Friday, May 31, 2013

Pedro's did me a solid

I lost the 8mm adaptor for my multi tool the other day and I was bumming. I emailed Pedro's and they sent me a new one free of charge. Thanks guys!

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Skatepark Fever

I've been working on this skatepark in Hartford for a long time. Our hope is that this summer will be our summer. Everything is in place except the DOT approval.

I've been getting antsy. I have no idea really how to ride BMX or skateboard. I don't even really know how to ride a bike. However, I'm totally scared that when the skatepark opens in Hartford, I won't be able to do a cool trick at the ribbon cutting. I've been practicing at the skateparks that grace the routes I often ride on. One time I rode the Middlefield skatepark and on an occasion or two I've ridden the Newington one. The one in Martin Park in East Hartford is totally terrible, so I don't ever go there. The Wethersfield one, which is very nice, I pass all the time. I've started stopping in there with an improper bike.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ride it. Love it. Respect it. Pick up the Trash.

Just saw an announcement of a trail cleanup day along the East Hartford section of the Hockanum River Trail this Saturday, June 1st.  9AM-noon.  Meeting behind the East Hartford Town Hall on Main Street.  It seems they are also having a competition as to who can make the best Gorp.  I'm going to skip the trail mix challenge and try to weird out the AMC hikers with my trash bag toting bike trailer.

Huge fan of this trail and if you don't know about it yet, you're totally missing out.  As one astute fellow and very occasional Beat Bike Blogger notes, the East Hartford section near Main Street is "like road bike single track."  Also pretty nice for walking and running.  Hidden gem.  The Hockanum Trail (and associated linear park) is much longer than you would expect.  Hopscotching its way along the Hockanum River valley all the way through Manchester.  

June is a busy month.  Just check out the Real Hartford list of fun stuff to do.  Didn't purposefully post over Brendan's most entertaining video of a bicycle towing a load of tin cans.  He likes river cleanups, so will likely approve.

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Ski bus

People in New England were all "crazy weather" this weekend. It was justified, as Memorial Day snow is sort of weird. I had noticed that the Hartford DPW trucks and a few others still had their studded tires on passed the May 1 deadline. I don't know if that's the sort of thing anyone enforces, but apparently it was needed because they were preparing in sympathy for the snow in northern New England. Upstate New York apparently got 3 feet, but I only saw about three inches in Vermont at around 2000 feet.

I went for a bike ride down jeep trails on my road bike. Blah blah blah.

I also went for a very cool bike ride with this:

And made a cool video.

None of this kept me from mowing the lawn.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

I am so f-ing glad I don't have a yard.

Folks at work this week talking about their three day weekend were saying things like, "I'll finally get a chance to catch up on my yard work."  I remember those times.  As a near suburban home owner I too had a yard and sacrificed one, if not two, nights a week.  Never again.  For those that find this time meditative, good on ya, but it ain't my bag.  Would much rather take in a movie at Real Art Ways, go for a hike, head to the museum, volunteer somewhere, go for a bike ride, well - you see there are a lot of things that seem more fun (for me) than cutting the grass or yanking out weeds.  And I totally don't dig the guilt trip, keeping up with the neighbors crap.  Might as well grow a huge yard sized garden rather than grass, at least you'd get some tasty organic veggies for the labor.

Bike Trailer Movers.  Raining all damn day.
Since I've long escaped the enslaving bonds of lawncare, I was able to help Ken K continue his gradual move into his new digs.  We didn't get to use a pulley and ladder to wedge stuff into his second story window, as it was too rainy for that to be even marginally safe.  Instead we loaded up bike trailers and ferried stuff the three blocks from his old place to the new, freshly painted one.  Ken was using the nearly dead coffin trailer, and I hooked an extra kid trailer in tandem with my standard flatbed.  The tandem handled remarkably well.  Ken rewarded me with a huge Salmon fillet for my trouble, a fractional share of the 40 lbs that he had picked up that morning at the restaurant supply warehouse in the South Meadows.  That's a lot of fish!

