Cycling thru Connecticut

———- Forwarded message ———-

Date: Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Subject: Re: Cycling thru Connecticut
To: Jonathan R

Hi Jonathan!
Well, I rode from philly to boston in … wow that was 10 years ago.
My route thru that part of CT was from Bear Mountain Bridge to Meriden
area, so I’m not sure how different the route would be from NYC.  I
remember route 6 and route 202 which I used in that part of the trip,
but i’m not sure if those would help.  In general, the old US routes
are good options  — they are direct, but not highways with lots of
local color.  Sometimes they are too strip-mally to be any fun though.
 That route (NYC-Hartford) will probably be a lot of suburbia —
that’s what i’m remembering that area as.
Good luck to them!


On Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 8:23 AM, Jonathan R wrote:
> Rich,
> Do you have any suggestions for good roads to use when cycling through
> Connecticut? A friend is planning a NYC-Hartford ride.
> Jonathan

Sweet thoughtful reflections on a year bicycle commuting, courtesy Larry Littlefield

I can’t let the week slither by without highlighting this fantastic blog post about bicycle commuting and exercise in general. Usually Larry writes these storm-and-stress pieces about Generation Greed and the systematic evisceration of state and local budgets by older people in their favor, but on his birthday on Monday he dropped this one, which I really like because he’s not writing to persuade anyone that they should bike to work, as well.

Usually writing about bicycling ends up being overly strident and boring, with a save-the-planet message thrown in: “I am more virtuous than you because I’m on two wheels and you’re not,” kind of thing. Larry sounds almost apologetic that he’s not more of a crackerjack cyclist:

What a great deal riding a bicycle to work has been! Until I actually tried it and found a way to work around the usual objections – work clothing, sweat, weather, traffic—it hadn’t seemed practical to me. Now, good health seems impractical without it. How else would it be possible for an overweight, middle-aged non-athlete, with a sedentary office job, a family and other responsibilities, to get that much exercise, nearly an hour per day?

Plus, he drops mention of one of my favorite things about Brooklyn (and Long Island in general), the ridge that runs down the center where the glaciers stopped on their last advance, the “terminal moraine.”

I typically ride at about 12 to 15 miles per hour on flat ground, but intersections and hills bring the average down to about three times the speed of walking. And taking long walks is about what riding a bicycle that way is like, except for the up hill stretches on the bridges in both directions and up the terminal moraine in the afternoon.

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Flat fix zen

I fixed another rear-wheel flat this afternoon. This one was a good-sized tear right by the valve, forcing the issue of whether to patch the tube or to replace it. So I duped my buddy Tom into helping me with the chain tension by first listening to him tell me about his Ancient Order of Hibernians chapter and then telling him about this cylinder recording of Edward Meeker singing ‘The A.O.H’s. [sic] of theU.S.A.’ from 1915.

It was a little tricky because the new tube had a shorter valve stem than the punctured tube, and its business end was just peeking out of the tube, not far enough to attach the pump. So I remembered a trick I’d used before and pulled out the Schraeder adapter, which was able to screw onto the end of the valve and allow me to fill the tube with air anyway.

The funny thing is that I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering if there was some kind of bad mojo that had caused my flat. I keep having to remind myself, “There’s plenty of air in the tube. I could hit a shard of glass or a staple any time. I had enough air in there for a week, so it’s not like there was some kind of slow leak. It’s a tear in the tube and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Back at the Secret City

I got in this morning. My flight took off at 3:52 am and landed at
5:11 am, which entailed showing up at the airport at midnight and
hustling around after that to get my bags on the baggage pallets. The
good news is that I only had to wait about a hundred hours (105
actually) for a benighted seat.

 Flying at such an hour takes all the things you love about aviation,
like the endless waits, the sorry excuses for nourishment, and the
camaraderie of the airport lounge, and just sets the floodlight on
them. Even better, the girl I was sitting next to had only been on a
plane once before, two weeks prior, and was scared of getting sick.
Thankfully, this remained a mere bugaboo.

