By PHYL NEWBECK
It was already a warm July day when 18 cyclists gathered at the Charlotte-Essex ferry for a Green Mountain Bicycle Club ride which would take place on the other side of our Almost Great Lake.
The club hosts road rides every Sunday from April to October and the ride scheduled for that day – called the Willsboro Wanderer – is a perennial favorite.
Most GMBC rides have both a long and short version and while on the boat, the riders discussed which of the options they would take.
A couple who was doing their first club ride decided it would be best to do the 40-mile short loop rather than the longer 55-mile route.
Another more experienced rider who had bicycled to the start from his South Burlington home (adding 10 miles in each direction) decided to join them. Alas, that cyclist jumped on the wheel of one of our faster riders and not only missed the turn for the short ride, but also the turn for the long ride.
GMBC rides are all mapped and available on the club’s website and many cyclists download them into their GPS systems. Paper maps (that include a narrative description with mile markers) are provided at the start of each ride. Even with the various ways of conveying information, there is always the occasional operator error.
A caution for riders who want to bicycle in New York: Road shoulders are not as generous as those on our side of the lake. The good news is that many of the roads seem to be in better condition and traffic, even on state roads along this ride such as Routes 9 and 22, is generally light.
The ride began with a long but not overly arduous climb going north out of Willsboro, N.Y., much of which the cyclists on the shorter loop skipped. The rest of us kept climbing until we got to Reber Road where we were treated to a significantly steeper but shorter climb. We welcomed the shady stretch along the Reber Road since the temperature was headed into the 80s by the end of the ride.
What goes up must come down and there was a lovely descent on Reber Road. During the entire time that our core group of 10 riders was on the road, only two cars passed us.
After a break at an intersection to make sure everyone caught up, we went uphill again on Deerhead Road. Another lovely downhill followed and we all decamped in a small piece of shade off Route 9 until the group was together.
A few miles down the road we had a well-deserved stop in the town of Lewis at Denton’s Bear Necessities, which allows cyclists to use their bathroom and even fill water bottles at their deli counter.
Most of us purchased a variety of liquids, some sports bars, one delicious oversized chocolate chip cookie, and even a sandwich or two. We were delighted to come across both the short-loop riders and the two group members who had overshot their turns, so we were all able to rest and rehydrate together.
When we returned to the road, three riders made a quick turn off Route 9, continuing the short route; the rest of us headed south, passing a pond that had at least four osprey nests in the trees.
As the heat was bearing down, most of us decided on a shortcut which would cut a few miles and – more importantly – a few hills off the route.
In doing so we were treated to an osprey nest close enough to the street that we rode over the droppings that the parents had emptied from the nest. Two little birds and their mother poked their heads out as we passed by.
Members of the faster group must have made the 1 p.m. ferry back to Vermont, but those of us doing the shortcut met the short-route riders in time for 1:30 p.m. ferry where we very much enjoyed the wind off the water at the front of the boat.
Many of us have been riding together for as many as 15 years, while others are newer additions. Writers, engineers, professors, environmental consultants, nurses, tech workers and people of many other professions find common ground on the bike.
Some of us are on carbon fiber bikes while others prefer steel. Some tout their lightweight components while others have fenders and racks, and we even have the occasional tandem and recumbent.
We may have different backgrounds and even ideologies but there’s a nothing a good downhill or tailwind won’t cure.