Destination Recreation: Islands Bike Tour - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: Islands Bike Tour

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SOUTH HERO, Vt. - We met up with Chris Howell at Snow Farm Vineyard on South Hero. This is the starting spot for the Islands Bike Tour, which he organizes during the annual Open Farm and Studio Weekend. As Chris got the bikes off the rack and ready to go, I went inside to meet the owner here at our first stop.

Rows of award winning wines line the shelves behind Julie Lane. Lane and her husband owned the land where she now serves wine to visitors. They sold it, then bought it back about a year and a half ago.

"It has come full circle. We're an agriculture family. So I always worked here. I was a teacher previously, in my other life, and I worked here in the summers," she says.

It's stories like that that Chris hopes add flavor to the experience of visiting an area like the Champlain Islands.

"Vermont Farm Tours started in 2009 as a way to connect visitors to Vermont and Vermonters as well to place through food and through farms," he says.

Chris was inspired to start his tour company after spending time in Italy after college.

"I borrowed a lot from the Italian model where you go and visit the guy in Tuscany that makes the cheese and that's your experience of this town," he says.

By the end of my day, I'll know just what he means -- with a Vermont twist. The Islands Bike Tour on July 12 is a rain or shine event. So, as we head out on our bikes, we don't let a little wet weather stop us!

Just over two miles down the road, past this spot where more than 400 colorful bird houses catch your eye, we arrive at Allenholm Farm and meet Pam Allen. Her husband Ray's great grandfather settled this land in 1870.

"So it's been around a little while," she says.

But not everything here has been. These baby chicks are brand new and sure to please visitors! I wondered what it means to have hundreds of bikers stop by on one day.

"It means that maple creamee machine has never stopped running!" she says.

And now I know why, in an interview, former Governor Howard Dean included this as one of his favorite things to do in Vermont!

"One of them was coming across on the bike ferry and going to Allenholm for the best maple creamees in the state! YES!" she says.

"I love raising things ... I guess I'm an old farmer at heart," says farmer Ron Hackett.

Just down the road, you can meet the Allen's neighbors, Ron and Celia Hackett. This is their 47th year on the island. A lot has changed since 1967. These days, they sell things by the half peck, not the bushel and agri-tourism is an important part of bringing in new customers.

"Last year I think they had around 350 sign up for the tour and we gave out coupons for a free apple cider donut and I think over 300 of them were turned in so we had good response," he says.

Reporter: "What is the secret of those donuts?"

Hackett: "I can't tell secrets!"

What isn't a secret -- this is worth the visit!

 For more information about the Islands bike tour, visit: http://vermontfarmtours.com/biketour.html

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