Bill McKibben, the renown environmental activist, has written a very easy to read and thought provoking book that attempts to explain how a 50-year timeline of trends and events have taken us to where we are today. It seems our lives are an unwitting product of many avenues of “progress” from politics to religion to technology. The changes we have experienced have been shaped by a “hyper” drive toward individualism, capitalism and new forms of communicating.
At age 75, I have even lived through a decade more change than Bill. I have learned to accept most of it. Employed at one time in the tech sector I once cheered on innovation, automation and efficiency. But, I’ll be damned if I can figure out why things have turned so negative, unreasonable and intractable. Tribalism permeates more and more of our lives every day. Surely, the amount and frequency of change has been a major factor. This book calls on us to stop and try to understand the injustice that exists from these changes.
The fact that McKibben is from the Lexington, MA area helps draw a clear comparison and contrast to today’s politics. Revolutionary America was largely an aspirational community of individuals that depended on each other and shared core beliefs. Today, we are not even sure what to aspire to other than wealth. And, foundational religious beliefs have withered in the face of individualism or have been diluted by the proliferation of religious sects. Frankly, a community based on shared higher ideals seems difficult to imagine these days.
The problem with technology has been an inability to see or predict the negative effect of its progress. Whether an unanticipated end product is pollution, inequality or a social breakdown, we don’t seem to know how to fix it without destroying the comfortable lives we built upon it. We are programmed to be transactional. There may be talk of reparations but what we really want is our money’s worth. We hesitate to take responsibility for previous generation’s mistakes while we minimize our cost and distress.
Can we change our way of thinking? Will we be better able to evaluate the long term and negative side of the latest technology or untethered capitalism. It seems like there’s no better time to give pause to what we are doing than right now, especially with the oncoming age of AI.
McKibben recently started an organization for people over 60, like me, called Third Act which is directed toward activism about big issues such as the environment. It seems many of us are out there wondering what went wrong too and how we might help. It’s a great idea since we have more free time and are probably healthier and wealthier than past seniors.
I recently joined Third Act and hope that I can play a role in helping solve problems that had seemed beyond the “old” me. Issues that seemed impossible to change might seem Quixotic but may be just what we are looking for. I still want the world to be a better place for my wife, three children and eight grandchildren and I want them to know I’m not too old to do something about that.
There are not many moments in life where you find yourself witnessing and participating in a significant historical event. You know it even then because there has never been anything like it before. You are gobsmacked with what you see, hear and feel. And, to top it off, all this happens accidentally by a fortunate set of circumstances.
It was on August 15, 1965 that the Beatles were scheduled to play Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York. My sisters Chris and Barbara and their friend Gail were rabid Beatle fans and they made sure they had their tickets as well as their white go-go boots ready. These were the days when large concerts were rare. This one would be their second tour of the U.S. but the first-ever “stadium concert” and the largest concert crowd (55,600) at any concert at that time.
Strangers in a Strange Land
Shea was completed only a year before and as the latest project promoted by Robert Moses, the famed New York City planner, to develop the Queens area. It was located in Flushing Meadows next to the grounds of the World’s Fair of 1964-65 in Corona Park.
Most of us had visited the World’s Fair the year before and marveled at exhibitions. It was a fascinating look at the future and and offered a taste of other countries. I still remember the Lowenbräu beer pavilion where we could drink beer freely, just like being in Bavaria, even though we were underaged and about as naive as we could be about the rest of the world. It seemed like we were moving into the future and becoming part of a bigger world.
Accepting the Mission
In the original plan, my dad was supposed to drive my sisters to and from Shea since they were young teens not old enough to drive. Well, it turned out my buddy Mike Hayser and I were hanging around my house that hazy 80-degree Sunday with nothing particular to do so we volunteered to take them instead. Why my father allowed us to drive I’ll never know but probably the long ride and the need to wait for them were factors. And, it was, after all, the 1960’s and there was a certain freedom and permission that’s hard to reconcile with today’s helicopter parenting.
