Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Northwest passage

Back in May, I went for a bike ride and ended up in this weird network of dirt bike trails north of Day Hill Road in Windsor. It was pretty cool. It was also the ride where I was face to face with a bear. Those events were so distinct that I just remembered that they were part of the same ride. On that ride, I ended up in a Superfund site, hopped a fence and end up back on the road. According to maps, where I was riding was just slightly south of Northwest Park- a giant Windsor park that I'd always wanted to visit, but didn't really understand where it was. 

Yesterday, after I finished my work, I resolved that I was going to throw a leg over my trusty bike machine and figure out where and what Northwest Park was. Using technology and maps, I figured out how to get to this park- cutting through a state park that may be made up by Google. I arrived at this Northwest Park and was dismayed to find that the trails in the woods were closed to bikes. Then, I realized that wasn't true, just like two trails were closed to bikes. The pretty and interesting trails near the Rainbow Reservoir, however, are open and I rode on them for awhile and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I followed them to the dump, cut through the dump, found that the perimeter fence of the dump ended and I could continue riding to the place I rode in May. I found the secret passageway of northwest.

Does this mean that an Eel of the Farmington River is possible? Does this mean that there's still ample room up there for office parks that drain downtown Hartford of its jobs? Does this really mean anything other than there's a lot of dirtbikers in northwest Windsor? Who knows?

What was cool, though, was that I think I rode a good 10 miles of singletrack up there. I don't think you should put your 8" travel bike in the back of your truck and go do shuttle runs there, but if you're bored and don't know what to do some afternoon with your 'cross bike, perhaps you should go get lost in northwestern Windsor.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

This Saturday 11/2: the all new Manchester Parks Tour

Inspired by Brenden's most excellent Eel-venture, I finally sat down and figured out a route through Manchester's myriad of parks, public lands, land trust holds, and other various pedestrian/bicycle cut-throughs.  Somewhat like the Hartford Discovery Tour, but free, unsupported, much rougher, and generally quite a bit more silly.  You know, one of my rides.

Here's what you need to know, and probably a bit more:
When: Saturday 11/2/2013, ride departs at 9:45 sharp.
Where: Meet at the gravel parking lot for the Cheney Rail Spur on Hilliard St.  The lot is immediately to the west of Capitol Equipment and Marine, which is 28 Hilliard.  If for some strange reason the lot fills, there is street parking nearby (and I need to start giving even less advance notice for rides or too many people are driving).  Start is about a 45 minute ride from the bridges in Hartford.
What: See the route(ish) below.  Plan on a substantial amount of time off the roads.  I'll be riding a mountain bike and will recommend one, although a cross bike or something of that ilk would be manageable if you really like mountain biking on one and don't mind having to walk a few extra times.  I'll be astounded if anyone rides everything on the route, but figure around 100yds of walking for the whole look.

How long?: I don't know.  See the picture above.  Figure on "long enough" or slightly more, and I wouldn't make plans for the afternoon.  I've ridden it all, but never as one ride all strung together.  There are options so we can make it longer by explore some of the parks more.  Also, the start if fairly central, so there will be lots of options for cutting out early.

That's about it; hope to see a bunch of the eelers and others out on Saturday.
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A wall in East Hartford

Hockanum River, a few miles upstream from the below mentioned wall. 

I generally try to keep non-bike related aspects of my life off of the beat bike blog, because that's not the purpose of this thing. However, Tony took it upon himself to air some of my clean laundry with respect to my recent experience with signing up on AccessHealthCT and subsequent criticism from the nation's conservatives. I'm annoyed, but hey what are you going to do? James Taranto wrote a whole column about me, rife with quotes that were recycled from an interview in the Courant and never called me. (If you want to read my thoughts about my experience, here's a link to an op-ed I wrote.)

