Sometimes You Just Gotta Get Your Feet Wet



It’s not often you stub your toe while training. Of course, it’s also not often that you are forced to detour from your planned route, pedal through a field, remove your shoes and socks, shoulder your bike, then take a lengthy stroll through a river, at which point you stub your toe. From there, you climb up out of the river bank, trudge through the woods, and thirty minutes later back onto the road.

And why would you do such a thing? A bridge closure, of course.

Every day is an adventure, right? I made sure to capitalize on that proclamation yesterday by setting out with the ambitious plan of the massive Vermont Six Gapper. You know it’s official — or officially unofficial — when a ride title is capitalized. It also behooves you to Google it, to which you’re given 18-million results. Yeah, it’s THAT legit.

I went to college in Middlebury, smack in the middle of Vermont’s lush Green Mountains. As the story goes, I was a freshman in college, recently retired from my high school sporting career and very content with collegiate intramurals, when my brother Robbie came to the collegiate national championships hosted by UVM just up the road. Watching Robbie win the first of his three national championships on these roads, I was inspired. Figuring that I shared those speedy genes and a love for competition, I followed in his footsteps (or his draft as it were, hardy har har) and got into bike racing too. This spectacular slice of the world is where I found and fell in love with the sport of cycling.

So the six gaps run from north to south as follows: Appalachian Gap is perhaps the most well known and is the finishing peak on which Robbie won that collegiate title. Lincoln Gap is up next and is a beast, claiming the dubious title of having the steepest paved mile in America. Next is Middlebury Gap which I’ve ridden countless times thanks to my time in college where I’d often postpone studying in order to ride. Brandon Gap is fairly tame although does crest over Mount Horrid, which we can all agree is a bad ass name for a peak. East of there is Rochester Gap which seems to go on forever; then looping back up, Roxbury Gap pitches up to painfully steep grades, and then kicks you in the teeth by turning to gravel.

There were rumors of another big group of intrepid souls riding the six gaps and they were leaving at 6:30 in the morning in order to fit it all in. Yeesh, that’s early! I was happily still sound asleep at 6:30, but I did start pedaling at 8am, which is far earlier than I normally start pedaling. An hour into the ride I was up and over Brandon Gap and had passed by about a half dozen signs ROAD CLOSED, SEEK ALTERNATE ROUTE, TURN AROUND HERE, and other overt warnings. However, just two days earlier, some friends and I pedaled this exact road with the exact same signage, whereupon arriving at the bridge in question the construction workers happily let us pass without issue.

Turns out, though, when the bridge is quite simply gone two days later, you can’t make a little jump, take it with speed, and leap your way across. A dilemma ensues.

I’m very intent on completing the six gaps, so not to be dissuaded by a mere bridge outage I proceeded to bushwhack, remove my shoes, ford a river, bushwhack some more, sneak through a backyard, and a half hour later I was back at it! And all said and done — 7 hours, nearly 3800 meters of climbing over just 208km, a few nips of maple syrup as fuel, and one massive smile later — the ride looks something like this. Which, coincidentally, resembles England.

And why Vermont? Because I’m not racing the Tour right now. Because I needed a refresher. I needed to ease my mind, body, and soul. Because I needed to go back to where I found cycling. Why Vermont? Because I needed this…

Stunning roads with sporadic farms

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Covered bridges

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General stores

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More general stores

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Corn on the cob sitting in wait

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Dirt roads

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And because farms, cows, hills, mountains, sky, barns, and green green grass.

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Ayup, that’s why.



Comments

  1. Becky Baumeister

    Vermont scenery looks a lot like Wisconsin scenery, except for the mountains of course. I hope you’re refreshed and revived.

    Reply
  2. Don Juan

    AMEN! Nice climbing, and bushwhacking!

    Reply
  3. brad sauber

    Wish I was there to share the tall tale! Good luck in the Rockies.

    Reply
  4. Iowakathy

    Way to PORTAGE!

    Reply
  5. rpparks

    As a native Vermonster, I know those climbs, but I’ve never done them all in a day. Guess I need more syrup.
    Thanks for the pics.

    Reply
  6. James Ashenfelter

    I did the six gapper back in the start of July, a week later I thought I would just take it easy with doing Midd / Brandon gaps. I kind of thought the bridge out sign was for everyone but me. Cut through the back yard , off with the shoes and across the river I went. Enjoy your stay in the green Mts.

    Reply
  7. Suzn

    What a terrific route! I climbed a really, really long hill in Rochester one day. Looking at a different map post-ride, I learned I’d climbed Rochester Gap. “Seemed to go on forever” is an accurate description!

    Reply
  8. Charlie Barker

    What are the odds the whole bridge is gone. Loved the pics of the old stores and the scenic gravel road. You did swell Ted King. Much better weekend than Dan Uggla. Atlanta Braves released him recently even though they owe him $19M thru next year. Giants signed him to minor league contract but he never had time for a cappuccino @ AAA Fresno because of middle infield injuries in SF. Well this weekend Uggla was 0-8 with 5 strikeouts and 3 errors and the boos were echoing off the bay. With a robust .156 avg he’s lucky he’s got a MLB contract instead of NFL.

    We have a similar race/ride in north Georgia called Six Gap which starts near Dahlonega and includes several gaps which were part of the ole Tour of Georgia. Neels Gap, Hogpen Gap, Unicoi Gap, Jack’s Gap, Wolfpen Gap and Woody Gap. The ride goes near the legendary Brasstown Bald climb but fortunately we leave that monster to the professionals. Love some of the gap names but not so endearing when you are riding them. Held Sept. 28 this year.

    Best of luck in the Rockies and Canada.

    Reply
  9. danc

    Ever heard of the D2R2? You’d love it. Come join the adventure on 8/23.

    Reply
  10. ePoch

    An epic day indeed! Sorry we missed you out there Saturday (twice in fact! once as we passed Roxbury and again as we took Middlebury). Just a blur of lumberjack plaid flying past the balck & orange of 545 Velo (hence the early departure) and the tartan of our MacGregors kits. The 6Gaps is an annual pilgirimage for us and we’d love to see you next year.

    But hey, if you happen to be hitting the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, we’d consider pushing the date back a week or two!!

    Reply
  11. Don

    Scenery reminds me of SW Ontario. Glad to see you are in recovery. Best of luck with races to come young Jedi.

    Reply
  12. Michela

    Racconto delizioso … vorrei essere li anche io a pedalare su quelle strade, e fermarsi al general store … ciao :)

    Reply
  13. Deron

    In the second ‘general store’ photo, check out how ‘ice’ is spelled on the ice box. Awesome.

    Reply
  14. MarcLF

    Great ride! BTW, you probably know of “Hill Junkie” Doug Jansen. He put together a great resource for cyclists that love to climb in the north east (http://www.northeastcycling.com/). He has a very good page about the 6-gaps ride. See here: http://www.northeastcycling.com/six_gaps.html

    All the best for next season.

    Reply
  15. Ron

    Do you stash a bike at home in NH/NE or do you just fly with your 2014 race bike wherever you go, Ted?

    Reply

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