Posted: Wed Aug. 08, 2012 11:31 am
On Sunday Aug 5th Helen and I took the camper to Abel Mountain campground in Randolph Vt. to stay for 5 days. The campground is on Rt.12A which is on the Vermont 6 Gap route in between Rochester Gap and Roxbury Gap. My intention was to ride the 6 Gap solo with Helen as support vehicle. As things developed we did not get to camp early afternoon as planed but arrived closer to 8pm. I wanted to get an early start and hoped to get out the door and on the road by 7am. I woke up at 7:30 and by the time I thought I was ready it was 8:15. Helen was still in bed so I told her I packed everything up for the truck and she could follow the map and catch up with me. I started off with 3 bottles and a couple goo packets.
Off I went and about 6 miles later I recalled I did not bring any money or credit card. Oh well I thought I?ll see the support truck in a couple hours. Still happy pedaling away taking in the scenery I wondered about Rochester Gap the first on the hit list. I had ridden four of the six gaps before but not Rochester or Roxbury. The road to Rochester Gap was new as I found many of the roads to be. This was a good climb several sections 12 ? 15% which was a big wakeup call for what I was to see later in the day. Nice views from this Gap, I think you can see all the way across Vermont. I took a picture and sent it to Helen hoping she would be able to keep track of my progress. My intention was to send pictures of each gap top and at each major turn. I quickly found out that cell service has not yet made it to all of Vermont. The run down the other side into the Town of Rochester was nice and fast. I stopped at the local Mobil Station to fill up a bottle. There was another rider doing the same and she was riding a two gap heading the same direction towards Brandon Gap. She was off and I filled up my bottle. As I was walking out of the store I looked at all the treats I could have purchased had I brought money.
The ride up Brandon from the Rochester side is not too bad it?s long but not many steep sections. As I progressed I came across the rider I met at the Mobil station, we commented about what a great day it was for a ride and wished each other luck. I faced a head wind the entire way up to the top. I stopped to take a picture and sent it to Helen. I noticed none of my previous text had been received. I started to become concerned. I had been out for a couple hours and climbed over 3k feet and don?t have food or money. As I was flying down the west side I gave a small handlebar wave to a couple on a tandem climbing the hard way up Brandon. They were both still smiling. I wondered about the trust a back seat rider has to have in the sills of the front rider while coming down a mountain.
At the bottom of Brandon I take a right onto the road to Middlebury. I send another text and try to call, not service. The ride to Dunbar Lake was nice and flat. After passing the lake I was out of water I stopped at a restaurant and went to the back door thinking a kitchen worker would take pity on me and fill my bottles for free. I was right. Off I went well hydrated but knowing I need to eat. On the main highway to Middlebury I saw a distant mountain with a tower. I also saw a car stopped along the road while using his cell. I stopped and got through to Helen?s voice mail. I kept going and about 15 min later I got a call. She had left the camp going the opposite direction as I was going thinking we would meet at about half way. She found out that cell service on that side of the mountain range is not any better. I was on the road to Middlebury gap and we decided to meet on the other side in Hancock where we would have lunch and refuel my pockets. I was really looking forward to the ham sandwich and banana bread. The climb up Middlebury was not easy it had lots of curves and some sections were steep. I knew I had much more to climb as I heard the high pitched whine of trucks coming down. I could not see the trucks but I could hear the engine pushing against the downside pull of the mountain, the same force I was pushing against in the other direction. I made it to the top and just as I started down I met the tandem riders again. This time I noticed the front rider was not as happy but in the back seat she was still all smiles. This run down the east side of Middlebury into Hancock is nice and fast. On all these downhill sides you have to be especially careful. The curves are sometimes tight, you only have one lane and there are some lateral cracks in the pavement. Speeds 45 to 50mph are on you quickly and the brakes on the bike react differently after heat builds up. I met Helen as I was coming down the mountain, she turned around and we ate lunch in Hancock. It?s 2pm and I am only halfway through. She asks if we are still doing all 6. I say sure. She appears to be concerned about the time left or maybe how I looked after 3 gaps. I don?t know, but I planned on 6 and unless the bike breaks I am going to do 6.