Anyhow, to close the loop regarding my healthcare decisions and cycling, I will tell you a trifling story about a wall in east Hartford that probably describes my tempered recklessness. Behind the sewage treatment plant in East Hartford, the flood control levee dips down it's supplemented by this cement wall. The wall maintains the height of the earthen levee. The Hockanum River Trail goes through there atop the levee. The wall is about 18" wide and at its maximum height above the ground, it's about 5'. I discovered it awhile ago, such a while ago, that I was actually still on my parents' insurance, because I had just graduated from college. Then, I wasn't on their insurance anymore, because the wall is high. Then, I got a job working for the City and I had insurance again, so I rode the wall. After I started law school, I had the school's high premium insurance and the coverage was still pretty good, so I rode the wall. However, I can't afford the premium anymore, so I have not so good insurance and I don't ride the wall. Due to Connecticut's expansion of Medicaid, I will have good insurance starting in January. However, so as not to unduly burden the system with my dangerous lifestyle, I will continue not to ride the wall.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beat Bike Bloggers in the News

A couple of weeks ago Brendan made the national news cycle when he went through the hoops associated with the Affordable Care Act, tweeted about it, got quoted in the Courant and then I guess Rush Limbaugh griped about it.  Crummy poor students getting health insurance.  That and now everyone knows that there is a fiscally conservative Brendan doppelganger exactly the same age in Hartford.  I would posit that Brendan L. Mahoney is a more than upstanding Hartford resident that very much betters his community, and that Rush Limbaugh is a bag of hot air - but I don't think I'd be arguing with anyone.

One of my favorite headstones in the Old North Cemetery.
This week I managed to get honorable mention in the Courant as a Hartfordite with a reputation for doing stuff that Colin McEnroe finds exciting.  Occasionally I organize things, and like to volunteer at events and such.  Otherwise I make sure my friends know about the almost overwhelming abundance of fun events in Hartford, although Real Hartford does a better job of this.  All of these things are second nature.  I'm glad that Hartford is getting more residents that find civic engagement and creation of local events to be part of their day-to-day.   I expect that my standing out enough to get mentioned in an editorial will happen less often as the rising tide of even more interesting and productive people keep Hartford hopping.

For example, there are two Hartford based movie events this Friday.  Movies that were created in Hartford, filmed in Hartford, and now screened for the first time in Hartford.   Both on Friday night.  Serious event gravity.   A couple good friends put together "No One Wants to be the River", which is a short film that is based on the beautifully complex "Toward Union Lines" sculpture along the riverfront.  The short is the start of a planned series called "Hartford River Dreams", and will be screened at the Carriage House Theater at 7:30PM.  The other movie is feature length "Diamond Ruff" that is being shown at 6:30PM at the Bushnell Center.  I'm tempted to try and attend both, but I don't think it will work out.

So get out there folks and do the local stuff.  Organize your own local stuff.  Tell your friends, co-workers, and acquaintances about all the amazing local stuff.  Basically do your part to make Hartford awesome.  It doesn't take much, and you might even get honorable mention.

Anybody else got some local stuff they want to tell me about?  Or want to scheme on something upcoming.

FYI - Don't forget IceBike to Work at Maddies this Thursday, October 31st, in East Hartford from 7-8AM.  You can get there earlier or later, we don't care.  It's totally informal.
Keney Memorial Clock tower in Hartford's Northend
The two photos are from a stroll through Hartford's Northend.  Beautiful day for a walk.  I don't bike everywhere.  And you get to notice details like the ironwork on the gate when you're ambling along the sidewalk.

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Recovery riding

Now I don't know much about these recovery rides where you did or something and then the next day you ride like 20 miles slowly or something like that. If you're really tired, you shouldn't go for a bike ride. There need not be some mandated thing. Then again, I've heard about this training stuff, but I don't know what any of it means.

Anyhow, I had this terrible cold on Thursday and Friday. It had been a long time since I got since, so I guess I was due. It was weird because I was at work on Wednesday and a coworker was sick. All I did was look at him and I caught his cold. It truly laid me out. I didn't leave my house for like 48 hours.