We didn’t even think about how crazy this could be with thousands of screaming fans. But we sensed that there would be lots of girls and a great adventure awaiting. Little did we know we would be driving directly into history.
At 17 years old I considered my six months of experience enough to tackle the big-game driving in New York City’s traffic and its strange mysterious boroughs. Shea was then a big new and bold stadium. It was built to last for the New York Mets franchise, which started only a few years before. Both the stadium and the team represented new hope for us bitter and abandoned ex-Brooklyn Dodger fans.
The Way to Shea
This was my longest and most challenging drive with my hand-painted blue 56’ Chevy. Living in Roselle, the best way to get to Shea was to take the Goethals Bridge from Elizabeth to Staten Island and drive across the new and mammoth Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (which was another Robert Moses project.). The bridge had just opened in January 1964 and was an instant success allowing traffic to Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island via the Belt and Grand Central Parkways. To us on the Jersey side, these were legendary roads where we were warned daily of horrendous traffic conditions on the radio and assumed only brave and crazy drivers dare go. So, why not try?
The only way to get somewhere far away in those days was to rely on old-fashioned, artfully folded paper maps. Every car had dozens of maps in the glove compartment which were free to grab at any gas station. We relied on maps, intuition and signs (if they were still there) to find where we were going. So, we grabbed a map of New York and headed out like modern explorers to find Shea Stadium and experience the wild urban frontier.
Going with the Flow
As we approached Shea the traffic became heavy and led to a stop. A tremendous crowd was moving toward the stadium so we decided to find a parking spot along the road and walk to the stadium, even though our mission was to deliver my sisters and kill some time exploring the area – later to pick them up somehow. My sisters found the gates where ticket holders entered moving rapidly. Mike and I realized at this point that the action was inside the stadium and our best move would be to try and get in.
We studied the situation and realized that this was a sellout and there no tickets (Box seats cost $5.65 apiece!) to be bought and the security staff seemed only half-interested in checking tickets. So, we approached a guard to tell the story of our good deed of taking my sisters to the concert; only to be left outside waiting. Let’s just say on that day everyone was in a good mood. They turned away as we freely walked into the most important concert of our lives, without a ticket.
The Beatles had only broken into the U.S. market a couple years ago but by now they were known worldwide having created over a half-dozen albums and two films. This was the beginning of their North America tour having just released their album and film “Help!” less than two weeks ago and had appeared on the Ed Sullivan show the night before.
Pop concerts were not that common and were not believed to be big revenue generators. All that changed at Shea. The concert at Shea Stadium set a world record for attendance and gross revenue. The Beatles got $160,000 of the $304,000 box office sales and proved that there was money and other benefits in staging large concerts.
Lead off acts included Brenda Holloway, King Curtis, Sounds Incorporated, Killer Joe Piro and The Discothèque Dancers, The Young Rascals and Cannibal & the Headhunters. Hosts included Murray the K and Cousin Brucie Morrow. Television host Ed Sullivan introduced the band when they took the stage: “Now, ladies and gentlemen, honored by their country, decorated by their Queen, and loved here in America, here are The Beatles!”
The concert was ahead of the audio technology at the time and could not properly project the music in the massive stadium. Powerful stage amplifiers couldn’t play louder than the screaming crowd. Even the stadium’s P.A. system, normally used by baseball announcers, was also employed to help project the band’s sound. But, the roar of the crowd could be heard throughout their appearance.
Once the Beatles started playing, it didn’t matter where your tickets were or if you had one. Everyone spilled into the lower levels and stood for the entire concert in awe of the band and the crowd of frenzied fans. They continued to play 12 songs lasting about an hour. We had traveled two hours, witnessed the largest crowd we had ever seen, managed to crash the gate and listen to some great music. But, nothing compared to the electric reaction of this huge crowd. Girls were out of control and screaming everywhere. I remember getting goosebumps by just witnessing the joy and excitement that was beyond our imagination. It was obvious that Beatles were having as great a time as their audience.
