• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Day 17

Mary Anderson is cycling through her home state of Vermont on her ebike. Her goal: to visit all 251 towns in one go. Since hitting the road on October 6, she has logged 155 towns and 971 miles.

Day 17

Shoreham, Orwell, Benson, Hubbardton, Sudbury, Whiting and Leicester. (I am now over the three-fifths mark and have fewer than 100 towns to go!)

Miles: 56. (About 16 of those miles were on dirt.)

Today was a glorious day weatherwise, though I had a strong headwind and crosswind for much of it. I found myself pedaling along in a kind of meditative place. I realized how important it is for me to have time to just let my brain relax and go wherever it wants to wander.

I thought about the wind. It has so much influence on my days and yet it is invisible. It reminds me of the trauma I carry inside. On some days that trauma has little effect on me. On other days, it roars through my life like a gale-force wind. My challenge is to be aware of it and bend like a willow in the strong winds.

I thought about how great it was that I met yesterday's difficult challenges and managed to fix my brakes. Tomorrow when I go through Middlebury I will have someone at the bike shop give them a once-over.

I thought about all the people who have helped me out on all of my trips. While no one can rescue my hurt little girl, I try to remind myself that there are people who will help me if I get into a bind. I do not have to be as isolated as I was as a child, as long as I put my needs out there. I am trying to feel okay about asking for and receiving help.

I am also working on letting it be okay to make mistakes. I grew up feeling I had to get all A's in school and could never make a mistake at home. Somehow making mistakes was a bad thing to do. Now I realize how freeing it is to accept goof-ups as part of my human condition. Often they are my best learning moments. If I swerve on my bike without looking and cause a car some fear then I own it and apologize. It is so much easier than having to build walls and become defensive. I wish schools did not give out "F’s" for mistakes.

Above: A wall in the home of an overnight host.

As I rode along the white line, I pondered how I have seldom toed the line in anything. It has made my life more difficult in many ways. I got teased in school for not shaving my legs or wearing a bra (not that I ever had anything to put in a bra!). I seldom had many friends, and I often felt like a misfit, but I can't imagine living in any other way. My path through life has been less like a nicely painted paved road and more like a rocky backwoods dirt one.

I remembered back to when I just started out on this trip. People would ask me how many towns I had done. When I replied, “Seven,” they kind of laughed. Even I realized how puny that sounded. And yet, by pedaling one rotation at a time I now have fewer than 100 cities and towns left to visit! Ninety-six, to be exact. Even though it still seems a bit daunting, considering some of the terrain and possible weather I may encounter in the southern part of the state, it feels doable. I even feel I have some leeway to take some slower days if the weather is really unpleasant for riding.

I redid my route today and started to map out the southern part of the state. I am trying to better incorporate places where I can stay the night and recharge my battery. I am learning to be even more flexible and laidback, relaxing into what each day’s ride brings me without worrying about the numbers. Reaching each town is my goal, the skeleton of this trip. Kind interactions with people is what feeds my soul and puts flesh on the skeletal bones. Without these human connections, this trip would be so much less valuable in my healing process.

By backtracking about twelve miles today, I got to have another warm shower, hot meal, and delightful company with Carl and Karen, whom I had previously only met through Zoom. I feel so much richer for having met so many wonderful people, and I am looking forward to those yet to come. Thank you, one and all.


About Mary Anderson

When Bethel resident Mary Anderson set out to hike the southern half of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail in the summer of 2020, nobody thought she would make it. Hikers give themselves trail names, and Mary’s was Old Lady Hiker. A few days into her solo trek, she ran into some younger hikers who decided she needed a new name. From then on, she was known as Mary Badass. In the fall of 2020, Mary began writing her story in a Korongo workshop hosted by Kimball Library in Randolph. After completing her CDT hike in September 2021, she began a new challenge: A bicycle tour of Vermont’s 251 towns. Estimated time: four to six weeks.

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