Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sometimes the best turns...

...are the wrong ones.

Looking to build on last fall's Detour de Connecticut success, or as Brendan put it, "Nobody died," I've been scoping out an expansion of the route while scaling back some the aerobatic bridge crossing and river fording. As of today, I'm pretty sure I have it, but more on that later--watch this space.

More to the subject line, I was out east again today on a scouting mission, when I didn't check my notes and rode up Ballamahack instead of Back Road. Hey, they both start with "B." I'm guessing Back is pretty nice as well, but Ballamahack treated me to a not-quite dead end, turning into an unimproved woods road, descending past an old homestead and finally finishing at a beautiful little hidden pond.

I even managed to find some more old roadways to take me back to civilization after a brief walk through the woods on a the far side of the pond. I love it when a backfired plan comes together.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Sue the MDC

Quick, while you still have the chance, sue the West Hartford Reservoir. Brendan and I rode there today. I had a good time, but I still don't like the place. I annoyed Brendan a lot by telling how I don't like riding there, even though I was smiling the whole time. I'm funny like that. So, if enough people get in before legislation is passed and sue the pants off the MDC, I surely won't have to ride there anymore. I should start a committee, or an action group, whatever that is. So, sue, sue, sue.
The people in this slide are posing as the revolutionary heroes who fought to free us from the yoke of the English crown, and give us the right to sue anyone we want. For example, Brendan could sue me for taking a picture of him, looking at the slide, without his permission. You'd think he was posing for the shot, but no, I just violated him silly and candidly. He should definitely sue me.
And here's Brendan again, but this time he knew I was taking the picture, so I'm probably safe. That said, someone should sue the Beat Bike Blog for the sticker on what's left of a pay phone. Who do we think we are. Actually, we didn't put the sticker there, but someone should probably sue us anyway to be safe.
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I, testify!

Public hearing season is almost done and there's one more recreational liability bill up for a hearing, this time it's before the judiciary committee. Go testify or submit written testimony. Here are the details:

If you care about recreational access to your municipal lands, you need to help NOW.

Last July, over 700 people attended a public hearing in West Hartford to let the MDC know that closing its lands to public recreation because of liability concerns would be unacceptable. Since then we have been working with State Legislators to restore recreational liability protection to municipalities. This is the same liability protection enjoyed by private landowners and the state of Connecticut, and the same protection that municipalities had enjoyed for 25 years before a court case (Conway v. Wilton) took it away.

On April 4th at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, the Judiciary Committee will be holding a public hearing on H.B. 6557


charlie [Beristain]
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spooky mountain rally

I've played with the idea for a little while and I think I want to go through with it.

It'd be a two hour race made out of Goodwin Park and Cedar Mountain, coming out to 9 miles or so per lap. I think that'd mean that you'd get two or three laps (you'd have to fit two laps in two hours, to start lap three). This could be fun, right? You'll be scored on speed, style and intelligence. Beginning of May? Rideable on either a 'cross bike or mountain bike, I'd say.

Anybody interested?

Another Eel!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The woods are still there

Last fall, Dario, Salem and I had an appointment in Berlin. We rode there by way of Cedar Mountain. While in the spooky woods, we encounter a woman who was sad that all the trees were being cut down to make way for a subdivision. That didn't sound good, though it did explain the orange bands on lots and lots of trees. However, it did seem strange that any would want to build a subdivision in this economy.

I haven't been back in the woods since the end of December and when I rode through there it was evident that something with big tires had been through. It hasn't really taken down any trees, so I don't know what the big-wheel thing was doing in there. Bulldozer off roading?

Today, I rode over there in the romantic sleet and the trees were all still present. The spooky woods are still standing and hopefully will be forever. Read more!

Power Walking

If you look really closely under the leftmost stack of power line insulators,
you probably still can't see Hartford in this grainy photo.

While riding in falling snow can be fun, I had my fill of it this winter, so with the white precipitation and my right hamstring feeling a twinge strained (my saddle height was fine, but my shoes were too low!), I took today's exercise in a the form of a walk out the power lines near my father's house and into the Meshomasic state forest. I've ridden those woods a lot, but walking affords a different perspective, increased ability to wander off-trail, and more time to snap photos.