After the concert fans stormed the field and we made our way out. I’m still not sure how we found my sisters in that crowd of over 55,000. I don’t remember a thing about the ride home but I’m sure we basked in the good vibes of the event knowing that we were there for a very special event with memories that will last a lifetime.
The Concert at Shea in the Beatles’ Words…
“I think we just went a bit hysterical that night; we couldn’t believe where we were and what was going on, we couldn’t hear a bloody thing and we thought ‘This isn’t very good, but it’s going down great.’ The hysteria started to kick in. That was a great one.”
Paul McCartney, Back To The World tour book
“Once you know you’ve filled a place that size, it’s magic; just walls of people. Half the fun was being involved in this gigantic event ourselves.”
Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible
“What I remember most about the concert was that we were so far away from the audience. . . And screaming had become the thing to do. . . Everybody screamed. If you look at the footage, you can see how we reacted to the place. It was very big and very strange.”
Ringo Starr, The Beatles Anthology
“At Shea Stadium, I saw the top of the mountain.”
John Lennon, recalling the show in 1970 in a TV interview
It’s interesting to note that at the time of the concert the Watts Los Angeles riots were taking place with the black community angry about the police brutality and civil rights. Meanwhile, President Johnson signed the Voting Act of 1965 that very afternoon establishing new laws that were meant to provide free and fair elections forever.
The mighty Shea was demolished forty seven years later replaced by Citi Field, but the same roads and bridges remain. The Beatles were only in their 20s and at the height of their careers in 1965 but played their last concert together in 1970, just five years later. That last concert and the Beatles legend is still being explored with the release of the new Peter Jackson/Disney+ retrospective on the Beatles last project together, the making of “Get Back.”
History, it seems, is never written in stone and just takes time to understand and appreciate.
The Beatles at Shea Stadium Video
The following video was purchased years ago online and represents a rough cut of the original special recording which appeared on British and American TV as a special. It is approximately 52 minutes long.
There’s a world-class playground for mountain bikers here in the Northeast Kingdom. I gotta come back.
I have long thought myself a “roadie” cyclist – meaning my preferred biking is on paved roads with plenty of room to speed and go for miles. Lately, I’m not so sure. It may be a combination of age and looking for new challenges that has got me thinking and behaving differently.
This Reunion Tour I just finished yesterday was a pure solo touring adventure that challenged my endurance, planning, reacting and social skills. It forced me out of my comfort zone for 13 days. And, I totally enjoyed the experience even if it was difficult many times.
On the second day of my visit with my old friend Mike Kennedy in Barnet, VT, he took me to a special area about 25 miles away near the Canadian border that he said was know as a mecca for mountain biking. By far, more people mountain bike in Vermont than road bike.
Burke Mountain is a well know professional skiing area in the winter and is home to Burke Mountain Academy where the best young skiers, like new super star Mikaela Shiffrin, have gone to school while training.
Even with its history and cred as a skiing area its perhaps better know as an elaborate playground for mountain bikers called the Kingdom Trails, a non-profit group that manages the trails. They say that almost every day in the summer and on weekends before the snow comes, thousands come here to ride the trails.
We went into the information building at the base of Burke and got the basic idea of how this works. You can ride the 60 miles of trail for $15 per day or $75 membership per year. There’s trails of every skill level and the grounds are beautiful. The concept they perfected is to build trails using easements from nearby land owners. So the place is sprawling and everyone is happy.
Mike and I visited a special bike shop that gets 5 stars from everyone called Village Sports Shop. It’s dedicated to mountain biking and provides a great variety of bikes. It has the greatest panoramic view of the area and is right on the trail. You can rent daily from $40 to $100, from a basic hardtail to a double suspension, carbon fiber, disk brake model. Besides the convenience and great staff there’s a full coffee/kambutcha/beer/wine and food bar right in the store and is probably the most popular place to start and end your ride.
