Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day #51: Paying Homage to the Mountain

Today's Route: Canaan, NH to Rutland, VT (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2967

I had planned on getting an early start this morning to beat the heat. But waking up during the 3am hour was just a tad bit earlier than desired.

I awoke to the sound of a man shouting in the street right in front of the yard where I pitched my tent for the night.

He was going absolutely ballistic. He was telling some woman that she didn't have anything on him. That he had just finally gotten out of prison. And that he admired Noah for having the guts to put a bullet through his head; if he had a gun, he'd kill himself now, too. This whole dialogue was peppered with every cuss word and variation thereof (the noun form, the verb form, the adjective form, etc).

The "comic moment" (if you can call it that) was this dialogue:

Ballistic Man: You're the best thing that ever happened to me.
Woman: You're the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ballistic Man: Then what the fuck are we doing?
Woman: You wanna kill yourself!

Despite the comic relief, there's nothing that makes me feel more uncomfortable than hearing someone screaming in anger.

Things intensified when the neighbor next door came out and told the guy to shut the &$%# up because his 10-year-old daughter was inside sleeping. Apparently, the neighbor was a marine and would do whatever he needed to do to defend himself and his rights. The marine told the ballistic guy to "take it down the street."

I laid in my tent in complete shock. My eyes were like a deer's eyes in headlights.

I've read way too many Ann Rule and Patricia Cornwell novels, and I have way too vivid of an imagination, particularly when it comes to violence and crime scenes. I figured I should stay low, just in case.

Indeed, the ballistic guy took his shouting down the street, though I could still make out his screams quite easily. A few minutes later I heard eight loud thuds. I wouldn't consider them as obvious gun shot sounds. No, these sounds were definitely more muted.

The shouting weakened a bit. Followed by three more thuds. Followed by silence.

About ten minutes later, a cop pulled up to the marine's house next door. I heard the marine tell a far more peaceful version of his involvement with the ballistic man. The cop asked some questions. The marine answered the questions. The cop pulled away. And all was silent again.

I tried to get back to sleep. But I couldn't. I couldn't stop thinking about what the thuds were. And about the poor woman who was taking all of the ballistic man's ballisticness. And, I couldn't stop thinking about the poor 10-year-old girl and how fucked up her life is going to be because of her father.

I was grateful for the woman who let me put my tent up in her yard, but as soon as the darkness lifted, I was anxious to be on my way and get the hell out of Canaan.

The first twenty miles of my ride were uncomfortable. I kept thinking that at some point in time, the ballistic guy (if he was still alive) and the marine guy would likely be passing me on their ways to work or wherever they needed to go. And I was sure they wouldn't give a damn about giving at least three feet of space when passing a cyclist, particularly on a road without a shoulder.

I thought of Barbara Savage. She and her husband cycled more than 23,000 miles through 25 countries in two years back in the '80s. She wrote a great book, called "Miles from Nowhere," about their adventures.

Tragically, she died in a bicycling accident shortly after returning from their trip. You have got to be kidding me?! All those miles of cycling in sketchy places and she dies in a freak accident back in the states?!

Obviously, Barbara was way more hardcore of a cyclist than me. But, I couldn't stop seeing the headlines in my mind as I cycled: "Girl Hit by Car Just Two Days Before End of Cross-Country Trip."

But then I crossed back into Vermont, and I instantly felt more comfortable.

Back in Vermont.

A little while later I pulled off of Highway 4 into the beautiful and peaceful Quechee Gorge. As I entered the Gorge, I could feel the tension in my body melt away. I had no idea that my body had responded so intensely to the shouting match from earlier this morning.

My Warm Showers host for tonight, Liz, sent me amazing directions to get from Canaan, NH to Rutland, VT.

Liz's amazingly detailed instructions.

She is the one who suggested I ride through the Quechee valley. I'm so glad she suggested this route. It was amazing!

I stopped at a cemetery in Quechee to walk around. It was fascinating to see that so many of the people buried there had lived so long ago. In a time before cars. And television. And cell phones.

The cemetery in Quechee.

There were a surprising number of Sarah's buried in the cemetery. I guess Sarah has always been a popular name.

Ahh! It's me!

I was also surprised by what people chose to have etched on their headstones. While I understand the constraints of headstone space and finances and things of that nature, I was saddened to see that so many headstones merely showed the persons name, the person's birth and death dates, and their relationship to their spouse.

Mrs. Abigail Udall - a consort.

For many of the people buried in this cemetery, their headstone is the only remaining tangible legacy of their existence. While I don't feel the need to have a headstone when I die, I know for sure that I don't want to be remembered as merely "belonging" to someone. I want to be remembered for all the wonderful ways I spent my days.

Riding along the Ottauquechee River.

In Woodstock, I met a cyclist who called me his "hero." Wow, that made me feel good!

In Bridgewater Corners, I met another cyclist, Dave, who gave me detailed beta on my final big climb of the trip. The climb would take me up and over Sherburne Pass, at an elevation of 2,150 ft. Thanks, Dave, for letting me know about the false summit just before the ski shops. Indeed, that last remaining pitch was a bitch, particularly in this heat!>

Dave told me about his cycling hero, a guy in his 70s, who actively skis the surrounding mountains in the winter and bikes the mountains in the summer. Dave's hero's approach is to "pay homage to the mountain."

The mountains are stronger and more almighty than we will ever be. We must respect them. We must take the climb at face value. We must simply throw our bike into an easy gear and climb. No matter how hard we try, the mountain isn't going to become any less steep.

As mentioned earlier, I was following detailed Adventure Cycling maps for my entire journey across the country to the Atlantic Ocean. But, for my ride back through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, I wanted to ride along a different route.

I rode through Maine and New Hampshire using car-appropriate maps. But, but the time I got to Vermont, I was just using some scribbled notes to ride through the state. These notes were based on Liz's directions.

My directions are getting less formal each day.

Without maps, I had very little context as to where I'd be riding. I kept scanning the mountains in front of me, asking "Which one of you has the pass that I'll be riding over shortly?"

Even though I was on the road shortly after 5am this morning, it was piping hot when I got to the beginning of the climb up Sherburne Pass.

It was sorta fun to see the people gawking at me from their cars. Some people were sticking there heads out their windows and just staring at me as they rode by, with that "Why in the hell is she riding in these mountains in this heat?" look on their faces. A couple of people even commented how brave/crazy I was.

Although I will pay reverence to the mountains as I pedal up their ascents and coast down their descents, I can't stop from giggling whenever a bead of sweat drips down between my butt checks. It always tickles! Hehe!


  1. What a journey, Sarah! I can't believe it's almost over either! I hope you'll continue to write about your days, your adventures and your thoughts. I loved your quote, 'I want to be remembered for all the wonderful ways I spent my days."

  2. I will indeed continue to keep writing! I've really enjoyed writing the blog; it's been a nice way for me to chronicle my own experiences and thoughts. (I was never very good at keeping a handwritten journal, except for in Mr. Horvich's TAG program in grade school, when we were required to journal so many pages every week.) If you're interested in reading along, all the better! Thank you for all of your comments, MaryJo - it's fun to read them!


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