Above: an old airplane hanger finally succumbed to the weight of winter snow.
Below: X marks the spot for a ridiculous and big fishmonger's house.
(yes, again with the small, grainy photo)

And, from the files of rednecks giving rednecks a bad name:
The serenity of natural environs

What may appear as golden strands are the rusted steel belts of automotive tires,
for the sweet taste of burnt rubber with your s'mores.

Don't let all the spent shells frighten you; it will only encourage them.
On second thought, go ahead, be afraid.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

A (ride from the) City of Two Tales

It all started with the Eel. I met Brendan; I started riding with Brendan. Eventually, I rose to the lofty status of Beat Bike Blog contributor. Of course, I kept riding with Brendan and would sometimes mention the possibility that we'd end up writing about the same ride. Well, the day has arrived. Sorry, here you go.

Salem got a new bike. It looks a little like this Huffy that he once made me take and subsequently....

Oh, wait, my lawyers have informed me I can't just copy his post, you know, plagiarism and all that. So, here goes.

It's true, I have a new used bike. The previous owner decided the original brown paint was too butt ugly, so he had it repainted a buttier and uglier black. Or, as famed frame builder and saver of steel frames, Peter Weigle once told me, painting a frame black means you gave up. He didn't specify what you gave up, but I have a sense of what he means. Despite all that, I rather like the new beast, although it does have an appetite for seatpost extension, swallowing a full 2" of it on today's maiden (for me--really, she's an ol' whore) voyage, and I have been compared to a certain princess with a pea based sleeping disorder, so low saddle heights don't sit well with me.

Believe it or not, I didn't actually intend that pun; they just sort of happen.

But as some possibly drug addled fellow once said, it's not about the bike. Even more so, it's not about the cell phone, which Brendan was so giddy to document me using. For those that don't know my curmudgeonly eccentricities, I'm quite the Luddite. I'll spare you the details, and trust me, if you knew, you'd thank me for that. So the phone, it was given to me by a friend who works for Nextel or whatever they're called now; it was her old one and has no service, but by FCC law can still be used to call 911.

Here's the picture I was taking when Brendan caught me in that compromising position.

So anyway, the ride, it was really fun, but you already know that. Brendan told you so.
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Nem buh!

Salem got a new bike. It looks a little like this Huffy that he once made me take and subsequently took back from me because he liked that bottom bracket, uh, bracket thing. It was sort of like an eccentric bottom bracket bracket, but the bottom bracket wasn't eccentric. I guess it was like a bottom bracket spacer. Anyway, I digress. It's a Bianchi B.u.S.S..

Salem and I went for a bike ride today. We rode down to the nemba ride at the Blow Hole. I learned a few new trails there that makes the place a little more of a destination and less of a pass through. For a small park, there really is some great singletrack.

Then we rode home. Salem got a phone call.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

What's Your Excuse?

On her bicycle, an elderly person was able to escape the tsunami in Japan.

I find it impossible to listen to stories like this without immediately wondering how people in the United States have grown to be so soft. During most of the year, people in Connecticut find excuses for not biking. "It's too rainy. It's too cold. It's snowing. It's dark and someone might stab me. The humidity might make me sweat."

Do you think this woman ever thought for a second, "Oh, I can't get on my bike. I'm too old and it's too wet outside"? Read more!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Summer employment

You know who's hiring? Kingdom Trails is. All sorts of summer employment stuff, including being a mountain bike patroller. Need something to do between May and October? This could be it.
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Mundo Gordos

The stock wheels on my Yuba Mundo had served me well for the umpteen months I had been riding the bike full time, and I had not been particularly gentle on them. Experiments with very heavy loads and a few impromptu off-roading adventures had put them through more than their share of abuse. They hadn't required re-truing since they were new, but the sweet muse of rationalization assured me it was time for new wheels.

I did have a few minor complaints about the wheels, the first being that the single-wall rims made tire bead seating annoying (especially with the O.E. Schwalbe Big Apple tires, which had "relaxed fit" beads) and that the loose ball-bearing rear hub seemed to need attention more often than I would consider reasonable. Also, the original Quando front hub, while perfectly functional, caused prolonged loops of Englebert Humperdink to play in my head as the logo flashed repeatedly into view when I rode slowly.