Creepy Graffiti in Stafford Springs 
Saturday I decided at the last minute to ride up to northeastern CT to test out my new tent with an overnight trip.  The destination was Bigelow Hollow State Park, and more exactly Breakneck Pond.  On the DEEP website map of the park there was a tent symbol although the info for the park makes no mention of camping.  My guess was that there were some under publicized primitive sites around the pond, and I was right.  I didn't get to check it out, but based on the signage in the park there is even a 3 walled shelter on the East side of the pond.  My approach to the park was from the north via Mashapaug Road, which turns into Breakneck Rd, which turns into a washed out, rocky quad track that was quite interesting.  Those that love their rims or are smarter about cracking their skull (far away from cell service) might want to stick to the southern approach from Bigelow Hollow Road.

Hat Trick.  Tent, bike, and fire.
The camping was amazing.  Memorial Day is usually to total cluster fuck at State Park campgrounds.  Everyone and their loud drunk brother decides to take out the RV or popup trailer.  At Breakneck Pond I was totally alone.  No cell service, a book, a bottle of wine.  A beaver, peeved that I was poaching his pond shore, postured with tail slaps as he swam by.  It's amazing what a mile and a half of hiking into a primitive site does to thin the hordes.  Awaking to the myriad birds at 5:30AM I hiked a bit of the loop path south of the campground.  Totally worth staying two nights next time.  Lots of hiking opportunities.  A hook and line could bring in dinner.
The ride back was through some of the best dirt roads that CT has to offer.  South of the park is a large parcel of forest owned by Yale.  I was on dirt roads from Bigelow all the way to Westford.  I also spent some time on Route 89, which for a numbered state route is a surprisingly good ride.  Meeting up a friend for lunch in Willimantic at the Thread City Diner was the calorie boost I needed to make it back to Hartford via the Hop River Trail and East Coast Greenway.  A stop in East Hartford at a friend's Memorial Day BBQ rounded out the day.   At no point this weekend was I stressed about what my neighbors thought about my lawn.

Awoke to a swiftly rolling fog.
Oh yeah.  There is an Alley Cat, the Hartford Hellraiser, coming to Hartford on June 22nd.  Get your fixie bikes ready, or any bike for that matter.  Perhaps I'll ride a three speed just to spite the hipster element and keep myself from riding irresponsibly.  Should be a good time.
Raising the Dead

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Bike to work week: one week later

Last week: hooray for bikes! 

Last week, it was all bike bike BIKE! Ride your bike to work, ride your bike to happy hour, ride your bike home from work, ride your bike to a farm, ride your bike to dinner, ride your bike to rally about riding your bike, ride your bike to a meeting about riding your bike, ride your bike to a course on how to ride your bike, etc.

Accordingly, there a lot of bikes in the bike rack last Friday. So many, I wasn't sure where to put my bike. You'd that would carry over at least a week, right? Nope. Back to normal levels today. I guess free bagels aren't that big of an incentive.

"If it rains, take the bus" levels of bike enthusiam.
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ewe Deserve A Break

At around 1PM on Sunday afternoon, I had serious need for a break, a chance to get out of the house and two events that sounded appealing. To the west, West Hartford was hosting its inaugural Wheel Fun Day, which ended at 2 PM. To the east, Beckett Farms beckoned with a Hootenanny. slated to wrap-up at 3. While trying to catch a bit of each event was theoretically possible, the necessary scramble needed to reach both places by bike would have undermined my whole quest to unwind a bit.

The Hootenanny won because, well, hootenanny for one thing. Phonetically, it's hands-down more satisfying to say than the somewhat hokey Wheel Fun pun. Also, my week was heavily front-loaded with bike-centric things, between the last gasps of the DOT Flower Street reconsideration hearing (which sucked, but which I won't get into today) Bike To Work (which was fine, aside from the presence of some the two-faced personnel who made the aforementioned hearing suck as badly as it did) and my Saturday afternoon stint of attempted helpfulness with the LCI class that took place in Hartford over the course of this weekend (which was good). Riding my bike to something not bike-related sounded like a nice change of pace.

