I make a lot of lists — things to get done at work, groceries and gifts to buy, household chores — but I don’t have a Bucket List. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to narrow my focus to a specific to-do list, at the possible cost of missing opportunities that may be as interesting or exciting as anything I might think to list.

So, I’m always open to possibilities. And one presented itself when Google offered a new bicycle route-mapping feature at about the same time we were thinking of attending my niece’s high school graduation in Vermont.

One of my five sisters lives in Williston, several miles south of Burlington, and my family has made the trip east along Route 2 more times than I can count. The route is intensely scenic and I’ve always thought it would make a memorable, challenging bike ride.

When Google offered up bike routes and I knew I would be going to Vermont in June, I punched in Buckfield to Williston to see what came up. I was surprised to see Google didn’t offer Route 2 as the primary route, but suggested a number of side roads from Maine on through to Vermont. And, the route seemed a doable 170 miles over a period of days.

Intrigued, I mentioned to my husband of nearly 30 years that I thought I would ride my bike to Caitlin’s graduation. To his credit, he didn’t even blink. He was nothing but supportive while I planned, including doing a little maintenance on my bike and installing some safety lights on front and back.

Then, on Wednesday, June 16, I left Buckfield in the early morning with my directions, maps, minimal luggage and great trepidation. Caitlin’s graduation was Friday afternoon, so my plan was to ride long days Wednesday and Thursday, and a short day Friday, hoping to be in Williston by noon.

I probably should have questioned directions to a road that I never use in my own hometown, but about 10 miles into the trip on the first day I encountered a dirt road in North Buckfield that was not mentioned on Google’s map, and picked my way through 3-something miles of alternating hard and loose-packed dirt. I ride a Trek 2300 9-speed with skinny slick tires. It’s not a bike suited to dirt, so I ended up walking too much of the road where the gravel was loose.

Somewhere along Damon Road, a young couple pulled up in a Jeep and asked me if I needed help, and I did. I needed reassurance I was actually somewhere close to Route 219 — and pavement — and they said I was. They also pointed out a spring just up the road where I could re-fill my water bottles, which was a very decent thing to do.

I eventually emerged on Front Street in Sumner Village, about two hours after I left home, a trip that — had I been on paved roads — should have taken about 45 minutes. So, a rough start, but I was too stubborn to stop.

As I rode Route 219 toward West Paris, the couple in the Jeep passed me and we exchanged happy waves. I didn’t get their names, and it was really the only way I could thank them.

The ride north up Route 26 to Bethel was uneventful, but since Google had already burned me, I stopped at Bethel Bicycle to make sure the suggested North Road — a 20-mile stretch parallel to the Androscoggin River — was paved the entire distance and moderately bike-friendly.

The folks at the shop were happy to help, pulled out their map, pointed out crossroads, and recommended I stay on North Road until after I crossed the Shelburne Dam, where I should re-enter Route 2. The advice was perfect, and when I finally turned onto Route 2 I was just miles from Gorham, N.H.

I missed all that dreadful construction on Route 2 through Gilead, and truly enjoyed the postcard-quality scenery of the stretch along the river. If I hadn’t stopped at the shop, and they hadn’t been so willing to help, that would have been a nasty stretch to ride along Route 2.

Getting through Gorham was a little hectic with all the tourist traffic and, after climbing the horrid hill on Route 2 just outside Gorham, my destination to Jefferson, N.H. (where I planned to spend the night) was pretty much either downhill or rolling hills.

There’s no sit-down restaurant in Jefferson, so I bought a sandwich about a mile from the motel and stuffed it in my pocket for dinner. A turkey sandwich never tasted so good.

In the morning, it was pouring rain, which was not part of my original plan, but off I went anyway, with a pre-paid motel reservation to spend the second night in Montpelier.

About two miles into the day, as soon as I hit the first downhill, I encountered a problem with my back brakes. They weren’t gripping, which I would expect in the rain, but I’ve ridden plenty of miles in the rain and know how the brakes should react. This was something different, and very scary.

I had planned my first stop that day in Littleton, about 20 miles, but there was no way I could get that far without looking at the brake. On the cautious side, I ended up walking down a couple of steep grades on Route 116 because I couldn’t stop very well.

I stopped at the police station in Whitefield, after about eight miles, to ask about a bike shop. There wasn’t one in town, so Chief William Colborn stood in the rain and adjusted my brakes for me. He made a real difference in the trip for me, not just in the mechanical adjustment, but in his simple willingness to keep me safe.

When I got to Littleton, I stopped at Littleton Bike & Fitness and they fixed my brake. They also suggested a couple of quiet roads to travel before getting on Route 302 for the trip over the mountains into Barre and Montpelier.

They refused to charge me for the labor, and their suggestions gave me a couple of miles reprieve from heavy traffic. It was, once again, an entirely decent and unexpected act of kindness.

The rest of the day was a pure grind, but once in Barre, it was quite literally downhill the next 10 miles (or so) into Montpelier. It rained nearly the entire day.

My husband, Phil, met me in Montpelier Thursday night, having driven to the graduation so he could give me a ride home, and we found an Italian restaurant there. I had it in my mind for at least the last 20 miles of Thursday’s trip that I wanted carbonara for dinner. Unfortunately, that wasn’t on the menu, but I begged our server to ask the kitchen if they could make it anyway — and they did. Kind and delicious.

In the morning, I started out at 7:30 a.m. in the fog. I had a false (and uphill) start Friday and ended up about a mile out of my way, but I found a nice man walking his five shih tzus, and he got me turned around.

The bridge I needed to cross the Winooski River in Montpelier was closed for repairs, so another friendly soul helped me find a different route over the river to Route 2.

The route to Williston from Montpelier was flat, fast and peppered with farms. It was absolutely the best part of the ride. Not just because it was the last 33 miles, but because it was really a fun route. I did convince a construction crew to let me walk on the “work side” of the bridge they were replacing because I didn’t want to cross the Winooski on a metal-plated platform with questionable-looking railings. They were happy to oblige and a supervisor walked me part-way across the platform.

At the beginning, I had planned for 170 miles. In the end, it was exactly 200 miles: 83 on the first day, 84 on the second, 33 on the last. Actual travel time was 10 hours Wednesday, 10 on Thursday and about three on Friday. That includes time stopped to eat, check directions and just plain gawk at the view along the way.

I’m not sure I would ever have made the trip if it was on some list, because I could always think of a reason to put it off. I’m glad I didn’t because, while not every mile was a treat, the trip was tremendously rewarding.

I met a bunch of really nice people along the way, dropped my chain only once, crossed the Appalachian, White and Green mountains and didn’t hurt myself. So, I’d call that a pretty good outing.

Without a doubt, though, the best part of the trip was discovering so many people so willing to help me.

Would I have found my way off Damon Road without reassurance from the couple in the Jeep? Probably.

Would I have gotten to the bike shop in Littleton safely without the Whitefield police chief’s help? I don’t know.

Would I have been satisfied with something other than carbonara at Sarducci’s? Sure.

But, each person along my way helped me achieve my goal for no reason other than genuine kindness. The success in the trip wasn’t just pedaling the miles, but reaffirming first-hand that people really are good.

So, if I were pressed to draft a Bucket List, there would be only one thing on it: make a difference — like the people who made a difference for me during my tri-state journey, and all the people who have made a difference for me over the years.

It’s really the only thing I want to do before I kick the bucket.

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