A marathon on wheels

Canal Trail

It’s nice to feel like you’ve accomplished something important — if only to you — on an otherwise lazy Sunday. Some people cook a big brunch for their family, like my father always used to do for us when we were kids. I used to do the same, but it’s no fun when one of us isn’t a big breakfast fan. Who doesn’t like eggs? Ok … Almost everyone I know, really. But I’m letting myself get a bit sidetracked.

Now that the intoxicating smell of fresh coffee and pancakes drowned in butter and maple syrup isn’t there to get me up out of bed on the weekends anymore, James and I are working on creating our own weekend rituals to coax us out of the warm cave within our covers. A weekly bike ride has become our Sunday morning date, of sorts, because — let’s face it — we need the exercise, and a little sense of danger in the form of car traffic rushing past you at 40 miles an hour is a great way to wake yourself up. At first, we’d just take a leisurely ride up to the top of East Rock, about a mile from home, but lately, we’ve gotten a little bit adventurous.

Take today as an example of our slightly crazy bicycling ambition. We took Ridge Road to Skiff Street in Hamden, and turned onto the Farmington Canal Trail, which is a car-free paved walking / biking path that goes from Hamden to Cheshire. There and back, the trip is a little over 26 miles, which gave us an excuse to stop for lunch (in our sweaty, somewhat scruffy state) in Cheshire, at the Funky Monkey. My friend Arielle (who very recently got engaged — congratulations!) introduced me to the comfortable and, well, funky little local cafe and lunch spot a month or so ago, and I was impressed enough to make a second trip out there. They have strong, freshly brewed coffee (aptly named “witches’ brew”), interesting sandwiches, salads, and soups, an attempted commitment to organic, fair trade products, and a small selection of wine and beer to boot. I wasn’t so convinced about the food last time I was there — I didn’t really get what canned mandarin oranges were doing in an otherwise tasty but sort of unmemorable sandwich — but this time, I was pleasantly surprised by the perfect balance of cheesy, pesto-y goodness and expertly-grilled vegetables in my grilled vegetable panini. James was equally impressed by his chicken cordon bleu panini, which was pretty much meat, cheese, and crisply toasted bread. In other words, it was a perfect way to refuel after the first 14 miles.

After lunch, we got back on the bike, trying not to think about the fact that the way back was — well — just as far as our trip out was. It was somehow easier, though. My body had gotten used to riding over the occasional patch of snow, and was somehow keeping me balanced without the same effort I had put into staying upright before. This meant I finally got to notice the little stuff — the people riding and biking by who actually say hello to strangers like me, the somewhat painful pleasure involved in pushing yourself just a bit faster, past the giant’s slumbering head, the ugly suburban condo developments, and the trees all prepped for winter’s occasional wrath.

Traveling on bike is entirely different than traveling in a car; the routes may be the same, but on a bike, you feel connected to the scenery around you. You can’t hide behind the metal and glass within your car, angry at any who happen to get in your way, because you are as vulnerable as the squirrel who takes a kamikaze run across the trail or the child taking his first trip on rollerblades. You feel every slip of your wheel, every creak of your frame, and all of this makes you more aware of everything around you. In other words, you feel like you’ve actually been somewhere and accomplished something when your journey finally ends.

Image courtesy of the Farmington Canal Rail to Trail Association.


Filed under biking, restaurant review

3 responses to “A marathon on wheels

  1. The Farmington Canal Trail is great, though I hate to admit how little we’ve been exercising this winter. I grew up in Phoenix and I miss the super wide bike lanes there! It made road riding a cinch. Wouldn’t it be amazing if New Haven put in bike lines?

    I hadn’t heard of the Funky Monkey before – will definitely have to try this!

  2. liz

    I know what you mean about the bike lanes — I think New Haven has some eventual 20-year plan to make the city more bike friendly, but I’ll believe it when it happens. Winter is the worst as far as exercise goes. James drags me out of the house more often than not — I’d prefer to stay where it’s warm. I’m from CA originally, and still haven’t gotten used to the weather after what seems like forever here.

    Let me know what you think if you try the Funky Monkey. It’s kind of hard to find the first time around because there’s no sign out front for it, but if you find the Watch Factory and wander around (if you’re blind, like me), you’ll run into it.

  3. Pingback: When what’s for dinner is too much to ask « threeForks

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