Weekend Camping Trip 2: Camping with Canines in Vermont

Ben & F650GS

Our Pemi weekend camping trip was so fun and successful that we decided to do it all over again the following weekend! We knew we’d have a lot going on as we got closer to our trip to Colorado in July, so we wanted to get the dogs out for rides and camping as much as possible just to get them used to the idea. Kay hadn’t been feeling well – I think he’d been worn out and was really stressed by some big deadlines at work – but he agreed that we needed to get them out while we could so we settled on camping.

I picked out our destination: southern Vermont. I spent some time poking around a Vermont camping website, trying to find a place that met Kay’s criteria of “no more than 100 miles away” but would still have a decent campground and a reasonably pleasant area and ride. Eventually, I settled on Bald Mountain Campground in Townshend, Vermont. It was a big campground that didn’t look quite as gentrified as a KOA, and was about within the mileage range Kay dictated without being in a particularly lame area, so I wrote down the details.

Unfortunately, we had a minor miscommunication about whether we’d actually be going. I clearly wanted to go, but I knew Kay was feeling stressed and kinda wanted to chillax at home. So we slept in on Saturday and didn’t have any of our camping stuff packed. We had to pack differently this weekend than we did for Pemi, because per our policy of trading off on riding the Ural and F650, it was Kay’s turn to drive the Ural and my turn to ride the Beemer. So my stuff went in the Beemer panniers and his stuff went on the Ural. I suppose we’ll have to figure out a “permanent” packing order regardless of who’s riding what for our CO trip.

We still managed to get out of the house at a relatively decent time, and I decided I wanted breakfast at Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse, a really kick-ass place in western Mass. Alas, we loaded everyone up and got out there only to discover that they were closed for the season! They have a spring season and a fall season, and we were caught in the middle. That’ll teach me not to check the website first.

Rode back a mile or two where we’d passed a giant teepee and a sign for barbeque. As we dismounted and got the dogs some water, I started digging in my wallet and realized… I’d forgotten to get any cash from the ATM before we left town. Kay had, too. We’re not very good at this spur-of-the-moment camping thing. And, of course, the barbeque place only took cash. Luckily, the guys in the BBQ shack knew of an ATM down the road, so I mounted up on the BMW and left Kay chilling with the dogs in the grass while I went to grab cash for our lunch. Found it without any trouble, although I almost went down in a sandy bit and realized what a PITA it would be if I dropped the bike out by myself while Kay was down the street with the dogs.

Got back with the cash and we had tasty, albiet slightly disappointing, barbeque for late breakfast/lunch. The dogs got plenty of scraps, though, including some rib bones, which they managed to ingest in their entirety. I was thinking they’d pick the bones clean, but they actually managed to crunch up and eat the bones. I guess they were good ribs! More water for the dogs, as it was quite hot on the bike with no shade for them, and then we headed up to Vermont.

On the bright side, it was a fairly short jaunt up I-91 into Vermont, and then off at Brattleboro and meandering toward Townshend. This part of Vermont is really pleasant. I like the vibe of Brattleboro, in spite of it being a city, and leaving there toward Townshend was a pleasant and well-maintained state highway with reasonable speeds and beautiful green forests on one side and a pretty river on the other. It was a very nice change from Route 2 in Mass. Bandido seemed to enjoy it, in particular, as he poked his head out the side of the sidecar and sniffed and looked around as we rode.

Approaching the campground, I took note of places where we could grab dinner, as we hadn’t bothered to bring any of our camp cooking gear. I saw a few spots and was satisfied that we wouldn’t go hungry. Turning off the main road, the road to the campground was paved for a few hundred feet… and then turned to dirt. This was a good sign! Kay’s spirits lifted when we hit the dirt, and we had a pleasant ride for about 10 minutes on the hard-packed dirt road. Pulled into the campground and Kay went inside to register us while I waited with the dogs.

Drove back away from most of the people to some fairly secluded spots in the back of the campground, and we set up the tent for the first time with the two of us together. (I’d done it by myself at Pemi the weekend before, with a little help from a fellow YB.) It took us 15 minutes to set up the tent at a leisurely pace, and another 15 minutes to blow up the three sleeping mats (two for us, one for the dogs) and set up the sleeping bags. Got things loaded into the tent and settled in to work on some of our personal projects. We had camp all set up and ready by 3pm, with plenty of daylight left.

