• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Day 28

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 226 towns and 1,464 miles.

Day 28

Dummerston, Putney, Brookline, Newfane, Dover, Stratton, Wardsboro, Jamaica and Townshend

Miles: 57, at least half on dirt

By Mary Anderson

I was lucky to have my friends Chim and Madeline once again offer to carry my gear for me. They were enroute from Mass to Maine and made a winding detour to do so, but their path was nowhere near as winding or hilly as mine. Except for the first five miles, yesterday's ride was all either up or down.

I ended the day about 18 miles from where I started, but I managed to stretch it out to a 57-mile bike ride. I also managed to go through one bike battery quicker than I ever have before. I'm sure both the lower temps and the terrain had a lot to do with it.

On Putney Mountain Road, a single-lane dirt road with some steep hairpin curves, I kept my speed at about 8 mph for much of the descent, grateful that my brakes were working and I didn't have the weight of my packs. Much of the day I felt something was wrong with either me or my bike. The bike seemed really hard to pedal, even without my packs. There was a stiff headwind, but it didn't explain why I was using so much more battery assist than normal. Then, thirty some miles into the day, I reached a height of land.

The road sign said I was in for a 10 percent descent for at least a mile. I coasted with the battery off for a few miles, and another sign appeared. This one let me know the next mile sported an 11 percent downhill. Thirteen miles on and a few more signs warning of an upcoming steep descent, I still had not used my battery once. And I had maintained a speed close to 20 mph for much of it. I realized then there was nothing wrong with my bike!

I thought about how different this part of the state is from the northern part. Even the vegetation is different. The mountains here sport many more oak trees than I've seen elsewhere on this trip. And of course I thought about being different. But today I am again having a difficult time weaving words together, so I will leave it at that.

Ironically, I am having a harder time looping together my route here. I think this must be the section of state that helped to make the "You can't get there from here" statement famous. Partly it has to do with where my possible nighttime stops are. The shorter daylight hours and freezing morning temps all come into play, as I don't like riding when there is ice on the road. There are many more towns that end up being out-and-backs, rather than part of a continuous loop. Some towns, such as Sommerset, Glastenbury, Athens and Baltimore, have very few roads and perhaps only one way in. I am doing more backtracking than I did up north.

I've come to like days of around 50 miles, and I feel myself balking as I anticipate a few 60-mile days with full gear. Maybe the fact that the end is in sight is also affecting me. In part, I am ready to transition to something else. But it is difficult to envision what life will be like once I don't pick up my pack or get on my bike each morning. What will I do with my days when I am no longer focused on moving forward?

I'm trying to remind myself to stay in the present. I do want to finish this trip, and I have done 60-mile days before. I started this trip not knowing where I would stay, nor how it would work out. Thus far, it has exceeded anything I would have imagined. And really, I will still just have to keep moving forward, even if it is no longer with a pack on my back or a bike under me. This trip has reinforced my resolution not to worry about the future. So for now, I will work on putting concern aside and move forward with my day.


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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