 But the absolute best part was the 1000-meter walk across the tarmac
from the aircraft to the terminal. I think the last time I flew in
here it was daytime and we took a shuttle bus back from the plane.
Does the bus not operate at night? I would have been more excited
about the stroll, actually, with the blue taxiway lights and the
bright stars overhead, if I hadn’t been dead tired and carrying my
heavy bags.

 Later in the morning, I got my bike back from where I’d parked it, and
I went for a ride this afternoon, which was great. It was good
weather, with big thick striated clouds that cast clear shadows all
over the landscape, and the wind from the north, and after my nap I
felt pretty alive. I was however a little distracted and didn’t focus
as I should have and I didn’t break 18 mph. It’s my first ride in
February, and I was hoping for something a little stronger to start
out the month with.

New wrinkle for flat-tire fix

I apologize in advance for the annoying camera strap that gets in
picture no. 3, but if you can ignore that, you can see the business
part just fine.

 My new thing is to stick a safety pin gently into the puncture and
leave it there while I sand and spread the glue. That way I never lose
track of where the hole is. When I pull it out, I get a nice obvious
glue bubble too, which makes it easy to center the patch on the hole.

 Picture no. 1 is the tube at the puncture site, picture no. 2 is me
cleaning out the inside of the tire with a rag (use a cloth rag that
will catch on anything stuck through the tire), picture no. 3 is the
safety pin in place.

 In retrospect, I think I must have done a shoddy job of cleaning out
the inside of the tire, because I discovered another slow leak this
morning when I got back on the pony after my dentist visit. My gauge
told me it had gone from 100 psi to 60 psi in three hours, so I filled
it up again, went to the post office and to lunch, and then patched
the new hole in the siesta hour after lunch. (I would have
photographed that exercise except that I ran out of batteries after
this morning’s series.)

Another course record

To follow up on this morning’s apex of achievement, I
eked out a new course record on my favorite seven-mile loop this
afternoon. With the wind coming out of the south, and quite mildly
too, I zipped around the loop in 21:12, which is 12 seconds short of
20 mph, or 19.8 mph. That was the second time around; the first time
was a respectable 22:14, or 18.9 mph.

 I’m so pleased with myself every time I put in a good ride like today;
I apologize for the surfeit of functionally identical posts saying the
same thing.

 Especially riding a single-speed, going faster means pedaling faster
and moving the wheel around more frequently in the same time period.
Or rather, accomplishing the same number of revolutions in a little
less time. It seems a little more elemental than it would on a bike
with a derailleur.

Drafting redux

Lucky me, I was passing by the distribution yard and saw yesterday’s assist
driving by. I was a bit slow taking out the camera and
getting the snapshot, which is why the version you’re seeing is blown
up and cropped like the climactic scene in “High Anxiety.”

Just a tiny bit of drafting today, behind a contractor’s giant-bed
pickup truck as I passed the end of the straightaway near the fire
station. As soon as we got out of the built-up area, he sped up and
disappeared, leaving me to develop an unintermediated personal
relationship with my friend the North Wind.

What I have been meaning to mention for a couple days now, as I get
closer to my 500-mile goal for January is what you could think of as the
“ninety-nine-and-a-half just won’t do” problem. If you fail at a goal,
it’s most likely not because you got to 45%, but because you couldn’t
get past 90%. So in my situation at 89% (two rides left, basically)
for the month, I need to focus and keep up the solid cycling, day
after day, because otherwise I’ll get distracted and won’t make the
goal. I can always laze away once I’ve made the goal, right?