On Saturday, I was feeling mildly better. I had originally planned to ride with Salem up to Robinson SP in Massachusetts for some Blowhole x3-style mountain biking. I had managed to fix the headset on my Colnago, so I was really looking forward. However, the cold sapped too much strength. Instead, I went for a much more gentler ride with Dario, Peter and a man from Sweden named Patrick. It was a good time and I went out loaded with handlebars and other miscellaneous bike parts in my messenger bag- making for a slightly backbreaking ride through the meadow. Stutter bumps with a bag full of metal on your back instead the most comfortable thing. Of course, it was my idea to do that. Dario wanted to go back through Hartford.

Today I rode to my parents' house. It was also lowkey and pleasant. The leaves are nearing their conclusion, so it was a great weekend to be pedaling around in the woods and looking at them.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Very Good Eel for You!

 Photo credit: Daniel

As someone once said, The Eel is a ride of attrition. From its humble beginnings, as a wet race in original and East Hartfords to the present day, generally everybody doesn't finish. Sunday's ride was no exception. We started with 11 and ended with 2. Not that there's a problem with that, but what am I doing that discourages people from coming back? I suppose I usually ride home from Glastonbury during the Detour.

Photo credit: Marko

Anyway, the ride was great. We rode on every surface that I could think of: road, dirt, grass, sand, train tracks, gravel bike path, paved bike path, highway, skatepark, farm field, water, bridge and levee. I met some new people and the new people met some old people. Injuries appeared only be cosmetic. There was also a good mix of styles of bicycle, no BMX or downhill bikes or mid-aughts fixed gear style.

As you may or may not know, it started in Hartford, went to Middletown, back up to South Windsor and then back to Hartford. The rest is a secret and that's why you have to come next time.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tomorrow, I wear gloves

Brendan put on a great Eel and there was much bike diversity and trail diversity.  Only at an Eel will there be a Huffy and a Peter Mooney with pretty much everything in between.  I was nervous for Dario's skinny tires, but I think he only weighs 100 lbs - and they were sew ups.  We rode train tracks, rooty single track, sheer rock ridge, flood plain powder silt, sand pits, river bluffs, mud truck stomping ground, banked quad tracks, and even some paved roads.  The length of the ride was perfect.  Tired, but not bonked.

This is a time of change.  Change of season.  Change of outlook.  Changing out my summer clothes for the bin of wool socks and layers.  Putting on gloves in the morning and considering when it will be time to christen my new winter shoes.  Cold weather is a welcome change to me.   It gives me an excuse to pull out the feather comforter and double up my socks.  Things summer just won't support.  Tomorrow morning will be in the 30's and I'll get out the light gloves.

The Eel busted my saddle rail, but Terry said they would warranty.  Excellent.
As a bicycle commuter, I've found that hands are my first priority.  Holding onto the handlebar and actuating the brakes are activities requiring at least some functionality in my fingers.  Appropriate gloves are key to keeping my hands in a condition that isn't just comfortable, but useful.  Skiing mittens are capable down to about 5F, and they seem to work with both bar-cons and brifters.  Below that, I've heard that folks use silly looking Pogies to keep the wind off their mitts.  At that point, I typically just take a walk and put my hands in my pockets.

Feet are second, and become more important if the ride gets to be more than a half hour.  During the winter in Connecticut the roads are often clear and I'll go out for multi-hour rides with the temperature in the teens or 20's.  I'm seriously addicted to clipless pedals, which are evil when it comes to heat conduction away from your feet.  This summer (looking for sales) I upgraded to Lake MXZ303 boots.  They look much hardier than any other winter cycling shoe I've ridden, and I bought up a couple sizes for extra wool sock layers.  I have a suspicion that this year will be nearly into the comfort zone for my feet, whereas last year there was some near frostbite.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  It's not that cold out yet, and if you're bagging you bicycle commute right now you are an intolerable wimp.

