Cycling back in time

Still in Vermont and yesterday the temperature topped 40 degrees.  Brownie and I set out to retrace rides I used to do over 40 years ago when I first started getting places by bicycle. 

We moved to Vermont when I was 7 years old.  My folks built a new house in Hullcrest, one of the developments that sprang up in the 60’s to house workers moving into jobs at IBM and General Electric.  It was there I learned to ride my mother’s old single speed JC Higgins bicycle (couldn’t wait to get rid of it, would love to have it now!)  I  spent hours riding around and around the circle made by Birch Road and Pinehurst Drive always chased by the local dogs.  On one memorable ride there were at least 6 of them and the very smallest took a nip out of my ankle. 

I was 13 when I got my first real job at the University of Vermont in the laboratory of Dr. William Meyer.  My job was to clean the animal room and keep genetic records for the mouse colony.  I was thrilled, but my parents weren’t, especially when it came to getting me there and back.  So I declared I would get there on my own power, on my bike.

I had a green Columbia Tourist by that time.  Three speed Shimano hub with twist shfter and an odometer.  The problem with the commute to UVM was traffic.  Hullcrest opens out on Route 7, a busy major highway without the bike lanes it has today.  The solution was to hoist the bike over the barbed wire fence into the pasture that bordered our back yard.  Walk it through the field,  hoist it over the fence on the other side and ride the 6 1/2 miles on Spear Street to the lab.  The first trip, I and my bike got tangled up in an electric fence.  Fortunately an alternate exit site was not electrified and the commute became routine.  A couple of years of saving and I was able to replace the Columbia with a blue Atala 10 speed.  Cost me $109 and boy could I fly.  Much easier to get over the barbed wire fences but I still ended up with lots of nicks and scratches:  both me and the bike.  When we moved to Charlotte the commute increased to 14 miles each way but I got to ride all the way, no cow pie or electric fence adventures.

Yesterday I set out from Charlotte on Mt Philo road.  There are several ways to get up to Spear Street, each of them involves a major climb.  I chose Webster Road to try out the new protected bike path.  Nice, but not practical for commuters; to stay on it you must cross the road half way up.  Then it ends at the steepest part of the climb requiring that you cross the road again to finish and be positioned at the stop sign for the left turn onto Spear Street.  Spear Street used to be narrow, no shoulder at all with very little traffic, a few farmhouses, and gorgeous views of Lake Champlain.  Now there are reasonable bike lanes, lots more traffic, huge expensive houses, and solar arrays.  The electricity and barbed wire has been replaced by a white wood fence and I don’t know how long its been since there was a cow in the field.  What hasn’t changed is the amazing vista of Lake Champlain.  There is now an Overlook Park with a parking lot, picnic tables, and benches.

After enjoying a rest stop at the park I descended to Route 7, and used the bike lanes to make my way to Hullcrest for a look at the old homestead and a spin around the loop before heading back to Charlotte.  Not much changed in that neighborhood. Yes, sometimes you can go back!

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