A steady drizzle fell as I pedaled over to Glastonbury by way of the Founders Bridge. I made it to Beckett Farms by 2 to find the Hootenanny calming down for its final hour. There were still people and vendors about, so I had a nice food, coffee and conversation break. I was satisfied with my choice of destination-- it was nice to visit a farm. There were sheep being shorn and freshly-shorn sheep bleating up a storm. I asked around to see if anyone knew if the ferry to Rocky Hill was running and got a few probably positive maybes to justify pedaling southward to the ferry landing.

This was my first ferry ride of the season, and it made me happy. I meandered through the Rocky Hill meadows and Wethersfield Cove toward home. The rain got a bit harder as I reached Hartford. When I reached home and dried my glasses, I found that the raindrops had been temporarily photo-imprinted on my self-tinting glasses.

Sometime this Monday the Flower Street decision is supposed to be announced. I'm going to savor this Sunday and do my best to not think about it until then. Read more!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

If I fall into the drink, I will say your name before I sink

I have prided myself on not falling out of boats. Once in ninth grade, I was trying to flirt with this girl from East Granby. We were both part of this regional marine ecology thing called River to Sea for high school students. The kick off event involved camping at Peoples State Forest and then a canoe trip down to that outfitter right above Satan's Kingdom. I told her that she should canoe with me because I'm good at canoeing and we won't capsize. I was true to my word. We canoed just fine and had a lot of fun. Every other canoe at some point expelled its passengers- even the one with the cocky Boy Scout. We im'ed each other a bit and every went on a date to see a ska/funk band called Neoteric at the Simsbury teen center, Crossroads (I don't know why it's called Crossroads, because it's not at an intersection, it's on Iron Horse Boulevard near People's Choice Pizza. I had thought it was closed, but I googled it and it seems like things have been happening there and you can check in to it on foursquare. (I don't know why anyone would want to check into anything on foursquare ever.)) You may think I'm a great big dork for going to a teen center in my life. You'd be right. I believe that is one of two times I went there. The other was to see Wayward, the most famous band at Avon High, which featured a science teacher, who decided to get quit teaching my senior year to follow his dreams of being a rock star.

Ed. note: I forgot to finish the above paragraph when I wrote this last night.

Today, I got in a kayak today and went down and up the Farmington River in Avon. It's probably the nicest part of Avon. I went from the Old Farms bridge down to the ponds at the Nod Brook Wildlife Management Area, where I portaged into those ponds, and then turned around and came back to Fisher Meadows.

That's where I fell in. I was getting out and I lost my balance and fell in.

This bridge doesn't look so good. Don't golf at Blue Fox Run.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

When NPR is your Friend

Had the opportunity to chat with Colin McEnroe on Thursday afternoon.  Oddly they decided the conversation was interesting enough that it should be shared with the larger regional NPR audience.  We were in studio on Asylum Avenue with Mary Collins and Kelly Kennedy.  Mary is a professor at Central Connecticut State University and has written a beautifully titled book, American Idle.  Mary was also instrumental in organizing a bicycle festival, Wheel Fun Day, in West Hartford this coming Sunday.  Her goal is to poke and prod the City of West Hartford into being proactive about Complete Streets infrastructure.  Kelly Kennedy is the exuberant Executive Director of Bike Walk Connecticut, and rep'd the rare BWCT jersey right into the studio.  We talked about helmet technology, mutual respect, and the pure joy of cycling.  At one point I suggest we "fill the streets with dancing bears,"  and it made sense in the moment.

Unfortunately we ran out of time before I could shoehorn in some discussion of education for cyclists.  Bike Walk CT plays an integral role in bringing Traffic Safety 101 and League Cycling Instructor training to the state.  I'm facilitating and taking an exhaustive 3 day LCI training seminar this weekend in Hartford.  There are action ready programs and certified volunteer instructors ready to incorporate bike safety education into youth physical education programs. Teaching our kids this skill set would pay us back for decades.  On Thursday night Valerie and I were brainstorming our LCI course training assignments and slides.  After consuming some creativity juice, we did pretty well with Valerie's cover slide on bicycle brakes.  You be the judge.

