Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving, etc.

Sometimes I feel like the things I write about in the beat bike blog are just boring rundowns of my week. I don't really have insights or sprinklings of profundity. So, here's another entry.

I thankfully got a mountain bike ride in on Thursday morning. It was slippery. I didn't take any pictures of it, but you can imagine me riding at the Reservoir. I didn't have much time, because my parents were coming to pick me up for Thanksgiving at my uncle's house in Boston, a trip which used the below-pictured bridge.

I had to work on Friday. No one else had to work and thusly Papa's Pizza was the only place open. They were friendly and made me a fish sandwich. I attempted to return from work the cool way, through the flood control, but I got there just as the guy was locking the gate. I pondered my options and decided that I should try to find a secret way around Wethersfield Cove. Lacking a canoe, I was unable to get very far. I decided those woods, or as google calls them, The Folly Brook Natural Area, are by the spookiest in Hartford (or that could be Wethersfield). When I got home, I was moody, slightly muddy and didn't have any desire to go to Critical Mass.

On Saturday, I discovered on a limb on Chandler Street with Salem & Peter.

On Sunday, Dario, Peter and I tried to go to Collinsville, but a twig ate Dario's old NR derailleur. I watched it happen, quite disturbing.

With some daylight to spare, Johanna and I took a quick romantic jaunt up to Hublein Tower via the Avon Land Trust trail. Then we went to Ichiban.

On a sad note, our friend who's a scary bunny has vacated her apartment and is officially down in New York. The Hartford glitterati is no more. :( Dan and Lex were around for some moody festivities. Read more!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Critical Turkey Mass, this friday!

[please imagine a witty flyer of some sort is this here space. perhaps a street full of turkeys riding bicycles and drinking tropical drinks...

i really thought i'd find time before arriving back in the 'beat to make a snazzy flyer, or at least one of my usual bootleg ones, but its hard to do that while traveling sometimes. especially if staying with the ECT pedicab peeps in Columbus where sleep and sobriety were not options!]

!!Critical Turkey!! It has seemed like a great idea to me for months as I looked forward to returning to Hartford for a few weeks and doing the ride with a boom box blasting tropical tunes. And then i arrived to grey skies and rain. blahhhhh!!!!

Sooo..... critical mass? maybe? The weather forecast as of 6pm Thursday calls for a Friday 6pm temp of 42 and rainy and feelin' like its 33. fuckshitdamn! that prolly ain't gonna work. perhaps we'll get a break from mother nature and if not, perhaps the ride will be very short and simply make a break for the nearest bar?
who knows? but as long as it ain't coming down too hard, i hope too see a motley crew of stubborn bike riders! Read more!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dudley Done Right

"Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." -Kurt Vonnegut

I've always been fond of both that quote and peculiar travel suggestions in general. This is why I was all ears when El Prez put forth the proposition that we should ride our bikes from Hartford to a bike show and swap meet in Dudley, Massachusetts this past Saturday. He mapped out a route that would take us through 50+ miles of northeastern CT and Massachusetts backroads to the Do-Right Flea Market in Dudley. Even if you are not in the best shape (like me, for instance), 50+ miles isn't that bad if you are taking your time and have a decent road bike, so naturally we set out on a trio of machines that were inherently ill-suited for distance touring.

Rich was astride his Breezer city bike (which actually wasn't that terrible a choice), El Prez on his 1960's Raleigh Twenty folding bike and me on a 50+ pound Yuba cargo bike with at least another 30 pounds of stuff lashed to it. I had wanted to try the cargo bike out for a loaded camping excursion in early October, but hadn't had the time, so I was curious to see how a loaded long haul would go. I hung my ginormous cargo bag on the right hand side for some clothes, tools and spares and installed my Tuscan Dairytech 2000 pannier on the left, where I stowed a cooler, lock and some spare clothes and drinking vessels I wanted semi-close at hand.

