Wellness Center fitness classes benefit oncology fund

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A variety of fitness classes to benefit the NCH oncology fund are offered at the Wellness Center in Newport during the holiday season.  Pictured is a virtual cycling class with instructor Jacques Hebert.  Photo courtesy of NCH

A variety of fitness classes to benefit the NCH oncology fund are offered at the Wellness Center in Newport during the holiday season. Pictured is a virtual cycling class with instructor Jacques Hebert. Photo courtesy of NCH

The 2014 holidays mark the seventh year North Country Hospital (NCH) in Newport has hosted a series of Wellness Center fund-raisers with the help of instructor Sharon Stewart volunteering her time for folks to get a workout on the holidays and help out the hospital’s oncology fund at the same time.

This year, additional instructors are donating their time and providing “Saturday Sweat” to benefit the NCH oncology fund every Saturday morning at 9:30. Remaining classes, with a suggested donation of $10, include yoga with Pat Shover on December 20, and Jacques’ New Year’s Party Cycle on December 27. The holiday program is also accepting non-perishable items, paper products, and toiletries for the Wellness Center food drive.

Mary Hoadley can answer any questions about the upcoming classes. She can be contacted at mhoadley@nchsi.org or 334-5566

Christmas Day fitness fusion for oncology classes by donation are set for 7 and 8 a.m. On New Year’s Day, classes are a little later, at 9 and 10 a.m. One hundred percent of donations received for the classes will benefit the hospital’s oncology fund, which in turn helps local cancer patients in need. The suggested donation per class is $10, but all contributions are welcome.

Even if a workout isn’t part of anyone’s plan on Christmas Day and January 1, contributions can be made to the NCH oncology fund, by sending to North Country Hospital, 189 Prouty Drive, Newport, Vermont 05855; or by secure online donation at www.northcountryhospital.org.

For more information, contact the hospital development office at 334-4186. — from NCH.

For more things to do, see Things to Do in the Northeast Kingdom.

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Rasputitsa cyclists brave chilly weather and mud season

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A mass start heralded the beginning of the 47-mile Rasputitsa cycling race.  More than 350 racers began and ended the 47 mile race in downtown Newport on a cool Saturday morning in support of the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation.

A mass start heralded the beginning of the 47-mile Rasputitsa cycling race. More than 350 racers began and ended the 47 mile race in downtown Newport on a cool Saturday morning in support of the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation.   Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle April 23, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — Mud season is typically a time of year that Vermont residents have come to dread. For the 350 riders in Saturday’s Rasputitsa cycling event, however, mud season represented a challenge that begged to be accepted.

The lure of the Rasputitsa is one that finds its roots in the European Spring Classic bicycle races, co-organizer Heidi Myers told the Chronicle on Friday. The growth of gravel road racing nationally, coupled with the success of Ms. Myers’ and fellow co-organizer Anthony Moccia’s Dirty 40 race last August, led them to attempt a second race in the Northeast Kingdom. The fact that so many cyclists braved a blustery April morning and 47 miles of often treacherous back roads appears to have confirmed their belief in the sport’s popularity.

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Dirty 40 racers enjoy the best of the Northeast Kingdom’s back roads

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A soft whir, hum and crunch was all that alerted the casual observer to the arrival of the first group of cyclists heading along Nelson Hill Road during the first stage of the Dirty 40 race on Saturday.  In its inaugural year, the race raised an estimated $4,000 to help support the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Orleans County families dealing with cancer.  Photos by Richard Creaser

A soft whir, hum and crunch was all that alerted the casual observer to the arrival of the first group of cyclists heading along Nelson Hill Road during the first stage of the Dirty 40 race on Saturday. In its inaugural year, the race raised an estimated $4,000 to help support the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Orleans County families dealing with cancer. Photos by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

HOLLAND —  There was very little warning of when the riders would make their first appearance, only a best guess and a couple of Labrador’s barking out a greeting at a photographer.  The sound came first, the crunch of tires on gravel, the steady whir of gears and wheels and legs united in motion.  Then a blur surged out from the trees shrouding the bend and the leaders emerged in tight formation, swelling like a wave of brilliant blues and yellows, reds and whites.

