BRATTLEBORO -- Three years ago Eve Jochnowitz and Greg Liambas made their first of many trips to Brattleboro to attend a contra dance. While the couple was milling about, they stumbled upon a poster with marching cows on it.
Instantly they knew it was event they couldn't miss, but their plans for the initial trip didn't match up with that year's Strolling of the Heifers.
So the New York City couple decided the following year to plan for an extended trip, loaded up their bicycles and set off for Brattleboro.
"We're cow watchers," Jochnowitz said. "They're just beautiful, philosophical creatures. We love organic milk and Vermont farmers. The unflavored ice cream we had was the best I've ever tasted. It made all other flavors bland."
Jochnowitz, a Yiddish scholar, baker and chef in New York, said she couldn't leave the event, "ku-shpatsir," which means walking heifers in Yiddish, without buying fresh cream from one of the local farmers, but on their bicycle trip home, they got a pleasant surprise.
"We bought a pint of heavy cream for our coffee on the way back, and after about 60 miles, five of which were off-road, we stopped to pour ourselves some cups," she said. "Greg turned to me and said, ‘I think there's something wrong with the cream, it's all yellow and lumpy.' I said, ‘Oh my God, we churned butter.'"
She said it was the most creamy, flowery, "most ethereally delicious butter on earth."
This year Jochnowitz and Liambas are hoping to recreate that magical ride with a new event as they ride in the Second Annual Tour de Heifer -- or "ku-rayze" -- this Sunday.
"We would have ridden in it last year but didn't find out about it until after the registration had closed," Liambas said. "I think this'll be another addition to our spring trip to Brattleboro.
The course this year will feature three different riding courses ranging in difficulty with a 10, 30 and 60-mile trek through Windham County.
Each of the riders who choose to fundraise for the event will get to select any charity or nonprofit they wish to split the proceeds with Strolling of the Heifers, and money raised from the bicycle tour will go to benefit the Strolling of the Heifers Farm and Food Business Plan Competition, which gave $30,000 to local entrepreneurs last year.
Orly Munzing, executive director of the Strolling of the Heifers, said nearly 250 people participated in the ride last year and she expects that number to quadruple this year.
Each of the three routes will begin and end at Lilac Ridge Farm in West Brattleboro and spotlight some of the county's most incredible views, farms, woodland terrain and even a covered bridge, said course designer Steve Shriner.
To accommodate the huge increase in participants, Shriner said each course will have a staggered start, with the 10- and 30-mile rides mostly laid out along maintained gravel roads.
Riders will want to use either a mountain or cyclecross bike, not a road bike, because of the terrain, Shriner said.
Jochnowitz and Liambas said they'll ride their cyclecross bikes along the 30-mile route.
"We're both bike enthusiasts, so the tour combines our loves of watching cows, seeing the beautiful scenery and being on a great ride," Jochnowitz said.
"We'd like to do the 60-mile course but you have to get up really early for it."
Although the road will be opened to traffic, Shriner said the ride shouldn't cause any problems and that signs, volunteers and snack stations will be posted throughout each route to guide participants and drivers.
The rides will begin Sunday, June 3, and there will also be a five-mile road and trail hike that people can participate in for $10 per person which includes lunch, Munzing said.
For more information about the ride, visit www.strollingoftheheifers.com.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.