I should mention here that I am not a distance cyclist. I am not a distance anything. When I used to run, I was a short distance sprinter and nothing else. 100 and 200 meter dashes were my races. 400 meters might as well have been a marathon. The last time I rode a bicycle anything in the neighborhood of 50 miles in a day was a weekend I spent in the Catskills riding on my old Shogun Selectra when I was 16. Now I am more than double that age and the loaded Yuba weighs more than triple what the old steel road bike weighed. No biggie, though. The prescribed pace for the ride was relaxed; chill, even. I had it in writing, so off we went.

What a nice ride! Having grown up in the NYC area and its vast surrounding suburban sprawl, I still marvel at how quickly one can get from inner-city Hartford to a rural setting if you choose your route well. Traffic was almost nonexistent as we made our way through the North End and though the Windsors. We had room to ride three abreast and chat as we rode, the flat roads making for easy cadence. As it got hillier, I fell back a bit. There were frequent breaks, or rather, El Prez and Rich had frequent breaks waiting for me at the top of each hill. We had some group-wide stops to snack and hydrate and check out the occasional abandoned farm or racetrack. People have a lot of cool old tractors, wagons, sheds and quonset huts east of the river. I have long wanted a quonset hut of my very own to serve as my workshop, laboratory and studio. That would be the proverbial shit. There were sights aplenty - lots of farmland, the Yale forest, quaint New England towns and a magnificently badass 4X4 El Camino were among the natural and man-made wonders we observed.

There are a lot of hills between here and Dudley. As the hours wore on, my threshold for dropping into the lowest gear combination got progressively lower. As I climbed hill after hill, I became intimately acquainted with each of them, getting to know their unique characteristics; varied textures of tarmac, bits of debris, species and conditions of roadkill, and the living flora and fauna of this mostly rural route. I also began to develop a certain hatred for every climb. It was a low-level hatred, mind you, as I'd known what I was thrusting upon myself when I set off this morning on the heaviest bike I've ever owned. My hatred was pragmatic, tempered with reason. I did not despise these hills with every fiber of my being, no no, just the fibers of my being that begin about 10" below my knees and end about 10" above them. The remaining fibers that make up my being were having a perfectly great time looking about and enjoying the beautiful weather, independent of my churning, mutinous leg muscles.

Then came Dudley. We arrived a good deal later than the already late time we had predicted. By the time we got to the flea market building, the bike show and swap event had ended. There were a few vendors lingering about in the parking lot, so we got a healthy dose of old bike ogling just the same. I still got to check out some sweet old balloon-tire bikes and French and British Iron in the parking lot. I'm not really into muscle bikes, but some of them were so over-the-top they brought a smile to my face. The flea market was above and beyond any that I have been to before. In addition to the usual flea market selection of old furniture, books, memorabilia, and such there were at least three airplanes and several vintage biplane engines, plus a small helicopter, and this was all indoors!

As it happened, we found a small pickup truck outside of the flea market with the keys in it. We rejoiced in our good fortune, loaded up the bikes and folded ourselves into its tiny cab.

We stopped for some good Thai food at one of the few places in downtown Dudley that wasn't an empty storefront or a tattoo parlor before making the drive back to Hartford. I was sore as hell, but had a great day.
Read more!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Santa with a Gun

Today I joined the US Marine Corps sponsored Toys for Tots ride in Agawam, MA. Eventually, I will learn to post these events BEFORE I do them so as to encourage others to join, but for now, a recap must suffice. There's always next year--mark you calendars.

My friend Steve, who strategically bought a house in Agawam along side Robinson State Park, runs this ride each year, where, for donating a new toy, you get a tour of some of the most twisty, buff, twisty, smooth, and twisty singletrack I've seen in New England. There was also a raffle and all the hot chocolate you could drink. Eyeball estimates for the event ranged from 50 to 200, which means a lot of plastic from China was donated. I'd say a good time was had by at least 20 to 2,000 people, although, after the ride, someone observed that the pace at any charity ride is harder than the average race one might do. This was likely an exaggeration, but I did get to make some good efforts chasing the group after repeatedly dropping the chain on my single speed until it dawned on me to tighten the qr skewer.

