The Overland Bike Race Hits Reading’s Roads This Sunday
I’m going to make a prediction. This Sunday morning, I will not be looking out my window, distracted by a few hardcore cyclists tearing down my road, when I should be writing next week’s column. I know I won’t be turning my head every few minutes to watch as many as 500 bikers go by, some turning their pedals as if being chased by a bear and others progressing at a less frenetic pace.
I know half of my prediction will be true—the part about the cyclists—because Sunday is the day of the Vermont Overland bike race. I know the number of potential passers-by because I heard it from Reading resident Peter Vollers, the man who organizes the event.
When we talked, Peter wanted to make clear that this isn’t technically a race, even though I have referred to as such more as a means of shorthand. Yes, there will be those hardcore cyclists I mentioned earlier who will compete to see who can finish the 43-mile course first, with a time that of around 2-1/2 hours.
The bulk of the riders, though, will be pedaling uphill, downhill, on gravel, possibly in mud, for the sense of accomplishment and for the camaraderie that this type of cycling, commonly called “gravel grinding,” provides.
I first met Peter back in 2014. He was our lawyer when we bought our house. Back then, he lived and worked in Woodstock and ran his races from there. Given the number of participants, how busy Woodstock is, and how tightly packed the houses are in Woodstock Village, it wasn’t easy to pull these events off.
In 2015, he followed our lead and moved to Reading (okay, he did it on his own, with no inspiration from us), and now he has the space to run his events with minimal impact to the town or neighbors. The move has worked well. Peter says that Reading is a cycling-friendly town (not the first time I’ve made reference to this), and he has more room for the start and completion of the events he puts on.
You may have seen or heard about some of these events that Vermont Overland, the name of Peter’s company, runs. The event happening this Sunday, fitting called the Overland, is the company’s third bike event of the year. The first was the Vermont Overland Maple Adventure Ride, held way back in March. It was the height of sugaring season, so the name is fitting.
Vermont Overland also runs 4x4 rallies. The first was a three-day affair called the Vermont Overland Beer Safari, which happened in May. The second is another three-day event called the Vermont Overland Rally. This one happens at the end of the September.
There are a lot of things about Vermont Overland which makes it unique and a perfect fit for Vermont at the same time. If it weren’t for this state’s natural beauty, the abundance of dirt roads, many of which are class 4, the other small businesses that cater to the people who partake in his rides, and the sense of community shared by the participants, his events might feel different or not exist at all.
For every ride or rally Vermont Overland hosts, the company makes a donation to a specific organization. Sunday’s ride will benefit the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, which is an organization that Peter formed a bond with immediately upon moving here. It’s also fitting beneficiary because the cyclists will be passing by there and stopping for water and cookies and Belgian waffles before they tackle the most grueling part of the course.
Other charities that Vermont Overland has made donations to includes the Reading Cemetery Commission, the Reading Recreation Commission, and Ascutney Outdoors. The last rally of the season, happening in September, will benefit the Reading Historical Society.
Cycling back to my first paragraph. I won’t be starting out the window on Sunday watching the bikers go by instead of writing my column for August 30th (yikes!) because I will be delivering cookies to the rest area—also known as a sag stop—at the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf. Echoing what I wrote about last week, if you would like to bake some cookies for these riders, you can drop them off at the Food Shelf on Sunday between 9:00am-9:30am. For more information, contact Brooke James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck to all the riders! And to you Peter, good luck as well, and thank you for the support Vermont Overland provides!
There’s more happening in town in these waning days of summer. Tonight, for example, is the fourth Puddledock Park Party. The theme for this evening is "personal artifacts." That needs some explanation, I'm sure. Everyone has something in their house they hold on to that says something about them, holds a certain memory or plays a significant part in making up who they are. The Reading Recreation Commission invites you to bring that item to Puddledock Party and share your story. Of course, there will be games on the lawn! The Puddledock Park Party runs from 5pm to dusk at the park by the same name (next to the library). Bring chairs, snacks, drinks, and bug spray.
Finally, the kids go back to school next Wednesday, August 29. If ever there was a sign that summer is drawing to a close, this is it.
Happy birthday to Brandi Vittum (August 25) and Evangeline Jenne (August 26). Happy anniversary to Curt and Kate Allen (August 26).
That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!