Following the Memories and the Leaves

Cycling from Portland, Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire

It’s peak foliage in the White Mountains, the sun is shining, and I watch my friend Leeron stand up as she climbs each hill. She tells me she doesn’t want to lose momentum. At a stoplight, I ask her to slow down –– something I never thought I’d have to do. 

Woman Bikes in front of foliage

The last time we went on a bike trip together was in 2007 from New York City to Montreal with an organization called Teen Treks that my late mother signed us up for. Since then, I’ve cycled a mileage equivalent to over half way around the world while she has largely lost interest in adventure cycling. 

Bike propped against a tree

But the claustrophobia of living in Manhattan compounded by a global pandemic had her asking me over and over, “when are we going to go on a bike trip?”

My maternal Romanian grandfather and Greek grandmother used to have a house here in the White Mountains. My father told me they wound up here because it reminded them of the scenery in Eastern Europe. 

Despite having been born after they sold the house, I feel a sense of belonging as I cycle through the covered bridges and wash my laundry in the Saco River. I imagine my father picking up wine at the country store for his first-ever meeting with his in-laws and I imagine my parents laughing in the car on the way to Polly’s Pancake Parlor on their first-ever trip together.

While this is a beautiful place that brings back many memories, it also comes with a side of longing and sadness for my father after my mother’s death in 2014.

For me though, this trip is healing. Following months of staring at a computer screen, I feel such a sense of freedom and clarity as we explore this nook of New England, dipping our feet in freezing waters, and building campfires together.

I’m grateful I get to cycle through a place that was so special to my mom without it being too bittersweet, up and down the mountains where my parents fell in love and where Leeron fell back in love with adventure cycling.

For more from Annalisa, check out her talk on bike touring gear 101.

Annalisa van den Bergh
Annalisa van den Bergh
Annalisa van den Bergh is a Cannes Gold Lion-winning visual storyteller and writer living with type 1 diabetes. She is the founder and cocreator of Miles of Portraits, a magazine and film that documents the people she and her cycling partner Erik Douds meet as they ride their bicycles around the world. Learn more about her at

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