New England 2019: Connecticut

This week, I share a travel report for those who have asked for more travelogue. Driving a car doesn’t count. My ride begins on Tuesday, the 20th of August 2019, in Andover, Connecticut, an invisible town hiding in the woods east of Manchester and Bolton.

As turned west from my sister’s home, the midday sun warmed me even in the thick shade. I regretted having to leave, because I had built more memories on this visit. Louise and Bob took me to Lebanon, where I saw the largest village green in the country, the Jonathan Trumbull House and the War Office. Louise took Daniel and me the previous weekend to visit my brother for his 70th birthday.

I largely ignored Google Maps, which tried to send me over the hills in Gay City State Park, where CT Route 85 was closed for complete repaving. Traffic was so light that I did not need my N99 filter mask, even on the main road.

Soon I was leaning on a guard rail by the Connecticut River, waiting for the ferry from Glastonbury to Rocky Hill. I smiled to see it: a simple barge with room for three cars, lashed to a toy-sized tugboat. “Shifting gears” to back out involved untying the tug’s bowline and carrying it to the other end of the barge. There are only two ferries on this river in Connecticut: Glastonbury (CT Route 160) and Chester (Route 148). My bike only cost two dollars.

After climbing the riverbank in Rocky Hill to Washington Street, I quickly found my way to my brother’s house on the main drag through town: Route 99, the Silas Deane Highway. It was my first visit to the house that Charles and Kim had moved to while I was away in Europe. Reunions with my family are too far apart, but we made up for lost time. We had dinner at Kob Jai, a Thai restaurant just across the street. I usually test new Thai restaurants by ordering the red curry, but the salmon basil gave me a new treat.

Thursday the 22nd dawned cloudy and cold, but the sun came out as I struck out on CT Route 99, roughly following the right bank of the Connecticut River. Few days this year have topped this day for the combination of pleasant weather, light traffic, wide shoulders and smooth pavement. Google Maps estimated 5.5 hours to cover the 62 km to Old Lyme. I stopped for lunch in Essex, having passed the ferry at Chester to Gillette Castle State Park (memories of my first summer back in the USA: 1965). Grateful again that the State of Connecticut saw fit to equip Interstate 95 with bicycle paths on its bridges, I rolled into Old Lyme only 3.5 hours after leaving Rocky Hill.

My gears were not shifting smoothly, and the chain was skipping, so before riding home I stopped at Morrissey’s Cycle Shop in Old Lyme, another new feature since my last visit. Butch Morrissey quickly determined that I had worn out my freewheel hub. Gee, after only 34,000 km?? He promised to fix it the next day.

Three days in Old Lyme allowed me to relax with my family, soaking in the memories and catching up with my stepmother, brother Jack, sister Allison and the precocious niece and nephew. My niece lent me her car (I can’t believe that she is already driving) to visit my aunt Helen on my way to see brother William in New London. We had supper at Captain Scott’s seafood on the pier, a New London tradition. The place was as crowded as ever with tourists and locals, and for good reason: the food is so fresh, I swear it moved!

Allison talked me into going to her parents’ house to swim in the pool. There, I met her aunts Susan and Judy, who were way too cool for people of my generation. Judy invited me to stay with her on my way to Boston. I was able to cancel the two Warmshowers stays that I had set up.

Butch fixed my bike the next day. Putting in a new hub was like cataract surgery: one does not realize how far one’s vision has gone until it comes back. I was stunned by the smooth tracking of the bicycle, even under a full load!

Saturday, my niece Carla came over from New Haven with husband Ben and the twins. As we gathered in the main house, it struck me again that all my relatives except Daniel live in New England. Maybe I should become a Connecticut Yankee when I settle down somewhere.

Sunday, the 25th, everyone was up before dawn: Jack to work, Allison & co. to the beach, and I to Judy’s home in Rhode Island, some 62 km away. The forecast was for sunny but cool. In fact, the sun gave way to clouds and a light rain over Groton. I took refuge in the 99 Restaurant and Pub just east of the Thames River and watched the squall blow over. It was sunny, but still cold, when I resumed my ride. Again, I ignored Google Maps and simply followed the colonial Boston Post Road (US Route 1, of course).

photo:Sean D. Elliot/The Day

As expected, the cars were backed for almost a mile in either direction leading to Mystic, but I just rolled down the shoulder.

My only concern was that a tourist might step off the crowded sidewalk into my path. In no time, I was past Stonington and riding through Westerly, Rhode Island.

Judy had found the most value for the money in a home that I have ever seen. Close to work, with guest apartment, garden, basement, recently remodelled, tous les conforts. I slept like a rock and felt very refreshed when to rode to Wickford Station (only 32 km away) to catch the T to Boston on Tuesday. I ran errands and visited Landry’s Cycles, where Cheryl’s new wheels had been sent, then checked into the HI Boston Hostel. Thanks to the generosity and distribution of my relatives, I arrived in Boston almost two weeks after having left Charlottesville, having spent every night with family.

Wednesday, I rode to Boston’s Logan Airport to meet Cheryl. After getting her bike serviced at Landry’s, she checked into the hostel. Our tour of New England would begin the next day with a hydrofoil ferry ride to Cape Cod.

Until next time,

Smooth roads & tailwinds,

Jonathan

1 thought on “New England 2019: Connecticut

  1. What a delightful “tour” of NE! Lon (and I) were stationed at Newport, RI (1958-59) and enjoyed riding around the beautiful New England countryside. Good memories….

    Like

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