BURLINGTON -- More than 100 college students gathered at the University of Vermont early Saturday morning for a 38-mile bike ride to Montpelier. The April 1 trek, an effort to promote renewable energy, culminated in an afternoon rally at Montpelier High School. Organizers from the Vermont Campus Energy Group dubbed the event "Fossil Fools Day."
Cyclists from UVM, Champlain and St. Michael's Colleges began massing at the UVM green shortly after 8; four long white vans carrying students from Middlebury College arrived around 45 minutes later. Some (who had scanned the morning headlines) noted that oil prices are once again climbing to $70 a barrel.
UVM Sophomore Ashley Hall rested before the ride on the grass in front of Ira Allen Chapel. She wore an Earth Day T-shirt and shorts that showed off a sizable scar on her left knee; Hall fell while training for last year's ride, and had to have surgery. The 20-year-old admitted to being scared of the distance, but said she was determined to complete the trip on her 24-speed neon blue Gary Fisher Wahoo.
"I want to prove that you don't have to be a professional athlete to switch over to alternative transportation," she said. "If I can do it, anybody can do it."
Middlebury first-year student Chester Harvey, who helped organize the event, addressed the riders before they left around 9:15. He advised them to find a buddy and proceed single-file, noting that five vans would follow along, to pick up stragglers.
There weren't many, reports VCEG coordinator Liz Cunningham. In a phone call Monday, Cunningham said 150 cyclists actually made the trip -- several Sterling College students rode down from Craftsbury Common, and others joined the Burlington group along the way. Cunningham added that few were deterred by a rainstorm that forced the rally indoors. (It was originally planned for the Statehouse lawn.)
Hall was one of the many who made it to Montpelier to listen to local bands and eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream. In a phone interview after the ride, she said that the riders, herself included, were soaked and covered in mud as they listened to speeches from Congressman Bernie Sanders and author Bill McKibben. She recalls, "[The speakers] all seemed really impressed."