Connecticut: Cruisin' the Constitution State
Despite being one of the most heavily industrialized states in the nation and occasionally being derided as nothing more than a "suburb" between Boston and New York, Connecticut has plenty of attractions and sites of historic import, as well as some beautiful and scenic roads to offer the avid traveler, as I would discover on a meandering two-day trip through the Constitution State.
Zipping down Interstate 84 from Boston to Hartford, my friend Mike's Honda VTX 1800 has ample torque to spare, and my 1100 Honda Shadow keeps pace satisfactorily all the way to the Mark Twain House in West Hartford, our first tourist destination. The bushy-haired wit, journalist, and social commentator lived in this quirky 19-room mansion from 1874 to 1891 and wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court while residing here. There's a museum featuring an audiovisual presentation chronicling Twain's history in the area, as well as many manuscripts and personal effects on display. For anyone interested in learning more about the greatest of American satirists, this monument is certainly worth visiting.
Look it Up
On our way out the door, I ask one of the employees how to get to Route 4 for our next stop, the Noah Webster House. Built in1748, it is the restored birthplace and childhood home of Noah Webster (1758-1843). Hartford's most famous native son, Webster was the lexicographer who published the first English dictionary of the American language, which eventually evolved into the popular series of Merriam-Webster dictionaries used today. However, he received little reward for this work in his lifetime, and was plagued with debt throughout his declining years. The directions given to Webster's home are as simple as one of his definitions, but they assume a local's familiarity with the area - "Go straight for a few blocks and turn left at the white church." Pressing for additional details yields no discernible results, so we proceed in the certainty that a wrong turn is inevitable.
We cruise down Farmington Avenue in search of Main Street, and just as we're ready to throw in the towel and take the interstate to access Route 4, the national historic landmark we're looking for appears. After roaming the grounds and inspecting the restored two-story Colonial farmhouse, we hop on the busy highway for the quick stint to Farmington. Once there, though, I realize we could have followed a less prosaic route along Farmington Avenue from West Hartford.
The immediate vicinity around the intersection of Farmington Avenue and Main Street has a quaint, alluring cluster of shops and restaurants. It's early yet and we're more eager to see what lies in store on the roads ahead. So we forgo a pit stop and press on in our quest for some wide-open asphalt.
Stop and Go
We thought we had found some a short time later, riding north through farmland on Route 167, but a preponderance of traffic lights disrupts the flow. You can't ride five miles here without hitting a light. We also pass an unusually large number of schools in the West Simsbury area, which perhaps lends a good bit of credence to the claim that Hartford and neighboring Springfield, Massachusetts, constitute New England's "Knowledge Corridor."
Once we turn south onto Route 179, the number of other vehicles and strip malls decreases; but some of the best sections of curvy road are jammed up with workmen and equipment, leaving very few sweepers for us to fully enjoy. A definite reason to return post-construction, for newly paved twisty roads!