By Peter Burns
Hat and Coat
This past spring a friend told me about an Ibex wool cap she had seen in the parking lot of the paintball place on East Road in Colchester. I am proud to say that over the years I have trained her to be a scavenger. Unfortunately, she was with her boyfriend who strongly objects to bringing home found items. She let me know about the hat instead of picking it up herself. A few days later I rode out East Road. It is not my favorite route. The road is too narrow, people drive too fast and the sightlines are bad. I went because I wanted that hat! I found the hat and put it in my backpack.
On a bike ride a few days later I wore the hat, but sadly it was a little too small to cover my ears, and my ears get cold easily. I tried pulling the hat down over my ears to stretch the hat out but to no avail. It was disappointing.
Later in the spring, I contacted my seamstress. I needed a pair of rain shorts let out. (Yes, you can buy waterproof shorts for bike riding!) The waist was just a little tight. My seamstress accepted the job and as an afterthought, I asked her to put flaps on my found wool hat. She agreed to try. A few weeks later she dropped off the shorts with the newly expanded waist but she said that the hat was beyond her engineering capabilities. Another hat disappointment.
In late June I went for a ride on a day when rain was in the forecast. I brought along my rain shorts and a gray lightweight waterproof jacket. I was glad that the shorts had been altered because when it started raining the waterproof shorts were easy to slip on over my bike shorts. I put on my jacket but when I tried to zip it up, the zipper broke. I was wearing a fanny pack, so I could keep the coat partially closed, with the fanny pack strap and buckle but there was a strip of my shirt that got wet. Luckily it didn't rain hard that day, so I kept relatively dry.
The next day I contacted my seamstress. I asked if she could fix my zipper but she wrote back that the hat challenge I had presented her with earlier in the year had been so frustrating that she had decided to do wedding dresses exclusively. She wished me good luck. I can’t really see how wedding dresses would be less frustrating than hat repair but sewing is something I know little about. I can replace a button and sew up a rip in clothing but that is about all.
Every couple of months I participate in Storytelling VT. Before the pandemic, we met at The Light Club on the first Tuesday of each month, and now we have Zoom gatherings. I was having lunch with one of the organizers and she asked me what story I was planning to tell for the July edition of Storytelling VT. I told her the hat and coat saga and she said that she might be able to fix the zipper.
When we met again I brought her the coat but because the seams are sealed in the jacket she was not able to fix it.
A few days later I went to OGE (Outdoor Gear Exchange) and found a North Face headband that I could wear in combination with the hat. I have other hats that cover my ears, but I am stubborn and I didn’t want to give up on the found hat, so I was planning to wear it at least some of the time this coming winter. While I was at OGE I asked about gear repair and it turns out they fix jackets. I brought in the gray coat with the broken zipper in the last week of July. By the time it was finished my daughter Alice had sent my a OGE gift certificate for my birthday. When I went to pick up the jacket I used part of the certificate to pay for the repair. Only $15, a good deal! I posted this story on Facebook and one of my friends said that she could sew the headband onto the hat. I dropped the hat off at her house and about a week later she let me know it was finished. I picked it up, tried it on and it was perfect. My ears were completely covered by the mat/headband combination. I asked her if she would like me to pay her and she declined, but I was able to drop off some baked goods in exchange for her work. In September I wore the new hybrid hat for the first time while riding from my house in Winooski to the YMCA in Burlington. The hat kept my ears nice and toasty.
Many years ago a friend drove me to the Smugglers Notch ski area and then I rode up to the Notch from there. My friend B is my bike guru. He has ridden cross country many times. I told him about my mini Notch ride and he said, “It doesn’t count unless you ride all the way from Winooski and then back.” Finally this year I felt up to the challenge. I have a lightweight bike that is designed for climbing hills. Two days before my attempt on the Notch I ran into B, who I don’t see very often. I told him of my plans and he told me that he had done the Notch that day. He has done the ride many, many times. I reminded him about his statement that the last time I had done the Notch I had cheated by not doing the full ride. He said, “You know I was just kidding.” I was still determined to make the whole ride. On Sunday morning I was up at 5 and ready to go shortly after 6. I did not put on any extra layers and for the first couple of hours of riding, I felt cold. It was warm by 10 am. Sometimes I ride just for fun, but this ride had a goal. I took Route 15 and it was a smooth ride because much of Route 15 had been newly paved. I stopped near the ski area and had a snack. Just then the wind picked up and was blowing in my face. It was not as much of a factor as I thought it might be because the road to the top of the notch is protected by trees which mitigate the wind factor. The last stage was tough, but I never felt that I wasn’t going to make it. One young guy passed me on the way up, but that was fine with me. Because the road twists and turns, you can’t tell how close you are to the top. At the top of the Notch, I took a break and saw a family with two young children. They were hiking together through the woods. I decided that I would rather be doing a really hard bike ride than going for a hike with young children.
The ride down was a challenge because the road surface is cracked and bumpy. I had the brakes on for much of the descent because I had no desire to crash. My ride back was more leisurely. It was a beautiful day and I stopped at a church in Underhill to eat a snack, drink some water and lie on the ground to stretch and look at the clouds.
I felt some satisfaction when I was finished but next time I think I will continue over the Notch and ride down on the Stowe side. After some steep switchbacks, the descent on the Stowe side is much gentler and I believe the road is in better condition.
I belong to a weekly book discussion group. In July we talked about ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus. One of the participants did not like the book and said it was like a bike ride on a flat road. I said I thought that riding a bike on a flat road was actually very interesting, but I did not develop the idea. We already have enough digressions in that group but this blog is an appropriate place to discuss the pleasures of riding on a flat road or path. I have reached the point where riding on a flat surface is almost effortless, as long as I don’t have a headwind. This enables me to really enjoy the pleasures of riding, the rhythm of the pedals and the wheels, the sounds and sights of the environment, and the quality of freedom that riding gives me. Over the years I have savored this feeling on Colchester Causeway rides. The Causeway is very flat. With the lake on both sides and the sky above there is a sense of openness that is almost unique in Vermont. There is also the pleasure of having no traffic to contend with. From time to time, a kind of transcendence is possible. I have made it a tradition to ride the first and last bike ferry of the season. For various reasons, this has not always been easy. Sometimes damage to the causeway delays the opening and this year both COVID-19 and repairs to the causeway caused difficulties. A couple of years ago I took the very last ferry ride of the season from South Hero. As I was riding back toward Colchester the sun was starting to set over the lake. I was alone on the causeway and I felt blessed to be riding in such a beautiful place.
As I have mentioned before in this blog, I practice storytelling or memorize and recite poetry while I am walking. Recently I rearranged and expanded my cycle of poems. This involves memorizing some new material. The cycle comprises four categories of three poems each. The cycle begins with my own poetry — three legends about King Arthur and three poems based on folk or fairy tales. Then I do three traditional ballads and three poems each by my favorite poets. One of the poems I need to learn to complete my cycle is a traditional Ballad. The ballad is ‘The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood’.
Here is the first verse:
There chanced to be a Pedlar bold,
A Pedlar bold there chanced to be;
He put his pack all on his back,
And so merrily trudged over the lea.
Lea is an open area of grassy land. I made up this Robin Hood joke. Robin Hood and Little John were standing near a wooded area. Robin Hood says, “Do you think this would be a good place for us to a hideout? Little John said, “Sure Wood.”
I have written poems based on the Arthurian legends but Robin Hood is a very different character. In the earlier ballads about Robin Hood, he is an outlaw from the lower ranks of English society. Only in later incarnations of the legend does he become a member of the aristocracy.
The five poets are William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Robert Frost, and William Butler Yeats. I have listed them alphabetically because that is the order in which I recite the poems. I already know three poems by Blake, Carroll, and Lear but I have to memorize two poems by Robert Frost and one poem by Yeats. I am now working on Robert Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the Night”.
This is the first verse:
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I enjoy memorizing a poem about walking while I am walking.
This is the second Frost poem I will memorize:
Dust of Snow
BY ROBERT FROST
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
To memorize the poem I chant each syllable of each word in a line of poetry. This method of memorizing is slow and meditative.
The new poem by Yeats is called
By the Salley Gardens
This is the first verse
Down by the Salley gardens
Down by the Salley gardens,
my love and I did meet;
She passed the Salley gardens
with little snow while feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the trees,
But I being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.
About the author:
Peter Burns is a long-time bike enthusiast, and one of the original year-round bike riders in Burlington. He writes amazing monthly blogs and teaches a variety of Everyday Biking workshops. In addition to his work at Local Motion, he also works at a group home for people with Psychiatric disabilities, teaches classes for the Vermont Humanities Council, teaches swimming at the Burlington YMCA, and is a regular host of Storytelling VT.