• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Day 22

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 186 towns and 1,217 miles.

Day 22

Sandgate, Rupert, Pawlet, Wells, Tinmouth, Middletown Springs, and Poultney

Miles: 45, at least a quarter of them on dirt

By Mary Anderson

Last night the demons of old grief and pain sprang up and grabbed me by the throat. I had a hard time sleeping and spent the day trying to shake them. When this happens, I feel pretty little. As a result I don't have many words to share today. But I was definitely into taking pictures and will leave it to Sara, the Korongo books editor, to pick and choose which to post. And for those who have wondered, below are some details about my ride—what I wear, what I carry, and how I plan my route.

All photos by Mary Anderson

What I Wear

I wear two pair of bike gloves and two pair of bike shorts. Makes a big difference.

I have a comfy padded seat on my bike. Riding in temps like today’s—low forties with big wind—can be chilly. I wear a buff under my helmet and pull it around my face. I wear long johns over my bike shorts and Gore-Tex pants over that. I wear a smart-wool T-shirt and a long-sleeved wool sweater under my Gore-Tex jacket. This keeps me pretty warm even in cold rain. I wear smart-wool socks, but in cold rain my feet get numb, so I will add some of those disposable heaters.

What I Carry

I carry a spare pair of socks, pile pants, a spare lightweight wool shirt and a heavier wool shirt. I have my backpacking stove, pot, tent, sleeping bag and pad with me, as well as a rainfly for the bike. I carry a few days of dehydrated food plus a flashlight, an SOS satellite unit, minimal first-aid supplies, and some bike-repair parts, mostly for flats. Women: I carry a pStyle. I can pee without getting off my bike. I love that thing! (Guys: You already have a built-in one.) I wear a backpack with a drinking hose, so I can sip water whenever I want. I carry a stainless Thermos of hot tea. I seldom stop for more than a minute or two at a time during a 40- or 50-mile day unless there is something I want to explore. I make a lot of one-minute stops to snap pics. On longer days I might stop for a real half-hour lunch.

Above: Fall foliage; mailbox; slate-roofed silo; big pile o‘ slate; active slate mine.

Mapping the Route

I spend a lot of time every few days mapping, trying to stay two or three days ahead. I work around places I can stay and recharge my bike battery. Sometimes I do out-and-back loops, retracing some miles for the sake of having a second night indoors. Sometimes I stay ten miles as the crow flies from my previous night, but I ride over 60 miles to get there! I use an old Vermont Gazetteer and look for roads that loop together as many towns as possible with the fewest miles and minimal backtracking. Because some people I stayed with offered to pick me up at the end of the day and bring me back to their home, I have done a few one-way sections. These have been in places where I had no place to recharge and where it would have been more complicated to loop the towns together. Some towns have a population ranging from zero to eight. There are very few drivable roads in towns such as Glastenbury, Somerset, and Lewis.

When I started, I had no idea where I would stay each night. So far it has worked out. I still don't know where I will stay in south central Vermont, but I trust it to come together before I get there in a few days. I have already met many wonderful people, and I feel honored and humbled by their generosity. I've been the recipient of more warm beds and wonderful meals than I ever dreamed possible. (Above: Host Bill Deets.)

I told myself when I started if I hated it I would quit. Although it is sometimes difficult to get myself going in the morning, especially in cold rain, I haven't wanted to quit yet. I still see trees in autumn glory, though stick season* will soon be here.

Top row: Road signs for Middletown Springs/Poultney; Middletown Springs/Tinmouth; Wells/Pawlet. Bottom row: Vermont-grown grapes; town line; wooly-bear caterpillar.


* Stick season: The transition season in Vermont before winter sets in, when the mountains are adorned with bare tree branches.

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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