• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Day 31

Mary Anderson began her tour of Vermont’s 251 towns on October 6. On Friday, November 5, she pedaled 53 miles through Sharon, Pomfret, Woodstock, Bridgewater, Plymouth, and Barnard. As of Saturday morning, she had traveled 1,639 miles on her ebike and had one town left to go.

By Mary Anderson

I had a nice evening visiting longtime friends. One is 97 years old and still shovels the snow out of her driveway and mows her lawn. The other is in her eighties and complains she is out of shape, since the pandemic has cut off her access to a local gym. She is still more fit than many 20-year-olds.

Today was the first day I rode for a number of hours in 20-degree temperatures. I had to be really careful of ice patches on the road. The prediction was for a high in the 40s, so as I rode wearing five layers of wool under my Gore-Tex jacket I anticipated stopping to peel some off. I never did remove any of those layers, but the sun did make a few appearances, and I was thrilled when my thermometer rose to 35. It made a few dips back into the 20s before settling down to a balmy 39. By dusk, when I arrived at my destination, it had dipped back below freezing.

Two women came up to me as I was stopped, looking at my map. They asked me if I was Mary and offered me a place to stay. Like the woman at King Arthur, they had read about me in Daybreak. I declined the offer as I was all set but I thought about how good it felt to be recognized. I think everyone, even shy introverts, want to be seen in at least some capacity. And I believe most people feel good when they can be helpful.

Knowing I was nearing the end had me wanting to make the most out of each moment left. I stopped a lot and chatted with people. I talked with a woman who was watching birds through her binoculars and with Ted, who was taking his walker for a walk. He has been farming the same piece of land for over 50 years. I stopped in Woodstock to talk with a group of bicyclists and was rewarded with some sandwiches, dried fruit, and other goodies. I was reminded of the worthiness quote and thought of all the abundance that has come my way.

As I rode, I also thought about anticipation. I noticed how much I anticipate what is ahead of me, especially on a downhill, as my brakes take a while to really stop my bike. I have to look ahead, anticipating what speed I will gain or lose, and act accordingly. I tried to anticipate what I would do once I returned to my house. That one left me a bit stymied, so I decided it was best to stay in the moment, leaving the future to sort itself out.

I again had a number of steep hills to go up and down. Within the first few miles I decided not to take the shorter route, as it looked like a steep, newly graded road. I don't like riding on the loose dirt of newly graded roads, and I've learned to anticipate big climbs on any Vermont road with the word “hill” in its name. So instead of that steep, mountainous road, I ended up on others! On this trip I have had a knack for finding newly graded roads.

On the steep gravely downhills, I used to tell myself not to fall. I have since tweaked that message, now telling myself that I will remain upright. Just changing those few words, shifting the focus to remaining upright rather than thinking about falling, helps me feel more confident and positive. Yet today was the first day I dumped my bike while on it. I knew better than to stop while riding up an extremely steep, loose gravelly road, but I wanted to snap a picture. It took almost all I had to keep the bike from rolling backwards. Getting going again with full gear proved more than the bike could handle, and I went over. Luckily, I was not really moving more than a few miles per hour and was able to gently “lay” the bike down and get out of the way. I walked it uphill to a lesser grade before attempting to mount again.

I started writing this by candlelight as the power went off in the home where I am staying. I wondered if I would have juice in my battery when I started up in the morning. Luckily, the power came back on during the night and I only have about 20 miles to ride today to reach my house. I will stop in Bethel to celebrate my finale with friends. As it is now 8 a.m. the morning after I started writing this post, I best get going. I anticipate a lovely ride ahead of me with a warm gathering of friends at the end.


Day 31 in Pictures

Creative woodpiles, above and below.

Mary and an overnight host.

Morning temps below freezing.

Roadside woodpile, Stratford/Sharon junction.

Woodstock, above and below.




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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