One Hundred Two

Around this time last summer, I decided I needed a new bicycling goal. It had been over a year since I surpassed my goal of biking to work every day for a year. For the past few summers I’ve aimed to (and reached or exceeded) ride 100 miles a week in July. And while there are certain hills I look forward to incorporating into my routes each season, and particular roads I enjoy returning to, without a goal it sometimes feels as though I’m merely going around in circles.

While I do accumulate many miles each year, I am not fast and have no desire to race. As I see it, this leaves me with repetition and distance. Cue Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams and the voice saying, “Go the distance.”

Each summer I manage to do at least one 50-miler. Occasionally I have done a 60 mile ride. I’m fairly certain that at some point I said I would never do a century, but it was starting to feel right. A century for cyclists is about what a marathon is for runners. I’ve been at this for a while; it seemed to be time.

I had certain parameters, though. There are many supported century rides to select from, but they don’t have rain dates. While I’m willing to ride less than three miles to work in the rain, I have no desire to pay for a ride and then be in wet spandex for dozens of miles. Many of those rides also have a fundraising component, and that is not for me. Did I want to invite someone to ride with me? Sure, it would have been nice to have someone along to chat with, to help change a flat tire if necessary. However, I didn’t want anyone struggling to keep up with me, nor did I want to struggle to keep up with anyone else. More importantly, the date chosen for the ride needed to be a date when my body, with its various and sundry limitations, was ready. I wanted to reach my goal without hurting myself in the process. I concluded it was best to ride alone.

Where did I want to ride? I could start at home (another advantage to riding alone) and ride round trip to the Connecticut shore, or do a loop in the central part of the state. At some point I decided I wanted something more adventuresome than repeating the roads I’ve been riding for two decades. I wanted to make it an event; to start at home and go in one direction or another for 100 miles.

Sitting in a coffee shop one winter day, I shared these thoughts with a good friend. How we got from my “I want to ride 100 miles in one direction” to her “my family’s house is 100 miles from here,” I no longer remember. But between then and now I spent copious hours on mapping websites, calculating any number of possible routes between Chez CyclingArchivist and the Homestead of the Family W (century routes – one, two, three – and 50 mile routes for the area where I’d be riding are publicly available).

The goal was set.

I found a training plan that would be a good model for me. When spring arrived, I started pedaling. As spring became summer we started discussing dates. The chosen date made its appearance in the 10-day forecast, sunny at first, then progressively rainier. At the 11th hour we postponed from Tuesday to Thursday.

Thursday morning arrived and the weather was perfect. The ride itself was better than I had imagined. The Connecticut portion was quite familiar. I had tried out the segment between Lake Congamond and Northampton, MA once before. The rest was entirely new. The Connecticut River Valley in Hadley was green with ripening corn, with equally colored,  tree-covered hills in the distance.  Move over Filet Mignon, the first protein bar I ate, at almost 39 miles in, was the most delicious food I’d ever encountered. I’m pretty sure that was situational. An employee of the Sunderland Corner Store generously let me use the sink to refill a water bottle. The one portion of trail I wasn’t sure actually existed, was in fact in place, and was followed by one of the more unusual buildings I’ve seen in a while.

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Your guess is as good as mine.

Back along the river, Turners Falls provided a scenic snack break, my second of three.

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Protein bar with a view.

I sent a selfie to my co-workers when I crossed the Vermont state line.

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Say cheese!

At that point I still had over 20 miles (uphill!) left to ride, but it was an accomplishment nonetheless. My penultimate stop was a photo-op with the West Dummerston Covered Bridge.

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Longest covered bridge entirely in VT.

A few more miles of climbing, and I was there.

My bike computer was set to display the number of miles left to ride. I tried not to read it too often, but it surprised me how the numbers seemed to melt away. 89! 49! 34, I can do that after a full day of work! 17! 2.9, that’s my commute to work; think how quickly you get down Park Street!

