There are new roads and less traveled roads. When you return to your childhood hometown to raise your own child after living in an entirely different state and major city for almost a decade, the idea of new roads and less familiar roads would seem almost impossible. The roads here are not really new for me and yet every one is different now.
Among the friends that enjoy cycling with me, there is a common route that we often ride together. We ride out to the small town of Collinsville where there are empty and picturesque brick factory buildings from an era of axe production. On the way to Collinsville, we pass through Unionville–a trolly used to run out here from Hartford where bicycles were once manufactured and where insurance companies took a solid and lasting hold. To get from Unionville to Collinsville, we take a slight left off of Huckleberry Hill and on to New Road which heads down towards a river, the Farmington River, and then follows along there for awhile.
Just before the turn on to New Road is a large headstone with my family’s last name engraved upon it. This is where my grandparents are buried. My uncle’s ashes were spread near, and into, the river across the road and at the bottom of the hill. He died in his fifties of a brain tumor. The house that my father’s family abandoned because of a great flood many years ago is somewhere through the trees and on the opposite bank of the water’s edge. All of this at that junction of New Road and Huckleberry Hill.
These landmarks pass by in a matter of minutes as I am riding with friends or alone, chatting or just pedaling depending on the day or the hour. New Road was probably new sometime after that flood that destroyed my father’s childhood home over 50 years ago now. Yet I never knew of it and never had quite this clear path through my family’s history or a means of passing through it without feeling weighed down by all of it.
The bicycle offers one a different way of seeing things. Constantly. We all know that every ride is different, no second of pushing oneself forward on the bike can be repeated, just like time passing. Always new. Maybe familiar at times, but always new. The invention of the bicycle keeps a promise of inventiveness for me. Its history of changing life also has a promise of keeping life changing. The grave, the house flooded a long time ago, the old road that is marked as new, these are squarely at that intersection where I ride. But a new ride, and new road, await me everyday.
Yesterday, I rode along gravel and dirt, getting ready for an upcoming ride that will have some off road biking to it–the Deerfield Dirt Road Rondonee, affectionately known as D2R2. I went off of my usual biking paths, not the same trip out to Collinsville and back. These dirt roads were even less familiar than the regular roads I have taken around here, and as beautiful as the familiar ones. Perhaps even more so. Emily Gresh