Rambling After Work

August 16, 2010

There are many many things in life for which I must count myself lucky. These include, of course, my delightful children, my marvelous wife, the good fortune of being middle class in a prosperous and free democracy, and Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies. Three other things that came together to make me feel thankful on Friday were (1) the fact that I have a boss who lets me leave early now and then when there is nothing pressing to do; (2) the fact that I have friends who can easily be persuaded to embark on an unplanned bike ramble on short notice; and (3) the fact that I live in a place where natural splendor, dirt farm roads, and river ferries are all within a manageable distance and accessible by bicycle from the city.

Friday was a gorgeous day, and I figured it would be a good afternoon to ride the ferry between Glastonbury and Rocky Hill, something I’d been meaning to do for a while. I figured I’d cross the river in Hartford, ride down through East Hartford and Glastonbury, take the ferry over, then meander wherever the spirit might lead me. I called Chris around 2:00 to see if he wanted to come, and he said that as long as we could swing by an event at the Capitol at 3:00, he’d be good to go, so we agreed to meet there.

The event was some sort of rally in support of tolerance for Muslims, which is a sentiment I can get behind, especially with all these crazy people talking about how private citizens shouldn’t be allowed to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site in New York (because, obvious arguments in favor of tolerance aside, aren’t Republicans supposed to be about private property and its immunity from government intervention? but anyway). (Also, there was apparently some stupid incident of harassment of Muslims by some fools in Bridgeport claiming the mantle of patriotism.)

Now, when I call it a rally, it is a generous interpretation of the word, for I usually think of rallies as having a little more passion, if not spontaneity. This event, in contrast, was eminently boring, as it consisted of various speakers from different faiths reiterating that being Muslim doesn’t make a person less American (true!) and that we shouldn’t harass Muslims (also true! but dull after the fifth or sixth repetition). I took some pictures to pass the time:

Rally against anti-Muslim discrimination

Rally against anti-Muslim discrimination

In short order, Chris showed up on his mighty cargo bike, and after a few more minutes of listening to good will and speechifying, we set off down Elm Street toward the river. It was not too hot, for a change, and the sky seemed a little baleful as we passed the old Colt factory:

Brooding skies over the Colt building

But the weather held! We crossed the Charter Oak Bridge and headed south through East Hartford into Glastonbury.

Duct Man, Glastonbury, Conn.

The suburbs pretty quickly give way to semi-rural land, and shortly after passing this duct-man, we were amid tobacco fields.

PICT1109

PICT1108

We turned off Rte. 17 onto Rte 160, which, according to the signs, would lead us to Rocky Hill. Only later do they clarify that you should not attempt to drive straight there:

PICT1111

It’s not hard for me to imagine someone following his GPS right into the river at this spot:

Rte.160

Luckily, we had the patience to wait for a ferry to take us across. The ferry showed up within five minutes, and for a measly buck a piece, we were able to continue on our merry way. The ferryman and the tug captain, by the way, were talking about “Desperate Housewives” while they secured the tow ropes.

Ferry Landing, Glastonbury, Conn.

The ferryman and the tug captain discuss "Desperate Housewives"

Our bikes aboard the ferry

Looking South on the Connecticut River

Once on the western shore, we turned north and went from the park by the ferry landing to a series of hard-packed dirt roads that cut through fields of sod, tobacco, and corn:

Farm road, Wethersfield, Conn.

Farmlands, Wethersfield, Conn.

It was around this spot that Chris remarked upon what I was thinking at the same moment: That we are lucky indeed to live in a place where such uninterrupted agrarian scenes can be enjoyed up-close upon riding one’s bicycle under an hour from the busting city. It is a grand thing, don’t you think?

After a while, the farmland gave way to more wildly vegetated plots, and we were all at once in the midst of live gunfire. Apparently, the land adjoining the road we were on belongs to the Wethersfield Game Club. Live gunfire is a little bit alarming, but we had seen a turf farm truck and a couple of cyclists come from the direction in which we were headed, so we assumed that the local sportsmen knew not to strafe the roadway. It worked out. We saw more sights:

Connecticut River

No Ice Fishing

Connecticut River, Wethersfield, Conn.

After stopping in Wethersfield for ice cream, we decided to head west to Newington to look at the sunset from the bluff overlooking the quarry there, behind Cedarcrest Hospital. (Here’s the view from a previous visit.) Unfortunately, after getting as far as the parking lot (photo below), we were politely but firmly told to get the hell out by a patrolling security guard (never mind that we actually wanted to leave the property, just via a broken back fence rather than the open front entrance).

Cedarcrest Hospital, Newington, Conn.

Undeterred, we entered the Cedar Mountain trails via the nearby Human Society property, which welcomes nature lovers. Our hope was to go around the adjacent hospital property and reach the bluff over the quarry that way. Instead, we followed a trail that petered into nothing and we ended up schlepping our bikes through the woods for a while, trying to find a way out. Props to Chris, who did all this on a heavily loaded, long-tail cargo bike:

Chris pilots a cargo bike through the woods

Eventually, we did emerge from the woods, not at the top of the quarry cliffs as we’d hoped, but at the bottom. More specifically, we were at the back of the Tilco property, where old quarry machinery goes to die. As it was after hours and night was falling, the whole place was very quiet and felt rather otherworldly:

Truck, Tilco Quarry, Newington, Conn.

Tilco Quarry, Newington, Conn.

And then we emerged on Hartford Avenue in Newington. Chris headed northeast to his place in Hartford. I headed west to my place in West Hartford. It was not quite 8:00 in the evening and we had had a marvelously unhurried 25-mile meander, all before dinner. Ain’t life sweet?

Friday Afternoon Ride

P.S. Did you know that Chris will be very happy to sell you one of those awesome cargo bikes, or a utilitarian folding bike, or sundry other bike items? It is very true! Check out his site: Daily Rider, LLC.

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7 Responses to “Rambling After Work”

  1. Brendan said

    Dude! You can ride through the Glastonbury meadows, too. Ask me how!

  2. Alice said

    When I was a kid in summer camp in Poquonock, the tobacco fields went on as far as the eye could see. I would get on a horse and canter through them, and I still can see the brilliance of the sun, the blue of the sky, and feel the wind at my back. Those afternoons were one of the first times I understood how sweet solitude could be.

    • El Prez said

      Chris has no baby, but the bike he is riding is the demo model for his business, Daily Rider Bikes. He has the baby seat on there so people can see / test ride the Yuba in all its utilitarian glory.

  3. Your Mother's Ex said

    “long-tail cargo bike” “3 speed, small-wheeled bike”

    It’s nice to see people who are not dogmatic about that whole “right tool for the right job” thing.

  4. “It’s not hard for me to imagine someone following his GPS right into the river at this spot”

    Reminds me of almost running straight into a freight train the first night of driving you to college.

  5. […] have marveled before at how quickly one can go from city to country in Connecticut. All you have to do is walk […]

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