Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bicyclist rides the path to wellness

By ZENDA FARRELL | Milton (VT) Independent Sports Editor

August 2, 2007

The first time I saw the bicycle man, it was winter, cold, windy, sleeting winter. I was in my car with the heat on and the windshield wipers swiping madly. He was on his bicycle, pedaling towards Burlington, equipped with helmet, goggles and gloves, seemingly oblivious to the climate. I cranked my head around like I had just seen an apparition and thought, wow…

I saw him several times over the next months, always on his bicycle and pedaling hard. Then one day in the spring, while I was walking my dogs in a wooded area close to home, I ran into him, the bicycle man as I had come to call him, in person. Yes, he was on his bike, taking a shortcut from Route 7 through the woods to Red Clover Way. Naturally, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to strike up a conversation because I had some questions for this guy, first and foremost, where’s your car?

Bicycle man is Doug Cavett. He doesn’t have a car. His primary source of transportation is his bicycle. Turns out when I fi rst encountered him many months ago, he was on his way to work, in Burlington, on his bicycle, in the icy, freezing winter. Doug Cavett is a 41-year-old Milton resident with a 7-yearold son named Trevor and a 7-month-old yellow lab named Smuggs. Blessed with a quick, easy smile and patient nature, his life story is nothing short of amazing.

A native of Greenwich, CT Doug has the wanderlust. “I spent 20 years trying to get to as many places as I could. I have seen 48 of the 50 states, been all through Central America, South America, Canada east to west, Africa, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, I spent a month in the Rockies, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, camped on volcanoes and glaciers all with a backpack. I am just waiting for Trevor to get a little older so we can travel together. He already can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner and he doesn’t want to just get around it… he’s a poker, he likes to examine everything.”

But, let’s back up to the bicycle thing and why would anybody want to ride a bicycle as much as he does?

Turns out Doug gave up his car completely three winters ago. “I’d been kind of half and half; car and bike, for transportation for many years but the fi nal blow came when I divorced. I weighed out what was important to me and what wasn’t. I didn’t need the Tahoe’s $30,000 worth of metal parts. It represented exactly the opposite of what I was looking for. I knew I could do this 100% so I gave up the car and doing so paid for my house.”

Well, wait a minute, what about when you have to take your son, who lives in Waterville, VT, that’s a mere 22 miles one way, somewhere? “I used to pick him up from daycare and put him in the bike seat but now I have a tag-along bike for him. He’s almost outgrown it then he will be able to ride his own.” And how does Trevor feel about long bike rides behind dad? “It’s really cool!” he says.

A typical day with Doug and Trevor begins with working in their organic garden. “We have an awesome organic garden down by the river. It’s not producing much yet but we spend time working in it daily.” When I went to the Cavett home to take some photos, I got a guided tour of Wonderland, the storybook tree house, the winding paths through the woods that lead to the river, the raspberry bushes, the beaver dam, the secluded fi shing spot and the sinking boats.

Their plans for the rest of the day included a trip to Racquet’s Edge for a swim with pit stops at Land-Air and countless other interesting locales. Then back to the garden or another favorite spot in Wonderland. One would think that with the bike being the primary means of transportation, it would be a real humdinger. Not so, although it is completely equipped with absolutely anything he may need, including fenders and a bell, it’s really nothing special.

“Let’s face it. The bike takes abuse. My investment in it is about $100 a year. It failed me last winter and I had to put in some extra parts. I use crossroad tires because I find them to be perfect year round. Winter is hard but not as bad as you might think. I am completely encapsulated in weatherproof gear, polypropylene, long underwear top to bottom – I dress for it. It needs to be about 30 below for me to even question not riding.”

Doug is also an avid skier and rides his bike 15-20 times a season up to Smuggler’s Notch, where he rents equipment, skis all day, then you guessed it… bikes home in the dark.

Biking isn’t the only thing he does to extreme; Doug ran in the Burlington Marathon last May. It was his fi rst marathon ever. His specific training consisted of one 12-mile run prior to the big day. “It was just something I decided I wanted to try and it was awesome to see 26 miles of people pouring out love for humanity. I got the gift of love and it was such a great feeling. I am so grateful for having the good health to be able to do things like this.”

Not only did he complete the marathon, he ran it in 3 hours and 59 minutes. “The next day was painful but I’ve already started training to do another. I have the urge to do the Boston Marathon and the qualifying time is 3:10. I have no idea if I can actually do this or not and I keep having to remind myself that I barely fi nished last time and asking what makes me feel like I can do it so much better but I want to try. My favorite run is up Arrowhead Mountain and back, the whole thing takes me about an hour and a half from my front door. My training approach is really just being in harmony with nature. Being active, running, biking is such an exponential kind of gift. Each one of the things you do gives you a gift to do the next thing. It just keeps on giving and giving and the body is energized to do more and more. I can’t tell you how many gorgeous sunsets I have seen because I am out on the bike or hiking a trail.”

What kind of a diet must this guy have to keep up the pace? “I eat everything and I eat a ton but I do try to eat healthfully - fruits, vegetables, fi sh. But, it’s not one apple, it’s four or it’s not one banana, it’s two or three.”

Doug is currently doing an independent study to contribute to the Milton Parks and Recreation committee.

“I am on an independent surge right now. I have been examining the 20 year master plan that was developed over the last year with assistance from Parks and Leisure. It is a concentration of efforts for the upcoming years, for example a bike path, a municipal swimming pool, irrigation of the athletic fields, anything that will help put Milton on an equal level with other towns. We have until the 27th of July to add input and sadly very few people have helped out. I have been through all the hiking trails, up Arrowhead Mountain, investigated cracks at the tennis courts, checked out the boat accesses at Sandbar, visited with the elderly and I have found some disappointments but I hope to put positive momentum into the 20 year plan. I want to see the rubber hit the road. Let’s not talk about wellness, let’s be well. If I can be well, I can help other people be well.”

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