By Merisa Sherman
I looked around at the stop sign and smiled. There were so many of us. Well, not so many that I would call us a peloton or anything but enough that we took up some space at the intersection while we waited for enough cars to pass that we could send it on through as a big group. So yeah, I guess you could call us a peloton. We sat next to each other, two to a lane and smiled. There isn’t any real chatting, just hand signals and yelling because somehow 2 feet away just feels like such a long distance when there you are on a bike. But I smiled at my friend, her helmet just tapping the top of her super reflective and sparkly sunglasses in that cool super fast look that only bike people can have.
As we pulled into the next stop, we noticed that the ferry had just left. That’s right, we had ridden our bikes all the way down Routes 73 & 74, through some of the most beautifully stunning farmland that the state of Vermont has to offer and all the way to Lake Champlain. You never think of Vermont having big flat pieces of land until you head toward Ticonderoga. It’s flat. Not Minnesota flat by any means — the farmland still rolls around you as you take big sweeping turns around the corn field — but Vermont flat. Where you are constantly rolling up and down about 250 feet in elevation without really realizing it.
And so we settled in to wait for the Ferry to cross Lake Champlain and come back again. It was awesome and a great chance to stretch our legs and take in some of the history. In operation since 1759, the Ticonderoga ferry launches from Larabee’s Point in Shoreham and crosses over to the famous fort in New York. Yes, you read that correctly. The Ticonderoga Ferry has been in operation since the construction of the fort itself, although these days the 18-car ferry is powered by two cables and takes just 7 minutes a ride. It’s pretty neat to think about riding a ferry that played a part in the American Revolution — can you just imagine the Green Mountain Boys with Ethan Allen or Benedict Arnold riding the ferry after they took command of the fort? And here we were, just riding along on a beautiful Sunday cruise.
It’s super neat how American history just slides into our everyday life without us even thinking about it. On the other side, we just rode right past the entrance to the fort. We had gone there decades ago, when all my military history was fresh in my mind after college with my spouse laughing at my giddiness in exploring the battlements and the support system behind them all. A quick drive north up Route 22A had us driving through historic Crown Point, another essential fort during the early 18th century that has now been converted into a campground. A campground! To think of the British, French, American and Indian soldiers that defended that fort during the French and Indian War and then again in 1777 when the Americans took control of the fort from the British. And now it’s a campground.
I’m writing this column on Bennington Battle Day and all public services in Vermont are closed to celebrate this turning point in the Revolutionary War. After a rainy standoff, it marked the first time that a group of rebels had defeated any section of General Burgoyne’s army. The major victory convinced many future Americans to support the war against the British, had native Americans joining forces with the rebels and cut the British troops off from a majority of their supplies. The Green Mountain Boys had done it again.
If you haven’t taken the time to walk the Bennington Battlefield and check out the historic museum, I highly recommend you take the time. When we went, it was a super foggy morning and I could feel the just under 2,000 rebels ducking behind the mounds of earth they had for protection. History was made on these battlefields and we should always remember.
It’s funny when you think of how important this little state was to the founding of this great nation. Even though we weren’t admitted into the union until 1791, would the war have even been won without our state? Lake Champlain would have remained in British hands and the Battle of Bennington would never have been won. What if Vermonters hadn’t fought? What if the Green Mountain Boys had let Ticonderoga Fall? As we ride our bikes through Vermont lands enjoying the beauty, don’t forget to take a moment to remember the history behind those rolling fields. And definitely, go take a ride on the Ticonderoga ferry, visit the Bennington Battlefield and celebrate the big effect our little state has had on the history of this great nation.