Lastly, when the conversation turned to the idea of a bike part swap meet, I mentioned the idea I've proffered to Brendan for the next Eel, once someone figures out where that should be. I suggest making the entry a new or used bike part with an estimated street value of $10+. We make a prize table, and people make a selection in order of finish, and any remaining parts get donated to the Hartford Bicycle Coalition. Ok, really I've just trying to figure out what to do with all the parts in my basement that I can't use, but are too good to toss? 165mm 600/Ultegra crank arms anyone?
Read more!


Yesterday, I went down to Cheshire Park for the Cheshire CX. Last year, I was getting over a cold at this race and it was brutally cold and windy. I know that's not something you complain about in 'cross, but you can't help but take note of it. Such was not the case yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day, with a temperature right around 60. I really enjoyed this course last year, because it has a long fast stretch of rolling double track through the woods. This year's course had a more developed artificially twisty section near the spectating and registration pavilion. I'm getting better at riding those things, so I kind of like it now.

In terms of my actual race, I had a good start and I thought I was maybe sixth or seventh into the first turn. I passed a couple of guys in the first and second lap and then maintained that position until well into the final (fourth) lap. There was this Cyclonauts guy, whom I passed earlier on, catching back up to me. I was pretty sure that I was going to be able to hold him off until the finish. And I would have, except that I tripped over the last barrier and landed on my face. It didn't hurt, but you aren't moving as fast sprawled out on the ground as you are when you remounted on your bike and pedaling again. I couldn't catch him.

It would seem my estimate of my position was quite inaccurate, because the Cyclonaut and I were actually contesting 2 & 3, not 5 & 6. So, in a big surprise, I ended up finishing third. Who'd have thought that I was riding in second for most of the race? Of course, this is still Cat 4...

Today, Johanna and I are going to Macedonia Brook State Park. I like that park a lot. It even has a large pile of rocks, acting as a physical challenge. It's not quite as cool as the physical challenge at People's State Forest, but I like it all the same. It's also not nearly as difficult as hiking down
the Flume Trail at Franconia.
That first picture is me trying to recreate one of those vintage cyclocross pictures that everyone is so into these days. In person, it really looked like that, especially because Salem and Dario wear a lot of wool and were riding fixed gears. Regrettably, my cell phone camera doesn't work very well in low light.

Oh, I also won some socks. Read more!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I picked it up this morning. My very own pre-owned portable repair stand. Every young man's dream. I met up with the seller in Bristol and hung out in the rendezvous parking lot talking bikes for a bit before moving on. Moving on, I visited a scooter shop in Plainville, the owner of which is a longtime avid cyclist in addition to selling the self-propelled variety of two-wheelers. With everyone and their bandmates trying to rock a track bike these days, it was refreshing to hang out with someone who has actually raced them on tracks.

On the way home, I stopped off at Renaissance Cyclery in Plainville, where three well-traveled looking bikes were parked out front. They were pretty well loaded, with two out of the three towing trailers. Inside the shop I met the trio known as Team Bowditch, who are riding from Maine to California to raise money for breast cancer research. Nice folks. I wish them well.

Back in Hartford, I cleared a place of honor for the work stand in the room that some well-intentioned architect once intended for dining. I have every intention of this room being used once again someday for the consumption of meals, but for now it is a de facto workshop. The first thing I clamped into place was my ratty and beloved old Trek 720. The stand will make it much easier to tackle the long-postponed annoyance of replacing the bottom bracket on that particular frame. The right hand side retaining cup captures the bracket for the front derailleur, a mid-nineties practice that was geared toward ease of manufacture rather than serviceability.

I'm replacing the worn 24-32-38 crankset with a shiny new 22-32-42 one, which means the derailleur needs to be higher, which means the aforementioned stupid bracket needs to go to make way for one of the more reasonable clamp-on variety. Unfortunately, years of northeastern rain and snow exposure has oxidized that stubborn little cup firmly in place beyond the magical powers of PB Blaster, breaker bar or an impact wrench, and some precision hacksaw action is called for. It's still going to be an obnoxious job, but the stand should make it less vexing by leaps and bounds. I've had sort of a mental block about overhauling this particular bike, but it needs to be ridden again. More on that another time...
Read more!


Not sure if any of you heard about the sink hole yesterday, but that right's where the Hockanum Trail is that I've talked about lately. Read more!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Next Eel?