You end up with lots of time to think on long rides and early on the item that kept coming up in my mind was that I have Lincoln Gap scheduled for Gap #4. This is the hardest climb of the ride. I have been up it 4 times previously and it has beaten me once when I had to stop and get my head, heart and legs back in working order. This road has sustained 20% incline with sections steeper it?s scary, intimidating and long. You have to balance just right to keep the front wheel down and still have the right gear to turn over and make forward progress. You have to do this for over one mile. After you are into one of the 20% sections and it tapers off to 15% you feel like someone just gave you an ice cream cone, 15% is not that bad after all. Helen does not like driving up because sections have severe drop off and it?s two way traffic with only 1 ? lanes wide. But the pavement is new and excellent. As I started up the climb I saw a guy on a very old mountain bike. He had no helmet and was wearing a loose tank top, cargo pants and tennis shoes. The bike had old rim brakes and platform peddles. He had one bottle, he said he was doing 4 gaps today. As we started the climb I kept him in front of me. I thought he was either crazy or a professional. When the steep sections started I ended up gaining on him probably because I had higher gearing. As I passed him neither of us said anything. And I think he?s crazy. It was hard and then harder. My HR hit 180 and was rising, this is my max max. I know I can?t do more once I hit this zone. I was cooked. I was about ? of the way up and had to stop on the steepest longest part. I took about 45 seconds to regroup and off I went pedaling again refusing to walk this monster. As I regrouped Mr. Mountain Bike pedals past. I hate that. Maybe not so crazy I think. I see Helen at the top grab some cold drinks eat more banana bread and off I go down the other side. This is steep twisty and some dirt but after this part there is some fast paved slight downhill runs. Careful but still fast is my goal. On my way to Appalachian Gap for #5 on the list.
I am pissed that Lincoln beat me again but I think that will get me back here to ride it another time. I try to focus on the positive and that I have two of the very hardest gaps ahead of me, not as hard as Lincoln but next on the list. It?s a big long climb from Lincoln to App Gap. There is a quite a bit of climbing before you ever get to the hard stuff. I stop at a store just before the gap and buy some cold chocolate mile a coke and a gallon of ice cold water. I also see some fresh homemade garlic bread and grab that for dinner later to go with the steak. It all goes in the truck except the milk which I chug before getting back on the bike. App Gap twists and turns and climbs and saves the steepest for last. There is a nice overlook here where you can watch the poor bastards push their way up the mountain. At the top Helen tells me Mr. Mountain Bike is still ahead. I don?t get it, I guess he didn?t stop for banana bread and chocolate milk. The downhill side of App Gap is very fast and twisty. About 4 years ago I nearly bought the farm on one of the curves. After surviving that close call I swore to never take the curves at such a high speed again. I was careful but still took good lines and got the adrenalin going. This is a fast run for several miles where you pick up highway 100 and take it to Warren where you?ll start the climb to Roxbury Gap.
Climbing out of Warren I hear someone say ?hi how?s it going.? It was another rider heading up. We talked for a while about the gap rides where I was going what he was doing. He was visiting from Philadelphia and was doing the 6 gap the following day only going the opposite direction. It would be his first time too. We wished each other luck and he pointed me to my last climb of the day. I made my turn for Roxbury Gap and he continued in another direction. Helen waits at the corner and follows me up.
This climb has good pavement except where it has good gravel on the up side. It is steep consistent and long. It never seems to end. I can?t stand well because I am tired and my balance is poor, I spin my rear tire out so I stay seated. I find that if I look 5 feet in front of me and just push it?s easier than looking up the road seeing the endless mountain road and wondering about what?s around the corner. So I just look a few feet in front of me and push on. I notice my Garmin is showing around 11,400 feet total climbing for the day. I know it can?t be much farther. Finally it?s there the top. I am very happy then I see the other side. All gravel very and steep twisty. Helen reminds me to be careful. It?s like this for a couple miles then the pavement returns. Still about 15 miles to go from here and I feel like a horse heading back to the barn. It?s a fast run mostly downhill 1 or 2% with a few little hills thrown in along the way. I put my TT mindset on and do 24 -26 mph the entire way. I don?t know where the energy came from but I found it. When I pulled into the campsite I was wasted. I just stood there for a few minutes straddling the bike, it was hard to stand. Of course Helen is taking pictures of tired me saying smile. I am smiling. After a bit I did manage to make it into the camper and grab a beer drinking it at the picnic table.
We had a great steak dinner with wine, potato and the garlic bread I picked up along the way. Then off to bed.
The link is to my Strava page which has the detail of the ride. In total the ride time was 9+ hours and 14mph average, 132 miles, 11,800 feet of climbing and 5600 calories. http://app.strava.com/rides/16981439
And yes I would do it again; I would like to try it from the other direction.