Bicycling: Last-Chance Tours of Fall

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1991

Bicycling: Last-Chance Tours of Fall
By Bob Howells

October is the coolest month for bike touring--a last test for your summer-hardened legs amid lingering sunshine and the carotenoids of fall. These three tours offer all the right stuff: quiet roads, great color, country inns, and hills to climb.

Mad River Valley, Vermont. Try a 90-mile lollipop loop down the valley, over the Green Mountains, and back again. From Waterbury, ten miles northeast of Montpelier, ride south on Route 100 to the Mad River. Follow the river through Waitsfield and Warren (break for lunch at the Warren Store), then venture into deep, dark Granville Gulf, turning west on Route 125 for the climb over 2,144-foot Middlebury Gap. From there, coast to Robert Frost's Ripton. Head north on Route 116 through cow country to Bristol (note the Lord's Prayer etched in stone to dissuade wagon drivers from cursing their horses), follow Route 17 across the 2,365-foot Appalachian Gap back to Waitsfield, and finally go north again on 100 to Waterbury. Your caloric reward for bagging two Green Mountain passes: free samples of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in Waterbury. Contact the Mad River Bike Shop (802-496-9500) in Waitsfield for route advice. The Chipman Inn (doubles for $93-$108; 802-388-2390) in Ripton makes a good overnight stop.

Mammoth Lakes, California. After Mammoth's summer tourists leave and before the winter hordes arrive, the roads of the eastern Sierra are sun-drenched and quiet, the mountains pine-green and aspen-yellow. Take it all in on three 30-mile day trips from the town of Mammoth Lakes. Ride up Lake Mary Road four miles to the eponymous lakes for a warm-up, then take the Mammoth Scenic Loop out to Highway 395 South and head back to town up 203. Another day, tackle the ride down 395 to Toms Place, returning on Crowley Lake Drive. Or ride north on 395 to the June Lake Loop (Highway 158), maybe throwing in a short dirt-road diversion to the Owens River Road fishing camps. The elevations are high--over 7,000 feet--but the grades are reasonable; just find a low gear and a breathable pace. Mammoth Lakes Resort Association (800-367-6572) has road maps, and Mammoth Sporting Goods (619-934-3239) is the local bike shop. Tamarack Lodge (cabins for $65-$80; 619-934-2442) and Snow Goose Inn (doubles for $58; 619-934-2660) make good base camps.

Monroe and Brown Counties, Indiana. The movie Breaking Away rocketed Bloomington to the top of the charts, bicycle-wise, but it was hardly revelatory to locals. A surrounding grid of little-traveled farm roads keeps local bikies happy all spring and summer--and delirious when fall color erupts. For a sampler of terrain both flat and rolling--that's Hoosier talk for "a whole lot of hills"--pedal out to Lake Lemon (a 35-mile round trip) or to Bloomfield (a 75-mile round trip). Or try the Nashville 90 bike route through glorious Brown County forestland that skirts Lake Monroe. Better yet, join 4,999 others for the three-day Hilly Hundred, October 18-20 (317-251-4130). Check in at the Bicycle Garage (812-339-3457) in Bloomington for information and maps. You can tie in Brown County riding with a stay in Story at the storied Story Inn (doubles for $70; 812-988-2273).

Copyright 1991, Outside magazine

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