Trip Log – Day 251 –Mansfield, CT to Hartford CT

to HartfordJuly 13, 2016 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 36

Miles to Date: 13,006

States to Date: 33

IMG_6808The only thing better than a solid breakfast – is two solid breakfasts. My vegan host Tony made me an awesome smoothie with so many ingredients I can’t begin to recall: thick and creamy and just a tad chocolaty. Then I pushed myself over one hill to enjoy another breakfast with an immigrant mom and her daughter at the Thread City Diner in Willimantic, which makes the largest and tastiest pancakes anywhere.

imagesBy the time I rolled out of town the day was already hot, so I opted against the paved route along US 6 for the gravel bike path through Bolton Center. Not speedy, but shady and cool. I persevered East Hartford and took the snazzy pedestrian bridge over the Connecticut Rive to downtown Hartford. I had an afternoon appointment at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, which is unique among house museums in having a strong focus on social justice and putting the author and abolitionist’s work in today’s context.

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Trip Log – Day 250 – North Kingstown, RI to Mansfield, CT

 

to WillimanticJuly 12, 2016 – Clouds, 75 degrees

Miles Today: 63

Miles to Date: 12,770

States to Date: 33

I thought today was going to be about hills, but it turned out to be about Pokémon Go and Rumanian moonshine.

IMG_6784I faced a half-mile of vertical rise over sixty miles; a good workout on a clear, warm summer day. Riding west in this land of north/south valleys means hill after hill. In the middle I did have seven beautiful miles on the Coventry and Trestle bike paths, but even they were a solid upgrade.

Rhode Island must have been unhappy I only planned one day there; I got massively lost searching for a bike path that didn’t exist, and spun another five miles in Little Big Rhody before reaching the Connecticut line.

IMG_6789I needed a serious lunch, so camped out in Riverview Restaurant in Plainfield. A big fried chicken sandwich with French fries served up with loud country music. Then I pedaled twenty more hard miles to reach Willimantic by four, where I talked with the General Manager of Connecticut’s largest coop about how will we live tomorrow.

By the time I reached my warmshowers’ host in Mansfield, the preliminaries of day were over and party time began. Tony Malloy, a vegan body builder and IT guru for UConn Library, invited several friends for some of the best food of my trip. This vitamix magician made a great Mexican dinner of gazpacho, lentil/walnut/tomato paste as a hearty meat alternative, and all kinds of toppings, plus Corona, Modelo and Plum Palinka, a Rumanian liquor so strong the vapors alone knocked me back.

IMG_6795Although our dinner conversation kicked off with a typically academic discussion of the value of ‘Open Education’ textbooks, we soon got to truly important stuff, like how Pokémon Go has captivated the world in five short days. Even me, on my bike, had heard of it and seen people wandering aimlessly with their eyes glued to their phone. Two people in our group downloaded the app then and there and proceeded to ball toss the imaginary Pokémon who appeared on the dining room table and in the corner of the kitchen. Anyone feeling Alpha male barked at Tony’s Amazon Alexa, who could play any song we could think of at any volume, and seemed pleased to be yelled at.

Quote of note: “Cats are good practice for dealing with people on their own terms.”

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Trip Log – Day 249 – Berkley, MA to North Kingstown, RI

to WarwickJuly 11, 2016 – Clouds, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 47

Miles to Date: 12,707

States to Date: 32

 IMG_6764I enjoyed another fifteen miles of bucolic Southeast Massachusetts before landing – kerplunk – on the hot streets of East Providence, a hard surfaced Italian community bisected by I-195. The new pedestrian / bicycle bridge over the Seekonk River is a terrific addition and makes getting into Providence very easy.

 

IMG_6766I pedaled through Federal Hill and Brown University. Brown caught a wave of publicity as few years ago, both positive and not so, when it addressed how the slave trade benefitted the university. One upshot was the creation of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. I contacted the group but, alas, academicians are pretty much gone in July. I did seek out the slave trade monument, which includes a tablet that describes Brown’s relationship to the slave trade. It concludes, “Brown University was a beneficiary of this trade.” I am not sure of the impact a monument like this has, but applaud its attempt to link past grievances with current reality. The university also has a simple, but very effective monument to alumni war dead. I liked that balance as well.

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None of the ‘official’ connections I tried to make in Providence panned out, so I spent the afternoon outside Serendipity Gourmet, where I met all kinds of locals, cafe style. Providence is a livable city with a good urban feel. And lunch costs about half of what it would in Boston.

There is a great bike path that leads out of town. I cycled most of the way with a friendly commuter. Then seven miles on US Route 1, which was not the most fun part o the day. It’s been more than a year since I was on US 1 in Maine. I imagine I will be on it many more times as I head down the East Coast.

