There Will Never Be Another Todd Street

Today Todd Street would never get approved. Too narrow. Too curvy. Too dangerous.

Helaine’s away. I’m remembering why I didn’t really like bachelor life. I actually dressed this evening to go out and pick up some Chinese food. To get there I drove down our hill into the Mill River Valley&#185 toward Sleeping Giant Mountain.

I live in a town just north of New Haven. This is the countrified part of town. Our house features well water, oil heat and a septic system. I couldn’t give you directions to the nearest sidewalk.

To get from my place to the main drag I take Todd Street. As I drove Todd tonight I realized there would never be another street like it!

Two lanes wide with no shoulders or sidewalks Todd Street climbs a serpentine path up Mount Carmel. It seems totally illogical today. Sometime over the last 250 years this squiggly route must have made sense.

During the winter it’s often impassable to two wheel drive vehicles and challenging for four wheel drive. An underground stream migrates upward every winter creating a small but predictable ice patch.

I am willing to take the minus of this little road to get its plusses. Todd Street fully canopied by trees and running over a few brooks helps define the area.

Today Todd Street would never get approved. Too narrow. Too curvy. Too dangerous.

I understand why, but I’m not sure we’re the better for it.

&#185 – I’ve never heard anyone call it the Mill River Valley, but it is.

After I posted this entry I received this follow-up on Facebook from Clark Hurlburt

You are most likely aware that Shepard Ave. was orginally known as the “Shunpike”, originaly built by farmers moving animals and produce from northern communities to market in New Haven. The purpose of the Shunpike was to avoid the toll house in Mt. Carmel south of what is now Mt. Carmel Ave. located at the cut in the granite outcrop called “The Steps”. In those days Todd Street was the last east-west road you could take to get to the Shunpike and avoid the toll. Might explain the difficult route.

Back On The Trail

Helaine asked if she could join me on the trail today. She doesn’t bike, so we just drove there together and then I rode off. I said I’d meet her in a half hour.

I took a break from riding yesterday thinking it would be beneficial. As I began today, I realized it was not. My legs were still sore.

This time I started at Brooksvale Park. It’s a large, normally uncrowded, rural park. There’s a large meadow, where I’ve emceed lots of charity walks, along with ball fields, a small playground and what was a petting zoo.

Sometime while Stef was a toddler, word came down from the USDA: The animals needed to be isolated from the humans.

For each fence that penned the animals in, a second fence was erected. It’s crazy. These animals are now eligible for the MSNBC prison doc block! And with two sets of fences, the kids are far away. Any warm and fuzzy moment is lost.

PIC-0112We left the park, crossed the street and picked up the trail.

This part of the trail is a little more isolated. There are long stretches through wetlands with swiftly moving water on the west side.

Going north from Brooksvale, the trail is table flat. That’s no small accomplishment for a hilly state like Connecticut. After all, I entered the trail in a part of Hamden called Mount Carmel.

PIC-0110I’ve been trying to figure how biking compares with last years running. I just read an article that says, at 10 mph (around my speed) divide your distance by 4.2 to get a running equivalent. So, today’s 6+ miles turns into around 1.5 of running… without the pounding. Obviously, I need to do more.

This sign (above/left) was the most unexpected sight of today’s ride. I saw one swan deep in the marsh. She remains unmolested.

The Most Beautiful Weather

The past two days have featured the most beautiful weather you could imagine. Temperatures were in the upper 60s and low 70s, the dew points (hence humidity) were low, the sky azure blue. I had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

I tried to convince Helaine to go to New York City, but with Steffie studying for finals, she wanted to stay nearby. I called a friend, trying to see if he’d take a drive to the shore. Zero.

This afternoon, the sunshine was too much to take. I put the top down on the car and headed toward Branford with the intention of catching the setting Sun over Long Island Sound.

Though I often kvetch about the winter weather, there’s no doubt Connecticut is spectacularly beautiful. I live in an area called Mount Carmel, though I’m only at 280 feet above sea level. Within a mile of our house is Sleeping Giant Mountain.

When the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, they left much of what they were pushing forward in place. That’s how Long Island got to be where it is and how Southern Connecticut has some sharp, though not very tall, ‘mountains.’ Most notable are East Rock, overlooking New Haven Harbor and Sleeping Giant.

In the Sound itself are many pint sized island, often one single rock, left with the glacial retreat. The group off the Branford shoreline is called the Thimble Islands.

Stony Creek, an area in Branford overlooking the Thimbles was my destination. The thought was I’d go there early enough to see the sunset, get some photos and go home.

I hadn’t been to the Branford shoreline for a number of years, and I appreciate it more today. There are some ostentatious homes, though most are not. In fact the best way to characterize the architecture of Stony Creek is, appropriate. This is the right place to have a fence or home draped with floats that usually mark the lobster pots that sit beneath the water’s surface.

Parking was easier than I’d ever seen it at the Town Dock. The view was clear all the way to the horizon. There were few boats moving among the islands – probably due to the later hour.

I’ve only been on a Thimble Island once in my twenty years here. Someone I used to work with used to be married to a someone whose parents owned a small home on Governors Island – right next door to Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau. I spent an afternoon trying to be nonchalant whenever in their presence.

The house I visited was small and sweet. The center of the island was like the spine of a large flat rock. Though there was fresh water and a telephone (in those pre-cell days) at the house, there was no outside source of electricity. When it got dark outside, it got dark inside.

As the Sun began to set, I began to realize it would be setting behind a small hill – not over the water. I got in my car and began to drive.

Because Branford’s shoreline is irregular, it was impossible to know if or when I’d find a spot with a view. And, even if there was a spot, it might not have parking or be open to strangers at all.

I headed down one road with houses on one side and a salt marsh on the other. It was obvious from the beginning there would be no sunset from here, but the view across the marsh toward an inlet from the Sound and a large marina was impressive. So was a closer scene of two ducks in a small salt pond at the edge of the marsh.

After a few minutes I moved on. Using the deep, late day shadows as my guide, I headed to a residential area. Four houses faced a small inlet. Though the sign said “No Parking,” I pulled to the curb and shut my engine. In the twenty minutes I stayed, there were no other cars.

There still wasn’t a clear shot to the Sun setting over the water, but there was a nice notch in a hill where the Sun would dip. In the foreground a sailboat was moored in the channel.

I took as many shots as I could, bracketing the exposures. I’m going to have to rethink this type of shot because I’m still not sure I got the best balance between the red sky and the sailboat… or if this type of shot is even possible in the digital world. When I allowed enough light for the boat, the sky lost its color. And, when I let the red sky dominate, the boat couldn’t be seen. Even with Photoshop this picture isn’t nearly as nice as what I saw with the naked eye.

After nearly 7,000 photos there is still plenty I don’t know about my camera – stuff I want to learn. There was probably some technique I could have use to improve my chances of a good shot. But what?

The Sun was down as I left Branford, but that made my two last shots even nicer. Branford’s Green has a few churches, including one built in 1640. It is starkly lit at night and stood out well.

A few blocks down the road is the town’s library. From the outside it is an imposing building with a domed roof and stately columns. Inside (of course it wasn’t open on a Sunday night at 8:30 PM), it seems like the kind of place Conan Doyle would put Sherlock Holmes. The floor plan is probably considered impractical today, with its alcoves and curved walls, but it is fun to be in.

All the pictures from this entry are available in a larger format in my photo gallery, or by clicking on any individual photo