Friday, August 19, 2016

Magic Kingdom

Last weekend Frank and I took our somewhat belated honeymoon to the Kingdom Trails in Vermont. Due to my general travel anxiety, expecting me to take on the stress of a trip immediately after the wedding would have been too much to ask, not to mention pulling me away from my W101 training. Now that both of my challenging but satisfying milestones of 2016 are comfortably behind me, we took the opportunity to sneak in some new trail experiences between Frank's summer and fall class sessions.

We'd planned this weekend for several months, but as our departure approached, the forecast looked pretty rainy and threatened to put a literal damper on our Kingdom Trails experience. There was an additional complication in the fact that chasing down Vermont unicorn beer is a lot harder than we had perceived it to be in our first pass of research. The line at The Alchemist starts forming at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday and you need to get there slightly thereafter if you want to acquire some Heady Topper. We'd already made plans to drop off Princess Monster Truck (my Lust) with her new owner in New Hampshire Friday evening, so that left only Saturday morning after a late arrival on Friday night as the only window for the requisite Vermont beer mission. My advice to future travelers is to come earlier than Friday if you're planning a Monday departure. Monday is kind of a useless day in Vermont.

After the beer excursion, I was a little worried that we wouldn't get to ride, as the rain continued to fall through the morning and through our trip back to Burke. The Kingdom Trails website indicated that the trails were still 100% open, so we pressed on, and the rain miraculously stopped around the time we got changed and got on our bikes. Things were still a lot damper than ideal, but they had physical signs to close the trails at the entrances, so we decided we'd ride unless they told us not to. It was a little weird to be worried about wet trails again, since green, yellow, red has not been a regular concern in my life for more than two years. Although swoopy, flowy, purpose built trails are fun, I've definitely come to prefer the experience of riding my chunky, hard, old school backcountry trails in Rothrock, where rain just means you have to be more careful not to slip and rarely see more than 1-2 other people in a five-hour ride. But I guess it's good for the even the most curmudgeonly bike hermits to expose ourselves to new experiences sometimes.

We ended up only doing about 10-15 miles each day due to travel fatigue and wet conditions. I guess my other lesson learned was that, even if I stress about traveling, it's worthwhile to make longer trips when I do so that I have time to settle in and get more time to explore the new area. Rides on new trails feel way longer than the same distance at home, so if we want to fully see what a new area has to offer, we need to schedule more time for that.

Finally, on the way home Monday, we did a little detour to check out the Millstone Hill trails in Barre. In a weird way, I enjoyed this ride more than I did the Kingdom Trails even though we had a terrible time with navigation and it took us over two hours for a 5 mile ride. It was still very satisfying for me, though, as those five miles contained some of the hardest features that I've actually talked myself into riding. As I've mentioned before, a lot of Rothrock is technically difficult while still presenting a pretty low level of danger. If you mess up, you just fall over sideways at a 2 mph and bruise your hip or something. Endos and high-speed face plants have been rare, although that may change now that I'm focusing on getting faster at TSE enduro segments. At Millstone Hill, I found the courage to ride a lot of wooden features, drops, and steep sections that scared me, but I made it through them, so in a way, that was the highlight of my trip.

Of course, Tormund got his first scratch due to a dumb decision on my part, so we both rode away from the experience changed, although perhaps in ways that are for the best. He's a gnar bike by trade, and I'm trying to become a gnar rider, so maybe living through scary sections and scratches is what needs to happen for us to reach the next level together.

"Oooh, there's that church that people always post pictures of when they visit the Kingdom Trails!"

The #cambyfambly got to stay in the room with us on special bike hooks. Did I mention Frank got a Camber of his own?

Shredding some of the swoopier stuff on Day 2.

Climbing the fire tower seems like a great idea until you remember you have a crippling fear of heights.

The most ostentatious mountain bike trail entrance that I've ever seen at Millstone Hill.

#scenicquarryselfie at the the lookout in Millstone Hill.

Millstone Hill was full of features

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