Last Sunday, Salem & Peter Waite organized a ride off into the hinterland off towards Lake Pocotopaug. It was fun, friendly and ended with a pot luck (and it was quite wet). Maybe that's what the next Eel should be like. Or maybe not. Competitive is cool, too. However, the problem I'm having figuring out to do a competitive Eel is that people may get lost with what I'd to do.

A view from the Keney tennis courts.

I've prattled on about "mountain biking" or at the least the dirt to ride in Hartford and closely adjacent places. It'd be really cool to make a race of it, but like, everyone would get lost or at least they'd be focusing on a map a lot. It'd also be cool to just do a group ride with a pot luck. Which is preferable? What do you think? Is racing actually fun? At the first Eel, it was pretty tough to keep everyone going the right way, thus I rode the first lap with everyone. Even then, I think I recall Josh ending up on the railroad bridge. Also, it's hard to disperse prizes if participants aren't time. Maybe there's another way to judge: ride this route and come back with the coolest photograph or object? Best story?

Another view from the Keney tennis courts

I think you can do like a 30 mile loop. Or, maybe a 50 miler if you head all the way down to the ferry in Rocky Hill. So, does anyone want to do this. Can it be done as race? Does anyone care? Does anyone want to help me? I think there was something cool about the first Eel, I'd like to keep that going.

Read more!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Tortoiclist and the Hare

Riding up Main Street in East Hartford today it seemed I had unintentionally engaged in an fabulous race with a transit bus (which I'm pleased to say clearly advertised the new three foot car/bike passing rule). True to the tale, the bus would zip by me, but then tire and need to rest while unloading and loading passengers. The lead changed hands five or six times, but Aesop would be proud: the tortoise won the day, or at least I turned off for the Charter Oak bridge before the bus could retake the lead.

Maybe Hartford Transit should start a promotion like Denny's used to do with their 10 minute breakfasts: "Faster than a bike or it's free!"

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Postcard from Glenwood Canyon in Colorado


Interstate 70 finds a way through the west side of the mighty Rockies via Glenwood Canyon, a beautiful drive many of us have prolly made driving cross country. This time, I noticed the multi-use path along the river and decided to check it out since I had my bike with me. Wow! This thing is a feat of engineering in which the builders really worked hard to preserve trees and the canyon and not just blast though....and it shows! If you ever find yourself driving through here and want a fantastic break, bust out yer bike or walking shoes and go exploring. I think there's about a dozen or so miles of path.
It's super fresh to see the tunnels for cars while gallivanting under the dang road! The road noise varies depending where the trail is in relation to the cars and trucks.

The trail moves from the sides of the Interstate, to under, to next to and all over again as the roads and trails meander through the steep, twisty canyon. Its sometimes awkward and noisy with speeding cars a few meters away, sometimes strangely peaceful and quiet, but always surreal. so very urban in many ways, but in a huge natural canyon.

You usually don't share a path with paddlers carrying boats in Hartford!

But then again, the Hog River doesn't have much great white water to paddle! Not that there aren't some great adventures to be had paddling in Hartford, or for that matter, under Hartford!

There's some artwork along the way including this memorial which was enjoyable and musical

more pics...

I wasn't the only cyclist enjoying watching the paddlers bob up and down through the rapids.

The scenery and break from driving made me quite happy!

so did an avocado after the ride!

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I Heart Wrenching

I have been wrenching on a lot of vehicles lately. A few good friends of mine have had parts fail or wear out on their bikes and cars in the past two weeks, and it seems I have assumed the role of fleet manager/transportation coordinator. For the most part, the bike repairs are the more pleasant to deal with, though with both bikes and cars, a good repair stand (or lift) improves the experience exponentially. At the moment, I have no such stand, so my back is getting sore. If Park Tool or Pedro's would like to send me a repair stand for testing or review, I'll be sure to keep Beat Bike Blog readers well informed about my experience with it.