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Yay, I made it!

I arrived with a smile on my face. I didn’t get lost, or have any mechanical issues. Perhaps I should have had more water, but I wasn’t parched. Mentally, the last seven miles were toughest. But I made it.

Total mileage: 102.11 Moving time: 7:11:38 Elapsed time: 8:15:37

My friend had driven up just to meet me and bring me back home. When I first discussed this with her, I’d envisioned meeting her there at the end of one of her stays. I never expected she would travel all that way for me. After I got cleaned up, we enjoyed some time on the porch and walked around the property (the house is amazing, and there’s some manuscript material I’d love to see some day). We had burgers at a local restaurant, then drove back home.

Two days later I remain elated. My training had been effective. I accomplished another goal, on a beautiful day with a spectacular route. And I enjoyed the absolute best of friendship.

 

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Hartford History Bike Route

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Rose Garden, Elizabeth Park, July 2016

This coming week I will be attending the National Council on Public History’s annual conference, here in Hartford. I am very excited to be attending a national conference right here at home. Having followed the twitter feed, and read the conference-specific blog posts, I decided to write one that I would be looking for, if I were traveling to Hartford for the first time.

Yes, it involves a bicycle.

If you are bringing a bicycle (or have access to one, as well as a helmet, appropriate attire, etc. etc.), or want to walk/run 13.5 miles (🥵), this route will bring you past a number of interesting spots in the city. This is a completely urban route, so you must be comfortable riding on city streets with traffic. There are a couple of painted bike lanes, but no protected bike lanes. Often you will have to share the bike lanes with the city buses (among others 🙄). I do ride these streets, and am comfortable doing so, but like everything in life, there is risk involved; you are responsible for your own actions. I have not accounted for any construction that may be in progress; please re-route yourself if necessary. Attempt to follow the “same road, same rules” adage. Sometimes it’s easier than others. You are allowed to ride when the walk sign is on.

You could also do this by car. If you do, please do not drive through an intersection when the walk light is on.

However you travel the city, I hope you enjoy your visit!

View the map and cuesheet here.

These are the points of interest you will encounter. The distances shown are approximate, and cumulative from the Convention Center:

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Alexander Calder’s Stegasaurus, with the Wadsworth Atheneum and Travelers tower, March 2018.

0.3 miles Stegasaurus by Alexander Calder, adjacent to the Wadsworth Atheneum (the country’s oldest continuously-operating public art museum).

JFK spoke from the portico of UConn’s building across the street.

0.5 miles Next up is the Old State House. Lots of things have happened here over the years.

[Oops…I left the Isham-Terry House out of the route. You could take a left onto Walnut St (at 0.9 miles) then a right onto High St. to go past it. You will return to the route at the intersection with Main St (straight-ish) and Rt. 44, when the route has just gone past the Keney Clock Tower.]

1.2 miles Keney Clock Tower. A tower dedicated to Mr. Keney’s mom.

1.6 miles Old North Cemetery. Frederick Law Olmsted is among those buried here.

The SAND School is across the street from the cemetery. You may notice the
Ropkins Branch of Hartford Public Library is located in the school. During riots
over Labor Day weekend in 1969, the library (then located in another building
right near by) was fire bombed. The Hartford History Center holds one photo
of the library after it burned. Among those in the photo is a priest. When
researching the fire recently, I found out the priest was the branch manager
that year! No one currently working for library had been aware of this.

2.9 miles Circus Fire Memorial behind Wish School. A lifelong Nutmegger, I visited the memorial for the first time last year. The weather is taking its toll on some of
the pieces, but it’s still an incredible experience. So many people attended, or
were supposed to attend, or have a story about the fire. It’s hard to put into
words the impact this event had on the city. Continues to have, really. The trees
indicating the location of the tent helped me put into perspective how the
chaos ensued. The structure was small, and the number of people was not.

6.1 miles Chick Austin House. Only 18 feet deep inside! It’s amazing.

