Friday, August 6, 2021

GMGG is Fine with Me

Brewery #1 Lawson's Finest Liquids

When friends we had barely met before asked us to join them on an epic journey into the the mountains of Vermont to ride bikes on questionable roads and drink beer we thought: "Why Not?".  Besides, they are planning all the logistics of the trip and all we had to do is ride. 

Previewing part of the route on Google, Thumbs Up!
The GMGG (Green Mountain Gravel Growler) is a bikepacking route that connects dozens of breweries in Vermont with a mix of paved roads, gravel roads, bike paths, single tracks, and a few streams.

Not a paved road.

We ultimately ended up with a version that spanned 3 days and about 160 miles starting and ending in Montpelier.  The first day which consisted of a late start, the Lincoln gap, 60+ miles and a trail section was definitely the hardest. 

This is at the top of the "Dead End"

But enough with the dramatic hype of the difficulty of this trip let's get on with the fun stuff.

Typical Vermont Gravel

We got rolling about noon and had over 25 miles before our first brew stop.  The route started out interesting with some gravel roads that turned to trail that resulted in our first wrong turn of many.  Fast forward 20 miles and we took another wrong turn looking for Lawson's Finest Liquids. Fear not, we found it.  The taproom alone is worth the visit.

I'm not really sure about the order of these beautiful views but I know this was on the first day.

The next stretch included the Lincoln Gap.  It has the notoriety of being the steepest paved mile in the US.   It is no joke.  

Anybody up for a quick side hike?
This is the first time (that I can remember) that I have had to walk part of a hill.  Our friend that had done this route before dubbed it demoralizing.  I think I might call it more Mortal-izing.  Our group consisted of a lot of strong riders and nobody did the whole thing without getting off the bike at some point. (I'll stop short of saying "walking").  Even though my heart felt like it was ready to pop, for some reason I want to give it another crack when I am not hauling extra clothes and tools. 

Everybody made it to the top in decent time.
The trip down the back side was part gravel and better for people with wider tires and disk breaks.  This is the point where I'll mention that one of our group was doing this route on a road bike with 28C tires.  There were times, like this, when he was at a disadvantage but for the most part he made it look pretty easy.  (We're not talking about the pickup truck incident) 


I think this was still the first day

After Lincoln gap everybody was a little worn down and there was still one pretty big climb before we got to Middlebury.  We rolled into town around 6:00 to find that one of the breweries we were targeting closed at 5:00, What? Isn't that when people get out of work and might want to get a beer.  We checked the second brewery.  Closed at 6:00. Ummm. OK, we'll try the "Mad Taco".  Good luck finding it, I'm going to keep it the secret that it apparently is.  When we finally did find it, there was an hour wait to get a taco and they couldn't serve beer before the food was ready. FAIL. We ultimately found The Two Brother's Tavern which required hungry puppy dog eyes to get a table, but they had plenty of beer and food. 

Food & Beer
The group is happy.  From here we rode a few miles to an Air B&B which was a great way to wind down after a long day.  They even had laundry!
Breakfast in Bristol
The next day started with coffee, like they all do.  We rode about 10 miles to Bristol for a nice breakfast outside.
Happy Birthday Girl

A breakdown with a view

From there we started our trip toward Hinesburg.  The trip was interrupted when somebody lost a shift cable.  Problem? No. Between the group we had 2 spares. 

Pit Crew

 When we got to Hinesburg we found 2 breweries that were actually open. Frost & Foam.  


Frost had quite a line waiting or beer.
Foam was more of a warehouse with no sign. (Notice the lack of shoe, "foreshadowing")

Sidewalk cobbler service.

We sat outside in the park alongside the brewery and enjoyed the weather.  This was another one of the points in our trip that I thought that I could be content to just stop riding for the day.

Gorilla Glue and Saran Wrap to the rescue.

From Frost and Foam we mad our way to Fiddlehead...Fantastic. We stopped, drank beer and ordered pizzas. 

Not Thirsty

The trip from Fiddlehead into Burlington was mostly on the Burlington bike path which was busy but pleasant.

Waterfront Park, Maybe we can just stay here.
The trip from Burlington to Wiliston was the most unpleasant leg of the trip filled with rush hour traffic and a few assholes.  A small price to pay for the quality of roads to so far.  We got to the hotel which cost about as much as an all inclusive long weekend in Cancun, but they did have "breakfast".

The bikes are in for the night and we went out for Sushi
Saturday, our third and final day was my favorite as far as terrain goes.  The route started through a subdivision, found its way to some gravel road and then dropped into a trail all in the first 10 miles. 

Emerging from the first trail section of the day
From there we were on country roads with excursions into a magical piece of singletrack called the river trail that I could have been happy on all day long.
River Trail
But it didn't last all day.  Eventually we ended up on a quiet gravel road running parallel to the river that would get us to Waterbury and The Prohibition Pig.  
This is the prohibition deer, unfazed by our proximity and public drinking.

Except the pig was (supposedly) closed so we ended up at The Blackback Pub.  It was not a bad choice.  The beer selection was huge and the food was excellent. 

