Diane L. Dunton
Vermont to Maine – My 265 Mile Ride to End Poverty Housing
Last month I took part in a segment of the Fuller Center Bike Adventure, an annual long-distance cycling event which raises funds (over $3 million to date!) in support of The Fuller Center for Housing’s efforts to end poverty housing.
This year’s 10-week trek took volunteer riders coast-to-coast across 14 states — from Oregon to Glacier National Park, all five Great Lakes, and Niagara Falls before finishing in Maine. My commitment for this event was to ride the final segment which would take riders from Burlington, Vermont to Portland, Maine.
Preparation for my ride began ten months earlier, in September of 2021, as I trained from my home in Maine on my road bike through autumn, fat bike (an off-road bicycle with oversized tires which is particularly good on snow) over the winter months, and then back on the road bike come spring of this year. I worked with a strength trainer and, when it was time to join the other riders in Burlington on the last week of their ten-week journey, I felt ready.
Arriving in Burlington, I was nervous and enjoyed little sleep on the blow-up mattress that did not offer much comfort. The daily schedule was demanding; up at 5:30 a.m. and dressed for the day, bags packed by 6:00 a.m., followed by breakfast and clean up. After a review of the route and a brief morning devotional with the other riders, we were on our bikes and on the road by 7:00.
As we began the ride, I was more than a little intimidated as the front riders moved quickly ahead of me and out of sight. When another cyclist in the group asked if I would like someone to ride with me for the day, I quickly responded, “Yes!” We became fast friends, and I was grateful for the company as we rode together the rest of the week.
Heading out of Burlington that first morning, I had no idea what was ahead of me. Camel's Hump, tied for third highest mountain in Vermont, has an elevation of 4083 feet with a 15% grade. It soon became apparent that my training over the previous ten months, while rigorous, hadn’t fully prepared me for this trip through the White Mountains. Only a couple of hours into the ride, I became dehydrated and had a tire that was slowly losing air. Thankfully, other riders were quick to help, stripping non-essential equipment off my bike to lighten the load (I was a novice!).
As we started the climb up Camel's Hump, my legs began to cramp—something I’d never experienced while riding. I felt done in! I began drinking sports drinks with electrolytes, I walked and stretched, and eventually I was able to resume the ride with the support of two other cyclists. We finally made it to the top of the mountain and pedaled down the other side just before the sky opened, unleashing a torrent of rain.
By the end of that first day, I wanted to pack up and go home. Instead, that evening, after arriving at the designated stopover in Montpelier, I set up a bigger and more comfortable mattress, had a bite to eat, and got some much-needed sleep. The following morning, feeling refreshed and determined, I was back on the road. Over the next two days, the riders faced hills and more challenges through Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but nothing compared to that first day on Camel's Hump.
The road has its own rhythm. Once I aligned myself with it, wondrous sights were seemingly around every corner and at every bend. At one point, a black bear following her cubs into the woods crossed the road in front of me. In some cultures, the bear is symbolic of nurture, protection, and transformation. What an encounter! What a ride! This one-week bike trip was truly transformative for me. I tapped into a reservoir of inner strength I’d forgotten about. I was reminded that my body can rise to a challenge; I rode 265 miles and recovered! Hearing others’ stories throughout that week and connecting at a deep level with many of the riders reminded me that human connection and faith are inexorably intertwined.
Camel's Hump may not have been my favorite part of the ride but, in a way, it was the most important and personally rewarding. In persevering to the top, I was able to contribute to the collective efforts of all the cyclists and their supporters; together, we made this year’s Fuller Center Bike Adventure a success. Raising awareness around the issue of poverty housing in our own communities while inspiring monetary contributions that go directly to families in need, it’s a movement with a mission! To learn more about how you can get involved to help our Maine neighbors, visit the Fuller Center for Housing Sebago Lakes Region. Follow my fundraising progress or donate at my.fullerbikeadventure.org/dbruni.
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