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Loop the loop ~ Madison, CT to Stowe, Vt and back

September 15, 2015

theloop

October 2015 / Madison, CT

I’ve been bitching all summer that I haven’t ridden enough.  Well, I got my share this weekend for sure!  I had to attend the yearly Ski School orientation at Stowe Mountain.  Held in mid-October, on Sunday – why on Sunday?  What a pain in the ass!  Anyway, enough whining about one day a year administrative stuff, lets get to talking about the ride.

How about great fall weather and foliage?  Nope.  The forecast called for rain, overcast skies and snow in Vermont.  Fantastic.  I kept looking at the Audi and thinking this is going to absolutely suck.  More than 500 miles in horrible weather…..  But, anyone who has been reading this blog over the years knows that I usually just go.  I toss a leg over the bike and make the best of it.

Also, I’m testing gear.  I’m still loving my Held Cardona Gore-Tex Pro jacket.  It’s supposed to hold up to the worst weather and I was a little excited to test it in the “wild”.  Don’t get excited about a long and technical evaluation of the jacket – Held does not make that model anymore and I’m pretty sure I have the last one sold in the USA.  The Cardona is however, the finest motorcycle jacket I’ve ever owned.  The fit and finish is impeccable.   Whomever designs the jackets at Held is an artist.  I’ve never had a garment that is so perfect for riding.  Some jackets billow up, or fill with air, or act like an airdam.  Some immediately leak water, break zippers, have cold spots, etc, etc.  Not with the Cardona.  You put it on, zip it up, and that’s it.  It’s perfect.  The Cardona is really a great compromise between Adventure Touring and Sport Touring jackets.

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Well, perfect within reason.  The Cardona is hot in the summer and not setup for really cold weather.  However, in-between those two extremes it’s excellent.  For really nasty cold weather I go into the closet and get out my old Fieldsheer Adventure jacket.  Here’s a photo of Clement Salvadori wearing the Adventure jacket.  As you can see the most important part of this jacket is the zip on high  neck collar.  Clement’s review is here.  I’ve had this jacket for about five years and bought it for $99.00 from www.motorcyclecloseouts.com.  To me it’s the absolute GOLD STANDARD cold weather riding jacket.  And of course,  you can’t buy that one anymore either…. I sense a theme here.

Jacket-front

Anyway, enough about jackets.  On with the trip.  I wandered around the house on Saturday killing time.  That’s unusual as normally I’m itchin to get out riding.  The occasional burst of sunlight through the clouds was enough to get me packed and ready.  Somewhere around noon, I hit the starter button and started north.  Madison to Stowe is a little over 250 miles.  Today I’m concentrating on making time.  There ain’t much to look at.  Grey skies, looming dark clouds and wet roads were my companions.  Pretty soon I crossed into Massachusetts, I-91 and i-89 North are good friends of mine.  They’ve taken me to Stratton for years and Stowe for over a decade.  As far as riding goes these highways are a mixture of good and bad.  Both are usually lightly traveled, and you can usually run around 80 MPH without too many worries.  Occasionally they are pretty with foliage or cloudless blue skies.  Then again, the police are expert at hiding along these empty stretches of road and it’s mostly flat, straight Interstate slab.  I imagine it’s Deer country too – that’s always a worry.

Crossing the Massachusetts border, the skies were considerably darker, it looked like the rain – ahead somewhere, how far?  Should pull off to put on my rain pants?  Not yet.  And then there was gas – I’d been running on reserve for a long time and beginning to worry about running out.  As I recall, the reserve is something like 40 miles and right now I’m 38 miles into the reserve……….. I hope the new ECU flash (Thanks Catfish!) gave me better MPG.

Finally, I arrived at Exit 26 off of I-91 North.  Gas and fuel.  I rolled to a stop, side stand down and climbed off.  I had to release the tank bag and swing it aside to get to the fuel door.  I put just over five and a half gallons into the tank.  Whoooo, that was running pretty close to completely empty.  There was a rundown KFC/Taco Bell next to the station.  I wandered inside and ordered up some greasy goodness.  I was finishing my meal when a FJR 1400 rolled into the parking lot.  The rider dismounted and clearly this was another long distance rider.  Beaten up gear, bug splattered Aerotsitch Roadcrafter suit and a weary sort of look.  My kind of guy!  I regretted that I had to get moving and just nodded in his direction as I pulled on my gear and headed out into the cold.

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I arrived in Stowe uneventfully.  The only exception was a I pulled into Kevin and Gabriella’s driveway, I almost lost the front end in the slimy mud.  That would have been a fitting end to a long day!  No thank you!  As you can see from the photos it was “a bit chilly” up in Northern Vermont.

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I got up Sunday morning and rode over to Stowe.  It was cold but clear.  There were huge snowbanks already in the parking lot.  Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe riding up wasn’t such a good idea after all.  I went inside the building and hung up my gear.  Orientation goes for most of the day and of course, when I walked out of the last session at 3:00 is was snowing lightly. Dammmm.

Looking at the sky I thought – I better get riding south RIGHT NOW.

slushy

Heading out of Stowe, I dialed up the Gerbings heated jacket and cinched my gloves tight to the jacket sleeve.  This was going to be a difficult ride.  Cold, black boiling clouds and light snowflakes not my idea of a fun ride.  I made it to Waterbury and carefully rode down the exit ramp onto I-89 South.  Shit, it was absolutely BLACK to the south.  I-89 climbs a bunch as you pass through Barre, VT.  Over the years, I’ve seen some brutal weather there.  I was not excited about riding into something that might put me into the hospital or worse – the morgue.  The weather got colder and darker, heavier snowflakes now.  Slush was accumulating on the road now.  My immediate thoughts were to get to an exit ramp and maybe ride on a secondary road.  The thinking was that while the road conditions might be equally bad, I would have the option to manage my speed down to 35 MPH – and maybe, if I went down that was an acceptable speed.

Then again, dealing with the off-ramp would be an issue.  Less traveled, perhaps iced, and if there was a car behind me bad things could happen.  So, no exiting I decided.  Just keep it upright, no sudden throttle or steering input.  Heck, I’m heading south, at some point this has to pass.  Just for a laugh, I put my boot down to the pavement to see what the road was like.  Slick, nice.  The part that really freaked me out was the amount of ice/slush on my boot – couple of inches.  Whoooooooooo boy.  Not good.

PHOTO:  Not me, no way.  This guy is crazy. 

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Finally, after a sold three hours fueled by terror, and the same level of grim determination I imagine possessed by a B-17 waist gunner on his second mission over Germany, the weather improved.  It stopped snowing and the slush was gone from the highway.  I pulled off the interstate for fuel.  If it were possible to dissolve into a puddle, I’d have done it after I stepped off the Caponord.  I’ve been in some nasty weather but nothing like that.  Rolling back into Connecticut, I was greeted by bright sunshine and temps in the 60’s.  Like it never happened……

I was very glad to put the bike away that night and relax on the deck with a bourbon and a fine cigar.

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