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 16, 2012 – Approximate distance: 65 km
Not long after we arrived at our host, Lynn’s house, she suggested we might want to spend a rest day in Montpelier. And though we had just had a rest a few days before in Montreal and had another rest day planned after our next stop, after our long hot ride, it seemed like a good idea.
And good idea it was for a number of reasons. The first reason made itself evident in the wee hours of the morning when I woke with a splitting headache. After a few years of noticing that I seemed to get headaches after pizza or macaroni and cheese, there was nothing like the morning after a day filled with eating tons of ice cream, and drinking coffee with cream to make the connection clear. I appear to have something of a dairy allergy. I spent the better half of the day feeling tired and headachy, recovering. Like an alcoholic after a bender I vowed to lay off dairy. (Note: It’s been over two months and aside from some dairy that might have been added to some baked goods, I’ve had two slices of pizza in as many months. I’ve felt tons better since and also really felt the effects of the pizza).
The second good reason for having a break day was something I had noticed the previous day: our rear tire was rubbing a bit against the brake a bit. It was a good day to take the bike in for a look. Coincidentally I ended up taking the bike down the street to Onion River Sports, which was where as a kid I got my first “real” bike: a “Vista Clodhopper” BMX bike. It would be the first bike I’d ride to school and also one I’d take through the woods to explore logging roads nearby my home. My love of bikes started, in effect, at this store. And here I was over 30 years later. A quick look at the bike revealed that we had a broken spoke – doubtless from the large bump we hit on the Cross Vermont Trail the day before. While they fixed the bike, Daegan and I wandered around the town eventually finding some lunch.
The final good reason for resting that day revealed itself later in the afternoon as the skies opened up with a bit of welcome rain. Well, it was welcome from where we sat on the covered front porch. Not so much from the open road, I suspect.
That night the three of us went out for dinner. I managed to have a delicious Italian meal with minimal dairy at Sarducci’s along with loads of salad and even a taste of Dae’s dessert.
Lynn and I spent the evening chatting about our lives and my time living in Vermont while Daegan relaxed in the other room catching up with his friends via chat. Eventually the hour got late and as we needed to get on the road the next morning, it was time for bed.
We were slow in getting ready the next morning. I had stayed up too late chatting and it seems that a rest day makes one want to stay and relax that much more. But after a bit of coffee and breakfast the time had come. And today was going to be special for a few reasons. The first was that this day would have our greatest ascent: over to 900 metres (0.6 miles) spread out over the course of only a little over 50 kilometres. The second would be that we would be heading to the town where I grew up: S. Royalton, Vermont – a place Daegan had never seen before.
Our ride started right off with a climb. And this was no small one, either. The village of Montpelier is in a valley right next to a river and we had to get up on to a ridge. Almost half of our ascent would be in the first 12 kilometres of the ride. But we had had a big breakfast and ate and drank well on the hill. About half way up the hill we stopped at a grocery store and refueled further.
Near the top of the hill we passed Berlin Pond, and things started to level off a bit. And as it leveled off we left the main roads and ended up on a dirt road that wound its way through the woods. Though most of North America was in the middle of a severe drought, the forest smelled delicious and green.
When we hit the dirt road, the traffic really thinned out, most of the cars opting for Interstate 89, just out of sight running relatively parallel to us. It seemed a good time for a game. And so Daegan and I fired up Zombies, Run! a game originally designed to help runners motivate themselves to run with an immersive audio environment. The principle is that the zombie apocalypse has come and we’re out in the world exploring and trying to gather supplies (and hopefully eventually a cure). During normal running (or cycling), we go at our normal pace, picking up clues and objects. However every once in a while zombies will see you and start to chase you. In that case, music from your iPhone starts and you go as fast as you can to try to outrun them while a voiceover tells of your progress. It was very fun and we made excellent time trying to stay ahead of the zombies.
After a number of ups and downs we found ourselves in Brookfield. As I had looked at our route I had hoped we would get to pass by the Floating Bridge, a bridge installed on pontoons instead of pilings due to the depth of the pond it was spanning. And as luck would have it, our route went right by it. As a kid I remember going there and riding over it in my parents car while the water rose over the tires. Though we knew it was safe, it was still pretty exciting. Often if the season was right we’d also see fishermen. It has since been closed to traffic though just after we took this picture a man roared up in a pickup truck jumped out and dove in for a swim.
While the route itself was really pretty, one huge disadvantage of a route such as this is that services are few and far between. We were nearly to my hometown and the end of the ride and we still hadn’t found a place to eat. Once again our water bottles were getting a bit low as well. (Future Todd will promptly write June-Todd to ask him to bring 7-8 bottles or a couple of Camelbaks instead) The time had come for a stop. And fortunately our opportunity presented itself in the form of Floyd’s store. We bought a few soft drinks, a couple of sandwiches, a couple bags of chips, and a pint of potato salad and settled down in a pair of rocking chairs to have our late lunch.
A few minutes into our lunch, I was surprised by a friend of mine who went to school with me. She’d seen my check-in on Facebook and as she worked down the street she came by to say hello. It was a delightful surprise and the first of a few folks I would see whom I grew up with.
After feeding ourselves and refilling all of our water bottles we hit the road again. And now it was time to head down the other side of the hill we’d come up in the morning. With very little effort we maintained 40-50 km/hr up until a few kilometres from our destination.
We arrived a little bit early and as I thought my friend Michaeline wasn’t home (a few messages got crossed), Daegan and I sat in the town green where they were setting up for Old Home Days, a small carnival with a few rides, some live music, and quite often people coming back to town after years living away. Sadly we would be out of town before it got going.
We sat near the bandstand where I had played saxophone in many concerts with Michaeline in the town band starting when I was about Daegan’s age. Like a good New England Town Band, we played all sorts of Sousa marches while folks would sit on the lawn or in their cars (and honk their applause). Like a not so good New England Town Band we’d often also play this:
But mostly Michaeline and I, good Monty Python fans that we were, would sit and hope that whomever was directing that night would ask us to play this:
Eventually we found that I was totally out to lunch and Michaeline had been watching our posting on Facebook about where we were and texted to see why we hadn’t come over. So we biked on over and settled in for another rest day.
After showers and snacks we headed out in the car to show Daegan a few of the places from our childhood, including an old abandoned house we’d explored as teenagers and were certain at the time was haunted. On this day, though, we had no luck finding it and even exploring the bushes failed to turn up even a foundation. Maybe it disappeared completely like the house did at the end of Poltergeist.
And so instead of being able to visit our old friend the haunted house, we headed further down the road to Joseph Smith’s birthplace where Daegan and I offered prayers that we’d be able to get tickets to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway. (Spoiler: Heavenly Father saw through our insincerity and we didn’t see it)