Unfortunately, I’d failed to account for one very important thing in Vermont: no cell signal. I’d counted on having Internet to work on a couple of my projects, but I was cut off. It made me anxious. I wasn’t relaxed about it like I was on our Americas trip – I was feeling disconnected and out of touch, and I foolishly hadn’t brought a book to read or any other form of entertainment so I was definitely feeling it. I’m clearly not in the same mindset anymore.

Luckily, I found that I had an episode of Top Gear downloaded on my laptop, so I loaded it onto my iPad and watched it whilst sequestered in the tent. There were too many bugs outside the tent, so Kay sat peacefully at the picnic table while I stretched out in the warm tent. In pretty short order, Kay found himself getting sleepy so he came into the tent for a nap while I watched Top Gear. The dogs napped, too. They definitely seem to be getting into the whole camping thing.

After Top Gear, it was getting close to 5PM so we decided we should head out for food soon. We took our time and headed out, riding back down the state route past the places we’d spotted earlier. One place called out to me: Newfane Cafe and Creamery in Newfane, VT. I suggested to Kay that we stop, so we did. And it was delicious. The sandwiches were surprisingly large and incredibly tasty, fresh, simple, hearty fare, and their hand-cut fries were om-nommy. They also had cookies the size of a decently-sized saucer, so we got a chocolate chip and a peanut butter to munch on.  Some pleasant people sat down at the large table where we were eating and we struck up a conversation, and ended up talking about our Americas trip, our upcoming CO trip and our plans for our RTW with the dogs. It was just a really pleasant meal all-around.

We were getting full about halfway through the meal, and I realized they were cleaning because it was time for them to close up, so we had them wrap the rest of our stuff to take back to the campground. They saw the rig and the dogs, and gave us some scraps for them. It was a great experience, and I was happy to discover that they served breakfast, too. We’d definitely come back in the AM for food on the way home!

Back out to the dogs where we gave them their scraps, and then back to the campground where we settled into the tent and ate the rest of our dinner and chillaxed a bit. It was around dog-walking time, so we headed out toward the front of the campground on a walk and one of the campground residents was playing steel guitar in their gathering house. He was pretty good, so we sat in the grass outside with the dogs and listened to him play for a while. It was really peaceful and relaxing, and I was very glad we’d chosen this campground. We’d had an excellent evening.

We slept until we were ready to wake up the next morning, which it turns out was probably around 8AM, and started breaking camp. We did so in a leisurely manner, and it took us about an hour and a half, which included time for the morning dog walk and drying out the fly, etc. Got out and headed down the road to Newfane Cafe again, where we arrived around 10AM. Had another delicious meal – their breakfast is just great, too – and told the GPS to take us home while avoiding highways.

Some days I really want to give the GPS a pat on the back because it just picks a really pretty route with great roads, little hills and curves and a really pleasant ride. This was one of them. We meandered across southern Vermont, into southern New Hampshire and then into northern Massachusetts, where we rode along within spitting distance of the border for quite some time. It felt like everyplace we rode was pretty – it was far superior to just booking it out Route 2 the day before. Eventually we stopped for gas, walked the dogs and had a little break. A couple of guys asked us about the Ural – it seems to draw smiles and questions wherever we go – and we had a nice rest in the shade.

And then on the bikes again, with a stop at Ural of New England, where we wanted to check out windscreens for the Ural. After two weekends in a row of doing a few hundred miles, some of it at highway speeds, it was clear we wanted a windscreen for the bike. We dropped in and chatted with Olga for a bit – she went to pet the dogs and Kay had to warn her off because we weren’t sure how friendly the dogs would be – and we left thinking we’d probably want a medium windscreen with fairing but we didn’t know how long it would take to get it in. From there, we hopped on Route 2 and slabbed it the rest of the way in to home, as Kay had remembered some work he needed to do and was a bit stressed.

It was a kinda lackluster ending to what had turned out to be a very pleasant weekend. I was very much enjoying the fact that we could go camping with the dogs at the drop of a hat now that we had the Ural, and we’ve been doing some pretty riding in avoiding highways while accommodating the Ural’s break-in needs.

2 Comments

    1. We totally intend to! We rode the top half of the PDR in 2010 but got called home early so we missed the bottom portion. We’ll shoot to do it this fall – it’s great during foliage season!

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