The primary reason I wanted to build new wheels for the Yuba was my epiphany on dynamo hub lighting during the darkest hours of September's ill-conceived Coventry trip. As long as I was building a new dyno front wheel, it seemed like a good time to upgrade the rear wheel to a 7-speed freewheel (it was 6 speed! Why Yuba, why?) and cartridge-bearing hub like the "V-3" Mundos have (mine is a "V-2") I chose my components, waited for sales and coupons to come up and accumulated the necessary parts over the next few months.

The hub choices were easy. I wanted a disc-ready 36 hole dynamo hub for the front. There were two choices: Schmidt or Shimano. With Schmidt hubs retailing for $300+, there was really only one choice. I bought a black 36 hole Shimano Alfine hub from Harris Cyclery. A Hartford expat friend who works near Harris picked it up for me and brought it to the Real Ride, saving me the time and expense of shipping. The rear hub is a Modus-branded Yuba-specific anomoly: 48 holes, 135mm O.L.D. with a 14mm solid axle, cartridge bearings and old-school freewheel threading. Short of custom fabricating such a beast from bmx parts and unobtanium, Yuba was the only source. Luckily, it was reasonably priced. Yuba has since introduced a disc brake version of this hub for the disc-ready V-3 Mundos which would make for better dishing.

It seemed that I had two choices for a matching pair of rims. The only rim brake compatible 26" rims I could find in both 36 and 48 hole drillings were the Sun Rhyno Lite and the Salsa Gordo. I later learned that the Velocity Chukker and Psycho were both available in 36 and 48 hole as well, though at a 50+% price premium over the Salsa. I had been running a 36 hole Rhyno Lite (with a lackluster generic hub) up front on the Yuba ever since I converted it to a front disc brake. I went with the Gordos to try something new (I hadn't built any Salsa rims before) and because they were available in black in both drillings, which matches the hubs and tends to look more presentable while dirty than silver rims. Since these are the wheels most likely to be around when someone inquires about wheelbuilding, I like for them to look their best.

I assembled the wheels using DH13s, which are Wheelsmith's heavy-duty double-butted baaad muthashutyomouth spokes. The 13 gauge elbows were a nice, snug fit in the Alfine dynohub, but downright loose and jangly in the gaping holes of the Modus hub.

I found #4 brass washers at the ever-awesome Park Hardware and bought 50 of them, knowing that I would inevitably drop one or two of them and lose them under the stove. I placed them on a piece of wood and gave them each a good whack with a tapered punch. The resulting dished washers made for a perfect fit.

The front wheel was a great build. Everything quickly and efficiently came into uniform truth and tension. Beautiful! The rear wheel took disproportionally longer than its extra 12 spokes might have promised. It ended up sitting in the truing stand for a few days getting finished in a series of 15-minute sessions of miniscule corrections until the truth, tension and dish were optimal. My bedtime breaks with a cup of tea and a spoke wrench made for a nice winding-down ritual in December.

My new wheels were pressed into service at the very end of 2010. It was a fitting New England baptism of some of the harshest conditions we've seen in years. They have spent the past few months slinging salt, grit and slushy snow and conquering a bumper crop of fresh potholes. I'm thoroughly pleased with the wheels and positively delighted with the dynamo lighting. I sprung for a new set of tires while I was freshening up the rolling stock, but I'll save the tire review for another day (ditto the light). Read more!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Be Afraid...

I have a tendency to collect useful items from the side of the road. Granted, some of those items won't find their use with me for many years or longer, but I never know when I'm going to need a spare exhaust hanger or anti-roll bar bushing, so I grab them just to be on the safe side. Sometimes, even, providence shines extra brightly on me like when I found the 12" Crescent adjustable wrench (perfect of 1" threaded headsets) or more recently, my GIANT channel lock pliers or today's mini wire cutters.

