographical map overview of the 4 days of riding. As we were wrapping up, the Innkeeper came by to tell us that Doon (see the transition day post) was in back with the bikes. We all went out back to fit and learn about the bikes. Doon recognized and greeted us from the visit to his shop the previous day and we got on with the task at hand. Maureen’s bike was equipped with a HUGE saddle, but fortunately two other options were available. He showed us how to turn the e-assist on and fitted each of us with a loaner helmet. SPD pedals were already installed, per our request. We test rode for fit, then received the heavy chargers with keys attached to remove the battery packs from the bikes for indoor charging. We were provided one lock, one tool kit, and a spare tube each in the attached rear rack trunks. We bade farewell to Seth and Doon and went back inside to eat breakfast.

After fueling, we packed up our bags, transferred the large suitcase to the rental car for safekeeping, and left our smaller bags downstairs for Seth to transport. We headed out, eager to bike Vermont and test out e-assist. The first optional side trip for Day 1 was a covered railroad bridge.

We then pedaled on to our lunch stop at Buxton’s Store in Orwell. It may have been the holiday, but it didn’t seem that any of the enticing options mentioned on the web page were actually on offer (like curried chicken salad or banoffi or gluten-free muffins). They were kind enough to make a salad for me with nice greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, turkey, and Vermont cheddar cheese—and maple vinaigrette on the side. Maureen chose a Pastrami sandwich, also with Vermont cheddar. We also decided to get a pint of ice cream, since they had a Ben & Jerry’s flavor we hadn’t yet tried, the base of which was cold-brew coffee ice cream. We enjoyed all of this at a picnic table in the town park.

We knew that this might be our nicest weather day of the week (all day rain was predicted for Tuesday and much colder temperatures Wednesday and Thursday), so we wanted to maximize our time outdoors and on the bikes. We also made sure to take pictures, since we had made that mistake 8 years earlier in Provence and never forgotten the lesson. We had considered a side trip by ferry to Fort Ticonderoga in New York, but we were deterred by the $24/person tickets, the fact that it was Memorial Day, and, really, the lack of interest in ABF (another bloody fort, to quote a post and a fellow traveler from several years back). Instead, we decided to visit Mount Independence (admittedly still ABF, but the fort is neither standing nor reconstructed), which cost just $5 each and offered some hiking trails.

The visitor center was well thought out and we both learned a bit about the role of Lake Champlain and the Northern front and invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War. Given how dense the forests are in this part of the continent, it’s no surprise that the waterways were strategically important. In our world of superhighways, we often forget how hard it once was to travel overland from point to point. Sometimes it still is. We were warned that most of the trails were muddy, so we just walked on the gravel path to the Ft. Ticonderoga overlook. The wind had started to pick up by this point in the day, so we were happy to just retrace our steps (and pedal-strokes) back to the main route and get on our way. The biking to and from Mount Independence was peaceful and beautiful as well, so the detour was definitely worth the time.

As noted, the wind had picked up, so we just continued towards Shoreham with a little more liberal use of the electric assist. The bikes had eco, regular, and turbo settings, which affected both amount of power and range. We tended to stay in “eco” most of the time, except when the hills got steep. It was very helpful, but pedaling was still required to get any assist, so one could only really stop pedaling on the down hill sections.

About three miles from Shoreham, I noted a large complex of buildings on the right side of the road and a sign announcing Champlain Orchards Cidery and tastings available. Of course we had to stop. The little store had many varieties of cider and a few other Vermont products and pastries (that is, cider donuts). The attendant was happy to accommodate our request for a flight of tastings. It was $5–definitely not a great deal for the 5 small pours—but they waived the fee if you purchased something (we didn’t). We tried ciders from dry to sweet and actually liked the Original or Pride (it was never clear which one she poured) best. The Cranberry was good too.

Refreshed, we pedaled the final miles to the Shoreham Inn, where Andrew showed us the bike parking and we found our bags already in our room—the Bird Room. We took our dinner in the Inn’s pub, where our tour had provided $35 of food credit per person. Of course, we also had to try some of the local spirits, Whistlepig Rye, which was on our own dime, but was half-price for Monday night. Maureen had a large, perfectly cooked New York strip steak with mashed potatoes, while I had cod and asparagus with wild rice and a delightful spinach salad. Dessert was tempting and we had credit left, so Maureen opted for Tiramisu. I had strawberry rhubarb pie. The local vanilla ice cream was wiped out after the holiday weekend, so I had Vermont Maple Walnut from Island homemade ice cream (yum) alongside my pie. We shared a generous glass of port to finish the evening. All in all, a good day.

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