We walked around the area then settled in for a craft brew. We talked with some new friends about biking the trails, jobs in Vermont and local music. I started thinking how great it would be to come back here another time with a group of friends and shred some dirt, enjoy the many local brews and the friendly vibes of Vermont. I’m not a skier these days but I think I could easily be a happy mountain biker in Vermont.
It’s time to get back to work. Here’s what it’s like to ride the roads of Vermont.
Let me switch back to riding this time. On Thursday, Oct 3rd I needed to leave Barnet VT and work my way down to NJ. The next stage of the tour looked to be easier as it followed the Connecticut River which divides VT from NH. My only problem was starting. The following is a description of the next two days riding to Hanover and the Rutland area. I was soon to find out there is no easy days on this tour.
It’s worthy to note that there is a great variety of roads here for cyclists:
Highways (hopefully with some shoulder)
State roads (e.g., Route 5 or 7)
Local roads (paved streets)
Dirt roads (unpaved roads)
Rough roads (rutted, stone and dirt)
Bike trails (cleared and sometimes paved roads for bike and pedestrians)
Mountain Bike Trails (rough dirt trails, rutted, stones, turns, etc.)
While I rely on Google Maps (chosing “bicycle” as my means of transport), you can never be sure what kind of blend of roads it will create as a route. There often is a variety of roads and trails. Dirt roads are slower to travel, are bumpier and are usually more remote. However, they can be more peaceful and relaxing away from traffic. Note: As a rule I don’t use earphones while riding but they are almost necessary if you follow a route on Google Maps.
Starting out I could see the route while at Mike’s house via an Internet conection, but I could not follow the route when moving because I lost cell service. Long story short, I eventually managed to pick up Google again which suggested a more bike-friendly route. I complied. I should have known better.
The first ten miles took me in a dirt-road circle back to where I started. I had lost at least an hour of precious time. I quickly decided to chuck Google Maps and just follow Route 5 to Hanover NH, where I had planned my next airbnb stay.
While the rest of the trip was long (56 miles – over 5 hours), peaceful (low traffic), but remote miles, Hanover NH is diiferent. Its the home of Darmouth University and is somewhat lively, especially from where I had been.
Dartmouth is an Ivy League school but the town is not as vibrant commercially as Harvard or even Princeton. I had to search around to find even decent pizza and a beer. But I salavged the night with maybe the best gellato I’ve ever had.
While I thought about touring the campus I quickly lost interest. Mary Ann, Justin and I had toured it years ago when he was interested in Dartmouth. But sometimes things just work out differently – and maybe for the better.
I started out the next day toward West Rutland,VT which is near some big skiing areas like Killington and Okemo. Thinking about that I knew it would be a rough ride wth increasing altitude. Also Mike had mentioned that there are far fewer roads going across the state than north and south. There are chunks of mountain ranges that are just harder to cross.
In this mid-state area, route 4 is the heaviest commercial highway from east to west. So, I opted for a more local route which turned out harder and steeper to climb. The ride was beautiful and scenic for much of it.
However, I had to ride about 25 miles on route 130, a newer state road built for trucks and high speed cars certanly not pedestrians and cyclists. I needed nerves of steel and legs like pistons on this autobahn. Then, I could see that the last 15 miles or so were not near highways. That could be good news or could be bad. It turned out both.
First, my exit off of Rt 130 was into a dirt road where even cars were not permitted. Then, there were a series of complicated turns down paved roads. This went back and forth for miles. Finally, I was within 10 miles. The roads were no longer numbered but named (was not sure that was good or bad). West Rutland was farm country and roads are of various conditions.
Near the end was Walker Mountain Road and it seemed paved. I should have known by the name that I had a challenge ahead and I was already pooped. This baby went up, turned and went up again and again until there had to be a 20% grade near the top. I gave up and walked the bike the last several hundred feet. Even that was hard!
