We pedaled past historic houses as we left South Windsor this morning. This strikingly large sculpture – modeled after one by James Earle Fraser – and house caught our eye.
We liked the chimneys, roofline, windows, porch – lots of things! – on this one.
A graffito in East Hartford. Conspiracy theory?
Hartford’s business area is sparkling. And on a Saturday morning, deserted, as if a neutron bomb had detonated.
A Puerto Rican neighborhood was livelier. We passed through before the Puerto Rican Day parade. There was salsa music playing. Passersby cheered us on our festive-looking Sprint 26. Someone offered to sell Jeffrey a Puerto Rican flag.
The GPS directed us onto the CTfastrak, a flat smooth route described as a train line without tracks. An official spotted us and quickly directed us OFF that route. He said the marked shoulder was not a bike lane, bus drivers would not be looking for us, and we were in peril. So we figured out a different route that led us to Scott.
Scott, an IT expert, is a West Hartford bicycle advocate. He was directing traffic for a local bicycle ride of 10-50 miles (participants’ choice). Jeffrey enjoyed talking cycling (Scott uses studded tires to commute even on ice) and human rights, which goes well with cycling, as both respect humanity and empower individuals. Scott has used NYC Transportation Alternatives materials (Jeffrey is a TA member) for bicycle advocacy in the Hartford area. What a cool guy.
Scott directed Jeffrey to another cool guy, Ross, shown here between spouse Chris and son Brian.
Ross, a self-employed CPA too outspoken for the big firms, knows value when he sees it. He fed Jeffrey some fig bars and M&Ms (on hand for the organized ride’s bicyclists) and donated to Human Rights First. Ross said he doesn’t understand our country’s increasingly restrictive approach to immigration, which makes no sense given our history and economy. Brian, a rising senior econ major at UConn, is an independent thinker like his dad, considering career directions in which he won’t be a cog in The Machine. We are happy to know these nice people, friends of human rights.
Ed and Amir were among the ride participants with whom Jeffrey spoke. Our human rights goals are theirs too.
A fine bike trail starts in Newington. Jeffrey couldn’t find the entrance. He waved to Vamsi, an IT worker who immigrated from southern India nearly 20 years ago, as Vamsi passed by on his folding bicycle.
Vamsi put us back on route. Jeffrey talked to him about Human Rights First’s mission. Vamsi is sympathetic to refugees forced to navigate the system without a lawyer. They also talked about the virtues of folding bicycles.
The bike route was marvelous. It ran for miles, into New Britain.
On the way, we heard multiple gunshots! We stopped to talk to Jaime, a compliance officer for a financial firm, and Angie, a draftsperson for Pratt & Whitney. They were taking a grownup break from their 18-month- and 4-year-old kids, and had flagged down a police officer to investigate the gunfire, which soon stopped. Jeffrey got to pose with Angie. I was stuck in my plastic bag.
Jeffrey explained what we are up to. Jaime and Angie were sufficiently interested to find the Ride Facebook page on the spot – a nice vote of confidence.
New Britain – like Springfield, Hartford, and other towns we’ve passed through – looks as if it once was grand. Now it’s crumbling, with seedy shops and downtown social service offices, most of its industry (created by Yankee ingenuity and New England water power) gone. Here is a grand church in sad-looking Waterbury. How rich that town must have been . . . once upon a time.
In Southington, we were overtaken by Mike, out for a bike ride around Shuttle Meadow reservoir.
We stopped to talk by the reservoir – which reminded Mike of a great story from his youth, when he was collared for swimming in a reservoir to cool off after Woodstock. Mike used to be in industrial management, and went back to school to become a psychotherapist. He and Jeffrey talked about how money has poisoned the administration of medical care. In the same way, much of U.S. asylum policy is driven by private jailers and bureaucrats whose goals are not justice, but personal reward. Mike explained to Jeffrey that New Britain, where he grew up, grew rich on industries such as the Stanley Works. When local companies moved operations overseas for cheap labor, New Britain collapsed. This may have been good for Mike’s second career, but we think Mike wouldn’t mind if he had fewer traumatized patients because more local people had work.
Past the reservoir, we thought the road would go around this mountain. Wrong! It went over it. We went over several more before the end of the day. You don’t get a 1-mile downhill until you’ve pedaled at least 1 mile uphill. That made today’s 55 miles pretty hard.
In Waterbury, many people talked to us out their car windows. Among them were Alanteia, Carmen, Allen, and Queyla. They were on their way home to barbecue.
They were incredulous at how far we have come on this Ride – notwithstanding that due to Jeffrey’s injury, this year’s pace has been shorter and slower than in years past – and supportive of the idea of free lawyers for needy asylum applicants. We had a happy chat. They warned us to be careful on the road.
A nice but steep bike path through Middlebury . . .
. . . brought us to a full hotel in Southbury – there is a triathlon nearby tomorrow – from which we made our way to Woodbury, where we found a room at 260-year old Curtis House, the oldest inn in Connecticut. Our berth is simple. Five rooms, and more than 5 guests, share a bathroom. But life on the road – its stresses, rewards, and the slices of life we see in the people we meet – makes us grateful for every comfort.