Sunday, July 26, 2009
Day 50 - Latham, NY to Brattleboro, VT
"These green hills and silver waters
are my home. They belong to me.
And to all of her sons and daughters
May they be strong and forever free.
Let us live to protect her beauty
And look with pride on the golden dome
They say home is where the heart is
These green mountains are my home.
These green mountains are my home."
—These Green Mountains, State Song of Vermont
We left Latham, NY this morning thinking this would be a rainy day. It did rain, but not until we had logged nearly 70 miles of riding in perfect weather—sunny, warm, and wonderful. By mile four, I had removed my arm warmers. Some time later, I took off my vest. The day was shaping up to be great. We crossed the Hudson River as we entered Troy, NY just five miles away from Latham. We crossed the bridge over the Hudson quickly and traffic was busy, so a quick glance to the left and the right was all I had time for. Good think I'll get a better view when me and my family visit NYC later this week.
Troy—the home of Uncle Sam, as the sign states—is a larger city with tall, brick buildings. As we rode through the town and climbed up Rt. 7, the neighborhood was primarily lower income homes. As we rode further east, the homes appeared nicer and the surroundings less sketchy. Our first SAG stop was in East Hoosick at a gas station and Dunkin Donuts store. I took the opportunity to start the day with a frozen mocha and a blueberry donut. I made the point that this was more food I wouldn't be able to eat unless I'm riding 80+ miles. Man, it's going to be hard to change these habits developed over 52 days of cycling!
After the SAG stop, we reached the Vermont State border. While the "Welcome to Vermont" sign wasn't anything special, the state certainly was. Within a mile, I was already gazing to the south overlooking green rolling hills, picture perfect farms, and verdant pastures. The town of Bennington, VT was a few miles further. As we entered town, I saw Old First Church, a towering white church on the road leading into the town center. I stopped for a photo and noticed an arrow in the cemetery pointing toward Robert Frost's grave. Far be it for me to not take the road less traveled and not see Frost's grave. So, I walked through the cemetery, enjoying the eery feel of the place (wondering what it would be like on an October night) and found his grave.
As we rolled slowly through town, I was struck by the quaint downtown storefronts, but more interesting were the brightly decorated moose statues. Back in Seattle, we have a similar downtown decor with painted pigs and at Christmas, it's painted nutcrackers. So I took great delight in looking for as many mooses (meese?) I could find and snagging a photo of each. Our favorite was the one dressed as Capt. Jack Sparrow with a pirate theme. The multi-colored moose licking an ice-cream cone was also a fun one.
Now we began our climb up into the Green Mountains. The road wasn't as bad as I imagined. It was refreshing to be climbing again. The sun was out so the climb was hot. I was keeping my eyes open for a special intersection coming up. We were about to bisect the Appalachian Trail, generally known as the A.T. This trail begins in Georgia and runs all the way to Maine. Hikers will take six-months to hike the entire trail from start to finish—they're known as Thru-hikers. I spotted a pullout and saw some hikers gathered and then saw the sign. It was the A.T. I parked the bike, took a photo, then actually hiked a few feet into the woods just to make the claim that I had been on the A.T. I met the group of hikers, most of them were thru-hikers. One had started in Georgia. A few had begun in West Virginia. We talked about our journeys and shared mutual respect for each others' efforts. It's a rare breed—perhaps with an element of insanity thrown in—that can spend that many days on the road or trail.
The remainder of our climb was as scenic as you could hope for. The road followed a bubbling stream with occasional rapids. Homes and cottages dotted the shores of ponds and reservoirs. Snowmobile trails and ski resorts showed that this region would appear entirely different six months from now. We arrived in Wilmington, VT and took time for a lengthy lunch. The street was lined with touristy shops and galleries. The sign above the country store next the restaurant said it best, "Maple Syrup & Cheese and Things that say Vermont"!
After lunch we had one more climb to tackle: Hogback Mountain. This climb wasn't hard at all. I chatted with Gerard all the way up. Halfway through the climb, it occurred to me that six months ago, chatting on a climb would have been all but impossible. Now, it was second nature. The view from the top was stunning. Rolling green mountains as far as the eye could see. The descent was even better. We roared down the mountainside, rolling up and back down again.
Eventually, we arrived in Brattleboro. A covered bridge on the edge of town made a great stop for a series of photos. Then we rode into the center of town. I found a bike shop that was open and purchased their shop jersey, a water bottle, and some cycling grub for the last two days. I asked if they had a "I pedaled 3800 miles to get to your shop" discount. I was surprised when the clerk took 15% off.
Now I rode the final few miles to our hotel. The day was late and I could have easily spent several hours walking around Brattleboro. I decided that I had a new state to add to my list of favorite states: Vermont!
Tomorrow, we'll ride 84 miles to Manchester, NH. We'll enter our 13th state and the state of our final destination: New Hampshire! Best of all, my wife, Susie, and my kids, Kyle and Bethany, will meet me en route and spend the evening with us at the farewell dinner tomorrow evening. I haven't seen Susie since Pueblo, CO back on June 26 and I haven't seen my kids since June 6 when they took me to the airport! I plan to ride fast tomorrow afternoon when I hear they are in Manchester!
To view all the photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100562
To learn more about the Ride for Impact and make your donation before this ride ends, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 3,839
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 4,999 ft.
Max Elev: 2,485 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 10%