In honor of the change of season I'll be making the work-a-day-commute a little less lonely with the first IceBike to Work of the season.  Thursday, October 31st, we will be informally meeting for breakfast at Maddie's in East Hartford.  Maddie's is on Main Street, right across the street from Pratt & Whitney.  Anyone passing by on bicycle, walking, or just curious about non-car transportation modes can stop by between 7AM-8AM and they will find some folks to chat with.  It seems the folks in Canada really take their winter bicycle commuting seriously.  They have an international conference or some such in February - International Cycling Congress.  Registration for the conference is north of $300 - that is f'ing serious.

Reminders for some upcoming bicycle goodness:

Everybody loves riding the train tracks into Middletown.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And then the days got short.

But did we stop riding?  No.  We did not stop riding.

It's pretty time.
In doing my part to extend fair weather cyclists and commuters into the Fall and Winter, I want to tell you about some upcoming events.

More pretty time.
  1. Thursday, October 31st.  East Hartford IceBike to Work.  7-8AM at Maddies on Main Street.  Right across the street from Pratt & Whitney.  Don't forget to bring lights.  Rain or shine, and if there is another freak snowmagedon - we're still on.  An informal meet up of bicycle commuters (and aspiring bicycle commuters) to chat about miscellany - often bike related but not necessarily.  Something I try to organize (informally) once a month.
  2. Saturday, November 9th.  There is going to be a cyclocross race less than a block from my house.  Colt Park.  Get yer bike dirty in Hartford and do your best to beat Brendan.
  3. Sunday, November 10th.  Traffic Safety 101 Course in West Hartford.  Chris and I (certified League Cycling Instructors) will be co-teaching this full day course.  Classroom, parking lot drills, and a guided road ride will hone your street cycling skills and working knowledge.  Registration is now open.
  4. Tuesday, November 12th.  Bike Walk Connecticut Annual Dinner at CCSU.  This years event will be even bigger and the silent auction items are better than ever.  A good time for a very effective organization.  Celebrating our accomplishments and energizing the Connecticut bicycle cognoscenti for another year of bike and ped progress in 2013.   I'm going to fill up a table of ten with friends.  If you are interested in a seat at the table, drop me a line.
Pretty awesome that the bike-ness is spilling into November.  Am I missing other bike stuff in November?  If so, point it up in the comments.
I saved like five turtles on a ride.  This one was really cranky.

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A new cyclocross race in Hartford

Remember when some people and me put together a 'cross race at riverside park? It was pretty awesome, but a ton of work. Since I'm a lone wolf without a cycling club, I've never done it again.

Much to my happy surprise when looking on BikeReg the other day, I saw a race scheduled for early November in Hartford. It's being put together by the ERRACE/Central Wheel people and is going to be in Colt Park. Colt Park is certainly an interesting place for a bike race, but it's pretty awesome that it'll be in a popular and visible park.

No single speed race, so I guess I'll just have to get my ass kicked with people who can shift.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Eelin' and Congealin'

First of all, I want to thank the participants of the river cleanup this year. Lots of Trinity students + Joe, Greg and Rich. We cleaned up a bunch of stuff and no one fell in the river. I almost did, but caught myself.

Second, big news for people who ride the eel: I'm going to do another one. It'll be the river route from years past, because I just cleaned it up and it's safe to ride now. Oct 20, 10am, leave from Fairfield Ave section of Hyland Park in Hartford. Park on Fairfield Ave or ride your bike there. 60 miles or so. Ride a mountain bike or 'cross bike or whatever you want. It's going to be awesome again. I'm going to make a .gpx of the route at some point soon, so that you can ride at your own pace.

Oh, I took a picture of this guy who crashed his ATV into a tree and got it stuck at Mansfield Hollow State Park yesterday. Schadenfreude!

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A beat bike blog reunion of sorts

Since I live here, I ride in Hartford a lot. It's not really new and interesting any more. Last night, diverging my usual form, I went out and rode with Tony, Kenny, Chill Will and newcomer Kerry. We rode across some bridges. It was like the old days, except now we're old and everyone wants to go to bed. The above video is not really great film making or great bike riding, but sometimes it's fun to be a dork in a yellow jacket and ride around a glisteny city.

