Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lake Sojourn - Part Two

Day 2 - 69 miles
The church in Highgate Springs is unusual in that the steeple is black unlike most of New England's white-topped churches. It sits apart from the few homes in this small border town and is the only public fixture.

Three miles later is the border. I missed it on the first pass though, as I'd been following the Champlain Bikeway signage. If you take it literally, in this instance it directs the traveler onto a horseshoe loop, appropriately named "Border View Road" and dumps you back onto a frontage road heading south — exactly in the opposite direction I wanted. I backtracked and followed the "Canada" route, merging briefly with an interstate highway to check in at the border.

Phillipsburg, Quebec is a sleepy town, but boasts the most beautiful view of Missisquoi Bay, or upper reaches of Lake Champlain. North of the border it's also eerily flat. The headwind was picking up and I aimed to get to that far point on the horizon which as I swung around, hugging the shoreline, should eventually place me in a tailwind. I was banking on it. I had a ton of miles to cover so my 7:30 a.m. start was a wise move; hopefully, the third day would only be a morning ride.

Not too long later I came upon this view. It looked like someone toilet papered the asphalt!

Upon closer inspection, fresh tar was applied to the cracks with the "TP" as a sealant or preventative measure so the gooey stuff wouldn't immediately wind around vehicle tires. I was thankful too because it was quite fresh. In Vermont, the repair crew slaps down the patch; it often looks like squiggles all over the road. I avoided what I could and plowed through other areas. When I caught up to the construction workers there was no less than 20 guys with brooms, buckets of tar, and rolls of the white paper, but mostly just standing around as all crews tend to do.

I made it to the northern most point at Venise-en-Quebec. I liked the bicycle display near a public park. Indeed it's a resort town with half mile long camping ground opposite the shore. It has a bike lane, albeit tiny, and rents cruiser bikes in the height of summer. There are restaurants and ice cream shacks—a typical summer fun area, but they are still ramping up for tourists.

A few miles later in a quiet residential spot I took a break, admiring the view back towards Vermont and the Green Mountains. After living for a time in Oregon and thriving on the open landscape I've come to understand that when I need that open contemplative space, Lake Champlain fills that need.

From here on southwards the tailwind was spectacular. I flew, but stopped occasionally for snacks, to take photos, and continually apply sunscreen. I truly appreciated my light load.

As mentioned, the Canadian side is flat. Farmland is king with mostly dairy and corn fields. It's been a dry spring so crops are struggling. Some corn fields are on schedule, adhering to the old adage "knee high by the 4th of July" while others are behind.

A deep drainage ditch separates the field from the road. It's in this wetter region that wildflowers thrive, often with bouquets of daisies. All along the morning's ride cottonwood "fuzzies" flew by, a warm version of a winter blizzard.

I crossed the border back into Vermont at quiet Clarenceville, Quebec. It was so devoid of cars that I waited at this gate for several minutes before yelling over to the Canadian building beside me, but to no avail. Sure, I could've gone around the gate, but as frequent travelers to Canada I know not to provoke the authorities. There are too many high speed chases and illegal aliens and drug traffickers nabbed at these ports. I backtracked and slowly followed a sign on a sidewalk that splits the building. I looked in at the darkened glass window and still didn't see a soul so I crept slowly by until a female guard came out.  She was a bit taken aback by my entry, but eventually waved me away explaining that I wasn't as heavy as a car to automatically raise the gate.

At the East Highgate American side, it's a different story. Their patrol told me to wait, twice, until he came out. He then grilled me, even after I produced my passport, and couldn't believe that I pedaled from Burlington. Or maybe he saw what happened on the Canadian side. I wanted to be snide, because, after all they must see many bicyclists in this region, but like I said you don't mess with border guards. He most likely was trying to trip up my story to see whether I stuck with it. I presume it's part of their training to, hopefully, capture the real culprits.

By 4 p.m. I made it to Cumberland Bay State Park in New York. I wanted to stop an hour earlier—I was exhausted and had way too much sun—but one campground was overrun by RVs and another beautiful state park was only designated as day-use. Here it's spacious and only a quarter full. The beach is just over a dune and voila! I have a brand spanking new picnic table.

Another cool evening was on the forecast. I hydrated with two cups of ginger tea and spent time writing in the journal. Later, I sat upon a bench looking across the lake while talking to my husband and son on the phone. Overhead a pine tree began to dripI feared a bird at first glancebut I still moved, not wanting any sticky residue in my hair. Once again, it's pleasant with low humidity. I couldn't have chosen any better with weather. I finished my novel before nodding off, a fitting final night "on the road."

Lake Sojourn - Part Three


  1. I got caught up and read Part 1. Quite a sojourn. Interesting thoughts on the private campgrounds in part 1. I liked the idea of Champlain filling the open contemplative space. Nice story. Looking forward to Part 3.

  2. I think the "TP" is rather considerate. I have to admit Annie, your mention of Vermont and Canada had me reaching for an atlas - now I get it :-) My knowledge of US geography is pretty sketchy and that is no where near where I thought Vermont was, oops!

  3. This sounds like a great trip! And I don't know much about the geography there either... how far did you ride?

  4. I too found it quite eerie how flat Canada gets all of the sudden when I rode through there a few years back. Not that I didn't mind the flatness at the time, mind you...

    Border guards are weird. We got grilled at a middle-of-nowhere US Customs border station coming back into the country at Minnesota. Seems like the smaller US stations are much tougher, whereas a main border crossing like Peace Arch at Blaine, Washington is such a busy crossing they just want to get you through fast.


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