Editorial: The Other Bucket List

I have two biking bucket lists going right now. The first is a list of the rides I want to do in Vermont. I’m gradually checking off century rides: Kelly Brush Ride, Gran Fondo, Long Trail, and the Harpoon Point to Point are now on the “done” list—some multiple times.

New ones that I’m adding: The Moose, a gorgeous loop up through the Northeast Kingdom, the Prouty (around Hanover, N.H.), and the Vermont Challenge, which tours southern Vermont.

In terms of mountain biking, I’ve checked off NEMBAFest at the Kingdom Trails but will be adding VMBAFest (Vermont Mountain Biking Association) at Sugarbush’s Mount Ellen (I’m stoked for the new pop-up tiki bar at American Flatbread), and, if I get the courage, the new Vermont Bike & Brew downhill festival at Killington this month.

Then there’s the second bucket list of the big “I have a dream”-type of bike trips—the Alps, New Zealand, Cambodia…

These have always seemed like far away visions, the type of trip you talk about doing but don’t quite get to.

When I heard Corinne Prevot’s story about mountain biking in the Mustang region of Nepal, they seemed a bit more feasible. Suddenly, the fact that a Vermonter I know (albeit a pretty ripping Vermont ski racer) was doing this trip in the middle of nowhere made it seem like maybe I could muster the energy to go.

Then I talked to Cameron Russell, a friend who grew up in Addison County, about the bucket list he’s made a reality. Right now, he’s somewhere in South America, biking from Patagonia to Vermont. The photos he and his two trip mates, Eli Bennett and Noah McCarter have been sharing on their blog, Mundo Pequeño, make me want to pack everything into a pannier and hop on a plane tomorrow.

Hearing their story—even with its brutally honest accounts of battling 60 m.p.h. headwinds in Tierra del Fuego, sleeping in abandoned huts in Chile, and gasping for oxygen on a hill climb to 15,000 feet in Bolivia—was like dangling a red flag in front of a bull. Russell even outlined the bike, the tires and every piece of gear I might need to do this.

Of course, there are always excuses.

There’s no time. I can’t leave work. I’m not in good enough shape. I’m too old.

Scratch that last excuse. The third story in our trip trilogy is that of Susan Lynch who, at age 58, is not only riding across America, she’s racing it. The Race Across America is considered one of the toughest events in cycling. And Lynch, an ultra-athlete who now calls Dorset home, is hoping to do it in less than a week.

Now, the Race Across America is clearly not on my bucket list, but what Lynch, Prevot and Russell all have in common is that they are inspiring me to go ride.

So, whether it’s 100 miles around a corner of Vermont I haven’t seen or 1,000 miles across a country I’ve never been to, doesn’t matter. What does is that I start to think of my bike not just as a form of exercise but as a form of travel.

Traveling by bike is different from simply going for a ride. It means you stop looking at your speedomter and start looking at the landscape. It means that instead of drafting, you ride slowly enough to talk. Instead of measuring time, you measure distance.

The goal of traveling by bike should never be to see how quickly you can get from point A to point B. Instead, I like to think of it in terms of how many stops you can make along the way, how many people you can randomly meet, how many times you can get yourself lost.

Much as I love organized rides, it’s perhaps the disorganized rides that I like best. It’s the times I’ve picked a place out on a Gazeteer and only discovered 20 miles in that the road is no more than a logging path. Or the times when a mountain bike ride has turned into a hike-a-bike session. Or rides when I get truly, hopelessly lost.

Those are the rides where I find myself.

—Lisa Lynn, Editor