Smiling cyclists streamed by for perhaps 20 minutes, bodies bent forward to reduce drag, legs pumping as the riders hit yet another incline however slight.  Over the next six hours, 200 cyclists would clock in, having completed the inaugural Dirty 40 race.  Others would drop out along the way, and still more would finish their runs, proud about the accomplishment if not overly concerned about their time.

“That’s what’s really great about this race,” Todd Bowden of Glastonbury, Connecticut, said at the after race party at Tavern on the Hill in Derby.  “It’s very laid back and not super serious.  You race for the love of it and for the bragging rights, not the hardware.”

On this day, the bragging rights would belong to Mr. Bowden.  He led all racers with a blistering time of 2:55:21.6 over the 60-mile course, 40 of which were on the gravel roads that give the race its name.

Eric Daigle of Newport Center rides by pastured horses drinking in the scenery on the race route of the Dirty 40 cycle race.  Participants traveled from all over New England, New York, Quebec, and Ontario to take part in the inaugural gravel road race.

Eric Daigle of Newport Center rides by pastured horses drinking in the scenery on the race route of the Dirty 40 cycle race. Participants traveled from all over New England, New York, Quebec, and Ontario to take part in the inaugural gravel road race.

Not that Mr. Bowden completely blew the competition out of the water.  Iain Radford of Chelsea, Quebec, and Matt Surch of Ottawa, Ontario, finished with times of 2:55:22.9 and 2:55:23.0.  Five other racers also finished within 24 seconds of Mr. Bowden’s precedent setting time.

On the women’s side, Kathleen Lysakowski of Quincy, Massachusetts, led the field with a time of 3:12:17.3, followed by Heather Voisin of Montpelier with a time of 3:14:14.4 and Danielle Ruane of Bow, New Hampshire, with her time of 3:16:52.7.

Bev Gage of Orleans came in thirty-second overall, earning her the dubious distinction of being dead last with a time of 6:11:13.  There was no hang-dog expression for Ms. Gage, however.  As someone who only began riding in earnest in July and whose previous longest ride had been 32 miles, Ms. Gage was proud simply to have finished.

“My inspiration was raising money for the Halo Foundation,” she said.  “Doing something to helps others is just so wonderful.  Anthony (Moccia) and Heidi (Myers) should be so proud of what they accomplished.”

As the founders and organizing forces behind the Dirty 40, Mr. Moccia and Ms. Myers worked diligently to round up sponsors and work the social networks to attract racers to the event.

Behind it all, however, was the fact that all profits from the race would go to benefit the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, which provides financial support to Orleans County cancer survivors and the families of individuals fighting cancer.  Ms. Myers said Monday morning that, although the numbers are preliminary, she expects the Dirty 40 race and raffle raised an estimated $4,000 for the Halo Foundation.

Dave Lafoe of Norton plays a game of chicken with a photographer during the first leg of the Dirty 40 cycling race Saturday.  As the oldest listed participant in the race at age 72, Mr. Lafoe finished with a respectable time of 4:41:31.

Dave Lafoe of Norton plays a game of chicken with a photographer during the first leg of the Dirty 40 cycling race Saturday. As the oldest listed participant in the race at age 72, Mr. Lafoe finished with a respectable time of 4:41:31.

“We’re pretty happy about that,” she said.  “We’d like to raise more next year.  We could have raised more but it being the first year there was no registration fee for the first 100 riders.”

When the Dirty 40 was conceived the ideals behind the race included a celebration of what rural Vermont was all about — back roads, gorgeous countryside and a community that stands together to help its own.

The friendliness of the community was apparent to the cyclists participating in the race.  Locals came out to wave at the riders as they passed by.

“I’m not really sure where it was, but there were some little girls serving lemonade,” Robert Schiesser of South Royalton recalled.  “How great is that?  I really couldn’t tell you how the organizers could have designed a better course.”

Even a local like Ms. Gage was impressed at the breadth of terrain the course encompassed.  Whether as a cyclist or just someone enjoying the area, the beauty of the Northeast Kingdom was to be found everywhere along the route, she said.

“I had a chance to go on some dirt roads I never would have traveled before,” Ms. Gage said.  “It really opens your eyes to how beautiful and how special a place we live in.”

While the beauty of the landscape was most often mentioned by participants, it was the challenge of the course that appealed to hardened cyclists like Mr. Bowden.

“It was a tough course, a real challenge,” he said.  “Unlike your traditional road race the ending was not proscribed.  It was a little bit crazier with a lot more variables thrown in there.”