7.7 miles Elizabeth Park contains the country’s oldest municipal rose garden. Most of the park is actually located in West Hartford. Connecticut has 169 separate cities and
towns, and no county government.

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Ana Grace playground, December 14, 2017.

8.5 miles Ana Grace “Love Wins” playground, also in Elizabeth Park. Very relevant to
the repair work theme of the conference.

9.6 miles Mark Twain House and Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Both are worth visits.

10.5 miles Memorial to Alice Cogswell.

10.8 miles Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. It’s architect is buried inside! Also, it was dedicated on my birthday, so very cool in many ways.

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About to win the Hartford Marathon! Ok, maybe it was the next day. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, October 2017.

11.4 miles Butler-McCook House. The house will be open for tours on Saturday. It was home to four generations of one family, and is the only 18th century house remaining on Main St.

11.6 miles Charter Oak Cultural Center is Connecticut’s oldest synagogue building.

11.9 miles Church of the Good Shepherd was commissioned by Elizabeth Colt in memory of her husband and four of their children.

12.7 miles Colt Armory. Formerly the site of gun manufacture; now being turned into a national park.

I know I left places out, none of them intentionally. There is pretty much another entire route I could (and still may) put together focusing on the southern portion of the city. And even though Kevin the Turkey is no longer there to greet you, it is worth going a couple extra miles to visit Old Wethersfield. If it were a few weeks later, I would encourage you to ride to Rocky Hill and take the nation’s oldest continuously operating ferry over to Glastonbury. There you would ride past farms, and visit Nayaug, before continuing up to Main St and past the Old Cider Mill; the nation’s oldest continuously operating cider mill.

One time, while attending a conference in Chicago, I borrowed a bike from a fellow attendee and got in a few miles along the lakeshore. It was a great way to start the day. I also brought my bike to a conference in Burlington, VT a little over a year ago, which was equally fabulous. Depending on your needs, I might be able to help you out. You could also check with BiCi Co.

And if you’re looking for something to read, before, after, or during the conference, check out the news from the Hartford Courant, the nation’s oldest, continuously published newspaper. See a theme here?

Monumental: Part II

Last week, in Part I, I wrote about finishing a project I began over six years ago. This week you get the rest of the photographs, and an attempt at a wrap-up.

Jacob and Hannah were my great-grandparents, my grandmother’s parents.

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Their kids were Bessie (not pictured, I went down a rabbit hole and discovered she is buried in Queens), Henrietta (not pictured, buried in Providence), Dorothy (not pictured, died in San Diego), Matilda, Evelyn (not pictured, died elsewhere), Jesse (not pictured, died elsewhere), and my grandmother, Mabel:

 

Morris and Polena were my grandfather’s parents.

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Their kids were Marion, Minnie, Nathan, Bessie, Julia, Ida, my grandfather, Philip, and David.

Notice that Bessie and Ida are both Zwillingers. Bessie became a widow in the 20s, and Jacob became a widower in 1931. Subsequently, they got married. But what really cuts down on the relatives at Thanksgiving is that my grandmother and her niece Ruth (the daughter of Mabel’s sister Henrietta) married brothers Philip and David. Hard to tell in this pic, but here are David and Ruth together:

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This project was a combination of doing the research, wondering what else I could find, and exploring the area around me. There are so many news articles, census forms, city directory listings, and Sanford maps I haven’t included here. I was also looking for destination bike rides, and affordable entertainment. Cemeteries are quiet, outdoor museums. They have art, history, low-traffic pathways, and I have yet to see a gift shop.

When I started the project, I remarked on how close by the cemeteries were, and I had never stopped before. As the crow flies, none of these cemeteries is more than 10 miles from me. I’ve driven farther than that for good ice cream. One of the cemeteries was even…wait for it…over the mountain!

