Monday, May 5, 2008

Five-Borough Ride Prequel: Hartbeat to Dirty Water to Crooklyn

As our three non-contributing readers know, this blog and the lives of its contributors are all about bikes bikes bikes. That means we like to go to other cities to go on organized bike rides, we like to ride around our own city in a disorganized fashion, and we like to use bikes instead of cars whenever possible. (I would also like to use a bike instead of a can opener whenever possible, but that is a harder proposition.)

To that end, Will and I traveled to New York for the 5-Borough (or Boro, as the organizers like to say) Bike Tour in the most fitting way: We rode to Waterbury and took Metro-North to New York from there. After the jump, the harrowing, heartwarming, inspiring tale of our trip.

The first question you may ask, dear reader, is this: "Why Waterbury? Why not just take the train from Hartford? I mean, you do call it the Beat Bike Blog, not the Dirty Water Bike Blog, right?" To that, I say, firstly, "That was three questions, not one." And, secondly, "Stupid stupid Amtrak." You see, despite the fact that Hartford is bigger and better and has way more insurance companies than Waterbury, it must suffer with a second-rate train company. That second rate company charges $47 for a one-way trip to New York, while Metro-North charges $12.50. And does that extra $34.50 get you something extra, like say, bike accommodations on the train? Of course not. On the contrary, bikes can only go on Amtrak trains in boxes, and it's really hard to ride to the station while carrying a bike box. Stupid Amtrak.

So we decided to ride to Waterbury.

Here is a tip I will give to anyone planning a ride anywhere, but especially to Waterbury from Hartford: Consult a map that shows elevations. I chose our route, and failed entirely to consider hills, resulting in a very direct 23.7 miles from my house in West Hartford that contained a truly insurmountable hill in Bristol. How insurmountable? It was the kind of hill where if you're riding on it and you lean back at all, you pop a wheelie. The kind of hill you could not drive up on an icy winter morning (if, like me, you drive a '98 Corolla). It was very fucking steep and Will was right to curse me for my foolish route. So we walked. It was shameful.

After that, the route was pretty much solid, except the one part where we climbed a steep hill on Route 69, turned off onto a little street, and missed a turn off that little street so that we ended up returning to Route 69 at the bottom of the hill we'd just climbed.

We rolled into Waterbury at 2:20, meaning we did the trip in a little over two hours. Given (a) the stupid, impossibly long hill, (b) the stupid little detour, and (c) the fact that I was riding a folding bike laden with supplies and Will was schlepping a mess bag with lots of unnecessary stuff like a sleeping bag inside, we deemed this a pretty good time. It was especially good because we arrived just in time to some old guy at the Waterbury train station scream at another old guy for a while, and then we still had enough time to go get pizza.

From there, we traveled to NYC in solid, utilitarian comfort, and even managed to buy a couple cups of coffee during our six-minute layover in Bridgeport (although I almost missed the train). The trip down the valley from the Dirty Water to Stratford goes along the Naugatuck river most of the way and is rather lovely, in a run-down, abandoned factory kind of way.

At Grand Central, we were met by Dan A.K.A. Shoupy, a former Beat resident who, amazingly, made the trip from Ann Arbor (which is in Michigan, which is really far away and totally not served bt Metro North). He had arrived the previous day, so he left his stuff at the rest in Brooknam and met us on his bike. We then proceeded downtown, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and into the promised land. Naturally, we went right to bed so we would be well-rested for the next day's festivities. We definitely did not go to a party in Bed-Stuy, and three New York firemen definitely did not appear at that party unexpectedly to investigate a barbecue pit in the back yard. (Something else that definitely didn't happen at the party we didn't go to is that some guy told me he was "trying really hard not to be a commodities trader." The funny thing is, I'm not even trying and I'm having more success than him at not being a commodities trader.) Below, some pictures from our voyage. (As always, click for a larger view.)

Will, in Bristol, takes a break and looks ambitiously toward Waterbury.

My highly specialized touring rig (a.k.a. my folder).

You stay classy, Wolcott!

So many funny captions are possible for this photo.

Woot! We reached the station!

Seeing the sights of Waterbury from a train platform: Here is the clock tower at the headquarters of the Waterbury Republican-American.

Two and a half hours of cushiony vinyl comfort for just $12.50.

A very appropriate sticker in the train bathroom as we pulled out of The Dirty Water.

Crossing into Brooklyn, making funny, clothing-related poses.


Karma said...

Griggs rocking the W/B capri. How'd they work out? Looking sharp.

chillwill said...

i liked my pants, but it never really rained so i didn't get a good test.


Mark II said...

Why didn't you guys ride to New Haven? Isn't the elevation change easier?