Finally, I rolled down Walker Mountain and shortly came to my airbnb. It was the late afternoon around 4:00. I had just ridden 67 miles in about 8 hours. I eaten a hugh breakfast but no lunch so I quickly unpacked and rode another couple miles into the only commercial intersection around and stocked up on food and drink at the local gas station/convenience store.
It was a tough day but not unlike others when you are doing road work on this tour.
I spent two totally enjoyable days with my friend Mike Kennedy and his wife Kristen in Barnet VT, which is in the Harvey Lake area – in the northeast section of Vermont also known as The Northeast Kingdom. Here’s some of the highlights of my first day visiting this special place.
The beauty of having a friend in a far-away place is that you have a built-in desire (maybe a need) to get there someday. I often thought that a visit to see my old high school friend Mike Kennedy might not happen. Afterall, Vermont is an out-of-the-way place. Its on the way to nowhere. Whereas New Jersey always seems to be in the middle of everywhere. Mike had visited my area several times in the past few years.
With the dual personal opportunities of retirement and long distance bike riding, the idea of me visiting Mike seemed to make a lot of sense. And, if not now while I still am healthy and have the time, then when?
Welcome to Vermont
Mike and Kristen are very kind and open people who easily welcomed me to their home. It was an open-ended plan to just crash there for two days. I arrived the evening of October 1 in pretty bad shape from my long 96-mile ride from Burlington across the state and was looking forward to some recovery and company. My objective was to get to know the area and how life was in the part of the country.
Building Takes Craft and Sweat
First, a little background on his place. I believe it was about 15 years ago while living in the area, they bought the property with the idea of building a house. To most people, that would mean getting contractors to do the whole thing. But up here it’s often considering first what can be done on your own.
They decided to clear the land, set up temporary shelter and built a house that would surpass most contractors. This house is tightly insulated, has double-thick walls and has a floor heating system, all of which Mike either designed, contracted or installed himself. More work, pain and inconvenience than anyone could imagine. But it’s their effort and sacrifice that made it happen.
Off to the Lake
Mike amd I started my first day there kayaking on Harvey Lake, which is only a few hundred feet from his house. It’s a beautiful vacation area for many who have large lakefront homes. But the area is remote enough that you still cannot get a cell signal.
Today it seemed nearly deserted. We rowed around the lake and looked for loons who spend a great deal of their time under water catching fish and occasionally popping up, honking or flying away. One of Harvey Lake’s claim to fame is it is where Jaques Cousteau made his first dive in deep water that inspired his career.
Land of The Rich & Famous
After lunch, Mike and I took a ride to the Mount Washington Hotel in nearby New Hampshire to visit this grand hotel and admire the views.
The Mt. Washington Hotel is consider one of “grand hotels” of the area harkening back to the guilded age where the monied class would spend summers with nature and the priveledged. It is also famed for the Bretton Woods meeting that started the InternationaI Monetary Fund (IMF). It is a unique historical site that seems beautiful but out of place in such a raw environent.
Mike has had a fairly regular gig a few times a year playing his Americana music and storytelling there. It would seem a bit offbeat for this kind of place, but this too is a strange blend of basic Vermont living combined with an upper class lifestyle. This day the top of Mt. Washington (supposedly once marked as having the highest speed wind on the planet) was covered with clouds. Still the White Mountains were beyond impressive.
Going back to Mike’s place in Barnet we bought some prepared food and planned to spend the night catching up and listening to music.
Mike is a born performer with a love of all sorts of music but particularly a folkish blend of old folk ballads, bluegrass, countryish songs with lyrics that tell a story. I’d say somewhere between Woodie Gutherie and Wilco.
Mike dubbed the music he favors as “Americana”. Sometimes it’s music with a message and sometimes music with strange old instruments. He talks of legendary local musicians, special venues and times of simply great music. And, I’ve found that same love and respect of music wherever I have gone in Vermont. Maybe its a holdover from those old hippie days that the rest of us have forgotten.
