• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Day 29

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 235 towns and 1,531 miles.

Day 29

Windham, Athens, Grafton, Rockingham, Westminster, Springfield, Baltimore, Chester and Andover

Miles: 67. I lost track of the dirt/paved ration. Fifty percent up and 50 percent down!

By Mary Anderson

It seems that more happened today than I can fully write about in this blog. Some will have to wait for the book! I spent a lovely evening in the home of Robert and Kathy Du Grenier. Together they run a farm on the historic property once owned by the ancestors of president Taft. They raise heritage breeds of chickens and sheep and crops, and also make maple syrup. Every Sunday Robert hosts a maple-sugar-making class at the farm. Robert, a jack-of-all-trades, including weaving, knitting and cooking, is a world-renowned glass artist. Currently, an exhibit of his hand-blown shells for hermit crabs is on display at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. The exhibit includes hermit crabs inhabiting the shells. Kathy, who helps with marketing in the glass studio, is an avid reader, and I enjoyed hearing about some of her favorite books. Together they run a B-and-B out of their historic home. The outside hot tub has an incredible view of the mountains.

I woke in the morning feeling a bit nervous about my day's ride ahead. There really was no reason to be concerned, but the thought of lugging all my gear for over 60 miles in 30-degree temps felt daunting to me. I realized I was stuck in some sort of posttraumatic-stress place, feeling very little and unsure of myself. Sitting on the bike day after day is taking a toll on my back and tightening up my leg muscles. The body pain didn't help my headspace.

Although I rode all day in a bit of a dissociative, spacey place, I was able to make a conscious decision to enjoy the day. It seems when I do that the day throws all it has at me. First I had to ascend on a really steep dirt road that was in the process of being graded. The road was so steep that even with power assist I could barely push the bike beyond 4 mph, which meant I was on the verge of falling over. I was prepared to have to walk the bike up that hill but was glad when my fishtailing maneuvers in the two-inch deep loose, gravely dirt made it to the top. Passing the grader and the pile of dirt in the road was another challenge.

Then, on the downhill, I noticed my handlebars slipping. They clearly needed tightening, but I didn't want to stop on the gnarly steep downhill. Stupidly, I rode with them loose all day, having to continually readjust them when they gave out under my weight.

Then my Gore-Tex pants got caught on something, and I heard a huge rip. For the rest of the day I had to be careful when getting on the bike. If the seat got caught inside the two-foot-long tear, I couldn't easily get off the bike. My phone stopped working properly, leaving me struggling to take photos and use the GPS. A turkey flew right in front of me on a long downhill, causing me to slam on my brakes. Luckily, I saved myself before going over the handlebars. Trying to save miles, I took what looked like a shortcut. It was one of the few times in my life I turned around after a mile or so. The road was incredibly steep and narrow with big boulders, lots of chunks of loose rock, and dips and potholes large enough to swallow my wheels.

The list goes on from there, but I decided not to focus on my fears on the steep downhills. Instead, I enjoyed the feeling of flying and was grateful my brakes were holding. I rejoiced that except for one short period of snow the day was dry. The colors in the clouds filled my soul with beauty and left me wishing I was a better water-color painter. I was thrilled to finally arrive at my evening destination just before real darkness descended. I was more thrilled that I had managed to fully enjoy a day that in the past would have had me stewing.


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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