Highway Gothic: Vermont SR 100

Highway Gothic: Vermont SR 100

I have never belonged to a motorcycle club, nor have I ever attended Daytona Bike Week or Sturgis. I like to roll to the rumble of my own machine. It’s the sum of the harmonics, the sympathetic vibration of the “whole,” as we say in Japanese archery. My archery teacher put it like this, “Ultimately, to find the target is to align a point in your mind with the ideal harmonics of your bow.” I apply the same metaphysics to the starter button on my motorcycle.

I am not an all-rounder. When touring the U.S., I mostly explore the northern West Coast. The redwoods, Crater Lake, Mount Shasta, and Yosemite aren’t that far away from my driveway. Glacier National Park and Yellowstone aside, I can point my tire in any direction and the scenery suits me fine.

However, Providence, RI, knew that someday a somewhat picky Easy Rider like me would come along. So, the Big P, Mother Nature, and the U.S. Forest Service hatched a scheme to get me east. Although the West Coast has some of the most inspiring vistas in the world, the East Coast has something that we don’t. Providence seems to have set it up that way so we would all have to share.

To this West Coast rider, a road through an East Coast deciduous forest in fall is psychedelic. The forest ecosystem that runs from Florida to Canada has its own epicenter of biodiversity, a certain Mecca of Fall. Many fall foliage gurus claim that it’s a small town called Stowe, VT. Part of the reason for that is Stowe’s location near Mount Mansfield. Combined with the soil, the climate, and its ideal altitude and longitude, the woods near the mountain support one of the most diverse deciduous forest ecosystems in the entire country. All other stimulants aside, you might want to start your ride with a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Burlington. Have two scoops. They will expand your mind and get you right with nature before the show.

Afterward, motor east on US 2 toward Waterbury and turn north on SR 100 to Stowe. However, if you are a hardcore California tourer and these kinds of fall-time shows don’t work for you, keep going through Stowe and follow US 2 to St. Johnsbury. In the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, you’ll find one of California’s most famous pieces of art, painted by the German-American painter Albert Bierstadt (c. 1830-1902). Bierstadt’s painting “The Domes of the Yosemite,” measuring 9.5 by 15 feet, is the centerpiece of the museum, covering an entire wall. From this Californian’s perspective, it is the most awe-inspiring painting ever done of Yosemite.

Plan your autumn adventure to Stowe in September or October. If you do, you will be able to see what a number of arboreal experts assert is the most dramatic fall fireworks show on the East Coast, and also view the best of what California has to offer on one tank of gas.