Underneath the Pavement
Though it's been a week since the Vermont Fall Classic, I still cannot post a report. My heart is too full; this is a ride that requires some emotional rest and distance before it can be put into words. But privately some of us have been discussing it, rehashing it, testing the accuracy of our own memories by comparing them against the memories of others'. And one topic that's come up is the quality of the dirt. A few of us noticed that it was differed from our local dirt, and different from the dirt we rode in previous events. At the D2R2 in Massachusetts and Southern Vermont, the unpaved roads were a dark brown earthy colour that turned muddy when wet. At the Kearsarge Classic in New Hampshire, the terrain was rocky. The dirt roads in Northern Vermont were a light grayish-tan, almost clay-like in consistency, dusty and tightly packed except for a thin top layer that was soft from the rains of previous days. When it began to rain again, this top layer turned liquid, but not muddy exactly. It was thinner than mud, less viscous. I was certain it was some type of clay. Others thought it was more sand-like. A rider who often cycles in upstate New York then described the dirt roads there, which are reddish clay and leave a pink residue over everything. Fascinated by these nuances, we admitted that we never gave them much thought until now.
All of this makes me realise just how unfamiliar so many of us are with the actual soil we live on. Paved roads have defined and homogenised our landscape for so long, that we hardly consider what lies beneath. Do most of us even know what our local streets would look like unpaved? The streets in the next town over? Can most of us determine what a particular type of soil is by looking at it or feeling it? I was in touch with these things when I lived in the countryside, had a garden, walked in the woods, but living in the city has distanced me from that awareness. Now cycling on dirt through different parts of New England has reminded me just how important it is. I'd like to learn more about our region's terrain, about what lies underneath the pavement. I don't ever want to lose that connection again.