An Easy Vermont S24O
This brooks runs below Little Chicago Road just outside Vergennes.
My sister says I’m cheating. The friend I’ll be meeting at the campground will be driving all my gear there. And I’m only riding halfway back before my son picks me up so I can make a 5:00 “meeting” of former coworkers at a local watering hole. But the point is, I’m riding my bike to a campground, sleeping in a tent overnight, and riding my bike at least partway home the next day, which to my mind is all I need to do to qualify for an S24O (Sub-24 Hour Overnight), my first.
A farm road off Panton Road after the rain.
From the Charlotte/Essex ferry dock, I roll off in a light drizzle at 10:30 a.m. Soon the rain strengthens and I stop to pull on the rain gear. Half a mile later, I pull over to take a call from my husband; the ever-vigilant weatherman is calling to warn me that it’s raining. The dirt roads are a slog in the steady downpour, but as Greenbush Road angles up to Route 7 a few miles later the sky is clearing, and I stop to stow the rain gear for the last time.
After 1.4 miles on Route 7, Little Chicago Road offers a reprieve from the noisy two-lane highway. I follow the back roads into Vergennes, Vermont’s "smallest city." A sharp uphill forces me off the bike to push up the last dozen feet into town. At 12 miles, the halfway point of the day’s ride, I’ve worked up an appetite so I walk directly up Main Street to the bustling 3 Squares Cafe. As I’m locking up the bike, an old friend wanders by, in town with a guest, and the three of us trade camping stories over a substantial lunch for an hour before I roll down the hill and over the bridge that crosses Otter Creek.
The 3 Squares Cafe on Main Street in Vergennes makes an excellent stop.
A quick right onto Canal Street leads me off Route 7 again to Panton Road, which heads west toward Lake Champlain. After turning south on Lake Road I relax and cruise along, admiring the lake and agricultural vistas. Large estates line the lake share leading to Panton, a tiny village that includes the venerable Basin Harbor Resort just to the north. An hour after leaving Vergennes, and 25 miles from the ferry dock in Charlotte, I spot West Addison General Store, known locally as WAGS. The campground is only another couple of miles. The DAR State Park occupies a coveted lakefront spot just north of Chimney Point, where a new bridge is under construction and a temporary ferry carries cars, trucks, and farm vehicles to Crown Point, New York. A lean-to site is $26 a night; the campground is quiet and clean, almost full but not crowded. I wander down to the water to wade and enjoy the peaceful views until my friend arrives. We pitch our tents on the wooden platform of Hickory, the name of our lean-to, and then drive back to WAGS for dinner provisions and watch as one more robust rain shower passes through. I think about my pillow, left out on a folding chair at the campsite.
The state park's peaceful lakefront.
We relax at the picnic table with a couple of beers and and the local paper’s crossword puzzle. Dinner is prepared on a hibachi -- fresh corn on the cob, burgers, and chips, all delicious. Darkness comes soon after that, and we turn in early. My friend scrounges through her bag and finds a small camping pillow that, propped up on my fleece jacket, works well. I wake up often during the night, but feel comfortable in my tiny tent.
In the morning, my friend leaves for work and I ride west 1.5 miles for a leisurely breakfast at the Bridge Restaurant, temporarily known as the No Bridge Restaurant since the original bridge came down two years ago. Once back at the campsite, I make a small fire, just because I can, and watch it flame up, then down and out. I strike the tent, spend a half hour babysitting my iPhone charging at the restroom building, then pack up and leave just after 11:00. Despite a quick topple into the grass -- still getting used to the new clipless pedals -- the ride north under a crystal-clear sky seems easier and prettier than the day before.
"No Burials Without Permission..."
On arriving at home, I am happy to have accomplished a series of personal firsts: first S24O bike trip, first camping for two decades, and first time using my new-to-me tent, sleeping pad, and bag. I dry out my pillow and begin planning my next biking adventure.
Favorite local bike shop: Earl's Cyclery in South Burlington, Vermont