After a few outstanding local craft beers and a lot of singing we called it a night. Tomorrow was another day in the Kingdom.
For me, Vermont holds on to the past but cares about the future. My stay in Vermont reminded me of what’s important. There’s beauty in this struggle with nature.
How does someone you know change over 50 years? Especially if he was a hippie!
I recently spent 2 days with my friend Mike Kennedy and his wife Kristen in Barnet, VT. Here is one of a couple of memories to share before I move on to my bike ride.
Many years ago, in a different time and place, there once was a guy who I would consider among my closest friends who decided he had had enough of the bullshit of Viet Nam, politics, religion, etc. Back then in 1970 or so you had a new choice of protesting and dropping out or going mainstream. Much of it was based on the draft and extreme politics and social norms of day. Most of us were not motivated or had the courage enough to do something about it. But Mike Kennedy was.
While we had graduated Roselle Catholic High School in 1966 together, he had chosen to go to Wilkes College in PA. The rest of his close friends took various college paths. While we were told college was important, we mostly went to local colleges to stay out of the draft and maybe find a direction for a career.
Mike rebelled with his new college friends. This led him to “Tune-in, turn-on and drop-out”. Or, as we would say “He freaked out!” Most of us lost touch with him and his life was directed more on a set of principles than reality. He hoped to find – or create – the ideal lifestyle in Vermont. And, he was not alone. Like it or not, it was a noble goal at the time.
Some statistics have shown that Vermont was poorly populated at that time with less than a million people when an influx of 70,000 in one year was to come with similar motivations. Imagine this as a 1970’s version of a migrant invasion. It was to change Vermont forever.
Despite the harsh environment of Vermont, Mike strugggled, worked, got married, had a family (wife and 2 sons), continued his personal interest as a musician and evenually became a person familiar to us again. But, with a Vermont flavor. Vermonters are tough, versitile, independent, empathetic, socially conscious and caring individuals that have a problem with authority. It looks like Mike found exactly the place where he belongs.
Over the years, Mike lived in a treehouse, ran a local movie theater, built houses, performed as a musician and story teller, learned carpentry, built his own house and gravitated toward a career in planned housing and environmental engineering. He helped build a regional housing project for seniors still in use today in this remote area of Vermont. What I leaned is that today Mike is not unlike you and me. We have just been in two different orbits that have finally met. Maybe because time is the great equalizer
It seems we both have similar life experiences and wishes for today and the future. We might have been on different planets for a while but we all have landed in the same place. I learned that Vermont is both about living a dream and facing a harsh reality. We still dream of what could be and share the principles of the past.
My 96-mile bike journey West to East across Vermont.
After a day of rest in Burlington it was time to tackle what I planned to be the hardest part of this trip – riding across Vermont from west to east near New Hampshire. The train I took from NYC yesterday got me as far north as I needed but now I had to go west to get to Mike Kennedy‘s home in Barnet aka Harvey Lake area. This is just minutes from the NH border and the White Mountains.
Pain or Gain?
As you might know, I’ve been relying on Google Maps / cycling option to help figure out the best route. Mostly. it works but I’ve had lots of problems in their choice of routes too. Everyone I spoke to suggested staying off the main commercial highways like Rt 2 if possible. Google had a 75-route suggestion but a good part highway.
For this trip my son Ethan’s friend Arthur, who live in the Montpelier region, had a recommended alternative 93-mile route which involved more local roads, “dirt” roads, and trails. The problem was what exactly is the condition of those roads and the volume of traffic? There’s a trade-off here in terms of safety vs. extra time needed on dirt or gravel sections. Also, this was a matter 25% more altitude to climb on a bike carrying my extra 40 lbs of baggage.
