After sleeping pretty damn well, I hear something that I have heard like clockwork for the 20+ years of living in our house: My neighbor Dave rolling down his driveway, truck idling, tires crunching on gravel, as he starts his day. That particular clockwork happens around 4:30am, and I hear it whether I know it or not. Dave is a concrete contractor and a super hard working one at that. Check the clock: 4:25am. The rain from last night is gone, the faintest hint of dawn is appearing, and I am all prepped and packed for the Bike to Work day ride. No excuses. Sigh.
The pre-dawn roll aside, nothing out of the ordinary, with the exception of this being the maiden voyage of the fender kit I installed last weekend. I bought a SKS fender kit last year and made a few furtive/exploratory attempts at the install since then. Now that we are in the middle of yet another month of wet spring weather, the motivation was in hand. In the grand tradition of road-testing a modification under harsh circumstances, I roll like that once again.
The ride to meet Dan Esty on his route was a blast. Love that feeling of a totally quiet town, rolling through it like a high-viz ninja or something. The intercept point is the Planstville end of the original Southington rail-trail, 5 miles from my house and 7 miles into Dan’s ride. Aside from being dumb enough to stop at a light that wasn’t gonna trip because the sensor doesn’t “sense” a bike, it was a seamless ride and I had 10 minutes to relax and whatnot before Dan arrives at 5:30 with bike guy Pete Salamone leading the way. Then there were three, as they say. The Southington rail-trail is part of the Farmington Canal Trail has become a centerpiece of Southington’s “outdoor lifestyle”
Oh… photos from the Hartford end of the event HERE
As someone who doesn’t ride in groups, and sees a lot of the spandex mafia out there in some half-baked homage to Lance, I am suspicious of group rides and “serious” bike riders in general (separate post on that soon), but Dan Esty is not that guy. Dressed for a beach ride! Well used commuter/hybrid bike, flats, sneakers… My kind of guy. Dan is also in very good shape and we are pacing at 14-15mph up the trail, pretty much alone. I am able to lend a little insight into the Ideal Forge area, and the general topography, as we head past Southington High and start making the run north to Plainville and eventually Farmington. We pick up a 4th rider, Harold Stone, near the old Novak Orchard, and have a nice pace going.
Pete Salamone is one guy who I give a pass to on the “serious biker” thing. Old school road biker, nice as can be, and he sets a nice pace just a shade faster than we might otherwise ride. I dub him: BikeMensch!
The bike-friendliness of the route declines with each mile and each change in roadway: Rail-Trail, Back Roads, Suburban Roads, Secondary Roads, Highway Intersection, Semi-Urban Streets, Urban Streets… All the while the roads are becoming more congested with commuters, trucks, busses… The impact on my mental focus, both degree and direction, is not subtle. The transition from observer to participant might be the simplest description. Probably my one verifiable lesson from BTWD.
We pick up one more rider on Farmington Avenue near the MDC Reservoir, and have a sled ride down the hill to West Hartford. Snacks and such at Blue Back Square, some media coverage (not much), a few speeches, and then a group ride to the State Capitol a few miles to the east. The big surprise of the day is that Sandy came down to the Capitol for the 8:15 rally to lend some support and make sure I hadn’t been eaten by tigers or something. Go Sandy!
The wrap up, since there is a lot of blah blah blah from the arrival at Blue Back Square onward, is that the Bike to Work trip was a load of fun. See the photos. Fun! It was also easier than I had anticipated, but it is still a 25 mile trip each way. The psychological hurdle is over. I can, and I believe I will, commute on my bike on occasion. It is just too fun not to. I also know that I could have done the ride home with out a problem, but there was a punctuation mark laid out by Mother nature on this day: a big line of thunderstorms rolled through right at 4:30pm, which would coincide with my reverse commute. Welcome to New England. I thought of my friend Paul who was either waiting it out somewhere, or getting drenched as he rode back to Avon. I had a backup plan for the ride home. Lucky me.
The bigger idea of BTWD, as I see it, is to bring some focus to the need for safer streets, motorist education, bicyclist education, roadway and parking accommodations for users other than cars, and the usefulness of other modes for things like trips to work and errands. I thought about these themes and more, sitting in the car with Sandy, my bike in the back, moving along down Interstate 91, dry…