Puritanically Soft Times: The 3rd Annual Nutmeg Nor’easter

LAST YEAR: 8 pm, downtown Clinton CT.  In an hour the 3 street lights will be set to blinking mode; the sleepy Connecticut shoreline town is doing just that… Sleeping… more like watching true crime TV in bed, but in bed nonetheless.  Through this stillness, the beams of 50 dynamo lights flicker, piercing through the evening river fog—the eclectic electric thumps of several Bluetooth boomboxes keep rhythm to the whirl of 100 fat tires on the damp pavement.  If anyone had been out of bed to see it, this would have been the largest parade Clinton had ever held.

This was the “parade” to camp illegally at a scout retreat after last year’s Nutmeg Nor’easter. Clinton CT is my home town.  I loved holding the party in my hometown; it’s where I fell in love with bikes for the first time, but we were on thin ice with what we were pulling off on town property, and it was clear that the party was outgrowing its “plead for forgiveness over asking permission” roots.  We vowed in 2019 that we would have a REAL venue and legal camp, and I would not risk having to bribe the town government again.

After last winter was over, my mother was on a walk with friends up the rolling connecticut river valley a few ticks (and tics) where she met an exuberantly energetic woman who owned and operated a 300 acre farm atop the highest point within the county we consider #nutmegcountry.  WOW! My mother sent some photos of the rolling pastures dotted with classic stone walls and face meltingly quaint barns.  Cold Spring Organic Farm in Colchester CT. This was definitely the place; an iconic apple pie slice of the region.

In true Ronaldo fashion, there was very little planning prior to the relative last minute.  It’s ok, that’s the charming part IMO. After a twister of an October, I flew from Japan into Connecticut to begin the route planning and logistical quilting a week and a half before go time.  Thankfully it was an absolutely Cracker Jack of a late October here, perfect conditions for a party cram. Double luckily Jess the farmer is a non stop sun up to sun down worker; keeping a sunny side disposition through the entire WHIRLWIND.  By the end of the week, we were pretty much ready for what that’s worth.

Folks began trickling in on Friday afternoon, late autumn light casting upon curated interpretations of Crusts, Rivendells, and other tastefully outfitted country bikes.  Several campfires were ignited and 130 folks set up their tarps for the night in the large meadow. Jess served a dinner of food grown and raised on her farm. Folks warmed themselves by the fire exchanging build specs and bicycle adventures.  Under the dimness of red light headlamps people were playing chess, knitting, exchanging patches, trading vintage parts, hawking DIY t-shirts, passing around titanium water pipes—the works. Tomorrow we ride!

After a heaping stack of blueberry pancakes and coffee filtered through a pillowcase, 265 riders rolled down the hill on 3 separate routes through the lumpy Connecticut river valley countryside—out for the day on a 30, 45, and 62 miler.  The weather was as good as it gets, and the foliage was bursting yellow and orange with ol’ mother nature’s final display of nukeage before leaving the forest barren and brown for the frozen months to come. This is a time to celebrate the harvest; a time to reap the acres of lower Connecticut river valley glacial-granite-gravel. Fine grind.

Over the river and through the woods went the finest assortment of non-race-specific high end bicycles the internet has ever known.  Over the river and through more woods and back to Cold Spring Farm. In between, the riders were presented with “as advertised” soft times that this quiet corner of New England is known for. We are Quaintists after all, Puritanical in our support for the local Historical Societies.

The landmarks in this part of the states are 400-year-old farmsteads, traffic-free trapped-in-time narrow winding roads—cedar swamps that native Pequots used as fortresses during the nation’s first Indian wars, and haunted graveyards that pre-date George Washington’s wooden teeth.  To ride a bicycle in #nutmegcountry is akin to exercising in a 420 friendly living history museum.

The day was capped off with “the best pizza in Connecticut”, and in my traveled opinion, the world.  Fire in the Kitchen has served the pizzas for 3 years in a row now, and this year they did 230 pizzas in total.  For me, there is nothing better than an all you can eat high-end pizza promise at the end of a long ride- hope everyone got their fill!

After the tag sale (gotta keep it better lit and covered next year) and the party commenced, another 130 campers tucked in for the night.  Nam and I went to bed with throats horse from all the announcing and general lol-ing. The next morning we flipped more pancakes and sent folks off in the rain, thankful for the weather window the day before, and thankful for everyone’s enthusiasm and warmth.  We love holding this event; it’s an honor to have a good enough excuse to bring all these default amazing people together. Justifiably social media gets a lot of bad press. Alternatively, it’s pretty cool when internet friends meet each other in real life and have this instant connection, a social history…

The bicycle brings us together, and to places too far to walk.

See y’all next year! XOXO