On Colin's show one of the conversation topics was Bike to Work, since National Bike to Work day was the next day.  I rode over to East Hartford early this morning to water my community garden plot and plant some squash.  After that I met up with a group a P&W employees from Glastonbury that were riding to the Hartford BTW breakfast.  More than 200 bike commuters of all shapes, sizes, and configurations mobbed the plaza of the Old State House, spilling over into the lawn.  Excitingly the event has become a draw for those that want to be seen and green, such as Mayor Segarra (in a neon public safety jacket) and James Redeker, the CT DOT commissioner.  Hartford is gearing up to create a Parks and Open Space plan that includes bike route connections between their large and under-utilized parks and green spaces.  It smells like a Bike Plan under the guise of the Parks and Recreation department.  As I find out more, will let you know.

Next week we have an East Hartford Bike to Work breakfast on Thursday, May 23rd.  6:30-9AM on the corner of Main Street and Ensign, right across from P&W.  Fingers crossed for the same splendid weather, but the event runs rain or shine.    Anyone can attend, even if you don't work for the behemoth that is my employer.  And despite the mis-worded form, you can also pledge to Bike to Work on the Bike Walk CT website.  A pledge puts you in the running for the bike schwag raffle, always good stuffs.

And I got some winter shoes on sale.  They are pure awesomeness.  I hope it snows soon.

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Eel massacre

I rode down to New Haven yesterday to get some lunch. I was split between pizza and Mexican food, but the view from the Mexican food is better and the food is cheaper. Upon my arrival in Fair Haven, I went out on a dock to look at the mouth of the Quinnipiac. The view was industrially pretty, but much to my chagrin there was a pile of dead eels on the dock. It didn't ruin my day, but I was bumming to see these eels.

Anyway, I ate the Mexican food. Rode around the city a bit, rode to Avon to say to hi to my dad and sister and came home. New Haven is pretty nice.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

People in cars

As you've probably been made aware, it's "bike to work day" on Friday. People are always so smug about how great it is to ride your bike to work. Somehow, you're superior a person for doing it. Nothing is further from the truth. You're a hedonist. Riding a bike is fun When you ride your bike to work  it's like you get to play outside before and after work. If you drive a car, you're probably stuck in traffic with a bunch of assholes. Even if you have a cool car, you don't get to drive it in a cool way, because you cannot move. If you take public transportation, you sit there with some people who may or may not be yelling loudly or smelling bad.

This bike to work day, drive your car to work instead. You'll probably arrive at work in a worse mood than usual. Then, drive home and your family or whoever it is that sees you after work will be surprised how unhappy you are.

Have some sympathy for drivers (not all of them, but some), they don't get to play outside before and after work.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Keney Park singletrack

I went for a very pleasant bike ride yesterday up through South Windsor. I finally crossed the rubicon that is the Stoughton Brook and, with wet, cold feet, discovered that the river trail just sort of ends in a farm field with nice tobacco barns that I'd been to before.

I went through Keney on the way back and, for whatever reason, I decided to check out the old Leadership Trail. I rode it once five years ago with Chill Will. It was in slightly rough shape then. I walked on it a little more recently when Luis and I were investigating where exactly they were proposing putting billboards in Keney (thankfully, we kept that at bay). It was pretty forgotten about at that point. However, judging by the Friends of Keney's flickr page, they did work on it as part of the trail work they did last year. Although, from riding it yesterday, it looks like someone cleaned up more this spring. It's totally clear now and fun to ride. I think it might get the prize for best singletrack in Hartford right now.

It's too bad Chill Will's photobucket account is dead, because there are nostalgic beat bike blog pictures on there.

There's a fox in this picture, but you can't really make it out.