Some of us even went to Kenny's the bar and drank some beer. It was like George W Bush was still in office. Read more!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Obligatory reminder post of the river cleanup

Hey, you! Hey martial arts fans. You are reminded that the beat bike blog's pretty much annual Source to Sea Cleanup is this Saturday at the confluence of the Park and Connecticut Rivers. Park on Van Dyke if you drive. If you walk or ride your bike, don't worry about parking. 10 am and wear long pants.

See you Saturday! Special prize to the person who finds the weirdest piece of trash.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A list of cool roads in Connecticut


Like six months ago, I decided that I was going to make a list of cool roads in Connecticut. I started, but the project was too ambitious and too difficult for an idiot like me. Nonetheless, I wanted to start a fascinating discussion of cool roads. Even though it isn't done, I'm putting my draft out there and ask you to contribute to it.

Lists are way in right now. It seems like everything is a list. I have no idea why. I like cool roads and there are many lists of cool roads and even a few for Connecticut. However, the Connecticut ones are all wrong and appear to made by people who have never been to the state. My list may not all be accessible by car or truck, but this is a blog about bikes after all. Actually, some aren't accessible by bike all year either. So, here's my list.

1) Olive St., Hartford
If you've driven on I-84 in Hartford, you've driven over Olive Street. It's nestled into the secret Hamilton St. neighborhood by the Bullpen Cafe. I assume at one point this used to be a pleasant little neighborhood, but 84 came through and now it's generally abandoned. Olive is blocked off on both ends by cement barriers and it's best visited at night. There's broken glass everywhere. From Olive, you can go through this path in a muddy field to get down the Park River banks and ride around on steep sloped concrete. Any urban decay tour of Hartford is incomplete if not visiting Olive Street.

2) Mt. Riga Rd., Salisbury
Lots of people know about Mt. Riga Road, because it's awesome and rumored to be the best hill climb in Connecticut. This guy is into hills and he likes it (Sunset Rock Road is in NY and it's a way harder climb). Once you get to the top, you're in this high valley between the Taconics and the Berkshires. I once broke the exhaust off of my car when it becomes Mount Washington Road. One time when it was still covered in snow, I drove all the way out and there and walked up it with my bike. The snow was deep and it was sort of a stupid waste of time.

3) Millstone Rd., Hartland (north of 20) (nearby Pent Rd. is also cool, but lacks the strange MDC memorials (actually, I have no idea if they have anything to do with MDC))
When I was in high school, I used to drive my Saab 900 up to Hartland to drive around on dirt roads. You can't drive on this one. When I got older and I started riding my bike to Hartland, I went and found out where this one and the others go. In all honesty, I think all the roads in Hartland are awesome, including Rt 20.

4) Cedar Ln., Middletown & Mountain Rd., Newington
These roads are very similar in there spookiness and proximity to closed state run mental institutions. Mountain Road is partially blocked off, but Cedar Lane isn't. Cedar Lane is longer and there are other roads and stuff nearby to explore. Mountain Road is next to Cedar Mountain (and Cedar Lane). Sounds like a conspiracy. Connect the dots.

I'm not sure why I'm counting these as one road, because they're like 20 miles apart.

5) Central Turnpike, Eastford
There used to be a Turnpike that ran from Tolland to Boston. It's still part of the shortest route from Hartford to Boston. Despite these high speed-sounding statements, it's actually a dirt road through the Yale Forest.

6) Schaghticoke Road, Kent
This road goes past the smallest Indian Reservation in the country, is dirt, follows right next to the Housatonic and has some cliffs right on the side of it. I can't believe I forgot about this one earlier. The first I walk down it with Johanna, we had been hiking the Appalachian Trail, which is up the hill from it and it was dark and super spooky. I recommend it at night. I also recommend walking Dark Entry Road at night.

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