Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tour de Vermont, Part 5

Click here to read Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

After the Mount Mansfield and Underhill State Park adventure, we needed lunch and then the plan was to head into Burlington and do some more running from there.  Having given up on the idea of literally running point to point across Vermont due to the logistics, we decided to make our 3rd night in Burlington so that we could enjoy the town and sample the local brews without having to worry about getting in a car and drive home from there.  On our way into Burlington we stopped in Essex Junction an the On Tap Bar.

We pulled into find a bizarre fundraiser car wash type deal going on in the parking lot but the place had a big deck with outdoor seating and lots of beer on tap.  We got a big table out on the deck with a decent, if a bit overly talkative waiter.  I think we ordered one of everything on the menu.  The food and beers went down easy.  About the only downside was the kiddie band that was playing inside (with speakers pumping the music outside.)  It's hard to describe so I'll just say you had to be there.  It was hard to listen to.

Kyle and his trusty steed, Sputnik
With some food and beer in us we headed into Burlington.  On the way we called ahead and Chris got us a couple of rooms at a full service Hilton a couple blocks from the water with amazing views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.  We checked in, took our first real showers in a couple of days and relaxed for a few hours before heading out for our 2nd run of the day.  After the Mansfield debacle, we only needed about 6 miles for a 20 mile day and Chris was determined to not run one step farther than that.  We ran along a really nice bike path, the Island Line Trail, right along Lake Champlain, past beaches and nice neighborhoods.  The sun was starting to go down and the views across the lake were amazing.  Meanwhile the sherpas headed out for a bike ride on the same path.  After a few days of screwing around with the bike that he'd bought from "the Russian" in Portsmouth, Kyle finally took it to a good bike shop in Stowe and got the beast road ready.  "Sputnik" was ready to roll.

As we jogged along the bike path my legs were feeling like cement and I was happy that Chris seemed just as sluggish as I was and in no rush.  We let Mark and Dan pull away, figuring they were going to end up going longer anyway.  At about 3 miles out, Chris and I turned around and headed back toward downtown Burlington.  Running was not fun at that point and the days and miles (and the mountain) were definitely setting in.

Chris and I got back downtown, got a soft serve ice cream and walked up the hill to the hotel.  While Chris went to the truck in the parking garage to grab some beers from the cooler, I took my 2nd shower in just a few hours then put on some clean clothes and took a cat nap on one of the beds.  Wow that felt good.  Chris and I were just chilling in the room watching some tv when Mark knocked on the door, all showered and ready to go get some dinner.  Dan was still out running and the sherpas were still on their bike ride so the three of us headed out for a little walk through downtown Burlington to find some grub.  I had been to Burlington a few times before but for some reason never in the summer.  It's really a beautiful city and has a great energy.  The weather was just about perfect and as we shuffled through town on cement legs with our flip flops dragging there was plenty of good people watching to be had.

We were all looking for some waterfront dining so at the recommendation of the concierge, we headed to Breakwater Cafe, right next to the ferry terminal.  We let Kyle and Evan know where we were--nobody had heard from Dan yet.  All of us it seems were in the mood for our first non-beer drinks of the trip: I got a couple of margaritas and we ate below average pub food waterfront as the sun set behind the mountains on the other side of the lake.  There was definitely a sense of accomplishment at having gotten over the mountain, and just generally having run 60-something miles in 3 days.  We were all really tired, but feeling good.  Eventually Dan showed up to Breakwater just before the kitchen closed and ordered some food.  The bastard had run18 miles or something (for a 30+ mile day), halfway out the Colchester bike way into the lake and back.  After dark, Breakwater cleared out pretty fast and they started to shut down.  It was just as well as we needed to sample some of the local breweries, of which there are plenty in Burlington.

Unfortunately, it was a Sunday night and several of the breweries we wanted to visit were closed.  Fortunately it was Burlington and there were plenty more to chose from.  We headed a few blocks to American Flatbread, brewers of Zero Gravity beers.  Somewhere on the way, we lost Chris and Mark--they were worn out and needed to crash.  So Dan, Evan, Kyle and I walked into Flatbread and ordered a few beers.  I started with a Black Cat Porter.  The beer was good, the restaurant was pretty cool inside, but it was a weird vibe--almost like we had crashed a private party.  Being Sunday night it seemed like the only people in the place were the staff and friends of the staff.  It was fine, just odd and after a couple beers we moved on.

Our next stop was Vermont Pub and Brewery, Vermont's oldest craft brewery.  This place had a bit of a gritty, no-frills feel to it and we sat outside on wrought iron furniture.  Other than Evan, who decided to experiment with some kind of beer/fruit smoothie hybrid, all of us liked our beers and the place was quiet with only a few other tables occupied.  It was a perfect night.  I was really, really tired but happy with how things had gone so far.  We kind of figured that the next day would basically be a victory lap with no mountains to climb and no huge distances to cover so there wasn't a lot to be stressed over.

After a couple of beers, we headed down the hill back to our hotel and crashed.  For reasons we still can't explain, Dan decided to sleep on the floor but I have to tell you the bed at the Hilton was top notch after two nights on the ground and 64 miles in three days.


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