For those unfamiliar, we here in Connecticut have an obsession with boundaries. The mountain separating West Hartford and Bloomfield on the east, and Avon on the west, is mostly a mountain in our collective psyche. A former co-worker laughs at the Connecticut River. She grew up near the Mississippi, and considers the Connecticut to be an overgrown stream. But heaven forbid if I’d had to cross it to reach one of the cemeteries (having grown up East of the River, it doesn’t stop me much). I joke that anything that’s a 45 minute drive from Hartford is a day trip; clear your schedule. Longer than that? Pack an overnight bag. Heaven knows what you’ll find when you cross the New York, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island border.

All of this is to say, I still believe the cemeteries are close by. And being able to bike to all of them reinforces how close by, and how much you miss when you’re car-dependent. Walkers may even glimpse more.

There was no prize for finishing this, just the satisfaction of knowing I did it. And in case you’re wondering, I have crossed a state line to visit another set of (grandparents and) great-grandparents. I made it back the same day, too!

 

 

 

Monumental: Part I

Once upon a time, in a galaxy quite nearby, I started a project. It was Fall 2012, and I really anticipated I would wrap it up in fewer than 6 1/4 years. Alas.

If you haven’t read the old post, it contains photos of the graves of my maternal great-grandparents, and a few great-aunts and uncles. At some point, I made a list of the aforementioned, as well as the rest of my maternal ‘greats,’ and decided to bike to all the sites.

Since the initial visits to Zion Hill and F.D. Oates Ave. in Hartford, I have pedaled to The Emmanuel Synagogue’s cemetery in Wethersfield, Beth El’s cemetery in Avon, Veterans Cemetery in Windsor, and finally, today, to Rose Hill in Rocky Hill. A couple of years ago I also threw in a visit to Beth Jacob Cemetery (extra bonus points if you know where that one is before I talk about it below).

Rose Hill proved the most difficult. When I first researched it, I couldn’t find any indication online as to where the specific graves would be. This didn’t really phase me, and one day last year I rode over to see if I could locate them. What I had not taken into consideration, on that fine March day, was there was more snow on the ground at that spot in Rocky Hill than in my yard in West Hartford. Further complicating the matter, all the graves in that cemetery are flat. Pancake flat, and under said snow. I’m willing to visit cemeteries, but I choose to keep my digging metaphorical.

I felt confident today that the ground would be clear. And in my research this morning, I found a new (or new-to-me) Rose Hill website providing the section and plot numbers! It was like finding a clearly marked treasure map. It was a nice, sunny, warm day, and since Sundays are for relaxing, I decided to go on an almost 22 mile ride.

(Turns out 32° was not warm enough, at all, for a ride of this length, and it was hard work defrosting my toes when I got home. A little more than three hours after returning, I’m starting to feel warm again.)

Mission accomplished! There they were, my mom’s aunts/my grandfather’s sisters, Marion, Minnie, and Julia.

 

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Group shot

The family lived for many years on Wayland Street, in the south end of Hartford (landmark: Modern Pastry is on the corner…so hard not to stop for a baked good). I rode by as I made my way home. I believe it had a front porch in its early years [update: it didn’t], but otherwise, still there.

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“The house on Wayland Street”

 

I was also able to ride by the Dwight School, where Minnie was a teacher.

My plan back in 2012 was to put all the photos together, family tree style. Look for that post in the next week to 6 1/4 years 😂. The most amazing part is that I have managed to locate all of the photos I’ve taken. The cobbler’s child goes without shoes, and the archivist’s personal digital files go without metadata…

Regarding Beth Jacob Cemetery…somehow I found out that my great-grandmother/my grandmother’s mother had a brother, who had a few children. These folks are buried in Beth Jacob. If you did a Google Maps search, it most likely came up fruitless. In West Hartford, if you stand in the parking lot of the Shield Street Post Office, and look across the road, there’s a small parcel of land where you will find the forever-stamps of my cousins (I think they’re cousins…) Bernard, Henry, and William Glaubman; their father, Isadore; and his second wife, Rose (his first wife, well, read all about it 😳).

