Okemo to Killington

A century ride is unpredictable. Like a marathon, all sorts of things can happen in a long event like this. Weather changes, injuries, bonking and so on can all play a role. Our ride today took us from Okemo to Killington, not a very long trip if your purpose is just to go from one to the other, about 27.5 miles. But that’s not what we did. The route started at Jackson Gore in Okemo, the newest development of the Okemo Ski Resort. Again, breakfast was simple, granola, Greek yoghurt, pastries, coffee and orange juice. We then headed out, up route 100, which runs the length of the green mountains. At route 4, we turned to go past Killington access road, and started the first serious climb of the day, the Sherbourne Pass. It was a good warmup for the climbs to come. After cresting the top of the pass, we had a four mile drop down to Rutland. Racing down these long hills takes nerves, The road has two lanes going up, but only one coming down, making the combination of fast cars and trucks, and narrow, jagged ruts on the side of the road treacherous for the cyclist. Before getting in to Rutland, we turned north, for a loop that would ultimately take us to the major climb of the day, the Brandon Gap. My good friend from college, Keith, and I rode together here along with Dan T. Our other Dan (B.) had taken off at a faster pace and hooked up with a fast group from Connecticut. It turned out Connecticut supplied the most riders of any state for the Vermont Challenge. This seems in no small part due to the director being from Connecticut, with a house in Vermont, and convincing a large contingent of his cycling club to come up for the event. We were content going at a moderate pace, and we even stopped to take a few photos of the Vermont countryside. In this part of the state, there is almost no open or forest land. It’s all farms, some very well kept, some a bit bedraggled appearing. We also saw signs of the destruction from Hurricane Irene, with crumbled buildings and road-sides washed away. There were also many stretches of new pavement where, we were told, entire roads were destroyed. The Vermont Challenge is a fund raiser to help Vermont recover from the effects of Irene. Cycling along these farm roads, we had to stop every now and then to take photos of the picturesque rolling hills, with barns and silos, fields of corn, and the blue sky with cumulous clouds setting the tone. It was along one of these stretches, about a mile or so from the fifty mile rest stop, that we saw a golden retriever zip uncaringly across the road to where a few workers were harvesting hay. As we approached, with Dan T. having shot ahead of Keith and I, we saw a cat running across the road with a mouse in its mouth. The dog came bounding after, right in front of Keith, and he hit the dog. Keith went down hard. He wasn’t riding very fast, and didn’t slide, but instead came down with great force, and lay sideways on the ground making a terrifying noise and managing to say, “I can’t breathe.” I quickly got off my bike and rushed over to him. I helped him turn on his back as he started to come around and his breathing became more normal. The owner of the farm we were passing, who was not the owner of the dog, nor the hay field, came out to help. He moved his industrial sized pickup truck out to the road to block traffic. By then, Keith was starting to breathe more normally. His left shoulder was giving him intense pain, and at first glance, seemed to have a separation between the collar bone and the shoulder. On closer exam, it wasn’t separated, but it was badly bruised. He was sitting up and thinking more clearly. Finally, he was able to stand, and we took a look at his bike. The handle bars were about 90 degrees skewed, but the gears and wheels were intact. I was able to muscle the handlebars back into alignment. Since we were only a mile from the rest stop, we decided to ride there, and Keith could decide if he could continue. It was a very slow mile, particularly painful for Keith, who was cruelly jarred by every little bump in the road. By the time we arrived at the rest stop, Keith was in a lot of pain, and clearly could not go on. The provider of our rest stop snacks, BonkSupport.com, offered to give Keith and his bike a ride to the finish, at Killington Mountain. Keith quickly accepted, recognizing that his Vermont Challenge Tour had come to an abrupt end.

I continued on. Dan T. had already gone blithely ahead, not aware of the accident that felled our companion. The next twenty miles I rode solo, seeing no one from the ride ahead or behind me. This was supposed to be a loop of bucolic splendor, but it was tough not to think about Keith and how he was fairing.  The next stop, at 70 miles was a very brief one. I saw Dan T. heading up the hill as I arrived, but he was too far ahead to hear me, and I needed to get some water and have a gel before starting the main climb. I filled my water bottle from a faucet outside the store, downed a gel I had in my pocket, then started out on the five mile climb. The first four miles were not too severe. I kept a steady but slow pace except where the road occasionally dipped down, for a short break from the climb. At about the four mile mark, the road enters a national forest, and gets severely steep. It took every bit of strength I could muster from my legs to pedal up the last mile, reaching grades of fourteen percent, with no significant flat areas to take a break. As I struggled, going around four to five miles per hour, a young, slender woman rode past me, saying, “I’d say I was passing, but I’m too tired to say it”, when a mere “passing” would have been sufficient. As I approached the summit of the climb, I noticed signs for the Long Trail, the oldest established hiking trail in the United States, and which I plan to hike next summer. After a short stop at the top with a few other cyclists who came up shortly after me, and a round of congratulations, I headed down the four mile descent, taking care to avoid the fissures in the road as I sped around the curves. The last stretch of the ride was to the base of Killington Mountain, then up the Killington Mountain Road to Outback Pizza, about three miles up the road. With all the climbing we had done, I really didn’t want to climb any more. But I made it to the restaurant, where the two Dans were already perched on bar stools telling stories with the other intrepid cyclists, drinking beer courtesy of the Otter Creek brewery, and eating sandwiches provided us by the tour.

After two beers, yes, two, we got back on our bikes to climb the last mile up the road to our Condo, which Keith had already staked out for us. He got our bags delivered to our room, and made a reservation for us at a nearby restaurant. We were completely beat from riding 106 miles with 6875 feet of climbing, but managed to recover and had a very good meal at Ovations restaurant, at the Killington Grand Lodge. We headed back to the condo, and, floating high on our ride, but also on the wine and beer we drank, came up with an idea for a sitcom we plan to call “Four Guys”, about for cycling friends who get into all sorts of crazy predicaments. Then it was to bed, to rest up for the next day’s challenges.


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  1. Michele S.

     /  August 19, 2012

    WOW! Congratulationson finishing that challenging ride! I hope your friend is ok and his injuries aren’t too serious.

    • Thanks, Michele. I think Keith is going to be okay. He’s definitely going to miss swimming and cycling for the next few weeks. Frank

      Sent from outer space.

  2. Hansen

     /  August 20, 2012

    Wow! Suffrin’ and drama on the roads of VT! Give my regards to Keith and glad to hear you guys made it to the end/top! What a way to cross train for a marathon! =D

  3. walterplods2012

     /  August 20, 2012

    great story Frank you should write a book. From the high seas in the Caribbean to the mountains of VT.


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