Today we biked 79 miles from Latham to Brattleboro. We had been in NY since last Sunday, when we arrived in Niagara. Yes, Monday was a rest day, so it really took us “only” four riding days to cross the state. But today we crossed the entire state of Vermont. Though we are in Brattleboro, it sits on the CT river which serves as the border between VT and New Hampshire. Located in the southeast corner, it is actually geographically closer to the state capitals of Albany, Hartford, Boston, and Concord than to its own state capital, Montpelier. Two other things about Vermont. First, it is gorgeous to see, especially from a bike. Second, we did the most strenuous climbing since crossing the Teton pass back in Wyoming. About 5,000 feet worth.
Crossing the Hudson River first thing this morning, I turned right and said “hey, you can see the Empire State Building from here,” and a couple of the riders got all excited and were ready to whip out cameras before realizing that its 150 south to New York City. I felt guilty (not!). Anyway, we entered Vermont at mile 32 and were soon in Bennington, a picture perfect village just the way Vermont is supposed to look. Anchored by a big, white, wooden Congregational Church, historic homes, and a pretty downtown. It is obvious why people flock here, especially in September and October to go “leafing.”
The road went up dramatically after we left Bennington. We climbed for nearly 10 miles on grades of between 3 and 9% or so. At the top, the road leveled out and the view everywhere was of rolling green hills/mountains (Vermont is the Green Mountain State…). There was a lake at that elevation that seemed idyllic. What was great for me about the climbs is that while I did not “let loose” on the descents, I was handling them with less terror than I felt back in Wyoming. I was enjoying myself the whole time.
We ate dinner in a restaurant tonight, and there were no tables left, so we sat a the bar and a couple got to talking to us about the trip. They mentioned running races and other events that they have done, including several for charity (those in Boston know what the Jimmy Fund is). When I brought Freedom to Marry into the discussion, they were very supportive, stating that last summer they had two invitations for two events on the same day: a same sex wedding, and a family anniversary party for another relative. They chose the wedding, feeling that it is a once in a lifetime event, and that the celebration of the event, and what it meant to the two guys getting married, and how much they appreciated having them in attendance superseded the other family obligation. They were lifetime Catholics, but stated that they believed that the Church just had it all wrong, and couldn’t understand how any church would want to stand in the way of love and commitment. They made the point by referencing the word “commitment” on my T-shirt, and stated that they been married for 43 years.
I have relayed a number of “conversations” that I had on this trip. I promise that the only selection criteria has been a feeling that I would not get punched out, and an opportunity to interject it into the conversation without it being too awkward or forced. Nearly every conversation has been positive and supportive. Now maybe it’s because it’s near the end of the ride, or maybe because I didn’t need to add any additional thoughts to what this couple so eloquently stated, but I walked out of the restaurant feeling a bit choked up…
Epic scenery. Epic climbs. Epic descents. Epic people. Epic day!