Yet I've just taken note of a new, unexplained trend; in the last two days I've found three rather healthy rolls of electrical tape. Yes, a watchful cyclist need rarely buy tape, but this, by my wholly unscientific analysis, is beyond a standard deviation for my normal rate of windfall findings, especially for one specific item. Hmmm. Having given it some though, I've come to the (again, unscientific) conclusion that, after a winter of excitement on slippery and ever more snow-encroached roads, CT drivers are no longer satisfied with the level of distraction offered by cell phone use, texting, reading, make-up application, and pet grooming. To appease their increased tolerance, they've taken to rewiring the dash of their cars while driving, letting the electrical tape fall where it may. Be very afraid.

(Remember, it's free to read this blog, and you get what you pay for.)

On a completely different note, if you want to know what happened to a bunch of the snow removed from sidewalks, buildings, and parking lots around Hartford, or just think HUGE piles of snow are still kinda cool, head up Windsor Street from where it crosses under the railroad tracks.

I'd estimate 25 feet tall and much longer than I managed to capture from this angle
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Monday, March 14, 2011

We are not soft!

While Salem rode off to some towns no one has heard of, we three remaining Snails, filled with coffee rode our bikes, too. Hard! Really hard! We rode up Bunker Hill and it's really steep, like 80% or something. After that, we had to ride up Turkey Shit Road, which is like 115%! These hills were so steep, Dario had to shift and that's a very involved process that involves taking his wheel off and a lot of math.

Just when I thought I was safe, I had to go out to dinner! Then Johanna and I looked at baby pictures of me (I was just as awesome then as I am now). Then I met my parents and got a free beer.

Sunday was no easier. After eating soup, Johanna and I rode to the grocery store that I don't like to buy food. After cooking AND eating the food. I rode around on my BMX for awhile until I got flat tire next to the AG's office and had to walk home.

On top of that, my weekend was only 47 hours. I'm a glutton for punishment.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pilgrimage--My Tale of Canterbury

There are lots of different types of bike riders, two of which are a) those who ride all year, and b) those who have the sense to ride only when it is nice outside. I find myself in the prior group and am even known to revel in riding through a snow storm, sub-zero temps, and the like. All that said, however, I won't deny, when the weather turns nice, it is just that much more enjoyable to get out of bike. Spring really is an awakening, a rebirth.

I was riding high on the (S)hog(un)

So, this morning, I met the gang of Snails, Brendan, Dario, and Peter, who pedaled with me out to Uconn, at which point, coffee beckoned them but the open road beckoned me. Hard for me to pass up such a day with any extra time inside, so I continued on my way for a loop that took me out through Hampton, Scotland, Canterbury, and returning through Lebanon and Hebron, with so many wonderful little back roads I'd never previously had the pleasure of meeting. Twisting two lanes, old cemeteries, high water ponds, and wooded hollows, I found them all. Connecticut may not be a huge state, but there are so many pockets I have yet to explore, and how better than on two wheels.

And I found a HUGE pair of channel locks on the side of Rt14!
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Inaugural boardwalk ride of 2011

As a devoted rider of the boardwalks of the Hockanum River, you can imagine how it pained me to be unable to ride them for nigh on three months. While the water is high, the lowest spot is right by the East Hartford town hall. The rest isn't so bad if you're fendered. Thusly, Salem, Dario and I rode them today and visited Salem's house-to-be on top of some steep hill out by Bolton Notch.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The cusp

I can tell that Spring is almost here, because I've seen some the sprouts of some flowers pushing up through the mud, but it's not in full enough force that the world smells bad. The woods are still impassable, but so close to passable that I keep getting fooled into venturing in.

Last year's thaw took mere minutes. This year, I'm guessing we won't really able to ride in the woods until the beginning of April.

If you were concerned that pasta was no longer on the move, here's some evidence that it (lasagna) is still moving.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ice Queen

On account of running late and being sleep-deprived, as usual, I made a series of wrong choices this morning.
First, the skirt I wore was not one I'd cycled in before. This was a minor nuisance as it cut into my mobility a little. Still, being stubborn and not having time to really change into anything better in less than two minutes, I worked through this. The bag I brought was also not the greatest to hold onto while riding, but again, I was mostly thinking about what would be convenient for the longest amount of time during the day. This purse has lots of zippered pockets including one that's large enough to hold my camera. I was aiming for something that would keep my keys, debit card, and bus ticket secure all day long. The worst choice was simply forgetting the grab my gloves. By the time this was apparently a problem, I did not have time to turn around. I ended up stopping twice on my 8-10 minute ride so that I could attempt to revive my fingers.