 

Perhaps some day I will go back and take photos with the sunlight at a better angle. In the meantime, I’m very excited to have finally visited all the locations on my list, and to have all the photographs. After more than six years, three smartphones, and two hybrid bikes, I have one more post to go before I put this project to rest.

A Good Year

For many people, 2016 was, to quote from social media, “a dumpster fire.” Between what feels like an incredibly large number of celebrity deaths, and the events of November 8, it certainly had its moments. For me, though, it has been one of the best years in quite a while.

The atmosphere at work changed from the very first day of the year. We started a new chapter (excuse the pun), which led to my getting a promotion. The job I have now is not anything I ever imagined I would do. However, I enjoy it. I’m good at it. And most importantly, my work is respected.

I dated. For many of you, this is no big deal. It was huge for me. Maybe I’m too particular (this did not involve any commercial web sites), maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. Whatever. For a few hours this summer, I was able to put that all aside and hang out with a guy.

My best friend from high school and I started our birthday celebrations a couple months early this year. We spent a weekend in New York, having splurged on tickets to Hamilton. The show was (as you’ve probably heard once or twice) amazing. Getting to spend hours walking around the city, on beautiful, sunny days, talking about everything and anything, was equally wonderful.

Later in the summer I was asked to be the Vice Chair of the Hartford Jewish Film Fest (March 16-26, 2017…see you there!). I’ve been on the committee for a few years now, but this is my first leadership role with the Hartford Jewish community. The film fest falls into the category of ‘lots of fun and lots of hard work,’ and I’m looking forward to being more involved than I have been.

img_4893The next step in my birthday celebration was a week in Wisconsin with my family. We
stayed at a lake where my grandparents used to have a house. I was able to visit with friends I hadn’t seen in a few years, introduce my niece and nephew to some very dangerous (but incredibly beloved) playground equipment, and spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Swimming in the lake is one of my favorite activities, and I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I used to. Even the morning it was 48°, I was in for a dip before breakfast!

img_5152When my actual birthday arrived, I celebrated with a bike ride from West Hartford to Old Saybrook. It was another warm, sunny day, and perfect for the 54 mile trip. By mid-September, the water in Long Island Sound has reached a perfect temperature. It was incredibly refreshing after spending four hours on the bike. My mother met me at the beach, we had lunch, did some shopping, and then she drove me home. Later that day a friend and I went to Mozzicato’s, where I had just the right amount of cake.

Though I have branded myself as Cycling Archivist, over the past few years I have done increasingly more of the former and less of the latter. This fall I had the opportunity to process a collection for the Watkinson Library at Trinity College. It’s a small collection (less than three linear feet), but I welcomed the opportunity to get back in the game. Working full time at one job, and trying to fit in another four or five hours a week at a second job, is tough. There are some interesting pieces, though, and I’m glad I got to work with them (I wrote five blog entries between October 28 and December 14 about the collection. Search for ‘Wells’).

Cycling. It has continued to be a huge part of my life. On the last day of July I realized I was a mere 35 miles away from hitting 500 for the month on my road bike (I don’t keep track of distance on my hybrid). I couldn’t let that milestone slip by. My pace for the ride ended up being my fastest ever. Most Saturdays I have a friend to ride with, which is wonderful. One Sunday I went out with some racers. It was fast, and I couldn’t really keep up, but I gave myself points for going on a group ride (I’m a slow rider and generally avoid group rides because of the frustration they bring). My biggest cycling accomplishment of the year, though, is my new personal best record for biking to work. As of this writing, I haven’t missed a day commuting since February 23. That includes the day in April when it snowed, which I admit was a

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Commuting in December’s single degree temps.

mistake. Excluding weekends, holidays, and vacations, I have ridden to work 191 days in a row. For the year, I have 218 commutes. Yes, there have been days I’ve switched vehicles at lunch. But I still got in the bike ride. Who knows what Mother Nature has in store, but I am trying to get as close to February 23, 2017 as I can!

