Connecticut is a Rough Refuge: First Hand Experience of Not Riding the Nutmeg Spring Fling

While Arya from Rons Bikes missed being able to ride amongst the flowers of this year’s Nutmeg Spring Fling, that did not keep her from reflecting. Waxing poetic about ancient river ferries, French Randonneur bikes, and East Haddam Land Trust alike, make sure you don’t miss this recap of Nutmeg Spring Fling.

TL;DR Just put on “Rainy Day People” by Gordon Lightfoot and browse through the photos.

In 1996, my siblings and I reunited with our Amala (Tibetan for mother; formal) in Connecticut after a four-year separation. Chosen as one of the first thousand Tibetan refugees to start anew in the US, she faced the loss of both her husband and mother just a year prior with immeasurable courage, seeking a better future for us. This prolonged separation of mother and child left a deep wound that I have sought to heal through thousands of miles of bike riding all over the world. I have rooted myself here, close to my Amala’s garden, where I always feel safe.

This place is special to me because this is where we came together again – a final refuge for the refugees. A place where we hope that people processing their own suffering could ride them into realization and reprieve. A place where all the upheaval from loss, isolation, and separation finds a place to rest and settle like sediment in a river. On stormy days, the sediments will stir, but most days, the river will flow freely and clearly if you go on enough bike rides with fun company.

It was on a river that several dozen riders on beautiful metal bicycles crossed over from Chester to Hadlyme on a near-ancient ferry in the Spring of 2024. Many of them came with affinity groups of their own – a loose league of friends bonded by their love of mechanical excellence who decided to risk the forecasted chance of rain together. Determined to see the spring flowers blooming plentifully for them and the bees.

The rain didn’t come, but the ferry, because of aforementioned ancientness, decided after a few rides into a Saturday morning, that it no longer wished to carry passengers for the remainder of the weekend – sorry, cyclists. So now, to cross this river, the visiting cyclists had to take the only other way across the river, which is a swing bridge 5 miles north currently under construction and often a gamble on whether it’s open to traffic.

Brave the chance of getting rained on? Check. Be able to adjust plans when infrastructure fails with a positive mental attitude? Check. Bring physical stamina enough to haul your body up and over all the hills? Check. Cook and clean and feed yourself throughout a demanding, singletrack-heavy course? Check.

Good heavens, these are world-class people on that alone. But even before these riders came to the lower Connecticut River valley for their rough merry-making, they had to figure out all the alignments of earthly constellations they must form: travel, meals, bikes, clothing, the things that would make them feel comforted in a different place than their home.

It’s true, in fact, the feedback we constantly get from the dozen or more events we cobble together here in Nutmeg Country is about the quality and quantity of good people that gather. We hear it from legendary frame builders, local shop owners, enthusiastic farmers, summer camp hosts, and land trust presidents.

Famed frame builder J.P. Weigle shares the delight of hosting people here in the Lower Valley because he’s been riding these roads for longer than most. For decades, he was working away at his Lyme shop cultivating a fendered French randonneur style that most of us try to emulate today in these parts. J.P. personifies the fulcrum of past and future perfectly balanced.

From the rest stop at his open shop, riders can jump back on the route right from his backyard. We love to show off the many dozens of miles we can link to rideable singletrack to enjoy in solitary bliss.

Much of the three routes made by Ronnie Romance and offered to the Brohirrim for this year’s Nutmeg Spring Fling have been lovingly preserved, maintained, and protected by the town Land Trusts of East Haddam and Lyme. The riders, reveling in the natural beauty and the sense of community, donated close to $2,000 to the East Haddam Land Trust. This generosity is not just a substantial boon to their annual fundraising efforts, but also a testament to the shared pride and joy that comes from connecting with and conserving the land we love.

On this ride, my dear Brohirrim, how many goats did you save? How many wrens replied to the song of your rotor rubbing; squealing as smatterings of earth implanted themselves in the depths of braking? Did the barred owl remind you to eat some protein as they vocalized their “who, who cooks for you” sounds? Did you whisper your grief to the roaring brook to take into the ocean? Did you dream in 650B? Did we thank you enough for bringing life and laughter to the home Amala and her children have made for you to visit and camp?

Industry and consumer culture at large want to make human-powered, metal bicycles obsolete. Hollowing out grassroots culture and replacing the insides with commerce instead of the community that built an irresistible siren call on two wheels. I’m reminded that there’s a greater force of love that is ancient and inexhaustible like the love of a mother whose courage builds for a better future with Hope.

It flows through people who dust off their winter-whipped souls and emerge from hibernation hungry and disheveled like our bear brethren. Just like Hope, this flow is a discipline strengthened by people who, though hungry, will share a meal, though disheveled, will be aesthetically appealing to the mainstream. The bicycle, like this place I call home, will always be there as a refuge to practice this discipline of hope.


Keep an eye on future Nutmeg Country events at Rons Bikes.