One recent ongoing project sort of bridges the two worlds: getting a car back up to snuff so that it can be sold for good. The owner is going carless, and will be depending on a pair of older bikes or public transit for transportation. Giving up a reliable Honda for a beater mountain bike and an early 60's 3-speed is a bold move, and one that I applaud. Many or most would consider it crazy, but it makes a lot of sense. The car gets driven rarely and consequently sits around taking up space, insurance payments and property taxes. Who needs it? I removed the starter from her car a few nights ago and pedaled home with that ungainly hunk of metal drooping in my pannier. I switched to a milk crate before heading off to the auto parts store to get a rebuilt one. That looked so ghetto. The guys at Napa were not amused.

My favorite mechanic of any sort is a man named Mike. He ran a Volvo repair shop in rough part of Paterson, New Jersey that appeared abandoned save for the open door and the sound of classical music and gruff obscenities coming from within. Mike was a mad scientist of sorts, crafting bizarre hopped-up hot-rodded 70's and 80's Volvos that looked like crap and blew the doors off of unsuspecting BMWs and Mustangs. He was semi-retired, spending a lot of time on his own projects while picking and choosing customers to actually do repair work for. He was intimidating, spouting engineering terms and army stories peppered with cuss words and vulgarities. He chain-smoked and pounded countless cups of black coffee from the nearby White Castle (I quickly learned there was no better public relations move than showing up with a fresh cup). The shop restroom was like "The worst toilet in Scotland" scene in Trainspotting. Mike did not suffer fools gladly, and his high standard for what constituted a fool meant that he was pretty easy to piss off. I'm still not entirely sure how, but I managed to get on his good side.

I showed up at his shop one day a dozen or so years ago seeking help with my 1979 245 wagon, which had inconveniently developed a cracked cylinder head at the same time my bank account had developed a very low balance. Never one to sugar-coat things, Mike explained that I had navigated my way far up the proverbial fecal creek. After a few moments of contemplation, Mike asked me if I thought I could change a cylinder head. When I replied that I was willing to learn he sold me a rebuilt cylinder head and all of the needed parts to replace the old one at a discount. He handed me a large, greasy cardboard box full of parts and said, "Take it apart, put it back together, call me if you have any questions." It took me a little while and I called him more than twice for advice, but I learned how to change a cylinder head. This was a pivotal event in my relationship with machines.

Mike is my favorite mechanic because he has never repaired anything for me. He saw that I was in a bad spot and turned that into a teaching moment, and for that I remain grateful . This concept is by no means limited to aging station wagons. We can all get more involved in keeping our own bikes and other devices working as they should. Flat tires, broken chains and other failures don't have to mean a long, forlorn walk home. Our bikes give us greater freedom of movement. They free us from big oil and other ugly institutions every time we choose them over a car to get around. Learning to maintain and repair them is another layer, notch, level or what-have-you of independence. Obviously, not everyone needs to be a master mechanic. You may not really want to work on your bike at all, and that's perfectly fine, if it's not your bag. You don't need to embrace the tinkering aspect of bicycling to enjoy it. That said, it IS worth learning to fix a flat tire at the very least, and know how to handle a few emergency repairs so you don't find yourself stranded. Knowing how to repair things out in the field is like CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver. You hope you'll never need those skills, but you'll be damn glad you learned them if you do.

The Hartford Public Library has a few bike repair manuals in its collection. Some are up-to-date, some of them date from the 70's or 80's which suits me fine, as many of the bikes I like and come across date from that era. "Richards' Bicycle Repair Manual" and Tom Cuthbertson's "Anybody's Bike Book" are two favorites, an 80's version of the latter title being the first bike repair book I ever read many years ago. "Richards'.." has an especially useful and amusing section on emergency repairs. Found objects figure prominently in their "limp home mode" solutions.

I know that many of the people I know through this blog do a fair amount of work on their own bikes. I also know that many people who read this and ride bikes haven't had much opportunity to learn how to do their own work and might even feel a bit intimidated by the idea. I hope that those of you in the first group will take some time to share some knowledge, tools, parts and camaraderie with those in the latter group. The bicycle scene in Hartford can only get stronger from this sort of sharing, and the benefits flow both ways.