Anyway, doing a quick analysis I went for the alternate longer route knowing that probably my biggest personal challenge would be how long it would take, how steep the climbs were and if I would have enough daylight and power to keep my bike computer and cell phone going.
On the Road Again
I started out of Burlngton following the pre-set route that appears on my Garmin 1000. It’s a great resource that tells you when to turn but it has problems sometimes with precision and accuracy. It uses GPS so all I had to do was keep it going. No worry about cell signals. As a backup I still had my Google maps which relies on cell if I needed it. The challenge was to keep power going and use backup when needed.
The route started in the reverse order of last night as I headed back to the train station I left last night and then continued northeast. The first 30 miles or so was on typical state roads through small towns like Jericho and Underhill following state highway route 15 a fairly busy road. The payoff was there was lots of beautiful siights along the way in this early Fall.
The Grass is Greener in Vermont
A few hours into the ride I noticed a strange looking farm with plants that grew about 3 feet high into narrow thick bushes lined up almost like tomato plants. Then, I started to smell a vaguely familiar odor and did a double-take of the plants while riding. Two men were placing a black plastic trash bag over one plant. Riding a little close to the edge of the farm I suddenly saw the spiky long narrow leaves. Could this be marijuana? I thought possibly since this was Vermont after all.
I later found out that the latest business craze here was to legally grow hemp which is a close cousin. Hemp has many uses but currently its primary draw is for CBD, which alledgedly has a milder affect and claims to have many benefits. You can only imagine where this might go in the future. The times, they are a changin.
All Roads Lead Somewhere
Anyway, up until about a 1/3 rd of the way, it was all asphalt roads. Then, the directions took me to a network of trails. Trails and roads here in Vermont can mean many things. One of the first trails I took was called the “Lendway Trail” which was a straight dirt and gravel shot across numerous farms and fields. Other trails switched to hard packed dirt roads which were almost as good as asphalt but a bit bumpier.
The trails were a great relief from the boredom and danger of riding the roads. Most of the trails were based on old rail lines that no longer existed. One called the Lemoille Trail was probably 20+ miles, some parts currently broken but will evenually be a great long alternate route across a good part of the state.
Captain we’re losing power!
The last third of the ride was dicey. I rode pieces of trails, picked up long dirt roads and sometimes followed the highway, getting slightly lost many times. Around 5 p.m. I started to realize that I was both running out of time and power – and I was already on backup. Luckily, I had a solar panel I could use to continue to power either my bike computer (with directions where I was going) or my cell phone, but not both. On top of that my bike lights were discharged having been used all day. But, I had one extra tailight that I was able to use.
As the sun was going down around, I literally was at low power mode on my iPhone, my bike computer shut down and I had nothing else left but to take a best guess on some roads. Google Maps then says the most beautful words I have heard in a long time, “You have arrived”. I found Mike’s house just in time.
The first and probably the hardest part of this trip was over. It turned out to be over 96 miles and about 11 hours of riding with only a few brief stops. I felt like I was now beginning to appreciate the beauty and vastness of this state. I’d like to say it’s all downhill from here, but we are in Vermont.
My cool clear day started with a ride for coffee. Sounds easy. But, these days not so much. Google maps seems to specialize in coffee shops and cafes where you can get coffee from every country, free-trade, etc. only problems is deciding which method of brewing or flavor nuances. Ugh! Let’s not blame Burlington for that. Luckily I stumbled upon Meyers Bagels.
If you were permitted to call a bagel artesian, this would be the one. They were planted behind an industrial area by the lake and displayed how bagels are made with a 100-lb dough ball being kneaded, a open-fire wood-burning oven, and hundreds of crusty bagels with a surface I last saw on an artesian pizza. It was a good start with a cup of French Roast and a bagel with a shmear. Hard to compare to a good New York bagel. But maybe that was the point. Things are different here in Vermont.
