Friday, August 6, 2010

Stage 3: Rutland to Stowe, VT.

This ride is entirely along SR 100, which is widely recognized to be among the best routes in New England for viewing fall foliage (there won’t be any on my ride, not that I’d notice much of it anyway). It cuts right through the backbone of Vermont, and is said to have spectacular mountain views along its entire length. A string of picturesque little lakes runs along the road, and Moss Glen Falls, just north of Granville, is said to be home to one of the prettiest waterfalls in Vermont. Route 100 grew organically from the many miles of dirt roads that connected villages dating back to the 1700s. Vermont has about 8,000 miles of unpaved roads (only about 6,000 miles of roadway are paved in the state). To a lot of Vermonters, an unpaved road is still a better road. I think this must be because people go more slowly and are more courteous on a dirt road an, in rural Vermont, that's what life wants to be. It probably also matters that dirt roads are far cheaper to maintain than their more modern counterparts. I enjoy dirt roads, to be sure, but I won't be riding any on this trip, if I can avoid it. As primarily a road cyclist, I must confess that I'm grateful for pavement. It is smoother to ride on, less taxing to my body and less destructive to my bike.

As SR 100 transformed into a single byway in the 1800s, the quintessential wooden covered bridge many associate with Vermont country roads began to appear. The primary purpose of the cover on a bridge was to provide added durability; uncovered bridges made of wood would get wet from rain and snow, and this would attract insects and fungus which would cause the wood to rot away quickly. Most, in fact, would have to be replaced every five years. Covered bridges offered other benefits, as well, though. The interiors of covered bridges apparently doubled as a local bulletin board of sorts, and travellers could read advertisements, notices and announcements as they waited out rainstorms or gave their teams of horses a rest in the shade.

This is the longest stage of the ride at just over 72 miles, and the elevation change is subtly demanding. I’ll be looking forward to passing through Waterford (63 miles along) so I can keep my eyes out for the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Store. I will have earned a very large cone of something fattening by that point. If I’m lucky, I’ll also be meeting Wifeness & Co. on their way up. We haven’t worked the details out yet, but it would be a lot of fun to see them there!

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