A friend came by yesterday whose well-used commuter bike had been in need of attention for a long time. She had been to one of the free repair clinics at a local outdoorsy retail chain a while ago (now out-of-season, but worth checking out), but didn't have the tools and such to keep up with the normal wear-and-tear of daily riding. We checked and removed the chain and thoroughly cleaned and lubed everything drivetrain-related as a team effort. I trued the wheels so that a set of new brake pads could be adjusted closer to the rims. She just called me from work this morning to thank me again for how quiet and smooth her bike now rides and remind me that I had a homemade black bean chili dinner coming my way (she happens to be an awesome cook.) The benefits flow both ways.
Read more!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wild rice and scenic lice

For some reason, I've had a hard time picking up the blogging machine and writing an entry. It's not like I've been avoiding my bike or there's been a shortage of funny bike-related anecdotes, I've just been word weak. I told Mary V Rickel Pelletier that I'd promote the Wild and Scenic Film Fest thing at Trinity on here, but I guess I need some accompanying bike stuff to go with it.

Let's see...

On Tuesday, I took a ride with Salem, his friend Gary from that big state out west, and others. It started off like a normal ride with 'cross bike: we rode on some roads and then in a park. There was a lot of almost losing lights, but it turns out none of them were ever lost. Then at six, we met up with this group ride that rides the Hop River State Park Trail in the dark starting from Manchester to someplace in maybe Columbia, Bolton or Coventry, I don't really know. I had no idea this trail existed until very recently. It's very nice and has some tunnels. The ride split into the fast group and the not as fast group. Riding with the not as fast group was nice. At the turn around point (where ever it was), I soon learned the worst time to get a flat tire on a fast a group ride: shortly after the turn around. Everyone has regrouped, is ready to hammer back, is thinking intensely about the hammering and is not thinking about much else. So, when I pulled to the side to see if I had a flat, I wasn't really part of anyone's consciousness. I set to work on fixing the flat, which was difficult because I was without tire levers. I was just about to improvise with the quick release when someone rolled up on a 'cross bike, but wasn't on the ride. It was slightly weird, because I was in the middle of the woods at night in rural Connecticut, but I guess one should never underestimate the popularity of whatever it was that we were doing. This nice gentleman had levers and I was back in business without having to resort to quick release improvisation. We started riding back together, but this guy was faster than me. So, I had a peaceful and pleasant solitary ride back.

On Wednesday, I had the day off. I read about CT-NEMBA doing a ride at some place called Grayville Park in Hebron. I decided to mix it up and join them. I also knew that I had to clean up all the bike stuff in the kitchen and living room because Johanna was getting mad about it (with good reason). I was moving things to the basement and in the basement, I discovered a bag with tubes in it. I decided that the tubs shouldn't be in the bag anymore and removed them, only to discover a cute little bat. At first I thought he was dead, but I juggled the bag and he moved in a living fashion. It was warm outside, so I put him under a leaf in the backyard.

So, anyway, I drove down RT 2 to Hebron and rode. Nice guys. Nice trails. It had been awhile since I rode an actual mountain bike. I remembered why I like them.

If you trackstand with one hand in a picture, it actually looks like you're tracking standing. I stole the picture from Mark at Cyclesnack/CT-NEMBA.

So, here's the film fest info:

please join us Saturday afternoon:
Wild & Scenic Film Festival:
Saturday, November 14th at
2:30pm matinee
Cinestudio on the campus of Trinity College

Eight new environmental adventure films selected from the Patagonia Wild & Scenic Film Festival. See magnificent places on a big screen. (full festival program copied below)

$12 advance tickets on sale now by calling REI (860) 233-2211
pick-up tickets purchased via telephone at the door
Call now - 9pm Friday evening for advance ticket discount.

{ticket price at door = $20.}

If you are not able to attend, please consider purchasing "community" ticket/s ($12) in advance on behalf of "Inner City Outings and/or City of Hartford "Urban Adventures" Program. For telephone ticket sales, call REI 233-2211 or visit the REI store in BlueBack Square, West Hartford.
This is a fund raising event for Park Watershed Revitalization Initiative and Farmington River Watershed Association. A summary of 'Last Descent' is listed in Thursday's Hartford Courant:
Mary Rickel Pelletier
Project Director, Park River Watershed Revitalization Initiative
in collaboration with the Farmington River Watershed Association

Oh yeah, there was also a bomb scare at work yesterday. That was weird. Read more!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What big eyes you have...