The obvious signs around here point to the Burlington Bikeway. It’s and impressive 20-mile or so 10-ft wide paved trail that is known and beloved. Perhaps because it hugs the coastline of Lake Champlain and is widely used. It was perfect for this high-50s kind of day.
Tonight I found myself at a good place for great beer and some interesting food – American Flatbread. I would say mainly it was a brew pub but with some interesting pizza and an average Burlington crowd and a waiting line
If you are like me, I’m a bit torn about sitting at a bar with almost a need to talk to the next someone who sits down. In my situation, that may be a good thing.
Eventually, a guy sits down and orders and we get talking. Interestingly, my new bar mate is Mike Sheridan who is from Ridgewood, NJ helping his son who is a good long distance runner and senior, tour UVM. He’s going through that old familiar college tour routine. It brought back so many memories. In fact, Mike’s son was also interested in Loyola Baltimore which my daughter had loved and attended – its a very small world, indeed.
Mike has another younger son and daughter and is anticipating the same thing for them. I guess I talked too much about those years and what’s ahead after that. Those 4 go so quick. What do you do as a parent to help make this kind of decision? And, how important is the result in the years ahead? These are unanswerable questions but I have no doubt that he’s doing at least as well as I did during those challenging times. All will work out well.
To put in a plug for my new-found bar buddy, Mike… He is the Executive Producer of a new series on murder mysteries called “The Truth About Murder” coming up on the ID Channel in October. Check it out. I know I will be.
Of course, you can’t leave Burlington without a visit to Ben & Jerry’s. A pretty unassuming place with still the best ice cream and the only ice cream place I know with an acutal VW buggy bus in its store. Peace!
In early November 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting Diana Nyad at a FreeWalkers walking event called the Marathon Walk in Philadelphia. She had flown in with a group of fans and members of her walking group called “Everwalk Nation“. Interestingly, I found out that Diana and her partner Connie had created a pro-walking group, really a “movement”, to get others to walk. In my mind that’s nearly identical to what my organization FreeWalkers is all about and she travelled across the country to support us and promote her own movement. It showed me what an authentic and generous person she was. We hope to have more join walking events together in the near future. Here is my honest appraisal of her fantastic autobiography and motivational book called “Find a Way”.
Diana Nyad holds an inexplicable power to push herself beyond personal limits. Whether that was created from innate personal strength or forged from unfortunate personal circumstances, we get to share a bit of what it’s like to live a willful life on the edge. There is a life lesson here for all of us.
I guess I’ve always wondered what drives people to do the impossible. For many like me, Diana’s stories have been heard over the years in short but stunning news blurbs, like swimming around Manhattan or across the English Channel. Diana was always a pioneer in these feats not to mention how she elevated the capability of women each time she broke a new record. These records get broken. But, what remains each time for all of us to ponder is the question “What are our limits?”
The book is a well-written riveting autobiography told around her ultimate personal challenge – completing a 110 mile swim from Cuba to Florida. The bizarre conditions of the sport of open water ocean swimming allows only to provide and protect, but not assist her swim or float in any way, She is adrift for over two days surrounded by a flotilla of boats and staff that can only help guide, manage and protect her.
What is perhaps as remarkable as breaking the record was that she accomplished what many thought impossible on her fifth attempt at the age of 64. In the sport of open ocean swimming Cuba to Florida was the “Everest” to be conquered. It required peak physical and mental conditioning even in her 60’s and a blessing of fortunate natural conditions like warm temperatures, and favorable winds and currents. Sharks could be scared away but swarms of deadly box jellyfish were unpredictable and impossible to avoid. Through many painful experiences and many failed attempts she was able to “Find a Way” to overcome even these obstacles.
The book made me wonder whether it’s the thoughts the person holds dearly or the challenge itself that leverages our capability to go beyond the ordinary. What do we gain by trying and failing and trying again? Certainly, it all starts with a dream and ends with our ability to fight off our demons and believe in ourselves. Diana Nyad’s story is an inspiration to anyone who harbors an impossible dream.