Mr. Schiesser comes from a mountain bike racing background.  While some elements translate from mountain bike racing to gravel road racing, it was a new kind of experience for him.

“Mountain bike racing is won in the turns,” he said.  “In this kind of race you need to be in it the whole way, there is no last push to get through.  You need to pace yourself.”

Gravel road races are growing in popularity but the amount of races available are still limited, Mr. Bowden said.  That’s why he was more than willing to make the trek up from Connecticut to participate in the Dirty 40.

“It’s a really unique area,” Mr. Bowden said.  “Something is changing all of the time.  Those last 5 kilometers with the steep climb was hard, real hard.”

Mr. Bowden praised the work of the road crews responsible for maintaining the gravel roads that comprised the Dirty 40 course.  In general, gravel road racing requires a thicker tire with an aggressive tread.  Road conditions on Saturday were such that a rider could have gotten away with a narrower tread because of the excellent state of the roads.  Narrower treads lead to less resistance and a corresponding increase in speed, he explained.

Voyaging through the back roads was more than a bike race, Mr. Schiesser said.  It was akin to an adventure race where you need to be prepared for any and all sorts of conditions.  He even likened the course to a ride through Alaska’s boreal forest.

“I thought it was really neat to be out there,” he said.  “I think the course was just right.”

If there is one change to be recommended, it came from Ms. Gage.  Her recommendation was that perhaps someone better prepared might be able to take her place in next year’s race.

“I’m proud that I did it and that I’m still standing after,” Ms. Gage said.  “I still want to be involved but I think I might volunteer next year.  It was a wonderful experience and a great cause.  That’s why we do these things, to help people.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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Gold panning and bingo help a good cause

Joanne Warner of Green Mountain Prospectors demonstrates how to pan for gold.  Bryce Donahue, who said he's panned for gold dozens of times, looks on.  Photos by Tena Starr

Joanne Warner of Green Mountain Prospectors demonstrates how to pan for gold. Bryce Donahue, who said he’s panned for gold dozens of times, looks on. Photos by Tena Starr

by Tena Starr

WESTFIELD — Terrie Davis-Perry has long supported cancer research, maybe more than most people.  She’s regularly donated to the American Cancer Society and fund-raising events, and she sponsors a Relay for Life team member.  But when the disease hit home last winter with her brother-in-law’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, she was inspired to do a little more aggressive fund-raising than she’d done in the past.

So on Saturday, Ms. Davis-Perry and her husband, Mark Perry, put together a special day of events and camping at their Barrewood Campground in Westfield.  Proceeds from the $5 fee ($2 for children) for daytime activities went to Paul Perry for out-of-pocket costs for his treatment: camping fees throughout the weekend — three nights — will go to Relay for Life.

barrewood boy

Five-year-old Ryan Nathan Rice of North Troy was one of the few who decided to go swimming Saturday at Barrewood Campground’s cancer benefit.

Saturday turned out to be a rare sunny day, although the wind was brisk enough to knock over some of the tents that vendors had set up on the big green at the campground to sell jewelry, crafts, baked goods, books, clothing, and other items.  Inside the pavilion, a rousing game of bingo was in progress called by Debbie Lucas, who donated her time, and Mary Lee Daigle was serving a hot lunch.  Pauline Couture of Couture’s Maple was on hand with a variety of maple products, and several members of Green Mountain Prospectors demonstrated how to pan for gold.

There was plenty of interest in that activity — nearly as much as in the bingo game.

The first thing you learn about panning for gold is you’re not likely to get rich.  The second is that it isn’t nearly as easy as it looks when an expert is handling the pans.  My own efforts netted one tiny flake that I might not have recognized were it not for Joanne Warner’s careful eyes, although gold is quite striking and definitely stands out if you know what you’re looking for.

Ms. Warner and Donald and Tracie Cassady were on hand to demonstrate the skill of panning and had small vials of gold, as well as garnets, to show for their own efforts.  Mr. and Ms. Cassady are from New Hampshire and said the river near Littleton is “loaded with garnets,” a deep red, semi-precious gemstone that, like gold, is heavy and settles in the bottom of the pan.

Ms. Warner offered up a small vial of startlingly bright gold flecks that she’d gathered. They were worth about $30 or $40 — not a huge take for a tedious job.