One of the best holiday gifts I got was the weather in Atlanta during my recent trip there. I was able to ride my sister’s bike each day, including Christmas Day, when it was 75°!

Don’t worry, the year wasn’t perfect. Amid all these high points, were certainly were some low ones. But the first time in a while, the highs were more numerous. A lot of this was luck, and things I won’t necessarily be able to replicate next year. Friends have had marriages end in 2016, and have lost family members and close friends. Certainly for them, this was not the best year. I hope everyone else, though, can look beyond the top headlines, and see that there were many good things that happened in 2016.

Homeownership: Off with a Bang

Or at least with the results of a bang.

Though, if a radiator bursts in a house and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

On May 6, I put in a bid on a house. The next day the offer was accepted. It was a short sale (the seller owed more than the house was worth), and we knew it was going to take longer than usual because the seller’s banks (yes, plural in this case) had to approve the deal. Thirty-two weeks to the day after the offer was accepted, we closed.

The only thing short about this sale was my temper by the time we reached December. May through August was fine, all things considered. Hoping for the Luck of the ‘Gate, I originally chose August 13 as my closing date. That is when the extensions began. I’ve lost track as to how many there were. Finally, at the end of October, I got the call. We would close November 26. However, there were questions I could not answer while I was in Israel. At this point I could still handle a delay of a day or two.

What I could not handle was the next phone call, advising me that I needed to bring an additional $6000 to the closing because one of the seller’s banks was demanding cash, and who better to bring it than me? I’m not sure the word “livid” adequately describes how I felt. Of course I had an extra $6000! And of course, throwing it at a bank is so much better of an idea than repairing the roof. Why didn’t I think of this myself?

I don’t even want to recall the final week. I’m convinced we had further delays because the short sale negotiator had to attend the office Christmas party.

The day arrived, complete with a snow storm. My realtor and I went to the house for the final walk through.

There were a few more phone calls, and I received some compensation at closing for the damage. I left my attorney’s office with a set of house keys. My first official duty as a homeowner was to shovel the sidewalk.

The furnace is on and the pipes are defrosting. When the new radiators have been installed, I will move in. Eventually there will be a “The Nightmare is Over” party, to which many of you will be invited. In the meantime, I have started moving some of the essentials.

My first road bike in front of my first house!
My first road bike in front of my first house!

Local character

(I think this clip explains why older seasons of Sesame Street are now rated PG!)

I live across the street from an elementary school, which means that Monday through Friday, crossing guards are stationed at both ends of the road.  While working at Job, The Previous, my commute took me to the northern end of the street. The same guard has been there the entire time I’ve lived here. We’ve never really interacted.

The commute for Job, The Current takes me to the southern end of the street. A new guard came on duty sometime during the last school year. He’s always pleasant, and goes out of his way to stop traffic so that I may safely make the left-hand turn. Bicyclists are supposed to follow the same rules as motorists, so the guard really shouldn’t be helping me out. Quite often, though, I’m very grateful! I made a point of welcoming him back at the beginning of the school year.

Another local resident walks his dog every morning, about the time I am leaving for work. When school is in session, he always stops and chats with the guard. In the past couple of months, I’ve started waving hello to him, too, if we pass each other somewhere other than the intersection. He always makes a comment about the weather and how it relates to my bike ride.

“Not as cold today.”

“A little cold in the morning, but I bet the afternoon is perfect.”

My guess is that this man is retired, and spends copious amounts of time watching television weather reports. This morning he explained to me that the front split yesterday, which is why we didn’t get any rain. Then, as he always does, he wished me a good ride.

I don’t know the names of any of these men, but they are the people in my neighborhood. And the opportunity to interact with people like this adds to the enjoyment of bike commuting.