But just simple goal-reaching doesn’t help me explain to a reader like
you how seriously I take this getting the speed up and riding fast. I
could just slack off a little bit and who would notice, and there are
days like Wednesday where I just can’t get fast, but mostly I take this real
seriously, trying to push myself harder on each lap. It helps to have
an implacable antagonist like the North Wind, but pretty much it’s all
my doing. There’s no coach screaming at me or team to keep up with. So
when I finish a ride like today’s, with a steady wind from the north,
with two laps at faster than 18 mph, I feel pretty good about myself,
having recovered nearly completely from the slow-slash-rest day on
Wednesday. And I suspect that every time I put myself in that frame of
mind, where dogged persistence and determination are needed to push to
the finish line, I’ll find that it pays off for the next time.


Yes! At the very end of my ride today, I fell in behind a yellow JCB
10K forklift as the road wended northwesterly, into the Boreal teeth.
It was perfect drafting, making up for having to beat the nasty
crosswinds in both east and west directions on my own. Overall, I did
my best but finished both seven-mile laps at a 17.2 mph pace.

 I started late but still finished before sunset, but the brown-tinted
sunglasses I was wearing made it seem on the last westbound lap as if
I was riding into the secret heart of a dust storm. That and the nasty
chill the wind started to collect. I’m glad I’m back in my lodging,
drinking coffee and finally eating M’s chocolate bar from September
’08. Question inutile to bring it home.

Only one face necessary

I blame the shoddy drugstore batteries someone sent me for expiring just as the photo-moment arrived (or I arrived at the photo-moment): Barack Obama’s three-quarter profile on a sheet cake at the big refectory. It’s another quiet night here at the secret city; dusk has settled over us while folks are still getting into position in Washington.

On the fitness front, another strong day today. I wanted to take it easy but coming up the one hill on my way to the back of the airfield, I felt so strong. And besides, I have to be strong for Obama! Strong for America! Today is no day to slack off, no way no how. Yes we can!

The wind was all over the place in some confusing fashion, and as I did the other day, I guessed wrong so that when I thought I would be turning into the back stretch and heading with the wind, I was actually pushing into a headwind. Is it possible that there could be one certain direction for the wind to blow from so that it feels as if it’s in my face the whole way? If this is so, how (and why) did the Yugoslavs who built the secret city calculate it so that the roads are lined up with that prevailing direction? Were they masochists or something?

Fickle wind, I have my eye on you. I saw how toward the end of my ride, the smoke off the burn pit was blowing west, although I could feel the wind coming out of the northeast again. You try to fool me into giving up, but I am strong today for Obama and have no patience with your silly breezy games! I hit the wide open stretch just west of the big perpendicular taxiway, all the while humming the howling riff from “Hatari” to myself, and getting myself ready for the sharp turn onto the back stretch with the unfavorable wind in my face. What a pleasure to make that turn (after looking both ways for traffic), to feel the push of the sticky tires, warm from friction, against the asphalt as I whip around 135 degrees without losing speed. (Of course, I feel as if the wind is fully ready to turn itself 136 degrees to frustrate me.)

I pulled around the first lap in less than 22 minutes, and did the second one in 22:05, so both laps were over 19 mph, the second day in a row that I’ve accomplished this. I am convinced that by writing about it (most vividly here) I have made it easier for myself to master this skill.

In the running event, today was also a good day. On my predawn jog, I reached the 370-mile milestone that gets me a metaphorical pat on the back from those mysterious secret-city authorities. I have run at least 5.6 miles nine days in a row. I confess, the pegs feel kind of tired, like they were made out of chocolate that has slowly started to melt. I have been just barely shuffling along for the last couple mornings, it feels like, although I suspect that a big part of that is running on the roadside verge in the dark and my anxiety at the likelihood of twisting my ankle. I have three more of those 5.6-mile runs to go before I get to the 100-mile goal I set for January, which shouldn’t be that hard in the 11 days left in the month. We’ve been enjoying pretty good weather lately so I want to take full advantage of it; I dread another cold snap or another rainy day.

(Today’s picture is not the Obama cake, but Freedom Lake, at the east end of the secret city, nestled in the canyon wall. Yes, we drink the water.)