It's been over a month since I started living in the North East Kingdom region of Vermont. People give off wild looks when I mention that fancy name, telling me "it sounds like a mysterious peasant society with a King and lords.” I haven’t found his majesty yet, but there are plenty of cows, horses, sheep, and an Alex Parker and Dad maple syrup sugar house. I did ride with Ted King, who ruled over long big climbs on a couple bike rides I was able to join – thanks to TourXNewEngland. Realistically though, it’s the beauty of the region that does justice to that otherwise medieval name. Though, iPhones, and Subaru Outbacks away, it is actually very medieval looking. If you are close to the area this summer, I encourage you to make a visit, and see it all for yourselves.
Like always, time passes with a blink of an eye. My friend's calf is a full-grown cow now, the forests are more lush and green, and we are almost mid-summer; although at times, the chilly rain has made the days feel like early spring, or late fall. But looking back at the last month, it's been full of highlights I have been aiming to hit over the summer. The journey is not over, and I am happy to be finding myself in the middle of progress.
Settling in here has been easy. Through a friend’s help, I could find a very generous offer for housing. The only hard part is cooking for myself, and making sure I get proper nutrition, and delicious meals. Many times, I have appreciated Middlebury’s cafeteria. But with good tips from my brother and his wife – things are improving. Pancakes are the best. Pasta and canned chili is a rescue mission. For protein, Tacos (you are so easy to make). Though, the only thing I do better than the dining hall is fruits. And that’s the Afghan in me; we eat fruits in bulk, I mean bucket loads kind of bulk. Ever tried eating a whole watermelon by yourself? That’s your Afghan Challenge right there.
I spend my days riding my bike – alternating between road and mountain as best as I can, and at the same time, trying to start a program to support cyclists back home in Afghanistan. I have exciting news on that, so stay tuned for a separate blog for more details.
Here is a short version. About three weekends ago, I went to the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) fest, the largest annual bike fest in the area, where aside from a ginormous crowd of families and riders flooding the small town of East Burke, many bike and bike gear companies – a lot of them industry leaders, had showed up to demo and sale their products. Seeing this world of insanely abundant resources made me think about back home, where there is almost zero percent of what was available in the tents that day. So, I went to talk to a lot of these vendors, telling them stories of cyclists in Afghanistan. I met some incredible people, a lot of them surprised to know that there were people in Afghanistan who rode bicycles for a sport, and most of them welcoming the opportunity to channel resources down there. So that’s become the subject of my thinking every day; figuring out ways we can set up a program to build a two-way relationship between the U.S. and Afghan cycling communities.
The rest of July, I will continue to do long road rides to build my base, as well as hone my skills in mountain biking. Riding on Kingdom Trails is incredible. There is nothing like it. It has so much trail variety that I can do my cross-country training there, or a super fun loop with a group of awesome people. I have been very lucky to live so close to this place, and being able to ride it every other day, while getting to know more people in the community.
I have four more races left before school starts again, and I am thrilled for another season of collegiate mountain biking. Until then, long days on the saddle for me, and more Northeast Kingdom scenery to enjoy. Hit me up if you wanna visit.