Also, I found a sweet cut through at 999 Asylum that saves you from having to ride Woodland to get back to Farmington.
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Friday, May 10, 2013

Truth in advertising

My ankle is still bothering me, so when I went up to Vermont this past weekend I spent most of my time plumbing instead of riding my bike. Then the plumbing started bothering me, so I went for a bike ride. Not a very long one, but I found a new road or two, road the much beloved Nishikis (Pueblo & Comp III) an discovered a unhappy wheel bearing on my Privateer S.

For those of you who drink beer, you probably don't realize this is a picture of the most famous brewery in North America.

I had always wondered where Swamp Rd. in Greensboro went and I decided to find out. Believe it or not, Swamp Rd goes into a swamp. I think in the winter it may be a useful road that is a shortcut to Hillcrest Road, but the rest of the year it goes into a swamp and you sink. Or, maybe it's for getting swamp resources, like mud. I also went down Highlander Rd., which is one of the coolest road names going.

In non-Vermont news, my friend Jason got his bike stole-- a Schwinn Le Tour no less. Here are some pictures. He lives in West Hartford, so if you this rolling on West Hartford or something like this on craigslist. Shoot me an email or something. It's got thumb shifters. That's sort of a unique identifier.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013 is Awesome

*** Fun Fact:  My previous title for this post resulted in the suspension of our Twitter feed.  I guess they thought I was a spam porn bot.  Ha! ***

Not to diss fans of golden showers (the naive can do an internet search), but I'm a bigger fan of  Warm Showers is a reciprocal bicycle touring exchange.  Folks that have a spare room or some lawn space sign up to host traveling bike tourists, for free.  They offer to provide some level of accommodation, as little as somewhere to set up a tent, and as much as a spare bedroom with dinner and breakfast.  In return they are part of the Warm Showers network, and when touring can contact listed hosts found using the website or a handy phone app to find places to stay that don't cost a damn thing.  If you're a host you don't have to put someone up if you're busy or don't feel comfortable with the arrangement.  The website encourages and tracks recommendations for both hosts and travelers.  Awesome right?  Not much better.

This week I hosted my second traveling bike tourists in at my humble downtown Hartford home.   Only the second in two years.  Would have expected more being in this concentrated Northeast corridor between Boston, Providence, New Haven, and NYC.  Sara and Pedro did mention that my profile photo was a bit frightening, well with the massive ice beard and crazy eyes.  They were curiously surprised that with a recent haircut and summer beard I'm not all that scary.  Perhaps I'll put a cleaned up photo out there, but then I could be deluged with European guests.

Sara and Pedro were a newlywed couple from Lisbon, Portugal that were one day into a two year exhaustive bike tour of North and South America.  They are blogging the trip here.  I was very impressed by their rigs and gear, and I've now decided to pick up a "hypercracker" before my next big tour.   I predict that within a week they will be shedding some weight and either selling or shipping it.  Pedro, a former engineer, had transitioned to being a professional chef.  For dinner he made a delicious risotto that incorporated a bunch of fiddleheads I had waiting in the fridge.  Sara, a lawyer, was tracking their budget and expenses was very pleased with the economy that Warm Showers allowed on their trip.  I've been invited to visit them in Portugal, and looking at available Warm Showers hosts, it looks like a great place to test out a folding bike tour.  My sister, Kristen, has been practicing her Portuguese for a couple of years now.  Maybe we could make it a family bike tour and she could be my translator.

Sara and Pedro said that when they told friends they were passing through Hartford they got confused looks, nobody thought Hartford was worth a visit.  After a short stroll down Main Street and Bushnell Park with a rest stop at City Steam Brewery, the couple swore they'd rebuff any future slights of this remarkable city.  Hartford built some international cred with their short stay.  With the East Coast Greenway passing right through Hartford, there is huge future potential to be a bike touring destination and waypoint.  Anyone who has ridden the Allegheny Passage / C&O Canal route has seen the economic and community benefits of a long and largely off road multi-use path.

