Riding Day Two – Plattsburgh to Vermont

A few hours after we arrived in Plattsburgh, the rain joined us there and we spent most of the day relaxing and watching bad TV in the hotel room with a quick outing in the middle of the day to break things up.

The next morning we woke up and wouldn’t you know it, it was still pouring. But our time was limited and really, the attractiveness of “Staying in a Holiday Inn in the suburbs next to the interstate” is extremely limited.  And so we went down to have breakfast and resolved to get on the road by 9 regardless. And lucky us – by the time we finished breakfast and packed, it was only sprinkling a little.

We headed out in to the gloomy day, dodging puddles from the previous day’s deluge. Before long we could see the lake we were about to cross.

The ride took us backtracking north a little bit before turning out onto Cumberland Head – a piece of land that juts out into the lake.  We rode to the end where we were able to board the ferry for the first leg of our lake crossing.

The ride is relatively short – only about 10 minutes. The views were gorgeous, though. Even a few of the folks in cars got out to take in the scenery – and because it’s 2017, to take a selfie.

Once we landed, though we were the first allowed off, we pulled over to let all of the cars, trucks, and RVs get past us. No cyclist enjoys being passed by so many big vehicles.

Before long our route veered off on to a dirt road past many farms and camps. There was hardly any traffic save the occasional resident heading out. And then we saw something remarkable.  The forest around us was filled with colour.

Wait… Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?
Why yes, I do believe I am!
We’re lucky this guy didn’t see us before we left…

I was curious about the story of why there were so many bird houses out there. It’s a pretty cool story. A man living in the house nearby moved in and found that when he sat on his porch he was plagued by mosquitoes. He read that tree swallows ate mosquitoes and so he started to build houses for them. Over time he put up about 300 houses – and apparently it was a success.

Eventually the road got more and more muddy and wet and we slid the last little bit until we got to a narrow crushed stone bike path.  We only got to ride a short distance before the path ended. A wide channel separated us from the rest of the path.  Bike Ferry to the rescue!

We raised the little orange flag and waited at the designated waiting spot.  While we waited the little boy seen behind the flag fished. Within a minute he had caught a small perch. “I’ve caught bigger” he said, and tossed it back.  The ferry, meanwhile, was trundling its way over to get us.

As the ferry pulled up, the kid caught another smallmouth bass. “I’ve caught bigger.” he told us again and tossed it back.

We boarded soon after. This much smaller ferry had a crew of two: A driver and a person to wrangle bikes and take money. He took our bikes and put them in a rack and we sat down for the ride and chatted about where we were coming from and going. He had not heard about the bike train or even the speed of rail service to Toronto and so was excited about the prospect of traveling to Montreal and visiting Toronto someday.

Soon we found ourselves on the other side of the gap and were on our way.  The scenery was absolutely stunning – and though the photos don’t capture it at all, the tree swallows that help keep one man’s evenings on his deck mosquito free were frolicking all over in front of us. Dozens of them darted back and forth just in front of us.  And we never were once bitten.

Goodbye bike ferry!

The trip the rest of the way in to Burlington was punctuated by fantastic infrastructure – bike lanes, paths through the forest…

But then…

The bike path was closed for renovations.  But the city did a fantastic job of putting up signs every little bit telling you you were on the right way.

This detour, though, led me through a part of town I’d never been in before. I’m not sure if it was like this 30 years ago when I went to school in Burlington, but now the area has great co-ops, restaurants, and food stores that rival Toronto’s in terms of ingredient availability: Chinese, Halal, African, and others. Along the way we encountered a Little Free Library in front of a school.

I’m a huge fan of Little Free Libraries – small boxes placed throughout neighbourhoods where-people can take and leave books at will. Opening this one really took me back. While it only had children’s literature, it was the smell that got me. It smelled like old children’s books – like the library did when I was a kid. For a moment, it was 1976 again and I had just got out a bunch of books including The Phantom Tollbooth – all of which smelled just like this.

The school hosting the library looks pretty interesting itself.  Via the Sustainable Schools Project:

Started in 2011, the pre-kindergarten at the Sustainability Academy is a partnership between the Burlington School District, Head Start, and Shelburne Farms.  Young learners discover the world around them through a hands-on, play-based approach that utilizes the campus and community as the classroom.  Cultivating Joy and Wonder:  Educating for Sustainability in Early Childhood Through Nature, Food, and Community was inspired by educators like those at the Sustainability Academy and serves as a guide as they continue their excellent work toward creating healthy and just communities with the youngest learners.

The Sustainable Schools Project works with schools to use sustainability as a whole school theme, connecting their curriculum, campus practices, and community engagement.  Lawrence Barnes Elementary became SSP’s second pilot school in 2004 and has since become an incubator of exciting work that engages students in learning from and doing service for their surrounding natural and cultural communities.

Eventually, we made it to our destination: a fantastic little bike shop called the Old Spokes Home. It has been around since before I even lived in the area but as I only really got in to cycling as an adult in 2007, I never checked it out.  They had good selection and a great service area (and great reviews).  They had the chain lube we were looking for but sadly, no anti-chafing cream which is disappointing.  We did, however, get to wash all the mud off our bikes and especially their drive trains that were sounding pretty bad.

Once done, we headed to lunch at Al’s French Frys (sic), somewhere I used to go often when I was a student there. As I had given a friend rights to see my location through Google Maps he knew where we were and wound up surprising us there. They haven’t changed a bit.

The day ended with a wonderful time of catching up my friend, including a tour of the UVM campus (it’s changed SO much since I last was there) and a great dinner.  Then it was off to the lake to watch the sunset. A great way to end a great day…

It’s hard to see in the photo but an odd, and beautiful, rainbow mist had rolled in down at tree-level.


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