See, while it is less expensive for me to travel to New York than to the other side of Hartford, the Megabus waits for no one. The drivers are not vile, obnoxious people who routinely force cyclists into unsafe situations. If I tried to cut off one of them, they'd no doubt stop and check on my safety...but like hell would they let me on the bus after the scheduled departure time has arrived. It's frustrating, sure, but I admire it.

My admiration was a bit fuzzy, though, as I attempted to lock up my bike as quickly as possible. It's hard to do this with fingers that are alternately numb and painful. I must've looked like a dope fumbling with my helmet, unable to get it to release because I could not feel where the release-thingie was. A group of college-aged boys stared at me during all this, and not in the "hey, check out that awesome babe" kind of way. It was more like "Gawd, I hope she doesn't sit anywhere near us." Don't worry boys. I'm old enough to be your mother and that cougar thing is played out.

Meanwhile, my fingers are still not coming back to life and I'm feeling nauseous, which is to say, status quo these days (except for the fingers). The thought occurs that I should just cut my losses and go to the doctor instead of New York City. My lack of health insurance and possible frostbitten brain convinced me instead to go to New York anyway. If nothing else, I'd experience a different type of hospital. I also convinced myself that my grandfather must've gotten frostbite when he'd go hunting. Oh, were you looking for logic in there? My grandfather died a decade ago, he was a boxer and had been shot, and was basically way more hardcore than me. Not the best point for comparison.

So, I'm sitting on the bus while it loads, looking like a maniac probably because I kept pinching and wiggling my fingertips. Some blonde woman who sounded like she'd done a few lines of coke with her breakfast asked to sit next to me. And then, mind you, at not-quite-6:30-in-the-morning, continued to keep talking. She finally got the hint (6:30 is for sleeping on the bus) and moved away. The rest of the trip down was uneventful unless you count the emergency stop in the median and then the person directly in front of me violently and loudly puking into a plastic bag for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I so wish that I was exaggerating.

As the bus made its way through Harlem I began noticing the many remnants of stolen bikes. A u-locked wheel here. A frame there. It did not seem unreasonable that when I returned to Hartford I would find my own bike in some stage of being stripped down. After all, I used only one lock -- a combo one -- and given my delirium/numbness, it was possible that I had not even bothered to do that right.

While I wandered around searching high (Bergdorf Goodman) and low (H&M) for a damn pair of gloves or mittens, I noticed two things. First, even though it was chilly and still winter, I was expecting to see far more cyclists in Manhattan. It's NY, for chrissakes! You all are supposed to be tough as spit and mean as nails. Sure, by Hartford standards, there were multitudes of Central Park. But I did not come close to being run over or even grazed by a cyclist once, and trust, after the craptastic way my day began, if it could've happened, it would've. And two, I ended up buying the most bootleg (and overpriced for what they are) pair of glove-mittens from a street vendor because even though it's still cold enough to wear gloves, it's not cold enough to continue selling them in most stores, even in the ones that find it reasonable to charge $650 for a pair of ballet flats.

After a long bit of being creepy and taking pictures of strangers riding bikes or making wardrobe adjustments, I decided to move on out of Central Park, even if it did provide the most diverse group of people for that aforementioned people-watching. Unlike my excursion last year around this time, I was not as envious of those with wheels. Maybe my still-frozen fingertips had something to do with this, or maybe I was just wearing more comfortable footwear that did not make me instantly long to sit down. Since I don't have a folding bike, I might not get to know the joy of riding through Central Park. It seems silly to rent a bike, particularly after viewing what was available -- rides sized really wrong in some cases.

What the rental bikes have that my own Starry Bike does not is a basket. In most cases, that's fine. I've got panniers, but again, this morning was not the time to search for my other lock and figure out how to secure the pannier to the bike all day long. This would have helped immensely for my ride home, which involved not just the awkward purse, but a bag full of stuff and things acquired during the day. The awkwardness was the least of my problems when I got back to Hartford. The bike was still there and it appears that everything that should be on it is. The trouble was that after being on a bus for three hours and in various states of consciousness, I, of course, ran into a friend who rides surprisingly fast as hell. Since he mocks the law by not using lights at night, I felt obligated to keep up and light the way. My fingers were much warmer on the ride home, thanks to the gloves (that with my luck are probably infested with bed bugs).

