Rob with one of the hundreds of Greenway signs he has installed across Connecticut. He’s particularly proud of this one because he came up with a way to hang it on the chain link fence.
Our hero today was Rob Dexter, an East Coast Greenway volunteer extraordinaire in Connecticut. Rob left his home in West Hartford at the crack of dawn to meet us on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. The trail began within our first mile of leaving Sarah’s house in New Haven, right on the Yale campus, and stretches some 80 miles north to Northampton, Mass., with just a few gaps along the way. It’s a remarkable stretch of greenway with a nearly steady canopy of tree cover and amenities just off the trail in the small towns we passed.
But back to Rob. I met him last fall when he biked a number of long days for the Greenway’s East Coast River Relay. His relay legs were about the only ones with bad weather, yet he always had a smile on his face. A great athlete, he races on skis in the winter and bikes and plays tennis in the summer. He teaches boy scouts to bike and coaches young skiers. On bike tours for the Greenway, he often rides sweep, making sure slower cyclists don’t get lost — or discouraged. And he has singlehandedly installed Greenway directional signs across the state, a painstaking job that we benefitted from as soon as we crossed into Connecticut a few days ago. In short, he’s a good guy.
We were happy for Rob’s cheerful company and his local trail knowledge. That is, until he starting telling us about the hills ahead of us, today and tomorrow. That’s enough of that kind of talk. He’s aware of how much coffee we’ve been drinking on this trip so he led us to a couple rest stops. One of them was a newer store backing up to the Greenway. Rob thought it might be a Dairy Queen, with just a connecting path and bike racks visible. Turns out it was a Cumberland Farms convenience store. You should have seen Dee’s delight! She has “Cumbys” at homein Rhode Island and has their phone app for special deals. And coffee, all sizes, $1!
Happy camper at a brand new Cumberland Farms on the Greenway
All day we dodged rain, amazingly, but we couldn’t avoid a few hills. The Greenway turns east at Simsbury and leaves the Farmington Canal trail. One large hill (“just remember the little engine that could,” Rob told me) took us up, then down into Bloomfield. We rode through the edge of Hartford before turning to ride to Rob’s home in West Hartford, including a quick tour of the downtown, which seems to be thriving.
We had one more big hill to climb to get to Rob’s house. It was worth it when we saw the view from his back deck, part of the home renovation work he and his wife, Claire, took on over the last few years. Looking east, they have a stunning view of the Hartford skyline and a ridge of hills behind it.
And yes, that ridge of hills is where we are headed tomorrow. Slow and steady, like the little engine.
Claire and Rob served dinner with a view on their deck, with the Hartford skyline in the distance
A small stretch of Greenway and (below) the largest tree in Connecticut, a sycamore