Connecticut, part 2: back in Mass

I’m still no good at reading altitude on the Adventure Cycling maps. The dramatic ups and downs came today, not yesterday. They started with 8 miles of nearly uninterrupted uphill, to balance out yesterday’s downhill. Perhaps I should have seen this coming, since I spent last night in a place called Pleasant Valley. But place names get overused and stretched beyond their logical origins, so you never can tell. The real clue should have been all that downhill ending at a river. I could tell from the maps that I wouldn’t be following the river out of Pleasant Valley, so it should have dawned on me that I would have some climbing to do.

I did 75 miles today, and landed just over the Massachusetts border in Dudley. I remember Carl at Klunk telling me not to cycle, to take a train through Connecticut, “or we might never see you again.” There weren’t any huge climbs. No endless switchbacks. But the climbs were frequent and long, and the gradients pretty harsh. Not to mention the poor condition of the largely shoulderless roads.

And I had my first flat of the trip. And just like last year, it wasn’t a puncture or a pinch, but a valve stem tear. And just as I was putting the last little bit of air into the new tube, its valve stem ripped too! Now I’m out of spares, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for a bike shop. I’m also thinking of buying a folding pump and ditching the frame pump. It’s difficult to be delicate with a frame pump, and the long, slender Presta valves require a light touch.

It just happened that I wound up making my repairs against a fence between a preschool and a senior center in Ellington, CT. As the second valve stem tore and I heard in my head the Count from Sesame Street counting off “two valve stems!”, which is a trick I have for diffusing stress when my misfortunes multiply, I realized–genuinely–that the moment could not be any more perfect, except maybe if it were raining. And just then an elderly gentleman came by to satisfy his curiosity, and before walking away he kindly warned that it was probably going to rain in a little while. It did rain, but only for the last 45 minutes of my ride.

It was a challenging day. I’m tired. But I feel pretty good about it. My meditations on time continue (between a preschool and a senior center, how could they not), maybe I’ll find the time to elaborate tomorrow.


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