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.

 

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.

How I planned a bike ride and ended up with an adventure (or, Bike-cation 2012: Waterside Edition)

Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT

I tend to ride the same roads repeatedly and, having a break from my usual group ride, decided to embrace change. At the same time, having a week off from the group ride is a great time to get some culture. High on my culture-to-do list of late has been visiting Gillette’s Castle. As I do not usually ride the roads surrounding the Castle, it seemed like a match made in cycling-culture heaven. All I planned was the route. The rest of it fell into place, making it a fabulous, full day adventure.

Posted in every stall, Visitor’s Center, Gillette Castle State Park

Not having any desire to ride a century, I decided to put the bike in the car and drive to Gillette Castle State Park. They do not charge for parking, and have restrooms, making it that much more attractive to the Cycling Archivist. Well, I’m not really sure “attractive” and “restrooms” should be in the same sentence.

Moving along, my route took me over the East Haddam swing bridge (cool article from 2007), along Rt. 154 to Essex, and down to Old Saybrook. Though my aunt recently sold her cottage at Chalker Beach, I asked the guard/attendant if it would be ok for me to dip my toes.

The dip, Chalker Beach, Old Saybrook

The water temperature was fabulous; I could have gone all the way in. Next it was over to Indiantown, where I sat in the shade and had snacks with friends. I continued along Rt. 154, through Katharine Hepburn’s part of town. I have to go cliche here and say that if you haven’t biked this stretch, you are missing out. My phone’s camera wouldn’t really capture most of the beauty, so I took few photographs. Heading north, I had an impromptu watermelon stop with cousins before reaching the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry (as my ride last Sunday also included watermelon, I am now completely convinced all summer rides should include this treat). Being a native of Glastonbury, my ferry of preference tends to be the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill, but after the budget woes of late, it is so great both ferries are still running. From the ferry ($1 for bicyclists), my final destination was in clear view.

Gillette’s Castle, as viewed from Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

Being in the business, I can be rather critical of house museum tours. This one ($6 adult) was self guided, with story telling docents in the rooms. On a scale of yes or no, I would say that yes, it was worth it. The castle interior has incredible woodwork and you get to hear stories about the practical jokes William Gillette, “America’s Sherlock Holmes,” would play on his guests.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, as viewed from Gillette’s Castle

With both cycling and culture achieved, the only thing left to really make this an adventure was the requisite ice cream stop. I had thought about the James Gallery and Soda Fountain earlier in the day, but ended up at Hillside Sweet Shoppe ($2.75, single scoop, Gifford’s Mint Chocolate Chip, sugar cone). Though lunch mysteriously disappeared from the agenda, I was rather pleased to have a full day of close-to-home fun for less than $10. It was truly a full day. I left my house at 9:00 AM and didn’t get back till 6:00 PM.

I saw the Essex Steam Train go by twice. I passed sheep along one road, and there were egrets and swans in the water as I pedaled over the causeway. Even though I was cycling alone, I spent enough time with other people to make it a social event. I’m amazed at how, with so little planning and effort, I ended up with such a wonderful bike-cation.