An Off-Road Motorcycle Tour in Vermont

Adventure Riding in Vermont

By Eric Milano

The group stared quizzically at the fuel pump in front of the Ripton General Store. One rider finally spoke up: “Where does the card go?” “No card swipers here” I reply, “just flip the switch and pump, you don’t even need to pre-pay”, I add. This was a foreign notion for the Boston-based group I was leading. They had come to Vermont to escape their high profile jobs and the bustle of their busy lives in the city. The group had rented dual-purpose motorcycles (motorcycles suited for on-pavement and off-pavement riding) and it was my job to show them a side of Vermont few visitors get to experience.

Back at the Ripton store, the group had made their way inside and were perusing the ancient relics collected by the store keepers during its 140 years of service. The cashier stood behind a giant register as old as the hand-hewn wood floor planks we were standing on. She greeted each customer, mostly by name, as they entered the store. “Could you tell me where the Frost cabin is?” I asked. “It’s your third dirt road on the left, couple miles down,” the storekeep replied. “He was good friends with my father you know; he used to come over to my house for dinner all the time when I was a little girl,” she nonchalantly added. For 42 years (1921 – 1963) Robert Frost summered in Ripton, Vermont and taught at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus.

Pulling out of the Ripton store, the pristine blacktop of 125 undulates up through the Middlebury gap past the Bread Loaf ski area and drops back down into the Mad River Valley. We turn off on a dirt road, disembark and continued on foot a few hundred feet to the rustic cabin where Frost spent each summer in Vermont. We are the only ones there. Sitting on Mr. Frost’s porch and gazing out over the magnificent landscape to the south, we immediately understand why this place was so inspiring to Robert Frost. We agree that we could sit there all afternoon, but this is a motorcycle ride and there is a lot more to see. I give the group the choice to ride the beautiful paved roads around the mountain range or cut directly over on gravel forest roads. The choice they make is one I was hoping for. Into the forest we go.

Into The Forest

The Forest road begins to get narrower and we soon pass a sign that states: “road not maintained by town.” The road condition becomes dramatically less smooth. Small stones turn to good size rocks and little puddles turn to steady stream crossings. The bikes we are riding, two Honda CRF250’s and 2 BMW R1200GS’ can handle it, but I slow down and check in with the group. As they pull up next to me I can tell from their ear-to-ear smiles that they are doing just fine. “You guys want more?” I yell through my helmet. Three thumbs go up. I turn off the main trail onto an old town road that has been discontinued for several hundred years. The narrow road becomes an even narrower trail as we dodge overgrown bushes and tree branches. I warn the group of an upcoming bridge that is washed out and point out the ancient stone walls lining the trail, but just barely visible through the 250 years of moss growing on them. Shortly we approach a clearing and disembark from our motorbikes. “This is my favorite cemetery in Vermont” I announce as I walk up a narrow path between two towering stone walls. You can barely make out the dates and names on the tombstones, but they are there and the group is reveling between the excitement of the trail we just encountered and the untouched history we are standing beside.

I can tell the riders are getting tired, but there is one more obstacle to tackle before we end the day; that bridge is still out and I do not like to backtrack. We approach the river where the bridge once spanned, but it is long gone. I signal the other riders to hold back as I attempt the crossing. The front of the BMW I’m riding disappears in front of me as I ride down the steep embankment into the cold, rushing water of the Fox Brook. I stand on my foot pegs trying to balance the 500+ pound machine bouncing over slippery rocks beneath me. As I approach the opposite bank I apply some good throttle to propel the bike safely out of the river, but the back tire hits a wet stone and skips to the side a foot or so. I counter-balance my weight and barely prevent the bike from tipping on it’s side. The riders tackle the obstacle one at a time, some requiring more help than others, but we get each bike through. After a spirited exchange of high fives, hugs and thank you’s we continue.

The day ends as we pull into the Baldwin Creek Inn. Chef Doug is outside roasting fresh chicken on an open spit and the scent reminds us of the appetite we’ve worked up that day.

After a hot shower, dinner is ready and the craft beer is flowing. The next day’s adventure is the main topic of conversation.

Make your own riding adventure in Vermont today.