"Long ago, the Great Bear wandered freely throughout the sky. His massive paws took him far across the unlimited ceiling of the world. He hunted and fished, finding food there in the many rivers of the sky. All throughout the first spring he did this, until his belly was full and happy." -Iroquois Legend of the Big Dipper
Wandering the roads, rolling mountains, and quaint villages of Vermont is a treat made extra special by the fireworks of fall foliage. But on this morning in early October it's not the 30-degree temperature that shocks as much as the lack of color - trees past their peak, naked branches reaching for the cold sky. Still, the ride must go on so its kickstands up and electrics on. The journey begins.
Day 1 - Journey's Start
"He did not know that three young braves had discovered him feeding that spring. They sought his pelt and meat to feed their families in the long winter that they knew was coming soon."
- Iroquois Legend of the Big Dipper
ride south of Killington, following a stream alongside a slender lake, and rambling through the picture-perfect towns and villages of southern Vermont. There is a rumble and clatter in the sky above Ludlow, where a trestle of iron and steel carries the Green Mountain Railroad. Red CL306 is pulling a handful of vintage passenger cars. It looks like a great way to take in the scenery. Sure there is yellow and gold as well as the occasional red, but there's also a lot of brown and a surprising amount of green - evergreens, trees that have not begun to change color, and the grass that doesn'st know winter is on its way.
Motorcycle & Gear
In Wilmington I join the Molly Stark Trail for a run east. It's a playful romp as the road is rarely straight, but slow-moving leaf peepers keep a lid on corner speed. A brigade of them falls from the mountains into the little town of Brattleboro, clogging the main arteries like my gutters back home. I grab a quick bite at Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe. Looking out the back window I can see across the Connecticut River to Wantastiquet Mountain. It's solid green, bar a handful of trees. Maybe I haven't missed the peak after all.
The afternoon is spent in the lands adjacent to the Connecticut River, including a dip into New Hampshire. The fading light of the afternoon sun brings some of fall's colors forward. There is a hill painted a patchwork of reds and yellows, and a small hardware store painted like the red of a nearby tree. The temperature is dropping as quickly as the sun, and the chill of night sneaks into the shadows and shade. It's time to snap some photos and then find dinner.
Day 2 - Northern Sojourn
"Without warning, the braves ran out after the bear, trying to catch and kill him. The Great Bear ran, trying to escape from the hunters. All through the long summer he ran, always trying to get away. The braves, however, were very cunning and strong. Eventually they caught up with him. In the first autumn, their arrows pierced the Great Bear and he died."
- Iroquois Legend of the Big Dipper
Motorcycle travel is invigorating because each day is different. Wake up, don your gear, head out the door, and escape the humdrum drone of the everyday, the ruts connecting home with work with the coffee maker.
The morning is a mellow ride in the farmland of central Vermont. The Green Mountains loom to my left, tempting and distracting. I'll get to them soon enough. Near the capital of Montpelier, I head to Burlington on Highway 2, which is relatively empty as it arcs and glides alongside farms and through small towns. In Waterbury there's a 768-pound pumpkin on someone's lawn, which is not a common site on the interstate.
Burlington is the largest city in the state but still less than 40,000 strong. The University of Vermont gives the city some cosmopolitan character. On the menu for lunch is Pho Hong, a Vietnamese restaurant just off campus. There's nothing like a bowl of warm Vietnamese pho soup on a cold day.
Once I'm south of Burlington the Green Mountains rise. I make a left and the pace and pulse quicken as the road tilts upward. It bears the scars of winters past - potholes, washboards and frost heaves - but the Kawasaki Versys is a great tool for the job at hand, providing a commanding seating position, decent suspension, and good torque. I'm not the only one enjoying the last remnants of fall, as other riders and cyclists make their way up and down the mountain. The view from the top is special. The Green Mountains, but for a splattering of tall conifers, aren't green this time of year. They're a carpet of gold and yellow.
On the other side of the mountains is picturesque Moss Glenn Falls, its water cascading in a series of drops. The falls feed a river that runs alongside the road for a spell. There's precious little light left and temperatures are dropping fast. It's time to find some dinner at the Original General Store in Pittsfield, where I do my best to eat a pizza pie all by myself before heading back to the Kokopelli Inn.