While I was off playing in Ireland, the east coast of the U.S. was dealing with the full fury of hurricane Irene. It was a common topic of discussion in the pubs. From Irish surfers buzzing about the potential waves it could generate, to American and Canadian singlespeeders worried if there were going to make their flights home as scheduled.
When I finally was able to log on to my e-mail, my inbox was full of messages from friends and family in New York. Its seems that my home town in upstate NY was severely damaged when the Mohawk river reached record flood levels. I went through a quick mental map of town and thought of all the buildings and homes of people I know, that were now under water. Then I got to the email from my cousin that just contained one picture.
In the foreground is where the main road in town is supposed to be. About a half mile to the right of this shot are some of the trails where I learned how to ride a mounatin bike. That building with the hole in it? It has been there since 1773 and it has stood the test of time for centuries. I cannot convery how sobering this image is to me.
Over in Ireland, I had the good fortune of meeting Mandy from the Bike29 crew. They are based up in Vermont, only a couple hours from where I grew up. I know the area well and I have rolled many a mile on the trails up there. Unfortunately, they also received no mercy from Irene. I asked her if she would write us some words about the scene right now in Waterbury and this is what she had to say:
On most weekend afternoons, Main Street in Waterbury, Vermont is lined with cars covered in bikes, sporting plates from Quebec, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and farther. Drawn to town to ride the technical rocks and roots of the Perry Hill trails or road ride through the scenic notches and valleys, riders cap off the day with a hoppy pint and some sweet potato fries at The Alchemist on Main Street.
This weekend was very different. Cars, none of them with bikes on the roof, fought for parking spaces between piles of soggy, silt-covered rubble, dumpsters, and hazmat disposal trucks. Last weekend the heavy rains from Hurricane Irene caused the Winooski River to jump its banks and drown hundreds of homes and businesses in downtown Waterbury as well as neighbors in Moretown and Duxbury.
While the Perry Hill trails weren’t damaged by the flood, any unsuspecting riders pulling into town looking for a good time would be highly disappointed. The venerable bar at the Alchemist was submerged by the flood waters and all of the beer destroyed, the entire building is completely gutted. It’s just one of the businesses and homes affect by the flood and it really is as bad as the National media is reporting. On the plus side, it’s heartwarming to see the entire community rally to cleanup and rebuild Waterbury.
Most areas of Vermont were almost completely unaffected by the storm. Because our state relies heavily upon visitors for our income, it’s important that cyclists continue to visit and by doing so will support the rebuilding of Waterbury and other flooded towns. And until the Alchemist is open again, you can grab a can of their Heady Topper at the cannery in the unflooded part of Waterbury.
If you want to help support the rebuild of Waterbury, consider a donation to the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund (www.facebook.com/Waterbury-Good-Neighbor-Fund) or spend some hours volunteering in town.
Thanks for reading, come up and ride!
There ya have it. If you are reading this from the north east, take a drive up to ride and maybe even lend a hand. If you are in the mid west or the south east, think about taking a road trip before the snow comes. The Kingdom Trails were untouched by the floods and should really be ridden in the fall for the full experience. This is also the same area where Single Speed USA 2012 is being held. I can’t make it back home until November, but I will be sure to head up there and check it out.by