I rounded the S-curve on Vermont Highway 119 into Montgomery Center, (population 845) Sylvester’s Market dead ahead. I was looking for “The Inn” where my wife and I would be attending a wedding the following day. My eyes swept past a pizza place, then quickly across the street to . . . a bicycle shop!
Back where I grew up, in Wyoming and South Dakota, we would have called a Montgomery Center a “one-horse town.” Except here in Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom, where fifty-nine percent of the roads are still dirt, stands the Jay Cloud Cyclery, where horses and their hoofs have been replaced by gravel bikes and fat-tires.
I had to see what was going on at the Jay Cloud.
The wood clapboard building looked to be at least a hundred years old, with a big ole wooden porch filled with bikes running across the front. They looked broken in, maybe used or rentals, and sent a strong feeling of ambiance about the local cycling vibe.
A little bell jingled as I stepped inside, where I was greeted by Becky. I soon learned she had worked for Ethan Bull, the owner, for seven years and was an avid cyclist herself. I met her young daughter, and was struck once again at how wonderful a rural environment is for raising children.
I told Becky I was just kinda kicking tires, so to speak, but we got to talking. I confessed to living in Massachusetts, but with the caveat that I’d lived in rural New Hampshire for a number of years, too. She asked what I was doing in Montgomery Center, and I told her some good friends’ son was getting married. “What’s his name?” Becky asked, and I told her it was Derek. “I know Derek,” she said. “He and I worked at Jay Peak together for a few years” (Jay Peak being the local ski mountain). We’re way up in the Green Mountains—Ver-Mont—here, just ten or so miles from the Canadian border.
We chatted some more. She told me the Jay Cloud, like many New England outdoor sports shops, didn’t turn into a ski shop in the winter, only selling winter sports clothing which a cyclist, snowshoer or a cross-country skier might wear. I told her about my cycling and writing. I asked how business was, and she said it was slow, mostly because they couldn’t get bikes to sell. The raw materials supplies are crazy short and demand has gone through the roof. I noted there were only five bikes on the floor, mostly Treks; a good-looking Santa Cruz stood near. Made me remember the good times I’d had there, and where my second novel, Madrone, is set.
Becky said ebikes are definitely getting more popular, especially with tourists who want to go riding but might not appreciate the exertion required by the mountainous terrain. I told her I had a bicycling novel coming out, the story of some New England bike guys who created a bike drive that didn’t require a battery. Totally fictional, of course, and taking place ten years ago. She said she’d like to see it. I said I’d make sure that happened.
We talked about the building and its incarnations over the past century as we walked back to the maintenance shop, where I met Ethan working on a bike. But what a bike, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was called Rungu, a behemoth machine with twin front wheels, and an ebike to boot.
I snapped these few pictures, then it was time to get back to the wedding activities. Becky and I shook hands as I told her I might write this blog about our meeting at this very cool bike shop. I wished we were going to be sticking around long enough to rent a couple of ebikes and ride the six covered bridges of Montgomery.