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by Pamela Blalock with photos by Steve Frechette



The rain had eased back into a mist by the time we reached the hostel in Ludlow which served as the next checkpoint. This reprieve was short lived, and by the time we were ready to leave, a steady hard rain was falling again. I changed into tights, lightweight long sleeve top and a light jacket, and we headed out. The route climbs gently for a few miles to the base of Killington, where we then began the steady climb up to Sherburne Pass. We were rewarded for this climb with a fast curvy descent down into Rochester, and then a flat to gently rolling trip through a valley before the turn up the infamous Middlebury Gap. It was along this section that we caught Jean, Kenny and Bruce, who took full advantage of drafting a tandem into the wind. Somewhere along this section, the rain stopped and patches of blue sky could be seen amongst the clouds. We tried not to get our hopes up that the rain had truly subsided, but it looked promising.

We took a quick break at the Hancock Inn, a hotel, restaurant, and country store, with delicious pancake breakfasts, assorted pastries, and all sorts of other delicacies that we had no time to enjoy on this visit. We did take the time to change clothes in preparation for the climb ahead. Some say the climb up Middlebury isn't that tough, that it's the 200+ miles in one's legs that make it seem difficult, but I've done it with fresh legs and it's hard then too. Mercifully it is the easiest of the 4 gaps that cross this range. From the inn, it's about 7 miles to the top, with the first 3 or so deceptively gradual, the next 2 steeper and the final 2 painful. We had hoped to get over the climb before dark, so we could enjoy the descent in daylight, but alas we did not make it and we reached the top as darkness fell, when we flipped our headlights on. Reaching the summit in the dark was a blessing in disguise. The descent was spectacular. The clouds completely broke up, and our way down was illuminated by a full moon so bright that I kept thinking were we being followed by a car. It was so bright I could practically read the cue sheet and computer by it. It was exactly the type of night time conditions I love. It was warm enough for me to wear only shorts and jersey, and absolutely crystal clear.


We took a long break at the checkpoint in Middlebury, enjoying a bit of dinner and conversation there, before pressing onto our evenings destination in South Burlington. We headed back out for what was supposed to be a 30 mile ride to our hotel. The sky was still clear and that moon was bright and beautiful. The section of road between Middlebury and Burlington is a very difficult part of the route. The route is often referred to as flat after Middlebury, but that's the farthest thing from the truth. (It flattens out after Burlington ! ) This 30 mile section is full of short wicked steep climbs, which can really be discouraging if one is expecting flat land. At least we knew better. We caught up to Mike on these hills and stayed together all the way to our motel. Mike was planning to push onto the Canadian border before sleeping. Talking certainly helped pass the miles, but unfortunately the mile marker I was seeking came and went with no signs of civilization or motels in site. We eventually reached the Susse Chalet, 5 miles beyond the indicated distance on our motel list, and checked in for the night.

After a shower, 5 hours of sleep, a healthy serving of muffins, pastries, juice and coffee from the lobby, we were on the road again. We left a few supplies at the motel, since we planned to return there for our next night's sleep. We saw a few riders here and there, but many more had passed us early in the morning while we enjoyed our sleep. These riders encountered a great deal of fog on the way to Burlington in the early morning, where we had enjoyed such beautiful clear moonlit scenery the night before.

Rouses Point

Once through the traffic around Burlington, we again began to enjoy nice scenery as we crossed over to the island on Lake Champlain. The terrain here is rolling, and can be quite fun on a tandem. We rolled along happily until shortly before reaching the checkpoint in Rouses Point, NY, when John experienced a sharp pain in his left thigh. We took a break for him to stretch, but the pain persisted. We took it easy for the final 5 miles into the checkpoint, and John headed directly to the massage table when we got in, while I took care of restocking supplies for the next leg of our journey.