“Hey, Jay … Do you mind raising my seat a bit?” I asked one of our Trek Travel guides as an unusually hot July day unfolded in Shelburne, VT. I hated myself for requesting the adjustment, because our group was anxious to go, and I knew the guides were working hard to get us on the road before we all melted in the sun. It was our first bike ride on the “Vermont Brewery Tour” that I had booked with my husband and some friends to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday… part of my personal “embrace what’s next” campaign. (More on that later.) My vision for the trip didn’t exactly include the record-breaking heat we were experiencing. But Vermont was doing its part to supply the lush green fields, perfect red barns, rolling hills, quaint towns, and craft beer. Still, I could feel the rumblings of a bunch of potentially grumpy people if we didn’t get going soon.
In addition to our friends, Jon & Terese, we were joined by a father-daughter team from Florida, a couple from California, and another couple from Maryland. We’d soon realize what a great group we had, something you can’t take for granted when you get thrown together with complete strangers on a vacation. Our guides, Jake and Jay, took all our requests in stride, and were extremely professional and easy going. They rolled along with our group and helped to make the trip whatever we wanted it to be. I was amazed by their patience, their sense of what each person needed, and the way they worked their butts off (without making it look like work!) to ensure we always had full water bottles, pre-programmed Garmins, and bikes set up in a gear that would get us going up the hills straight away. We called them our bike ninjas. Sure, they’re getting paid to do what seems like a sweet gig, but it’s practically a 24-hour-a-day job. And I’m sure we only see a portion of what they must do each day to get everything prepared. They took wonderful care of us and made us feel like a cohesive tribe. In addition to six bike rides, they also guided us on a spectacular hike.
Our friend Jon asked me several times throughout the trip whether it was all I had expected. It made me stop and think whether I had any particular expectations. I definitely did not expect the heat. But, otherwise, the trip was perfect. I got to escape for a while, do something a little challenging yet fun, be with friends, make new friends, and think about turning 50…
If you’ve read other entries in this blog, you know its main focus was my kidney donation… and then to check in from time to time to basically say, “I’m still here, living a full life…” For anyone who has reason to consider a donation, I want to be living proof that it doesn’t take anything away… It gives back. And, as always, I want people to know that my stepdad is still doing well also. But, as I get older, while I don’t want to slow down completely, I do want to stop and smell the roses a little more. So, this trip was a way to do that. Not doing anything extreme, but not laying around on a beach either.
My friend Crystal, who is actually a little younger than me, inspired me to stop coloring my hair and let the gray start coming through. I absolutely hate it, but I’m trying to embrace it like she does. She’s always encouraging me to ‘own’ things, while Jon encourages me to have some ‘swagger’… I guess that’s what I was trying to do with this trip. I love Vermont. I love the way it makes me forget about the rest of the world and just focus on the ones I love and simple pleasures.
For part of our trip, we were in Middlebury, VT, where I had spent a summer back in 2006 –when I truly fell in love with the place. I had gone to Middlebury College for a language immersion program. A sort of sabbatical. I still don’t know why I went, except that I was searching for myself. I was sort of a good Russian linguist years before in the Air Force, and I wanted to see if I could be really good at it. Plus, I was pondering a career change. But I didn’t end up loving it after all. I guess I realized that it wasn’t what I was meant to do… Anyway, during that summer, I would go running on a trail around the golf course. I found that trail again while we were there on this trip and ran down part of it. I found myself saying thank you to the trail for still being there… like a good friend.
I think it was only when I was running on that trail 12 years ago that I was really finding myself. There’s something about the solitude of a good run and the peace that it brings you. The same is true of a good bike ride. You feel the road beneath your wheels and the breeze in your face on a good downhill. So much peace. Maybe it’s not your occupation or what you do for a living that defines you, but the peace you carry with you and share with others.
Somehow, we were all nicer people at the end of that first hot day of our Vermont Brewery Tour. We burned off all our stress and melted away our insecurities. So grateful were we for a cold drink, some air conditioning, and the feeling of accomplishment. That hot ride made everything that came after it better. Here’s to 50 and all that comes after it!
Here’s an eclectic playlist for you:
- We Are One (Celebrate Humanity) – The Soil
- The General – Dispatch
- Firework – Katy Perry
- Good Sign – The Silver Seas
- Super Freak (cover) – Meiko
- Quite Like You – Andy Shauf
- My Mind is an Endless Sea – The Wind and the Wave
- Magnificent – Elbow
- Julie (Come Out of the Rain) – Josh Rouse
- Astronaut – Jess Marie
- Silverlake – Underlined Passages