“Most of the gold in Vermont is glacial, you won’t find big nuggets,” Ms. Warner said.  That means glaciers ground the gold down to fine particles, as opposed to out West where actual nuggets are more likely to be found,

These three Green Mountain Prospectors don’t sell the gold they find, although they know some who do.  Foundries will buy it, as well as jewelers and some collectors, they said. The garnets also have some value.

Mark Perry and Terrie Davis-Perry, owners of Barrewood Campground in Westfield, held a special day of activities Saturday to help their brother Paul Perry with out-of-pocket expenses for pancreatic cancer treatment.  Proceeds from camping for three nights went to Relay for Life.

Mark Perry and Terrie Davis-Perry, owners of Barrewood Campground in Westfield, held a special day of activities Saturday to help their brother Paul Perry with out-of-pocket expenses for pancreatic cancer treatment. Proceeds from camping for three nights went to Relay for Life.

At this point, I have to admit that my notes kind of vanished on me because I gave panning a shot under Ms. Warner’s able guidance.  I was decidedly inept and soaked myself and my notebook, ending up with a runny blue blur instead of careful notes.

So — winging it.  We started with a shovel full of material from the bottom of the nearby brook, and Mr. Cassady did a sift to filter out the biggest stones.  Those bigger stones are worth looking at, he said, because there’s lots of quartz among them, and that’s where gold comes from.  But keeping in mind that chunks of gold the size of white quartz aren’t likely to appear in Vermont, the next step is to get to the littler stuff that looks mostly like sand.  And that’s when it gets tricky.

The prospectors used green pans with ridged openings on one side.  The idea is that you mix the sand and its potentially valuable contents with water, then slur it around, constantly dumping off the top layer through the pan’s openings.  You trust that the heavier stuff, the valuable stuff, will stay at the bottom, and what you’re sloughing off is just sand and tiny worthless pebbles.

The equipment is neither complicated nor expensive.  Most any kind of filter works up to a point.  Mr. Cassady said his wife is always telling him to leave her flour sifter alone.

If you’re not too overzealous, or just sloppy, it works.  The heavy stuff does stay in the bottom of the pan, and after a while the dirt changes color.  It darkens as the lighter, and lighter colored, sand goes out the pan’s slots, and what remains is what’s of possible value.  “Tap it, and the gold goes to the bottom,” Ms. Warner advised me.

Pauline Couture of Couture’s Maple in Westfield was on hand at the fund-raiser with a variety of maple products.

Pauline Couture of Couture’s Maple in Westfield was on hand at the fund-raiser with a variety of maple products.

Gold is 19 times heavier than water, someone said as I slopped muddy water all over myself. Trust it.

I sloshed the pan around in the water, then sifted out the sand and did see the color eventually darkening, but it wasn’t easy, and I was clumsy, and I soon appreciated Ms. Warner’s skill.  She said she’d won an award in a panning contest, which didn’t surprise me once I’d tried it myself.  She makes panning look easy.  It isn’t.

At the end, I had one flake of gold.  It didn’t look real, and, nope, I wasn’t going home rich.  Ms. Warner had planted it, and it went back into her vial via a special little bottle that sucked it up and returned it to where it came from.

But there are entirely worse things to do with one’s time than wade around in a brook in the hope of finding gold.

“It’s like fishing,” Ms. Warner said. “You can be out all day and you may not get a fish.  But you enjoy being out there.”

barrewood don

Don Cassady of Green Mountain Prospectors sets up some of the gear used to pan for gold.

Green Mountain Prospectors has members from all over New England, as well as New York State, and many of them are members of a national prospecting club, as well.

Meanwhile, back in the pavilion, my 13-year-old son had settled in with a couple of his great-aunts and was avidly playing bingo.

Bingo used to be a game I understood, but apparently no longer.  There’s still the traditional way of playing, where you win if you get straight hits in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line, but there are “specials” I’ve never heard of, like a check mark.  Colton and his great-aunts were each playing eight cards.

The last game was something I’d never heard of, a coverall.  My aunts, being the experienced bingo players they are, knew just what that meant — the winner would be the first person to fill up an entire card.

Prizes for the bingo winners were donated by local businesses and others and included gift certificates, homemade pies, and jewelry.

Later in the day, there was a potluck dinner at the campground, as well as live music, and a bonfire.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.

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