And don't forget, Bike to Work breakfasts coming up in the next two weeks.  Friday, May 17th in downtown Hartford (and other cities).  Thursday, May 23rd in East Hartford.    Get free food and other goodies. Spread the word!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

The CT DOT does Good. Sometimes.

The CT DOT held a public info and comment session this past Tuesday to present the planned road diet for Burnside Avenue (AKA Rt 44).  There was a healthy showing of residents, bike commuters, DOT staff, City of East Hartford folks, and transportation planners in attendance.  The explanation put forth for the current abominable configuration of Burnside with two lanes each way, down the crowded gauntlet of neighborhoods and flanking local businesses, is that the road layout hearkens to a time before I-84.  The lanes were needed to carry the higher traffic flow of that era.  Curiously in the new design, with dedicated left turn lanes at many intersections, the transportation planning models predict a higher carrying capacity than before.  A lane in each direction will be dropped, and replaced with a bike lane.  Most of the allowed street parking along the curb will be preserved.  In my experience the street parking on Burnside is intermittent, almost never a line of cars.  Just one-sy, two-sy.

Parking is an important consideration because for the length of Burnside the CT DOT is planning on a minimum of 7 foot wide parking with a 5 foot wide bike lane.  That puts much of the bike lane into the door zone.  7' & 5' is the bare minimum, and 8' & 6' is a much better configuration.  That said, projects like this can die on the table due to parking wars.  I wasn't going to push the issue.  The design will be a leaps and bounds improvement over the current arrangement.  Racing traffic will be calmed by the single lane, slightly narrower than before (11' instead of 12').  Pedestrians will have a shorter and therefore safer crossing distance.  Cyclists will have a designated lane for the full length of Burnside from Main Street all the way to the Manchester line, where a very wide berm will take its place.

This is really exciting!  The CT DOT and the City of East Hartford are hoping the Burnside design is contagious.  One can only hope that a Complete Streets design finds its way onto Main Street through downtown East Hartford.   That stretch can be harrowing during morning or evening rush hour.  East Hartford wants to have a livable, walkable,  bikable downtown and rightly understands that it has to do something productive with the wide and dangerous state highways that presently cut it to pieces.

How do we, as ordinary folks with day jobs, get more smart projects like this in the pipeline?  Some suggestions.   Become a member of your regional or state bicycle advocacy organization.  Infrastructure projects take 5's and 10's of years to get implemented.  You need to think and plan your action on a suitably long time scale.  Build relationships with your legislators and key folks at the DOT.  Increase the number of bike commuters and vocal advocates by supporting bike to work programs and commuter education programs.  Grow support in the community via bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees that work with the city council, mayor, and public works department.  Be consistent in your message and don't give up.  Not every project will fall the way of Complete Streets, but a growing and inherently beneficial message will stick enough times to make a difference.

Speaking of building on numbers of bike commuters, May is appropriately tagged as National Bike Month.  Bike Walk Connecticut is coordinating numerous Bike to Work breakfast events in cities across the state.  Most of the events are on Friday, May 17th, including downtown Hartford in front of the Old State House from 7AM to 9AM.  There are meetups coming into Hartford on the 17th from nearby East Hartford and far flung Cheshire and Willimantic.  You can pledge online to bike to work which will enter you into the raffle for some bike swag.  If you are obsessively competitive, you can bring that compulsion to your commute with the National Bike Challenge.  Most importantly, since I'm preaching to the converted, you can do the most good by spreading the word.  Invite your friends, co-workers, and send a note out to your cycling club.

On Thursday, May 23rd there is a stand alone Bike to Work breakfast in East Hartford from 6:30AM to 8:30AM at the corner of Main Street and Ensign.  Pay attention.  I'm organizing this one.  Show up and I'll feel better about myself and the bleak future of our car-centric world.  Pratt & Whitney has teamed up with Goodwin College and American Eagle Federal Credit Union to bring this event back to our near burb East of the River.  You don't have to work for P&W or be associated with Goodwin to attend. Read more!