For the past, I'm gonna say three...ya three years, that sounds good, my family and I have spent Columbus day weekend up in East Burke Vermont riding the Kingdom Trails. This mountain bike-themed getaway is entirely my mom's idea. She's over sixty now and she's been riding since she got her first mountain bike at IBC back in the early nineties. We rent an apartment from the the super-nice folks at the Village Inn of East Burke, Loraine and George. The apartment is actually attached to Loraine and George's son's restaurant, Willy's. It used to be that the only game in town food-wise in East Burke was the River Garden Cafe or The Pub Outback, one of which is mediocre and over-priced and the other of which is downright horrible at any price. You can try both and decide which is which. Or better yet, just eat at Willy's because it's amazing.
Of course the Tamarack Grill ain't too shabby either, although it's a very different vibe from Willy's. Willy's is rather high end, while the Tamarack is more very-edible pub food. Just watch out for the ever-present old-as-Hell-drunk-as-Hell dude with the GUN seated at the end of the bar. He's cool, just don't piss him off.
When I say "my family and I," I'm talking about ELEVEN people. That's eleven people using one bathroom for three days. There's your reality show idea. Screw Jersey Shore; we got East Burke Bathroom. "Hey everyone...guys! I'm taking a shower, does anyone need to get in here first?" (Three people get up simultaneously).
Brother Brad on an $8400 Remedy 9.9 demo
Something I realize every time the non-serious mountain bikers in my family come out to ride is this: I am the least talented natural athlete in my family. My sister gets on a bike once or twice a year and rides like she used to win World Cups. My brother Brad is a ninja with preternatural balance. My brother James was kind of the sleeper, he doesn't usually get out on the trails with us, but this time he did and wow! He would just see me do things and then he would do them. It really makes no sense why my siblings are all such great natural bike handlers. Man, it took me years to get where they're at right out of the gate. It took a whole lot of lonely, frustrating rides on my too-big orange Rockhopper to get to where I'm at.
And then there's my wife who's made leaps and bounds with her riding prowess over just this past year. She's more on my arc — lots of hard work to offset lack of natural talent. I can't believe the stuff she rides now.
If you're ever taking beginner type folks out in the NEK the best trail to take them on is Vast. It has lots of off-shoots if you want to get all crazy but otherwise it's a scenic straight shot with very little climbing. I'll maybe do a proper "how to ride the Kingdom post" at some point in an attempt to prevent people, people like Rooter, from doing insane things, things like riding UP Moose Alley.
Speaking of riding up things you shouldn't...
I have to wonder, do directional arrows on trails lose something in translation? Do they mean something different in French-Canadian? Because I ran into a whole lot of Quebecois riding up trails that only work in one direction and are simply dangerous to ride in reverse. UP Webs? Are you sérieux? Go die. But please do it somewhere else, don't make me kill you as I ride down a trail that no one in their right mind would ever ride UP. That's what you have to understand about Columbus day weekend in the NEK: it's also Canadian Thanksgiving so the place is overrun with the people who live in America's hat. They move in packs of fifteen or twenty and form blockades at all trail heads and manage to make highway-wide fire-roads impassable. "Hmm, I wonder where the turn for Sugar Hill is? Oh, there it is, it's right there where those twenty people are standing and talking in weird-French."
Most mornings involved a little warm up at the pump track with Noah. He's made a lot of progress too. He's standing when he climbs now and looking where he wants the bike to go; not where it happens to be going at the moment. Next year we'll have him out on the trails for real.
And Lyla...well she presents more of a challenge in the riding bikes department. It's OK though, she has other talents. She knows way more Ke$ha lyrics than I do for instance. And it's not like I don't know Ke$ha lyrics.
It might be the weekend for made-up Canadian Thanksgiving and American genocidal-slave-trader-appreciation-day but for the past few Columbus day weekends I've been given a good reason to feel thankful and to reflect on just how rad my family is.