Return to Cornwall
Updated: May 25, 2021
Like all vacations, this one started with the hope and promise of renewal. We were headed back to a 200-acre horse farm in Cornwall, Vermont. Also the unlikely home of RAD-Innovations, this is where Kim and I first trekked on that cold December weekend to sample a variety of recumbent trikes. With an Airbnb cabin on the farm, "Avenir Farm" is nestled in the Lemon Fair valley of Addison County, offering the perfect opportunity for a late Spring getaway to begin our emergence from the prison of Covid-19.
The magic of the farm enveloped us as we drove down the long, gravel gateway to the farm. Anja and David greeted us with a dozen fresh eggs, and helped us unload Kim's bike, my trike and walkers, food, etc. We settled in for the evening. With horses, geese, chickens, dogs and cats resident on the farm, deer joining the party to graze at dusk, and the occasional chorus from a band of coyotes descending over the valley, we were away.
We'd planned to ride the hills and mountains of Vermont (how'd u know?), relax, recharge, and stop time as we felt the sun rise and set. We got that and more...so much more. The roads? There is pure magic in the endless, winding, twisting gravel roads of Vermont. "Snake Mountain Road sounds good!" While I had ridden and raced on these roads many years ago, I had never explored so much gravel; miles and miles of rolling, hard-packed gravel roads snaking their way between 100-acre farms with twin silos and farm equipment as big as houses casting a cloud of dirt as they harrow the fields-- every view, every farm seemingly taken from the Picturesque Vermont Farms coffee table book. We couldn't believe our good fortune: we were blessed.
We slowly woke with the sun and our coffee on the deck, watching Aiden, our Dutch Warm-blood grey stallion who was our constant companion; like a best friend who is always there for you-- loyal, loving, true, non-judgmental, always there with time to listen; never too busy to make time ("Lessons from Aiden" anyone?). As Aiden and "friends" moseyed about the land, Kim and I studied our map of Addison County over breakfast as we planned our route, figuring out how we can maximize our mileage on gravel. We packed lunch, readied, and headed out for three, four...or five hours. We even adventured to New York one day:
Evenings were spent-- you guessed it-- gazing toward the Adirondacks as we watched Aiden and friends mosey about as we sipped a bevy and grazed on hors d'oeuvres. We were even invited to a couple al fresco dinner parties with Anja, David and their good friends Mike and Carrie and their families. It just so happens that Mike and I were teammates on the ski team at UNH! How crazy is that?! "Was he always a showboat?!," Kim inquired...
The Photo Shoot
"We're trying to get you over to Rikert tomorrow to ride on the trails," Kenshin mentioned. Kenshin, a Middlebury College '20 graduate who's off to law school at Columbia in the Fall, works at RAD. Always full of positive energy with a smile, Kenshin also said something about a videographer that he was trying to line up to accompany us. "Sure! Sounds great!," I replied, although a bit puzzled.
The next day, at Rikert...
"I don't know if Kenshin mentioned this to you or not, but I'd like to videotape an interview with you before we ride," Mike, the videographer, dropped. "Sure!," I reacted, only slightly trepidatiously.
Amidst the yellows, greens and burnt oranges, I rode to the far end of the field, cutting my own meandering path, to meet Mike, where he already had the camera rolling.
"Who are you and what's your story?," he prompted. For the next ten minutes, Mike barely had to give another prompt. I told my story, slowly realizing that all of this was meant to happen:
...how I used to ski down these mountains and bike on these roads, the love and passion I have for these parts of my DNA...how they fueled and fed my soul...then the disease, how driving up here made me smile at what once was, yet broke my heart at every turn, wiping away my initial smile...those days, those feelings-- gone..."I never thought I would feel the freedom and thrill of the bike again...I thought those days were gone," my voice tailed off, eventually landing on quiet stillness as if holding a moment of silence for the deceased...
...then I discovered the Kettwiesel, a recumbent trike...how I was initially hesitant-- "I don't want to be a spectacle, some sort of circus-like side-show," I thought to myself...how I tucked thoughts of the trike away for a year or two then how something brought me back to it..."Maybe...why not try it?"...eventually leading me to that December weekend at RAD-Innovation / Avenir Farm.
I didn't even know if I would be able to pedal at all in the recumbent position, but it was worth a try...in one instant I discovered that I could...yes!
...and here I am today, the wind in my hair as I fly around the hills, mountains and trails of Vermont...smiling, sometimes breaking into outright, unbridled laughter at the joy...the freedom, the independence...the flame flickered but refused to die...the same feeling, reimagined, recaptured...home, once again...miracles are possible with openness and effort...
We regrouped with Kim, Kenshin, and Tom (bike handler extraordinaire, "key grip" and RAD employee) and headed across the field to the trails. Mike had the camera and was on the front of a recumbent tandem captained by Tom:
On the image above, Tom navigated from the back, and had a go-pro strapped to his back to catch any action behind him; Mike was on the front with the camera; Kim was bombing (downhill racing!) on the recumbent fat-tire trike or on Tom's downhill mountain bike; Kenshin adapted to whatever was left! The forested, rolling trails were well-grown with some mud, the terrain bumpy and technical with a few felled trees in our way-- perfect conditions! Can you picture the scene? I felt like I was leading "le Tour de France" with the camera person next to me on a motorcycle, capturing my every move. Mike would sometimes get off his bike, sprint through the woods and moments later emerge from behind a tree on another trail! I have no idea what the edited video will look like, but it was pure fun and joy riding out there with the team.
(Luke, my son: "Dad, I tracked you yesterday on my phone and u were in the middle of the woods...there was nothing but green all around you!" I think I was more amazed that he actually cared where I was! (jk...nr))
Robert Frost spent many summers on the grounds of what is now Rikert, in Ripton. His cabin is in the area, and the trails he wandered on are in the Ripton environs. Frost's presence, power of observation and poetry seem to underlay and permeate this land. In his poem, "The Road Not Taken," Frost referances a choice between two paths, and I am reminded of a fundamental truth I tell Alexa, Kara and Luke-- that life is choices; that we always have choices. I am undeterred by the ensuing roll of the eyes! Even when we think that a path has been chosen for us and think we have no choice, we have choices. People with disabilities much worse than mine did not choose that road; they were not given a choice. But once sent down that road, then we have choices; we choose how we want to live given the deck of cards we have been dealt.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. -- Robert Frost
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