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T

he alarm went off at 4:59 a.m. I got out of my sleeping bag and slipped into my bike shorts. Stars still filled the sky. The cool morning air was thick with fog but as I drove south from my campsite at Molly Stark State Park off Route 9, the first light crested the rolling hills. At the Massachusetts border, I went through a mental checklist: Bags in place, GPS on, SPOT beacon activated. I wanted to be rolling at 6:00. It was 5:58. Then, “Where are my gloves? DAMMIT, WHERE ARE MY GLOVES!” I yelled to myself. They were at home atop a stack of clean laundry. “I hate riding without gloves,” I muttered as I rolled out, barehanded, at 6:05. The crisp air chilled my bare hands; I was so mad at myself. “Snap out of negative thoughts. It’s a beautiful day, and you’re on your bike,” I told myself. But as soon as I cleared the first mile or so of pavement, I started into what would be my most enjoyable day of bikepacking in memory. Early miles ticked off quickly on winding forest service roads, often with a beautiful creek along side. A bit of grassy trail kept my feet wet, as morning dew had yet to evaporate. Ahead were 300 more miles of dirt roads, muddy paths and singletrack and 33,000 vertical feet of climbing before I would hit my destination: Canada. I’d been toying with the idea of riding the length of Vermont along the spine of the Green Mountains since I began bikepacking in 2013 and immediately I was hooked. At a talk on bikepacking in St. Albans, I had met Dave Tremblay, who has ridden the Tour Divide from Alberta, Canada, to the Mexican border, largely on trails near the Continental Divide. Tremblay and Dave Bluementhal had done extensive planning on creating a trans-Vermont route with other local riders. Working with Tom Stuessey from Vermont Mountain Biking Association, they created what is being called the Vermont Bikepacking Route (VBR), and formed the “Vermont Bikepackers” VMBA chapter. The route has seen little traffic thus far, and those who have done it have primarily ridden northbound from

Dave Tremblay and Dave Bluementhal did extensive planning to create the Vermont Bikepacking Route (VBR) with help from riders Will Blanchard and Mike Beganyi. Until Decker rode the route, George Lapierre held the record: riding the VBR border to border in an impressive 57 hours. Oh yeah, and on a single-speed.

SEPTEMBER 2015

A ski patroller at Pico, Calvin Decker started bikepacking in 2013. By 2014, he had ridden from Canada to Mexico, finishing second on the Tour Divide race. This past April he won Australia's 1000K Monaro Cloudride in 14 days. At 22, he was the youngest in the field.

Massachusetts to Canada. Having lived in central Vermont for the last few years, I had ridden the central part of the route extensively, and expected to be on similar terrain throughout. When it came to bike choice, I went full suspension, mostly for experimentation for future plans. The initial time to beat was set earlier this summer by George Lapierre, at an impressive 54 hours, on a rigid singlespeed! Rumors were that there was a lot of singletrack, tough double track, and

of steep pavement through the Stratton area. A road cyclist up ahead seemed to think he was god as he pedaled down the middle of the lane. As I passed, I educated him that “share the road” does not mean “own the road.” Respect gets respect, fella. I could feel him die a little on the inside as I pedaled away on my loaded full-suspension mountain bike and his 23c tires were stuck in slow. This paved bit led me out to just about mile 50. After that, the route began to mature into its true character with a rough snowmobile track leading into the mountains as late morning sun began to warm the world. At mile 70, I came to a surprise supply point I missed in planning, so I grabbed a Coke and Gatorade, to surpass the boredom of water if nothing else. The trails became steeper and rougher the farther north I went. I had yet to push my bike more than a few yards until the Plymouth area, where the trail and the stream became one and the same. I did not spend too much time distinguishing, but just pushed my bike up the shallowest part of the stream, past some folks panning for gold, until I broke out of the valley for a climb and descent into Bridgewater. But just as I let the spokes fly, my front wheel caught a wet log in mud, and I ejected as I watched my right hand and grip disappear about 10 inches into the slop. Bare hands, slimy grips, YUCK! I was now on my home turf. I enjoyed the familiar VASA trails between Bridgewater and Pittsfield and pedaled with a grin ear to ear. I could not maintain the 12 mph average I had ridden for the morning miles, but I did not expect to, and was glad to be ‘mountain’ biking!’ After a short bushwack from an abandoned class 4 into singletrack on Green Mountain Trails, the route climbs to the top of the trail system for a visit to Shrek’s Cabin. I was disappointed not to find the sign-in book, just a book of children’s poems I had already read while camping here on a previous trip. Just around 6:00 p.m., I began the fantastic descent into Pittsfield to get food for the night and next morning. More familiar terrain led me out of town, on a bit tougher route than I anticipated. As the sun set, I turned my lights on, more to be seen, than to see. I saw a moose cross the road a couple

rough class 4 roads. I expected my pace to be a bit slower than normal and was warned to be ready to push my bike on the hills and in the mud. Sticking to my guns, I planned to be finished within 48 hours, as I had only taken one day off of work, and wanted that day to get home and recover.

North to Moosalamoo I had enjoyable riding along the Harriman Reservoir Trail, and onto Forest Service roads which brought me to a bit

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Vermont Sports, September 2015  
Vermont Sports, September 2015