• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Day 24

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 205 towns and 1,317 miles.

Day 24

Winhall, Manchester, Sunderland, Arlington, Shaftsbury, Glastenbury, Bennington and Pownal

Miles: 46

By Mary Anderson

I am writing this on Day 25, which was supposed to be rainy all day. I think the rain is more on and off, but based on the forecast, I decided to take the day mostly off. I will ride 5-plus miles to my next stop for the night before gearing up for what looks like an all-day ride in the rain tomorrow. I will have some really big climbs tomorrow, which means big descents with all my gear and wet rubber rim brakes. A bit scary after the last time I lost my brakes on a rainy downhill. But I am trying not to let past trauma dictate how I see the future. This is one real test for me to put my words into action.

I spent a peaceful night at the Wild Wings Ski Touring Center in Peru. One of the owners,Tracy, who also teaches yoga and makes maple syrup, knew just what I needed. I had a lovely dinner and plenty of time to catch up on mapping and writing, though in actuality I spun my wheels with the maps and didn't get more than one day ahead. I am learning to do what I can, and when the wheels start spinning, I step back and trust that in the future it will come together. Today is proving that to again be true, as some new places to stay are appearing and I have been able to map out my next three days.

Above: Chim and Madeline; Tracy; pie from Gloria's Pantry in Cuttingsville; end of day 23 (3).

Day 24 was a bluebird day. A friend I met hiking on the CDT this summer drove up to Wild Wings from Massachusetts with his partner just for the purpose of slack-biking me. Chim and Madeline brought me some delicious apple crisp and drove my gear to Bennington, where I got to stay for one night in the home of Marie White Small and her husband, Frank. Marie is a writer, and I was the lucky recipient of a signed copy of her book Stony Kill.

I had an enjoyable ride into the supposedly haunted town of Glastenbury, which in 2018 sported a population of eight. As I rode, my thoughts wandered. I thought about how I have needed to be flexible and go with the flow as my route keeps changing, depending on where I can stay. Worrying about it would be a waste of each day’s ride, so I stay in the moment and let the rest come as it may. I will say mapping this trip has been a huge challenge.

I thought about all the things people along the way tell me. The most common one is "There is a huge climb ahead." Funny how people don't tell me about the downhills coming up! Is this because as a species we tend to focus on the difficulties more than on the easier times?

As I mentioned above, I thought about how past events influence my view of the present and expectations for the future. But what I thought about most was an incredibly kind text that was waiting for me when I woke up that morning. It came from one of the many amazing women I met while I was hiking the Continental Divide Trail. This one has adopted numerous children, who are now young adults. Most of them have what neurotypical people call special needs. I say they are special people. (And after all, don't we all have special needs?) Anyway her message reminded me once again that when I follow my heart, good things can happen, and that the best things that happen are the connections I make with the people who offer me kindness along the way.

I have seen signs of great political divides here in my tiny home state of Vermont. But I have been the recipient of much kindness, and I would like to believe that in the end, the kindness will win out. I do know for sure that these kindnesses are what is bringing healing to my emotional pain and allowing me to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. I am learning to let go of the past and try to imagine a future worth living. Sure, there will still be mountains to climb, but as any biker or hiker well knows, a long, hard climb always comes with an equal downhill cruise. Sometimes the downhills are harder and scarier than the climbs, but whatever the road brings, the certainty is that eventually it will change and sometimes flatten out. If I accept where I am in the moment, trusting in the future, it just might all be okay in the end.


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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