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My host for the night, Sharon Pickering, lives in Wickford Point, a ‘New Urbanism’ development with charming houses that sit quite close and share amenities like a dock and beach. Sharon moved there from a big house on two acres in Massachusetts. I am always interested in people who choose to live closer to others. Wickford Point is hardly dense, but it is very well designed to support community while maintaining privacy.

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Trip Log – Day 248 – Onset, MA to Berkley, MA

 

to BerkleyJuly 10, 2016 – Clouds, 60 degrees

Miles Today: 36

Miles to Date: 12,660

States to Date: 31

Southeast Massachusetts is probably the least appreciated sector of my home state. Fall River, New Bedford, and Taunton are often considered maritime has-beens, currently home to Cape Verdeans, Portuguese, and other immigrants. The countryside is considered less vibrant than Cape Cod, less dramatic than the Berkshires, and less tony than the North Shore. Like all stereotypes, these are incomplete truths.

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I started the day with a morning walk through Onset, which has all the enchanting light and mood of the Cape without having to cross those dang bridges. I spent the day traveling obscure country roads past soggy bogs, pristine period houses, and a good deal of funk. Since Southeast Massachusetts is much less expensive than the rest of the state, the counter culture element is more real than imagined.

By the time I reached Berkley I had traversed into another geologic zone. Onset is a sandbar with houses a few feet above the water. Berkley sits on one of the many granite ridges that define New England’s mainland: long peninsula’s separated by deep rivers run north/south, as if scratched out of the land like giant fingers squeezed down on a chalkboard. My friend Ted lives high above the Assonet River: 68 granite steps descend from his house to his boat.

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Trip Log – Day 247 – Cambridge, MA to Onset, MA

to OnsetJuly 9, 2016 – Clouds, 60 degrees

Miles Today: 68

Miles to Date: 12,644

States to Date: 31

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It doesn’t take long on a bike to get out of the community you inhabit and come upon a different sensibility. Even though I live in Boston, navigating through the exurbs of our metropolis are just as difficult as any other major city, especially to the South, where I am less familiar with the roads. It doesn’t help that Massachusetts has the worst road signage in the country. Part of that New England hubris: “Why would you want to go anywhere, when you’re already here?”

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Thirty miles out, after many missed turns, I got to open road where the vehicles, memorials, and patriotic banners had more in common with Pennsylvania or Texas than Cambridge and Boston.

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The day was cool and cloudy, which made for great cycling, though the only color was the day lilies and sunflowers that thrive in many gardens.

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Total trivia: Savery Avenue in Carver, MA is the first divided boulevard in the US, created in 1861. Today it is only a half-mile long, but it is a terrific path of shady pavement.

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I reached Onset in late afternoon, a lovely neighborhood of cottages perched above marshes and a sandy beach. I spent the evening with my friends Barbara and Eric Elfman, and Barbara’s parents, Jan and Stu Feldstein, whom I met back in November in Scottsdale. The tentacles of this journey are getting beautifully tangled.

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On the Road Again

Four months and change after my altercation with a Porsche, I am back on the road, spinning a route that is basically the reverse of what I planned, though shorter in order to try and complete the circuit before the end of this year. Still, my proposed route includes more than simply hitting the 17 states outstanding. In five months I hope to visit a whole lot more of America.

I plan to leave Cambridge and wind up in Florida in December. As always, weather dictates. Some elements of my route are less ideal than the original plan – South Carolina in August is not ideal – but riding in heat is easier than in cold. I hope to hit all the highlights I’ve envisioned and still spend at least one night in each of the continental United States.

I will resume my daily trip blogs to chart my progress, post a weekly compendium of responses to my question, ‘How will we live tomorrow?’ as well as unique profiles of some responders.

US Map cropped

A yellow ribbon is a flexible thing, and my route changes often. If you know anyone along the East Coast, South, Midwest, or Plains states who might like to participate in my project, please send me their contact information. I always welcome the opportunity to meet new people. Please don’t wait for me to post a Trip Blog from their town. By then I’ve already moved on.

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Cliff Notes: Rio Zika, by Michael Crichton

imgresDystopian novel set in the near future, written by Michael Crichton before his death in 2008. Billions of mosquitos bearing the zika virus proliferate in Rio de Janeiro coincident with the Olympic Games. The finest human specimens from all corners of the earth descend to compete. They return to their homelands infected with the virus. Within a decade birth rates plummet, disease is rampant. The human race seems destined to extinction. But one group, track and field athletes from Russia who were barred form competition due to illegal drug use, emerge as super-humans and take over the world. Vladimir Putin becomes Emperor of the Universe.

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