In 2012, Daegan and I embarked on our longest ever bicycle tour: 500 Kindnesses. This project was treated like a charity bicycle ride in that we asked for “sponsors” to support us. But instead of sending money to a charity we asked them to perform a random act of kindness for someone. In the end, over 1,000 pledges were received. Our ride would take us from Toronto, northeast to Ottawa and Montreal then south through my home state of Vermont, eventually ending up in New York City. The trip was made on a tandem bicycle as Daegan was still young (only 13) and less confident cycling on busy streets like we might encounter in the major cities we’d pass through. Or perhaps, if I’m honest, I can say that I was far more nervous than he was and having him riding the same bike made me feel more comfortable.
Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting original entries from the trip.
July 13, 2012 – Approximate distance: 40 km
After a carbohydrate-filled breakfast of more potato salad, we were on our way south from Plattsburgh, our next destination of the day: Port Kent, NY where we would catch a ferry across Lake Champlain into Vermont.
Our first stop, for second-breakfast came early as we came across a restaurant just on the south side of the city. And so I got a bit more coffee and we both had a bit of French toast. As we ate the owner told us stories of his spending many years living in France where he met his wife. The restaurant made a bit of a nod toward that with a few French dishes on the menu. He also talked about how despite being told by many people that he had to have a liquor license to be successful he was doing very well without it and wanted to remain an alcohol-free establishment.
We got on our way and headed south, along NY Bicycle Route 9. Unlike what we’d been spoiled with in Quebec, this “Bicycle Route” didn’t offer a separated lane for most of what we rode of it, and sadly, sometimes it didn’t even offer a paved shoulder. However here in relatively rural upstate NY, it was relatively light on traffic and we always felt completely safe with drivers giving us ample room as they passed.
A few kilometres further down we took another stop. After a landscape of trees broken up by small villages, a field full of sculptures caught our eye. Always up for a break, we stopped and took a look around.
By the time we finished our exploration of the sculpture garden, it was already beginning to get really hot and muggy. Fortunately, about this time our route took us back into the woods.
The route meandered through the woods for a bit where we started to get our first taste of the hills that we’d be facing for many days to come. We were beginning to work for our ride. Of course, the nice thing about the hills is summed up in the song that Daegan made our mantra for much of our time in New England.
And indeed that was very true as we headed in to Port Kent, New York where we’d find the ferry to Vermont. The hill gave us a nice 60 km/hr (37 mph) descent. We arrived at the ferry with time to spare where we learned that instead of paying the higher price for “two people” or “one person and one cyclist” we paid for “one bike”. Before long the ferry arrived and we were able to board it and got a reprieve from the day’s heat with a bit of the “natural air conditioning” that Lake Champlain provided.
Eventually we arrived in Burlington, Vermont, a city I hadn’t visited since the late 80s just after I went to university there. As it was a good time for a break again, we found our way to a lakeside deli where we picked up sandwiches and fries (more carbs!) and relaxed while we watched the water.
After lunch we headed back on the road, once again heading south, this time along an old rail trail. The heat was beginning to get pretty oppressive and was some of the worst we’d experienced so far. It got a bit worse still when we turned east and lost the breeze from the lake. On the plus side, we ran into another cyclist who saw us looking at the cue sheet for our route. When we told him where we were coming from and where we were headed he offered to lead us part of the way and so we followed him for several kilometres through some of the suburban parks that I suspect would have been as confusing as those in Ottawa were had we been on our own. Eventually we found our way to a suburban wasteland of big box stores and strip malls in the city of Williston, VT. Now not only was there no longer a breeze from the lake, there was the added heat of endless acres of pavement and tons of cars spewing out hot exhaust. It was, you guessed it, time for another break, and as we were firmly entrenched in suburbia, Starbucks presented the best option for that. We stopped in and ordered cold drinks and cooled down a bit before leaving to re-enter the blazing sun.
We headed east yet again, going a couple of kilometres before we found ourselves completely lost in a residential subdivision. The directions didn’t seem to make sense and we rode around a bit trying to find something that matched our cue sheet to no avail. Finally, knowing that we had another 60 or so kilometres to go yet that day I remembered what Sage had said before we left: “You make your own rules. You stop when you want to stop, and ride where you want to ride.” And so we consulted google maps one last time and found a hotel within a few kilometres ride. We backtracked back past the Starbucks and checked in to a hotel where we showered and then basked in air conditioned splendour with bad television for the rest of the afternoon after which we walked up to a chain restaurant for (surprisingly delicious) steak dinners before heading back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest.