Clippings: A little bit of biking can’t be that difficult

Some people, when they want to get to know their town, will join a club, sit in on some civic board meetings, attend church gatherings or take up reading the local newspaper. I’ve come up with a different strategy. I’m going to ride my bike on every street and road in the town of Middlebury, where I live.
I don’t know how many miles this will cover, and haven’t a good idea how long it will take (though I’m expecting to wrap it up before Labor Day), but I’m looking forward to seeing some sights and gaining some insights into the area and into myself.
The idea is not original and it comes a bit late in that I’ve lived here for a decade. But I’ve found that I really am not getting the exercise I need, and they say that having a goal is a good motivator to getting one to actually put in the work. Not dying doesn’t seem to be much of a motivator for me — pretty abstract. Team sports are hard for me because I spend most of my time either working or with my family, and, despite my deadline-driven occupation, I’m really not that good at getting places on time. And when I’m not working or with my family it is a pleasure to simply spend some time in my own head, and biking is a great way to set yourself apart and just listen.
I’ve had the notion to do this for several years. A college friend, Steve Cook, wanted to get to know the city where he landed a couple years after graduation, so he decided to run every block in the little California town where he was attending medical school. Maybe you’ve heard of it — San Francisco. I’m pretty sure he finished it, and he amassed lots of stories about all the interesting things and nice people he saw while slogging mile after mile after mile. My knees long ago told me that my running days were over, but biking does not appear to put nearly as much stress on them, so physically this quest shouldn’t be a problem. And I look forward to seeing lots of interesting things and maybe a few nice people.
In my younger days, running was always a great way to see and get to know a place. I attended a semester of classes in London with a college group, and I have always believed that I got a different, and perhaps fuller, perspective on the city than other Americans in the group because I ran from place to place so much that I built up a different mental map of the city than those who took the underground everywhere or those who never went much of anywhere at all. I expect that my mental map of Middlebury will also be enriched by seeing every mile of every road at the leisurely pace of a bike ride.
And leisure is the operative word here. I’d love to be the guy who rides a hundred miles every Saturday or who conquers every gap in the Green Mountains on his Scott Plasma Premium or Cannondale SuperSix. Time and money — a shortage of both — are two reasons I’m not that guy. There are probably lots of others. I’ll have to think about it while I’m wheeling out South Street Extension to see where the heck that road ends up.
Another reason I set this goal is that I think it will give me a reason to learn a little more about posting things on the Internet. I’d love to learn more about setting up and populating a website, and having a personal site to experiment on seems like a good start. I often run across or hear about nifty little widgets and data presentation tools for the web, but I can’t really put half-baked and semi-completed ideas on addisonindependent.com. So I’ve set up my own website. Picking a theme for the site was a challenge (I’m not quite enough of a navel-gazer to make that theme just “ME!”), but now I can just make biking around Middlebury the theme. It’s a WordPress site and it’s free; I don’t know how far I can take it. Check it out at bikingmiddlebury.wordpress.com — but don’t hurry over, I’m just getting it started. Give me a week, or better yet, a month.
This project has the added advantage that there is a predictable beginning, middle and end. The beginning was this past Saturday, when I set out on my first ride of the journey. I went the entire length of my street — Drew Lane is one block long — covered a bit of Butternut Ridge Drive, Mead Lane, Case Street (oh dear, should I call it Route 116?), all of Cobble Road, some of Munger Street and all of East Munger. Carelessly I forgot to tag North Forty Road, which is a small spur off Case Street, er, 116; I’ll have to go back to that.
The middle of this project is when I’ll have the website up and running smoothly, have got a regular habit of posting updates and have some real progress to show. The end will be obvious — when I ride the last block of the last street in Middlebury. I’m planning to post a map charting my progress, and photos, maybe a video, possibly some historical background on things I see, artwork inspired by a ride … who knows. Look for my posts at addisonindependent.com on the right side of the home page under the “From the blog” heading. And follow the links to bikingmiddlebury.wordpress.com. How hard can this be?

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