Good Lunch Spot
This was the last stop for beer on this version of our trip.

Good Beer Spot

Wait, not it wasn't.  Prohibition Pig was actually open.  But we didn't go there.  We got some beers at the store across the street and drank them in the park.

Louts Mode: Namaste

This was the last stop for beer on this version of the trip. We crossed back over the river and made our way back to the Dog River park and ride.


I will replace this with a cooler video if it becomes available. 

Takeaways / Unofficial TripAdvisor Review of the GMGG:

  • I would do it again.  Preferably the northern loop that we missed with some river trail.
  • I liked the 3 day format. Plenty of riding including a full day of riding but not a huge commitment away from home or work.
  • I liked the minimal packing, air B&B, hotel version.  Nobody needs to pedal a bunch of crap over the Lincoln Gap.
  • Less is more.  We had a group of pretty strong riders and we were still using up the whole day.  If you aren't the kind of rider that could do a road century at a moment's notice, consider keeping the daily mileage below 50.
  • The beer to riding ratio was well spread out.
  • Check the brewery hours before you go.  There isn't much rhyme or reason to when they are open. 
  • Don't miss the river trail. 
  • Try not to be sick! My wife was brewing some kind of cold on the first day and had to drag herself through the last 20 miles.  She was down for over a week after the trip. (It wasn't COVID) Luckily none of the rest of us got it even though we were sharing a lot of space.
  • Make sure your route includes the breweries so you don't spend too much time searching for them once you get to a town. 
  • Book your hotel room early, or better yet, find an Air B&B or VRBO
  • Go with the flow, it is an adventure! 


Rides / Routes

Collective effervescence, GMGG Day 1

Ethan's theory of serendipity, GMGG day 2

Going with the flow, and some flowy river trail it was. GMGG day 3

Questions? Leave them in the comments section or leave a comment on one of my rides.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Acadia And Schoodic...And we didn't even bring bikes!

This post will start out with a big thank you to or friends who invited us to hang out, cook and play for a few days. One of our friends had a conference in the area which ended up turning virtual but they decided to keep the trip planned. Yay! 

I had a plan to do a pre-sunrise hike to a spot with less people than Cadillac Mountain. The trouble was, we had to find the right mountain.  I did my homework and at sunrise, 6:58AM,  the sun's angle would be at 104 degrees.  I found a spot near our house that would give us a view of the sunrise between the islands, perfecto!

It doesn't get any better than that.

Instead of getting up there in the dark and trying to figure out  what roads were closed due to COVID, where to park, what trail to take and if there were trees in the way we did a recon hike.  We actually encountered all of those things but found a clearing not far off the trail with some ledges that would be a great spot.  The trail we took was the Sluiceway trail to the Bernard Mountain Trail.  

This dog is not mine and not off-leash   (Photo by Warren E.)

The bottom is a little plain but the top is a magical ribbon of dirt through a thick moss covered forest floor.  Recon accomplished.

After our hike we took a side trip to smell the ocean air. 

When we got back we all took a drive to the top of Cadillac. I've been to the top of this mountain many times but rarely by car.  We didn't plan to stay until sunset because it gets so busy and even started driving away.  As we were passing the parking lot I said we should just turn in and look...

We were actually about 40 minutes early for the big event and it was getting chilly

But we stuck it out.

And it was worth it.

From here, the plan was to go home, eat, drink, be merry and then wake up at 5:00 to catch the next glimpse of the sun.  I wish all days could be that simple. 

O-Dark thirty (Photo by Warren E.)
Well, the getting up at 5:00 part came as a little shock to the system after the drinking and being merry part, but it was worth it too.

The moment before

If you have never done a hike in the night with lights, it is worth a try.  The woods are totally different at night.  Pro-tip, bring an extra light.   Because woods are really really dark if the one you have dies.

Hello Again
We got there in plenty of time to get in our spot and see the sun peak above the horizon.  As it turns out there was only a thin clearing at the horizon and then it turned to clouds.  This only made things more dramatic!


Eme Approved (Photo by Warren E.)

OK!  Sun's up...Off to the next adventure!  We grabbed a quick shower and then it was off to Schoodic to meet my daughter for more hiking around.  

About as close to being swallowed up by the sea as I need.

We hiked from Schoodic point around the coast and out onto Little Moose Island. There she showed us a sea chasm that puts "Thunder Hole" to shame.
Attempt # 237 to get this shot with the wave. (Photo by Rose Edwards)

We ate lunch and played around the rocks a little longer before going on our hike.

Rose showed us a really big rock

And took our picture there (Photo by Rose Edwards)

We tried to put it back into place with no luck. (Photo by Rose Edwards)
From there it was off to hike to Shcoodic Head up the Anvil and back down Alder.  My daughter surprised me because the last I knew she kind of hated hiking.  Yet this was a pretty rugged trail.  It was a really great day of hiking that was capped off with some great food at Serendib.

The fall colors on the island were really amazing. (Photo by Rose Edwards)

As you can see, we didn't have time to miss having bikes.