Where To Ride Now In Central Vermont

Moonlight in Vermont

cloudy sunset in Vermont
The Green Mountains.Brad Fickeisen

When Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing about the magic of the moonlight in Vermont, they do it so convincingly it makes me want to hop on my bike, head to the Green Mountains, and gaze at the heavens from behind the bars. For East Coast city dwellers, Vermont is an accessible vacation wonderland where roads (not all of them paved) run through wooded dells and past tidy organic farms to quaint villages that hold the promise of delicious dairy treats and maple syrup-smothered pancakes. Vermont's reputation as a hippie paradise isn't entirely unwarranted, but look past the college professors wearing wool socks and Birkenstocks, and there are plenty of motorcycle roads begging to be explored.

The Road

Route 17 between South Starksboro and Irasville. The Mad River Glen, through the Green Mountains in central Vermont, is best known for its skiing, but for motorcyclists, the area is traversed by Route 17, a giant paved slalom course. For 15 miles, the tarmac twists and ascends to the southern terminus of Camel’s Hump State Park. There’s a nice pull-off where you can admire the view and make mental plans to improve your skills at riding tight hairpins. From there, the road descends through the trees before calming down and leveling out.

The Food

Just as the road begins to straighten out and you realize you might need a break, the Mad River Barn appears. It has a full bar, a nice menu (try the cheese plate—Vermont does more than just cheddar), and a nice place to sit for a while. It also offers hip, laid-back accommodations. Although pricey by typical motorcycling standards, if it was Ella and Louis’s promise of a romantic setting that got you and your partner to the Green Mountain State in the first place, it’s probably worth a splurge.

If you want to encourage that romantic setting even more, eat at Hen of the Wood, a notable local foods restaurant in Waterbury. Heady Topper, the internet sensation IPA, is typically on tap and the back patio sits just above a pristine brook that looks like it should be part of the Vermont Long Trail, not in the middle of town. Try the famous mushroom toast. It’s unreal considering it’s so simple.

What To Avoid

Ben & Jerry’s is a tourist trap. Sure, grab yourself a pint at a gas station if you need to check it off your list, but avoid the B&J factory and opt instead for a maple creemee, the Vermonter soft serve.