So, I’ve been biking for 6 days, starting in Bar Harbor and now in Middlebury, VT, 382 miles away. Last night we stopped in Thetford, VT. Thetford has 2617 people living in it; one resident is a young mom with MS, and seemingly the whole community welcomed us in their community center. Signs encouraged us up the hill to the village, and we were greeted with warmth, drinks and snacks, followed by an amazing potluck dinner with each dish made by a different community member. Vegan and gluten free riders were of course accommodated. I spoke with one couple with small children; she has MS and is being treated with the most current of agents. He has a PhD from the University of Chicago in radiation physics, and is working at Dartmouth, 20 miles away. It’s a little jarring to think that this community, which seems remote and isolated from much of the world (no cell service, no internet, one general store open a couple of hours a day) is less than 30 minutes from a major university medical center. I had a hard time understanding what life would be like here, especially in the winter, but everyone I met seemed unreservedly happy.
The biking has been probably a bit easier than I expected, at least so far. Two days ago, we climbed 4600 feet over 77 miles; hard but doable. Yesterday was a relative snap at 50 miles and 3000 feet. Today we biked 68 miles in a cold rain, up the Middlebury Pass which ends with a 12% grade. Physically harder than anything I’ve done before, but I made my way up the hill. The group is incredibly heterogenous, with respect to athletic abilities, age, personality, past lives. Everyone over 50 is retired except for one other fellow who is actively trying to do so; the younger people are teachers and others who have had a variety of jobs without a clear next move. However, all of them feel that they are providing an important service by being on this ride. There is also an amazing lack of barriers between age groups; there is no older social group vs younger, and biking abilities cross age boundaries so that people ride with different partners virtually every segment.
The countryside has been pretty much as expected; I’ve been this way before, and so the hills, greenery, mountains, and small roads are much the same as that stored in memory. However, biking gives you sudden glimpses you might not have appreciated in a car. A covered bridge, or cows running across the road herded by a farmer in an ATV, or hills so steep that it is terrifying to bike down even though they wouldn’t be noticed as unusual in a car.
63 days of biking left; at this point, I’m anticipating the experiences to come. Given the number of repeat riders in the group, I’m wondering whether at the end of this I will feel that the experience is complete or if I will be planning my next ride. I guess I’ll see.