• Adam Shutes

Vermont Tour de Cheese Day Five


Although I was pretty sure there were no bears in Little River Park campsite, (and even if there were, they’d probably eat the screaming baby a few tents away first) the mere suggestion was responsible for my fitful sleep.

So when my alarm came at 6:30, I’d already been awake listening to some weird bird noises for a while.

The order for breaking down camp is this: deflate the sleeping pad; start the water boiling for coffee; take off the flysheet to let it dry; collapse the inner; detach and pack the poles; pull all the tent pegs; fold inner in half; lay in flysheet; roll and pack; make and drink coffee.

You need a routine, otherwise you will leave something behind when you go. I have learnt this from experience.

With a coffee in hand, packing all your possessions up and into the panniers is easy, with the last to be packed being the stove and water purifier.

During my coffee, my neighbour wandered over to chat. She apparently used to bicycle tour a lot, but now In her more advanced years, she camped with a family tent (but wisely no family) and gazebo, as well as a van. For just her and her two mountain bikes. For a week.

She admitted she was jealous watching me pack everything onto the bike, and be ready to go.


I’ll admit to you that I was jealous of the chairs she had set up in her gazebo. At this point, something soft to sit on apart from a park bench or my saddle would have been great.

I was ready to roll, and so off I went.

Today would continue the eastbound push, back towards the NH border. With a stop in at the Cabot Visitors centre in the town of, well, Cabot. About 130 km all told.

Zipping down the gravel road I had to grind up the previous night was a joy in the sunshine - and I could take in some lovely scenery, including the reservoir created by damming up the river. It twinkled in the morning brightness and I saw boaters and swimmers starting their days.

Straight through Waterbury, before I settled into a rhythm riding along VT 2, sharing the road with cars and trucks which were far too large and unwieldy to be on such a small road as this, and I would feel the wind buffer me as they went past.

After one short climb the city of Montpellier just appeared. I’d told it was small, but this was beyond my imagination. This was tiny.

A glorious, golden topped State House sat uphill of an array of miniature, unkept Victorian houses which were labeled ‘Secretary of State’ or ‘Department of Agriculture’ etc. I guess all the money went into that golden ball atop of the hill.

Four streets seemed to make up the entirety of central Montpellier, with the street in front of the state house emblazoned with ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ in huge yellow letters. Awesome.

In these small towns it’s astonishing to see how residential housing mixes with governmental or commercial buildings. All free flow. All side by side, so that there seems like there’s no real definition or organization, I wonder if zoning exists at all? I guess in such a small size it doesn’t have to exist so strictly, as we might be used to in the bigger cities.

Tracking along with me again today, like yesterday, was the Woonski River. And I only left it as I broke away towards Cabot after about 80 km. This was because, of course, Cabot was up a hill.

Now Cabot are a cheese making cooperative- in other words they don’t have any cows of their own, but buy in their milk from ‘local’ producers. This is one reason their cheese will only be from pasteurized milk - it has to be standardized between the producers to help them make the same consistent cheese. This is why their cheese will always be nothing more than average. There will never be the fluctuations of the seasons or feed and so on reflected in the milk. Standardize what you get it and churn out the same old stuff.


If you remove yourself from the farming, and you remove yourself from the control and understanding of the milk then ultimately you remove yourself from the understanding and creativity behind a quality cheese.

I crawled up the hill to Cabot, like Frodo on Mt Doom.

And when I got there, they were closed to the public.

No lovely fields to look at, like in Shelburne, just a glass door with a big red sign. Closed because of COVID.

Frustrated, I sat in the car park and had some lunch. I thought to myself that it had all better be downhill from here.

I stayed there longer than I wanted because I needed a rest, but this extra time also gave me a look into their operations. Large unnamed tankers delivering milk, and a couple of large vertical chimneys, gave this a look more of a chemical production facility or oil refinery than a cheesemakers place of work.

Indeed, this was work. Press the button. Pull the lever. Taylor from Livefield Farm would not have been at peace here.

I was to be disappointed again, as leaving the town of Cabot (which was laughingly small) all I could see running away from me and into the distance were roads going uphill.

Damn.

It was time to just spin it out. No point killing myself getting away from the Cabot abomination. Find the lowest gear and spin.

Spin I did, for a long long time. But life likes to throw a twist in every now and again. And there at the top of the longest climb of the day was my twist. A simple road sign ‘Bayley Hazen Military Road’.

Here was the beginning of the road built by the American soldiers to provide access to the north from the south of New England (as it was then).

I’ve said the words Bayley Hazen countless times over the last five years as it was our ‘always in’ local blue cheese, from the guys up in Jasper Hill. And it was a very good cheese to boot - and the only cheese to have been sent into space.

What serendipity. I felt the long hard climbs had been worth it just for this moment, where the worlds collide.

Now the ride was really downhill all the way into Danville, where I met up my old friend, the Woonski, and road along Theodore Roosevelt’s Highway (a grand name for an average road - Teddy would not have been pleased).

At the beginning of the trip, I had planned that tonight I would be camping in a ‘primitive site’ next to a pond. Read, no organisation, just do it.

But, the previous day I foresaw I would need to catch up on some sleep, so had managed to find a room in a B&B right in Danville. With overnight and morning rain now forecast, I was glad I did.

Being rested and dry is a good way to start the last day, where I’ll be biking away from the Green Mountains and into the Whites, and into quite a cheese-barren wilderness.