Wednesday, September 16, 2015

All About the Connections

Before I get started - Don't miss these things.  Represent and spread the word!
  • Envisionfest - Saturday, 9/19 in Hartford.  There's a ton of stuff going on, bikable and walkable.  And introducing Hartford Bike Share - Beat Bike!
  • CT Cycling Festival, Criterium Races, and Expo - All day on Sunday, 9/20 in Downtown Hartford.  Get out your coffee thermos, a cow bell, and pots and pans.  Make a racket and cheer this international field of racers.  There are also urban mountain biking and novice races.  Even if you don't race, these criteriums are exciting spectating.  Close and fast.  You can see the riders responding to the crowd cheers.
  • I-84 Redesign Update and Public Comment Meeting - Tuesday, September 22nd at the Lyceum on Lawrence Street near Billings Forge and Firebox restaurant.   The format is an open planning studio and you can show up anytime between noon and 8pm. This is the most critical (and largest) infrastructure project that Hartford will see in the next 20 years.  You have to get involved early and often to make sure it comes out right.  Don't miss your chance to get involved and ensure that the redesign repairs the damage wrought on Hartford's neighborhoods by a divisive highway project.  Repeat - this is the most important public works project in Hartford metro in the next 20 year.
  • Discover Bicycle Friendly New Britain - Sunday, September 27th.  Register before the 18th for your last chance at the early bird discount.

My recent tour musing has been on connections.  Connecting good people to events (see above). Social connections.  Connections to our history.  Transportation connections, or lack thereof.  The connections that adhere a community together, providing key support and access to opportunity.  Without connections life gets pretty bleak and lonely.  Recently on my ride, the connections have been magical.  I'll share some of those thoughts and connections below.

The past residents and industries of the places I live and visit are fascinating.  Just down the street from my home in Hartford is the Butler-McCook House.  Home to four generations of interesting pack rats, and now a beautiful museum within a short walk from many neighborhoods in Hartford.  The museum is bursting at the seams with Hartford history, and to boot, has a serene back garden for sitting or listening to their small summer music concerts.  While ambling up quiet Route 124 along the Ohio River I noticed a Civil War monument and information board.  I don't stop at all the historical markers, but I stopped at this one and was pleasantly surprised.  I had found a memorial to the patriarch of Hartford's Fighting McCook's.  Major Daniel McCook was fatally injured in the Battle of Buffington Island.  The connection back to Connecticut almost sizzled.  Although it felt like I was riding in the middle of nowhere, I was absorbed in the deep history immediately under my feet in Ohio - and back at home in Hartford.  

The fighting McCooks!
While checking out the civil war site I met Barbara from Bloomington, Indiana.  She was a couple weeks away from her 80th birthday and driving solo to the coast for a vacation - and taking the winding back roads.  Her friend that was supposed to travel with her had just unexpectedly passed away.  She took the trip anyway!  Another solo traveler with an interesting story.   Barbara's husband had attended training with Aetna in Hartford, and after he got out of the insurance business they opened a bait and tackle shop.  Meeting Barb, although just a passing social connection, added depth to the trip and inspired me that day to treasure every moment and experience.  My travels have been filled with these brief but meaningful human interactions.  I am richer and more fulfilled for each one.

Fun Fact - Did you know that part of Ohio used to be Connecticut - the Connecticut Western Reserve?  Many settlers in Northeast Ohio hailed from Connecticut.  More on this in a later post I'm putting together about John Brown.

The Ohio River waterway is a key connector, both historically and currently for industrial and freight traffic.  I was lucky enough to stop in at both the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana and then catch the very end of the Sternwheel Festival in Marietta, Ohio.   I was lucky enough to see these two riverboats in a tight race down the wheel.  Hartford, Connecticut in part exists because of ill fated steamboat racing.  Captains eeking out a little extra power from their steam engines would wire the safety valves shut with occasional explosive, expensive, and tragic consequences.  You don't want to be on board when a steam pressure vessel lets go.  Captain training, boiler inspection, certification, and insurance was a cornerstone industry for Hartford.  Mark Twain's name was scattered all up and down the Ohio River Valley during my trip and I need to snag a copy of Life on the Mississippi.
Sternwheel river boats racing on the Ohio.
Roger and Betsy.  My permanent quad-hawk helmet hair.
Roger and Betsy pulled me onto the sidewalk and offered me a place to stay in Marietta, OH.  I was just passing through and had to decline, but not before they bought me a delicious brownie Sunday and I got to talk to them about their five year world-wide bicycle adventure.  Super awesome couple!  Brownie sundae topped with story telling was perfect fuel for a 15 mile end of day crank into the next riverfront campground in Wayne National Forest.
GW slept here.  Probably peed too.  I joined in the later.
I see this time spent exploring and thinking to be not unlike the journeys others took before us.  With the different connections, mental and physical, I'm finding a lot applicable to what we're doing right now in Hartford with BiCi Co.  The community bike shop that is starting at the Center for Latino Progress will obviously provide efficient and sustainable mobility for city residents.  Those residents will be empowered to fix their own beautifully simple vehicle, and in doing so will be socially making connections within our own community.   Those with functioning bicycles (with lights and secure locks) won't be confined to the vagaries of the CT Transit bus schedule for getting to and from work.  Jobs access and cultural events expand greatly with a bicycle.  Getting across a small city like Hartford on a bicycle takes half the time as a bus ride with a transfer - and the bicycle still runs after 6:30pm. (PS - Make sure you Like the BiCi Co. Facebook Page.)

