A Slow, Steady Voyage by Bicycle

November 23, 2009

Dear Internet,

On Sunday, with my friends Rich and Chris, I took a marvelous little trip by bicycle. As a compulsive craigslist peruser, I learned a couple weeks ago that there was to be a big bicycle swap meet that day in Dudley, Massachusetts. A quick consultation with Google Maps revealed that Dudley is about 50 miles from Hartford, so I sent an e-mail to all my bike-riding chums to see who wanted to ride there for the swap meet. Rich and Chris answered the call, and we devised a plan whereby Rich and I would drop my truck off in Dudley the night before and then the three of us would set out Sunday morning at 8:00.

Naturally, none of us rode what you would call and appropriate bicycle for this journey. I took my aged Raleigh Twenty folding three-speed. Rich rode his Breezer Villager, a seven-speed cruiser, and Chris took his Yuba Mundo, an enormous, heavy cargo bike. Here is a picture of Chris and Rich with the rigs at an early stop:

Not the right bikes for a long trip

This was just as well, for it guaranteed a leisurely pace. Lucky for us, the weather was just gorgeous and unseasonably warm, so a leisurely pace suited us fine. Here is the route we took:

Dudley Route

Connecticut, in case you didn’t know, is a beautiful state. You don’t have to go but a few miles outside Hartford to be in the midst of real farm country, and then it’s just a few miles farther to hilly, forested, sparsely settled places. Here are some things we saw:

Abandoned house, Ellington, Conn.

In Ellington, we came across an abandoned house that once belonged, we surmised, to Frank L. Clark, a seed and farm supply dealer. As the picture above, of the upstairs hallway, shows, the place was in pretty bad condition.

Outside the house was this old gas pump:

Abandoned house, Ellington, Conn.

Inside, the downstairs was full of old tires:

Abandoned house, Ellington, Conn.

One old wheel appeared to have fallen upon and ultimately killed some woodland beast that had taken refuge in the house, or perhaps this animal just curled up here to die. Whatever the case, the death occurred a long time ago, because there was no smell at all. (Is it a coyote, maybe?)

Abandoned house, Ellington, Conn.

All over the floor of the front hallway, I found documentary evidence of Frank L. Clark: cancelled checks from as far back as 1929, marketing brochures from his company (“KNOW . . . your SEED POTATOES”), and other mail and business things. Here are some highlights:

An undated letter from Clark’s niece, Virginia, who was at some point a psychology major at the University of Maine. She is asking – very politely – for a loan of $100 to cover household expenses during her senior year. From her allusion to the NYA – the National Youth Administration – we can surmise that the letter was written some time between 1935 and 1943, when that program was in effect:

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Here’s a lovely postcard Frank received from some fruit suppliers in Florida:
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And here’s Clark Seeds Farms’ gas credit card (expiration date 12/65):
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Then we traversed lots of lovely open spaces:

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And we saw, you know, stuff:

Jimmy's Refreshments

Lifted El Camino!

Then, at long last, when we were thoroughly tired and hungry, we arrived:

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Naturally, we took such a long time – about five and a half hours – that the bike swap was over when we got there. But the regular flea market that occupies the space was still there, and it had many strange and interesting things:

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Is this from Elvis’s 1975 comeback tour?

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Eventually, we found a Thai restaurant in Webster, Mass., where we ate heartily before driving home, but not before I picked up a little something at the flea market. As you can see, it is both a delightful souvenir and a fitting summation of our trip across a healthy portion of the Nutmeg State:

P.S. Chris’s account of the trip, along with more and nicer pictures, can be seen over at the Beat Bike Blog.

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5 Responses to “A Slow, Steady Voyage by Bicycle”

  1. kerri said

    You are all crazy!

    Thanks for providing the map. I thought you headed north sooner, through Union…didn’t realize you kept going east.

    Was disappointed to hear you all didn’t stop at the Chuck Wagon in Ellington to fill your collective guts with greasy food. That would have made the trip more interesting, I’m sure.

  2. Billy Hoyle said

    Oh man what a great time. I wish I could have joined you. I don’t have any friends here.

    Josh, yet another tremendous blog post. You are defining the genre in my mind.

    I love the letter from 10 Mill St. in Orono and the references to the Bangor State Hospital. Both are very familiar to me.

  3. fatbo said

    marvelous

  4. Alice Michtom said

    I agree with fatbo – marvelous. xoxo

  5. Alice Michtom said

    Oh, and you’re right – Connecticut is indeed a beautiful state. Magnificent, even.

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