Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It Begins – Hartford to the Taconic Valley

Update - For those looking to follow BiCi Co., there is a Facebook group to Like and Share.  The Fall Build-a-Bike / Earn-a-Bike program is starting October 6th, and the membership campaign for the teaching bike shop will be unveiled shortly.
Some bulls at one of those angsty CT prep schools.
There is a Cherolis reunion on September 5th in Santa Claus, Indiana.  I haven’t seen the family in a while and I decided to make the trek – by bicycle.  A bit absurd, I know.  Many reasonable persons have asked, “Why?  Wouldn’t flying make more sense?”   Of course flying would be faster, but it wouldn’t fulfill the triangular route bike tour I’d been building in my head.  Here’s the overall outline for those with a short attention span.  It came to me in a dream.
  • Hartford, CT to Albany, and West across New York on the Erie Canal path.  
  • Then down into Ohio and Indiana to visit family.  
  • After the reunion, turn east and follow the Ohio River valley all the way to West Virginia.  
  • North to Pittsburgh and a relaxing 340 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal into Washington DC - no cars!  
  • Turn north and follow the East Coast Greenway all the way back to Hartford.  
The highlight of the first day riding northwest out of Connecticut was stumbling across the John Brown birthplace.  After reading a book on his life, Man on Fire, I have found his approach to injustice admirable.  I you don’t know who he is, you may remember a sidelight from a US history course long ago – Harper’s Ferry.  John Brown’s culminating project was a takeover of the armory and the spark for a massive and growing slave revolution.  Unfortunately, the raid was a bust and the revolution never happened.  But the raid put the South on notice and sparked the debate on abolishing the evil institution.  Unlike many of the established Northern business interests, many directly profiting from the slave fueled agricultural and textile industries, John Brown called it as it was and wasn’t afraid to make a mess getting his point across.  

John Brown's birthplace!
Another thing one finds while traveling, particularly if one likes to hang out along rail tracks and under bridges, is graffiti.  While checking out the Farmington River I noticed some of the worst “angsty” graffiti I’ve ever seen.  Suburban Connecticut graffiti art often leaves much to be desired.  I think it may be that the best art comes from struggle and hardship.  Existential crises don't count as struggle.  Not much struggle in the suburbs, and more than is deserved in our cities.  
Craptastic Suburban Graffiti
It was a hot and hilly day and at one point I collapsed under a tree until my core temperature became manageable.  Ending in the beautiful Taconic Valley was a treat.  The view from my stealth camp at the edge of a field was … well.  You can see for yourself.   If you're familiar with stealth camping, its difficult to combine a view with the stealthiness required to not get rousted
Stealth camp with a view.  
Riding with Purpose – Rather than riding for my lonesome self, this ride is dedicated to the BiCi Co. teaching, bike shop that is starting at the Center for Latino Progress.  If you’re a cyclist, you know the magic of a bicycle.  Bicycles are key in urban areas for cost effective mobility and jobs access.  The youth and teens in Hartford already ride, but they deserve working brakes, helmets, lights, and a place to fix their bicycles.   Hartford’s last bike shop closed last year, and it’s time to bring this resource back to the community.  The shop will have a membership component for those looking to repair their own bicycles.

The BiCi Co. program starts with a youth program.  The teens will be learning about bike safety, handling, and mechanics, and sundry other bicycle and transportation related topics.  It's amazing that our Hartford youth don't realize that the Columbia bicycle was the most common in the world in the 1890's.  The teens will Build-a-Bike for a local charitable cause, and by doing so Earn-a-Bike for themselves.  Stay tuned for the crowd funding and membership campaign.  In the meantime you can check out photos of the Summer Youth BiCi Co. program on the Center’s Facebook page (Like it!).  We built up the 1st floor bike shop for the summer program and want to continue that program in both the Fall and the Spring - but we need financial and volunteer support.

Where Rt 44 crosses over into New York

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