A World of Difference

A World of Difference

Cycling in Spain looks like this...

Cycling in Spain looks like this…

There’s a world of difference on many levels between driving down a country road and cycling down one as Naomi and I (re)learned earlier today.

We decided to try an area that we’ve become familiar with on our way to and from the vegetable garden we are sharing this summer at a friend’s property situated about twenty minutes away.

The idea came to discover some of the easier-to-cycle country roads near our place after we tried a couple of loops listed in a brochure put out by the Franklin County, Vermont, tourist bureau. We live ten minutes from the Vermont border and this being our first summer at our new home, we resolved to become familiar with Northern Vermont, which can be sometimes similar and also strikingly dissimilar from Southern Quebec.

(Franklin County, Vermont, is known state-wide and perhaps even nationally, as a dairy-producing region. Besides noticing a few fields with grazing cows, we passed many immense cattle-stalls with cows hemmed in the open-windowed buildings amid blowing ceiling and window fans. Not inspiring… (The smell is strong, too.))

After successfully completing a challenging and hilly 18-mile loop through out-of-the-way Vermont farmland that had me exclaiming every time we stopped: “This is the middle of nowhere,” then: “No! This is the middle of nowhere!” we thought that perhaps we had similar-type roads closer to home and that they might be worth a try…

But what a difference there is between a car and a bike – on every sensory level – travelling on what you thought was a familiar road!

First, you notice things that you don’t normally do looking out the window of your air-conditioned car: the house on the hill way up there that certainly must have panoramic views. You notice that, unlike in the States, much farmland is protected by a line of mature trees strung out along the edge of the road. The result is a cooler ride but one that is more closed-in as well. There are more vistas in Northern Vermont because there seem to be fewer trees. There are also many more roads and farms on hilltops.

You also notice smells that you never could in a car: the scent of balsam from the surrounding conifers; the scent of cow manure (but, err, where are the cows?); even the scent of a late summer day.

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You perceive how different the road and views look going one way than from the other. The scene before you can be completely different sometimes, making it less dreary turning around and going back instead of making a loop.

The breeze that cools you down as you struggle up a hill or coast down one is a delight.

You maintain vigilance on the road for potholes that could potentially throw you off your bike, but luckily the one that we took today was in excellent condition for a gravel road. The gravel was tiny and inconsequential; the ride smooth.

Naomi did fall off her bike in the first few seconds, badly scuffing her knee as she tried to put her foot in the pedal’s stirrup, but she bravely carried on, despite the blood slowly pouring down her leg.

The ride was a short one, compared to the one we did in the States; my senses were more awake, however, and I appreciated this little nook close to Abercorn, Quebec: the homes hidden away on either side; the gorgeous pond with the sign, “Petit Lac” (there was also a stern “No Trespassing” sign close by…); the giant trees that seemed to guard the road from an enemy not yet seen.

When we were through (the last 3 kilometers were downhill all the way!) Naomi and I felt caressed by a Nature that for now was calm and gentle on the soul; we know how harsh it will be in a short five months; in fact, it always seems a miracle to me that there can be so much wildlife: birds, insects and other animals abound, when they all have to somehow survive a freezing cold and difficult winter. Still they do.

The days are getting shorter; when I get up a 5 am to meditate the soft light of dawn has not yet reached our corner of the Earth. In a few short months, I will be craving sunlight as I do every winter. The magic of summer never ceases to amaze me, and in this bucolic paradise where I live that disbelief is only getting stronger.

quebec-sylvan-landscape
A cycle down a road in Quebec. Somewhere…
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