...and a pretty broad, flat tail as well.

I was riding back down through Hartford this afternoon on my trip home, and after crossing the bridge, I opted for a pleasant roll along the water in East River Park.

It seems beaver don't have a very good sense of scale. I've seen evidence of this before, when one started working on a four foot diameter tree near my house a few years back. Well, now it appears those industrious mammals are trying to dam the Connecticut river, with a lot of trees along the bank showing evidence of their work. I've heard of biting off more than you can chew (aww, ouch, bad pun), but this is ridiculous. Then again, it could be this beaver, in which case you'd better check your flood insurance.

Read more!

Being thankful

People often complain about the bike and pedestrian infrastructure in the Hartford area. I generally disagree, though I generally disagree with everyone.

Friday and Saturday, I was in suburban DC (Wheaton, MD) visiting my grandma. I went for a walk on Saturday evening around 7pm and I was bowled over by how terrible the traffic is. All the main roads have six lanes and are always busy. I have no idea how you'd get anywhere without a car. The Metro stop was maybe two miles away, but all the roads that bring you there and six lanes of dangerous. The only road like that around here is rt 44. I guess Hartford is pretty good.

Dario and I took a ride today and almost all of the roads were pleasant.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

A Town of Four Bridges

Living on the east side of the river, as I do, and living in a town without a bike accessible bridge, as again I do, I make frequent use of Hartford's selection of river crossing. Like yesterday, after crossing early in the day on Middletown's Arrigoni Bridge,

Arrigoni Bridge as seen by Peter Waite

I rode north, returning to my own shore via the Charter Oak Bridge. It was covered in glass. This often is the case with this bridge, such as when I was returning from a three day tour and covered over 250 miles without incident until I ripped open a tire on this span, and while I did not suffer such a fate yesterday, I caused me to muse how different the four crossing in Hartford are. They aren't just means to cross the river; they are personalities, each a unique experience.

Starting at the south, the aforementioned Charter Oak. A bit like Texas: big, tall, and a little wild west. If you seek glass shards, damaged handrails on the pedestrian stairs, and close encounters of the high speed motor scooter kind, this is your bridge. Just be sure to slow down for the perpetual puddle of water before beginning the ramp descent on the west side. Of course, this is the closest bridge to my house.

Working our way north, we have the crowning jewel of bicycle river crossings, the Founder Bridge. This isn't just a sidewalk or lane; we're talking promenade here. Lighting, statues, even a park ranger: Brendan sums this one up best, "I don't like it; it's too nice." No doubt, this is your best chance for a rare walking-yuppie sighting, as long as you don't scare them off.

Ah Bulkeley, you've always been there for us, providing a crossing for the motorless all these years, but now we've left you for better and wider lanes. If you always liked the idea of riding singletrack, but could never get into the whole dirt, rocks, sticks, and poisen ivy thing, this would make a good substitute, just remember to duck you head for the 91S/84E interchange and get ready with the binders for the 90 degree kink lest you have an intimate experience with a car accellerating to highway speeds.

Now last, and the most recent new experience for me, the train trestle out of Riverside Park, this one, like the old Riverside Amusement Park (now 6 Flags), is for the thrill seeker. Not quite "Stand by Me" exciting, it still has a not-ready-for-public-consumption feel to it. This probably has something to do with the fact that is probably isn't a legal crossing. But really, how can you pass on the allure of rubber tires on wood planks. Crossing this bridge reinforces just how good it is to be alive, assuming you don't fall to your death.

Don't get your feet wet.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

(semi)urban mountain biking

So, I want to do this compendium of urban mountain biking in and around Hartford. I don't really have anything coherent yet, but I found something new (to me) to in East Hartford: the Hockanum River Hiking Trail. It's got an orange blaze and is maybe a half a mile long. It loops you back to the rest of the Hockanum River system's boardwalk. Parts of it are very cool, but it was very leaf-covered and hard to track today. It passes a really cool looking dam.

Oh yeah, I saw this crazy truck in front of City Hall today. I guess the dam picture didn't come out that great. Read more!