Lessons Learned Today

  • wear gloves
  • don't try out different fashion choices before sunrise
  • if someone is clutching a plastic bag on the bus, do not sit near her
  • bring that ugly nylon backpack thing for trips that may involve shopping. It'll make the lugging of stuff home later easier, and it never needs to come out of the purse until you're back on the bus anyway.
  • do not allow solo travelers to strike up conversation with you. They are all crazy and will tell you things about their families you do not need to know. Talk to the homeless guys instead.
  • you're not supposed to grab the bread rolls in fancy restaurants. You point, and then the waiter tongs them for you. The $12 glass of wine should tip you off to this type of protocol.
  • locate locks, ugly helmet that you won't cry about if it gets stolen, and lights at NOT quarter to six in the morning

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Escort Service

The Tim Johnson ride on Washington for Bikes Belong is underway. As the word got out and the first of many related emails began to cram my inbox, there was a request for "Fighter escorts" i.e. a local crew to meet up with the group ride and usher them in and out of Hartford with some local navigating savvy. Salem, Brendan, Gerry and I stepped up for the Friday afternoon ride-in. I wisely forewent my usual Yuba mount-- I was already likely to get dropped on every climb as it was, no sense in handicapping myself further. I opted instead for my Breezer Venturi road bike, a late autumn acquisition that I was eager to ride after waiting out the road salt season.

Brendan, Gerry and I met up downtown after lunchtime and set off. We made our rendezvous with Salem in front of the Rockville Public Library in good time. The sunny weather and high 30s temps made for nice riding but chilly waiting, especially on the stone steps. We warmed and amused ourselves with some freestyle banister sliding until the Johnson expedition arrived in a burst of color and high-end componentry.

People were in pretty good spirits for that point in the day, with introductions and banter continuing as we headed west. The pace was just brisk enough. I determined that the perfect time for me to join a group ride was after the rest of the group had already ridden 100+ miles or so. We swept through semi-rural South Windsor as the shadows grew long and saw the group to the Sheraton on the East Hartford side of the Founders Bridge.

Friday evening's reception saw the Red Rock full of riders and well-wishers. Speeches were made, officials represented, swag tossed, food eaten and beer imbibed. I bailed around 10 or so, having volunteered to escort the ride out of Hartford early Saturday morning. Naturally, I had a terrible night's sleep (Blasting soca at 3 AM?! Really?! Thanks, neighbors!)

Saturday morning, Gerry and I met up in the hotel lot at 6:45 and went in. There was a bit of foot-dragging as everyone got ready and did some last-minute noshing. The neutral support vehicle (which was actually in "park" at the time) provided me with a toe strap to mend and secure my 1970's-era saddlebag, which had broken free and drooped onto my rear wheel as I rolled into the parking lot. Hooray, Volvo full of bike parts!

I planned on doing one of two things for Saturday's ride. Plan A: ride with the group to the planned Fairfield stop, where I had an opportunity to catch a ride back to Hartford, or Plan B: ride along for 20 miles or so and turn back toward Hartford when Gerry did. I figured I would make the call at the 20 mile mark based on how my still-healing recently-sprained thumb was feeling and how well I was keeping up with the pack.

Somewhere southwest of downtown New Britain, I realized I had but a very faint idea of where we were. On consultation, it seemed Gerry was in the same boat. I knew that we were bound to cross Route 10 at some point, so I proposed it as a known (if unlovely) route back home. My personal assessment around the 15 mile mark indicated a moderately throbbing right hand and increasing gaps between me and the rest of the riders on the uphill bits. We eventually hit Route 10 at a red light in the Southington area and had our good-byes, well-wishes and handshakes in time for the green. We headed north, and the group continued to press on southeasterly toward their next stop in Bethel. I was a little bummed about bailing out, but my hand gently reassured me that I had made the right decision. I enjoyed the time I spent riding along with everyone and I wish them all the best for the cause and for the rest of the ride.
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