On Tuesday June 14 I woke up on a couch in a house in North Hero, Vermont. There were beds, but I liked the couch. I like sometimes to sleep close to the places where I live. I woke up around 7am. Annie and Rosie were still sleeping. I made what was left of my old-fashioned oats and since I didn’t think that would be enough, I added one packet of instant oatmeal. I made tea. I drank a glass of water. When the oats were ready I added chia seeds and peanut butter–both of which came with me all the way from New York City.
I don’t remember if I read or wrote or just looked out at the lake while I ate breakfast. There were moments of fierce reading and writing on this trip. But more than that there were moments of just staring out into space. It’s funny, how I usually grabbed my book out of the pannier when I stopped for lunch but mostly didn’t touch it. I would think to myself, I just spent all morning riding my bike, talking to no one, surely I will want to read a book now. But no, usually I didn’t.
So that morning I was probably looking out at the lake. After breakfast I washed my dishes. I packed my bags. Tent, clothes, dishes, sandals in one. Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, sweatshirt, towel, toiletries in one. Food in one. Bike tools and supplies in one. I took my bike outside and loaded the bags onto the front and back. What I assumed to be a father and his teenage son where in the driveway doing carpentry work on the house. They had been there yesterday too. The father said, looks like you’re going somewhere far. I said, I’m going to New York City. Wow, he said. Thanks, I said. I went inside to get my other bags. I heard the father talking to the son. I saw the son look over at me.
Rosie and Annie were still sleeping. I wrote them a note. I went out and sat on the dock. It was sunny. I wore a cut up t-shirt with a sports bra underneath. I walked back to the driveway where my bike was. The teenager was there and he talked to me. You’re going to ride to New York City? Yeah, I said smiling. By yourself? He asked. Yeah, I said. But who do you talk to all day? He asked. Oh, it’s not so bad, I said. There are people to talk to, I said.
It is interesting to me, what people think the hardest part of this is.
I rode down the gravel road. I turned on a paved road. I said goodbye to the horses on the corner of Highway 2 and Blockhouse Road. I rode into the small town of North Hero. I stopped at Hero’s Welcome, a gas station, convenience store and market. I bought a doughnut. I used their wifi, because I hadn’t had phone service for a few days. I wrote a blog post. The sun got higher. It made the water sparkle. I had spent several days on many parts of Lake Champlain, but I had not yet seen it sparkle. I put my contacts in. I thought maybe I would go for a swim today. A couple rolled in on bikes. It looked like they were touring. The man was carrying the bags and the woman only had a basket on her bike. But, sometimes when hetero-couples travel the woman carries the weight and the man carries nothing.
The man came close to my bike to use the trash can. I asked the man where they were going. To Bellington, he said. He had an accent. Where was he from, I asked. From Ottawa. Where are you going? I asked again. Bellington. Where’s that? I asked. Uh, it’s the largest city in Vermont. Oh, I see, I said. I felt dumb now. Good luck. I said. I rode off.
I had a destination in mind for the day: Crown Point, New York. Google tried to take me through Vermont, but I had already gone through Vermont. I wanted a new route. I caught the ferry to Plattsburgh. I rode my bike right onto the ferry and one of the ferry employees told me to get off and walk it. I did. I took lots of pictures on the ferry. But also I tried not to look like too much of a weirdo.
I rode into New York. I saw a campground which was convenient because I needed to use a bathroom. After using the bathroom I ate two energy bars and consulted my map/google. It said I had 69 miles to Crown Point. It was already noon. I guess I got kind of distracted with the blog post and the ferry. So I had to really fucking ride from here on out. I rode through Plattsburgh. It was nice. I took a picture. I didn’t talk to anyone there. I saw a house with a Trump sign in the front yard. It made me suspicious.
I joined highway 9. I entered Adirondack State Park. I crossed the Ausable Chasm. I parked my bike so I could get a good look at the waterfall. There was a couple on a motorbike. We waved at each other. I rode to Keevesville where I checked to see if I had phone service. I did not. I rode up some hills. It was hot, but sometimes there was a nice breeze. I felt strong. I thought, huh, all of these hills are easy. I could probably ride my bike forever as long as I had food and water, I thought. I turned onto highway 22. There was a warning for motorists: no gas for seven miles. I didn’t see why that would be a problem for a motorist. Seven miles was nothing to me and I was riding my bike.
I stopped in Willsboro. I needed to eat something. At the gas station I got a roast beef sandwich and potato salad. I love potato salad. I also got a Vitamin Water. I don’t really like energy drinks but my friend Zoe says it’s really important to replace your electrolytes when you’re biking and it was hot outside. I sat on a bench outside the gas station and ate. Groups of men in various kinds of trucks stopped at the gas station. I nodded and smiled but not too much. Sometimes I said hi.
