Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lake Sojourn - Part One

Warning: The following three part series contains images of bike camping and touring, along with lots of gorgeous Lake Champlain photos with perfect blue sky. Read at your own risk.

Dotted line represents circuit. Starting point is
 lower right corner, Burlington, VT.
Day 1 - 35 miles
I had a week long vacation so with a 3-day sojourn in mind I timed the departure just after a rainstorm swept through, which also coincided with our children's last day of school. I treated my children to a fun lunch. There was a slim window to complete the ride and return for Father's Day weekend. Later that Wednesday, my awesome parents came to hold down the fort and I left at 2:30 p.m.

Overall loop location within New England.
Less than two miles from home I had blow out in the rear wheel. It could've been worse, had I already cycled ten miles further, because as luck would have it the tire was sliced, necessitating replacement. I discovered a new-to-me shop within half a mile. I walked the bike, knowing it's damaging to the rim to ride it, not to mention the extra baggage weight. Thankfully, I remembered the location number as there is no storefront sign - it's not surprising I never knew about this place.

I was fully prepared to purchase the parts and do my own work, but for a nominal fee David at Winooski Bike Shop hoisted my fully packed bike into the work stand and fixed me up in a few minutes. It was worth the 28.00 I paid for tube and tire, and now I can add another local bike store to my love list.

Groundpad, blue tarp, rain gear, and handlebar bag on front. Tent (green)
 and sleeping bag (red) bungeed to the rear rack. One pannier had space
 to add provisions.
So with a later start, I continued. My goal was to get to a campground approximately 30 miles from home, presumably still within reach with sunset at 8:30 p.m. The next 8 miles was crazy with congestion emptying out of the metro area. I also chose a direct route north, rather than the safer way along the lake and through neighborhoods, but I've done that too many times. I bared with the ugliness and was soon stopping for refreshment.

I chose to ride the Miyata for this adventure because of it's quickness and comfort, plus I don't often bring it on tours anymore unless it's a gentle route. It has less than optimal gearing for hills. I also decided to go with my smaller commuting panniers. When packing I paid attention to what I really needed versus anything extraneous. I hefted my large panniers, the ones that are 5 pounds alone. It became an easy decision and I returned them to the basement. Swift and light became my journey's mantra. All told, I think my gear was close to 20 pounds, probably my lightest adventure to date.

The sky looks like a painting. Climbing the bridge over the
 Lamoille River on Bear Trap Road.
Even with a slight headwind, the riding was beautiful. I'd pedaled this route before labeled the  Lake Champlain Bikeway (and I had a map), which winds among farms and rural homesteads before dropping back to the lake. Lots of tractors navigated the fields, kicking up dust as haying was in process. I plugged along, bought a beer and dinner fixings at a convenience store, then zipped the last 5 miles to the Champlain Valley Campground, arriving at 7:30. I was glad for the little weight I hauled, allowing me to travel faster.

This is primarily a summer resort of folks in their RVs or more permanent sites who stay for weeks on end.

But there is space for a few tents on lush thick lawn. It seemed appropriate that I set up beside neighbors who sported a three-wheeler. Note the hanging lights, the blazing fire pit, gas grills, the signs, decorations, and whirligigs all common among regular residents - actually, campers all across America.

I've stayed at a lot of private campgrounds and in fact often prefer them over a state park. They tend to be a bit more expensive, but the community and cleanliness they provide is worth it to me. I feel safer among the older crowd; they know each other, lending an air of friendliness. It's also a quieter place - perfect for weary travelers seeking a good nights rest.

I sought out one friend to go with me on my short trip, but she was busy. I get lonely being on the road for hours a day, though going solo does have its advantages: freedom to putter or speed along on a whim, eat what I want, leave and arrive on my own schedule. I don't let the lack of a companion stop me. I've done enough touring to feel comfortable as a solitary traveler.

My home for the night. Just beyond the row of trailers is the lake.

First on the agenda is setting up the tent, then a shower, then a cup of soup.

I am the queen of Ramen noodles. They aren't the most healthy food, but quick and satisfying and they provide lots of water, something I need to keep pumping after all the miles.

I curled up on the beach in a lawn chair in my comfy new flats with long tights and a pullover fleece. I like these striped shoes. They are packable and lightweight and could be a good alternative footwear for the journey in France later this summer.

I watched the sun go down.

About 9 p.m. I retreated to my tent to read. Nearby in the common room a card game was underway. It was an over 60 crowd of 8-10 people, laughing, too loud for me to fall sleep beside, but by 9:45 they broke up, wishing each other a pleasant evening. Eventually I stuffed ear plugs in and easily fell asleep.

Lake Sojourn - Part Two


  1. Looks like a good trip....looking forward to reading the next posts on this.....


  2. Don't get me wrong I love the coast, but, there's something about inland water. It's why I love cycling along the river that's close to me. I much prefer cycling alone, but, do enjoy meeting up with friends at designated stops along the way (best of both worlds). I think your new shoes will be just the ticket on your summer tour. Very 'Frenchified' :-) Looking forward to the next few instalments.

  3. The tour looks good so far! (Yes, I know it's done, pardon my catching up.)

    I do have to say that I am the opposite you are when it comes to private campgrounds vs state park campgrounds. I much rather stay in a state park or USFS/National Park campground vs a private spot. I like rustic looking spaces and often find that a lot of the private ones aren't well maintained yet more expensive. I don't know if there is a big difference between private campgrounds in the West vs. East, so this may change things.

    1. I recall some lovely forest service campgrounds in Washington and Oregon. They were spacious and under those big Doug Firs or P-Pines, yes those can't be beat! But I don't recall hot showers, or showers of any kind.

      Our state parks here are different and more common than forest service ones: sites are closer. I find that people stay one or two nights and stay up late talking around fires; thick smoke filters throughout the entire campground.

      I feel taken care of in private campgrounds. that's important to me. The person that checks me in is often the owner. They are concerned if the slightest thing goes wrong. I also notice that folks quiet down earlier - they abide by the rules.

      As for private camping in the west...maybe I didn't sty at any of those places, now that I think of it. Possibly one or two in eastern Oregon, when we were making our way across the state.


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