• Mary Anderson

Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Days 4–6

Mary Anderson is cycling through her home state of Vermont on her ebike. Her goal: to visit all 251 towns in one go. To date: 62 towns, 394 miles.

By Mary Anderson

I have so much to write but not a minute to get it down. I am trying to take advantage of the daylight hours and nonrainy days to ride, and my nights have been a little full, to say the least. One was downright crazy.

Day 4

East Haven, Newark, Brighton, Lewis, Ferdinand, Brunswick, Bloomfield and Lemington

Miles: 58, mostly on paved roads

I again rode without my gear. A friend, Dottie, joined me for the morning on a non-ebike, so I rode most of that time with my assist on zero. Between that and trading bikes with her for some of the hills, I was reminded why I purchased an ebike.

Dot’s car was dropped off on a dirt road in Lewis on one of the very few roads in that town. Just before reaching it, the road forked, and we asked a hunter which way to Lewis. He assured us there was no Lewis. “There is nothing there, no town. You are the second person to ask me. What is up with Lewis? It does not exist.” I explained about the 251 Club, and he settled down.

As we set out down the right fork, Dottie took a nasty spill on her bike, but true-to-Dottie form, this older-than-I-am woman bounced back up and was eventually able to ride on with me to Lewis. I was so relieved she had not broken anything.

It was another bluebird day, and riding through miles of falling leaves left me feeling giddy. The colorful leaves twisted and spun as they gently fell to the ground. It was like riding for miles with confetti falling from the sky.

After Lewis, things took an interesting turn. Dottie was done riding for the day. We made arrangements for me to ride on while she napped and found a place to camp with electricity. She would pick me up by 6:30 along the side of the road.

Above: Church–turned–brewery in New Haven; memorial pole near Lemington town line; Brighton greeter.

I cycled on through Brighton into Ferdinand and more towns north. Just north of the Lemington town line, I paid respects at a memorial telephone pole festooned with flowers, beer cans, and written memorials for a recently deceased motorcyclist.

I rode on a ways more, then stopped at a good place for Dot to pick me up along the side of the road. It was almost 6:30, and I had expected her around 6.

I waited and waited. I called and left messages on her voice mail. I put on my wind jacket as full darkness descended and the cold began to seep into my bones. I ate whatever snacks I had with me. And I tried not to cry. I was hungry and cold. I had very little with me. If I had had my iPad I would have at least kept busy writing, but when I set out from Brighton I made the decision to take the bare minimum.

I felt drawn to go back to the memorial telephone pole. Once there I focused on what I most needed. After two nights of being up until almost midnight sleep was foremost on my mind, so I huddled in my wind jacket and lay on the ground next to my bike.

This worked for a short while, but real sleep never came. A rare car came by, and I sat up as it passed me and made a U turn. The young man inside asked if I was okay and informed me that his grandfather lived down the road a ways, in case I needed anything. After thanking him, I once again tried to get some sleep.

As 8:30 rolled around and tears were again welling to the surface of my chilling body I made the decision to find the house and ask for a blanket. I walked up the wheelchair ramp and knocked. A voice called for me to come in, and I entered a blissfully warm dwelling where a 70-something ex Vietnam lieutenant-colonel was sitting on a large overstuffed sofa, his wheelchair beside him. I explained my situation, and he invited me in. For an hour I sat by his window watching for Dot to come up the road. My bike was sitting under a streetlight in clear view of any approaching cars. I gratefully ate the sandwich and drank the ginger ale which Mick generously provided me. I left more messages for Dot.

Sometime after 9 p.m. a call came in. It was the state police asking if I was okay. They patched me through to Dottie, and I learned that she had first driven miles in the wrong direction. When she stopped to ask directions, her keys got locked inside her car. She was waiting for AAA to arrive. The folks she was with couldn't come get me, because her car was blocking theirs in!

I was so exhausted that I felt dizzy and a bit queasy. I tried to nap in a comfy chair while the TV taught me more about deer hunting than I will ever have to know. Finally, at almost midnight Dot arrived. We loaded my bike on her car, drove to the campground she had secured a spot in, plugged my battery into the bathroom socket, set up my tent, and fell into a much needed sleep.

Day 5

Canaan, Averill, Norton, Morgan, Charleston, Holland, and Derby, plus the city of Newport

Miles: 68, mostly on pavement

Totals to date: 47 towns, 288 miles

I’m at mile 288 total on my odometer, I’ve ridden at least a few miles with the battery off, but my addled brain says I covered at least 68 miles. I was so tired in the morning, I wasn’t sure how I could ride at all, so I was quite pleased with 68 miles, especially as it was done on one battery with only a 15-minute charge while I snacked on raw corn and tomatoes at a farm stand in Charleston. The riding was fairly easy by Vermont standards, and most of it was on pavement. I added 7 towns and one city, plus two gores which are not included in the total, to my list. I made one wrong turn, which caused me to be at an intersection looking at my map at exactly the same time a gentleman in a pickup truck arrived. He asked me if I needed help. After telling him what I was doing, he directed me to a lovely campground with electricity right on the shores of Lake Memphremagog . I cooked up some kale I got at the farm stand, ate a few hard-boiled eggs and bread, and fell into a much needed sleep.

Day 6

Coventry, Newport town (town and city are different), Troy, Jay, Westfield, Lowell, Eden, Craftsbury, Albany, Irasburg, Barton, Brownington, Westmore, Sutton and Sheffield

Mileage: 96, at least 40% dirt

Totals to date: 62 towns, 394 miles

Another OMG day: 96 miles, 15 towns with some real adventure. About 40 percent dirt, or maybe more with all my winding at the end. Well over the one-fifth mark for towns. No idea on mileage. One nasty dog, some crosswind, one bear crossing the road just in front of me, one mink almost ran under my tire, lots of bad directional advice both from people, GPS, and my paper maps, a few hours of something wrong with the bike until I figured it out and fixed it, two miles of fish-tailing down a sandy road in the dark of night, two pretty dead batteries, two pickup trucks (not included in the 96 miles I rode) and some wonderful trail angels along with views that made it all worthwhile. A few power bars and bed as I'm not cooking tonight. Considering the length of the ride I feel pretty good.


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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