Mary’s Cycling Challenge: Town No. 251
Bethel resident Mary Anderson set out on October 6, 2021, to tour Vermont by bicycle. Her goal: to pass through each of the state’s 251 towns, staying with friends and strangers along the way. By November 6, she had one town left to go. On day 32 of her journey, she pedaled through Royalton, town No. 251, and met up with ten friends in her hometown to celebrate the end of her 1,651-mile cycling tour.
I was able to take some time on the morning of Day 32 to stretch my aching body and visit with my Barnard hosts. I had never met Peter before and had only met Amanda via Zoom. It was wonderful to finally meet with her in person. Miss Amanda teaches yoga, and is a yoga-based massage therapist. She is working on a book about her travels in India.
It was a lovely day for riding. Temps in the 40s felt balmy, especially with the sun shining. I rode along with great views of the mountains to the west. It was an indescribable feeling to realize I had ridden around all those mountains. I found myself singing the Vermont state song as I rode. I stopped only briefly to snap a photo at the Royalton town line. I was eager to meet the friends who were waiting to celebrate with me in Bethel.
I rode into downtown Bethel (a town of about 2,000 people) to the cheers of my friends holding signs congratulating me. I felt elated at having completed my crazy goal and happy to be done. After almost six months on the go ( I backpacked 1,550 miles just prior to this bike trip), my body felt ready for a hiatus. I felt emotionally stronger and more ready to face life than I had when my husband walked out without a word to me almost two years ago.
Above: The home stretch. Below: Barnard hosts Peter and Amanda; Royalton town line; gathering of friends in Bethel.
After an enjoyable celebration in Bethel I returned home. I was feeling nervous about it but figured I would manage to transform the house I physically built with my soon-to-be ex into a glorious personal space where I could weave, write, farm, and plan my next adventure. I had a lot of hiking and biking memories and the love of a lot of friends both new and longtime to sustain me.
I was NOT prepared for how fast the crash came. It is one problem of living with posttraumatic stress and dissociation. A switch is pulled and the world you are so carefully living in comes crashing down in an instant. It is normal to emotionally crash a bit after big adventures like mine, but this crash took me by surprise. It is why I have delayed posting this final day of my journey. I have been too engaged in trying to sit with myself in a deep, dark hole, working on remembering what I have just learned during my recent travelings, determined to grasp those memories as my literal lifeline.
I am still engaged in working to scramble out of that hole. One way I do this is by remembering the cold, rainy days I rode through that had happy endings. I tell myself there might be something happy to hold on for during these stormy days. I am trying to reach out to the friends who have offered to be there for me during this difficult time. And as I do, so I am reminded of all the people who have told me I am amazing.
I want to say that I am no more or less amazing than any of you. I have plenty of demons that I have yet to shake off my back. Long-distance outdoor adventures are one of the things that help me keep my sanity. For others, it might be snuggling up with a good book, weeding a garden, or cooking a meal. We all muddle through life the best we know how. What I find truly amazing was the level of kindness I encountered in people I met along the way. I feel so blessed and humbled that people I didn't know, or barely knew, welcomed me into their homes and fed me. That kindness is what is healing my wounded parts, allowing me to believe in myself. And to have some of those people reaching out to me now, holding my hand and helping me navigate through the storms threatening to blow me off course is nothing short of miraculous. I shudder to think where I would be without you. Thank you, each and every one.
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.