At the same time BiCi Co. will be inviting those in other Hartford neighborhoods, surburban dwellers, and Hartford tourists to experience bustling Park Street.  Creating these new professional, volunteer, economic, and social ties will provide opportunities for both experiences and advancement that wouldn't otherwise happen.  The simple bicycle and riding has been compared to the next golf.  In an age where jobs are offered due to social connections, and deals are made during a conversation - this tool is critical to our city and the rising Latino population.  Those visitors will participate in and contribute to the already thriving Park Street area local economy.  The shop location at the border between Downtown Hartford and the entry to the Park Street district is perfect for enabling this cross city connection.  
Riding the river valley keeps me out of the hilly stuff.
Signs connecting people to businesses.  Easy and important.
Tunnel connecting neighborhoods.  Reusing an under used historical connection in Wheeling, WV.
A local cyclist connecting me to the best route - better than Google Maps!
James, pictured above, from the Wheeling area gave me great advice on a non-hilly route to the start of the Peninsula Rail Trail.  We rode about 10 miles together on our way North out of Wheeling.
The neatest state line marker yet.  An iron casting on the rail trail.  A border connecting states.
Sometimes the trail (and view) leave you in awe and you have to stop.
Pittsburgh is one of my favorite cities.  So sexy looking.
 Bonus points for the first person to guess (in the comments) what these brick mounted brackets are intended for.  Bonnie, my host and college friend in Pittsburgh, is pointing them out for you below.  Genius solution, really.  Pittsburgh is doing all sorts of neat stuff.  Today I'm shoving off, rather late, from Pittsburgh and jumping onto the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail.  In a couple days I'll be meeting my dad in Cumberland and he'll be joining for three days of riding on the C&O into Washington DC.
You get to guess what these awesome wall mounted brackets are for. 


Anonymous said...

Great insights Tony. A wonderful read of a great adventure. I'm guessing those gizmos on the building are for locking up a bike because that's what I'd do with them if I needed to lock up my bike. Any other usage is totally superfluous.

Anonymous said...

Above posted by Gary O'Maxfield

livnletlrn said...

Loving this travelogue. Pittsburgh is such a beautiful, vibrant city.

Jeremy said...

Hello Tony, you rode to McKeesport with Sara and I yesterday. I'm glad that I found this blog. I enjoyed talking to you and we will be looking forward to reading more on here. Enjoy and be safe! -Jeremy

Bernardo said...

The handles are so you can pull the building in/out of direct sunlight.

Tony C said...

Bernardo - You win for most creative use of building handles! Although Gary gets 1/2 credit for being technically correct.

And Jeremy - I'll be riding from Confluence to Cumberland. Longer day tomorrow on the trail with a bit of a grade over the divide. Expect I'll be coming in late. Plan on hitting dinner and drinks somewhere if you have a recommendation for a local favorite.

Jeremy Bowers said...

Uncle Jacks is on mechanic street. They have good wings, pizza, and strombolis. Of course, they also have drinks. Let me know where you decide and what time; perhaps sara and I will meet you there.

Jeremy Bowers said...
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Jeremy Bowers said...

Page's icecream has excellent shakes for dessert.

Tony C said...

Hit an Italian restaurant with the parents. Unfortunately didn't get onto WiFi until after dinner. Stopping by the farmers market (super early) tomorrow before we shove off. Want to have lots of buffer time for a slower 60 miles to Hancock.

Tony C said...
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Jeremy Bowers said...

I hope that you enjoyed your italian food. If you are back through this way sometime and want to reach out, I added you on google+. Enjoy your ride and stay safe.

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