One man asked me about my bike. I told him about my trip. He was impressed. We chatted for a bit. Turns out he grew up in the neighborhood where I now live. It wasn’t cool back then. We were all getting out of there, he said. Yes, I said, trying to understand. He asked where I was camping. I said I didn’t really know, did he have recommendations? He told me about a hiking trail and a lean-to. I smiled and nodded. I didn’t tell him that I like sleeping at campgrounds because it feels safer. He wished me luck and said goodbye.
Since google/my map wasn’t working I didn’t know how far it was to Crown Point, but probably 30-40 miles. I was a little worried about making it there on time, so I figured if I found a campsite on the way I would take the option. Also since I didn’t have service, I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but road signs would guide me. I followed signs to Essex. I had now been away from the lake for a few hours but I knew that the road was leading me back to it. The uphill ended and the grade sign with a truck on it introduced the downhill. It unfurled like a ribbon with tricks and turns and little uphills where I didn’t even have to try. I got bugs in my eyes and on my lips as I flew down it. After a minute of this I got a peek of the lake through the trees and it made me smile. The lake felt like home now. The road dipped down into the Essex town marina then I had to pull myself back up again. There was a sign that said: Westport 13 miles. That was my next town.
The road pulled away from the lake and continued in short steep hills. There were almost no cars on the road. It felt far away from everything. I went on loving it, feeling like I could ride forever. Then after a few quiet miles I started to wonder, is this right? Then after a few more quiet miles I started to think, after this hill, after this turn, there must be…something. But there wasn’t. Then I got mad, because of the hills and the sun was turning that orange color and I didn’t know where I was. But there was nothing to do but keep going. And Westport appeared, like it always does.
As I left town I saw something at the top of a small hill. It looked like a person on a bicycle with bags. But, no. More likely it was a man mowing the lawn of a large estate. I passed a campsite. I was tempted. But also, I had to see what this thing was ahead of me. I was catching up quickly. It was a man on his bike. I was astounded and delighted. His bike was loaded with bags on the back. Bags tied to bags tied to other stuff. He had long hair and a long beard. I pulled up beside him.
I said hi how you going? Then I laughed and he laughed and I said I mean how’s it going? He came from Vermont. He was riding to California. Today was his first day. What?! Today is your first day?! I know I hardly every get excited and yell about things, but I got excited about this and it made him smile. He wasn’t much of a talker and really I wasn’t either even though people think that I am sometimes. I told him maybe I would see him on the road tomorrow. Then I went ahead. I got far enough ahead that soon I couldn’t see him behind me anymore.
I rode towards Port Henry. The sun was low, but also I was close now. On my way into town I saw another house with a Trump sign. I took a picture of my bike in front of the closed town pharmacy. I stopped at Stewart’s where I bought a big cold water and made myself drink the whole thing. I also bought yogurt and I ate a banana from my bag. Sitting outside of Stewart’s I was looking down a side street with a church at the end. It was old with stained glass. I was intrigued so after I finished my banana I biked to it. I took some pictures. I parked my bike. I tried to get inside but the door was locked. I tried a different door. An elderly woman came out of a house next door. It’s all closed up, she said. Ok, I said. Everything’s closed up around here, she said. Ok, I said. It’s a pretty church, I said. Ok, she said. And she disappeared into her house.
I left Port Henry with a lovely downhill and signs to the Crown Point campground. I rode next to a diminishing arm of the lake. It was orange like the sky, green like the trees, and smooth like glass. It made me think of the mornings at the lake in Missouri when I was younger and my dad would wake me early to go skiing. Smooth as glass out there, he would say. My admiration of its beauty is always accompanied by a strong urge to disturb it.
I turned left towards the campground. I crossed a small bridge. It smelled bad here and I hoped it wouldn’t smell like that at camp. Behind me the sun was setting magnificently. Camp was underneath the bridge that crossed the lake and connected New York and Vermont. When I got there the lights were on on the bridge. They were small. They were like very bright stars. I checked out the sites. I didn’t want to be right in view of the bridge because I didn’t want light in my face. I wanted to be close to the bathrooms but not too close. I looked for neighbors that looked nice. I picked a spot near the main campground road. I reapplied bug spray. I put up my tent. I unrolled my sleeping pad and my sleeping bag. I ate two energy bars and some beef jerky. I watched two women arrive in a car and walk down to the lake with fishing poles. I did not talk to anyone. I took a shower. I took my bike shorts in the shower with me and cleaned them. I noticed that I had a sunburn in the shape of two half moons on my back. They were spots I missed between the shirt and my sports bra. My left eye was red. Probably from all of the debris that got in it on the downhills. I hoped it didn’t get infected.
In my tent I read for a few minutes. I rained lightly. I fell asleep.