"Hey, we should do a bike trip for my bachelor party."
That innocuous statement turned into 250 miles over three days in the Green Mountains of Vermont with my 3 best and most capable cycling friends. There was definitely a time in my life when I wasn’t sure if I could survive a 250 mile cycling weekend. That time was Friday around 12:30 PM as we rolled out of the parking lot of Killington Ski Resort for our first of three rides of 58, 100 & 98 miles respectively.
We were all in this together. Some were fitter, some were fresher, but we were unified in our quest to make it to Sunday afternoon in one piece when we would make our 6+ hour drive back to Philadelphia. Thankfully, we also had the Farm to Fork Fondo –Vermont on Sunday to look forward to. After two long days of self-supported riding, we were looking forward to the well-stocked rest stops on course. As the Fondo started Sunday, we set to the front of the group, partly out of our desire to show our strength as cyclists, an egocentric pastime that all amateur racing cyclists can relate to, and partly to arrive first to the first farm to indulge in whatever snacks were waiting for us.
Those snacks turned out to be the freshest raspberries and raw honey we’d ever tasted. Sunshine Valley Organic Berry Farm welcomed us with open arms and our empty stomachs welcomed the delicious food just the same. Our race mentality quickly morphed into a ride mentality as we settled in to the rhythm of the road between stops, discussing which farm-fresh snacks were our favorites or how comically fatigued our legs were. Then even our tight-knit group of old friends grew quiet, a rare feat particularly for me. At each stop, we became a little more grateful for the rest and for the calories. At Kiss the Cow farm, each bite of ice cream was met with a silent approving nod, passed around the group. Full mouths led to subtle gestures that clearly said, “Did you try this one yet? It’s delicious”, without a word being said.
When you’ve ridden enough miles on a bicycle, the hardest days seem to be more memorable than any others. Yes, the beautiful days with a perfect tailwind occasionally happen and they’re sublime but the days spent toiling away for hours and hours in boiling temperatures or unexpected downpours are the ones that stay etched in the limited annals of the brain. But memories of those days when the hours of saddle time are broken up by the cheers of strangers, local delicacies and bucolic scenery, seem to always come back to front of mind. Sitting at my computer, I can still taste those raspberries and honey.