Stop Motion

Stop Motion

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail bike path now reaches, without interruption, more than 24 miles from downtown New Haven all the way to Southington. It’s great to be able to travel so far but even better that there are so many stops worth making along the way.

Start off on the right wheel at the bike repair station in Scantlebury Park. Located next to the park’s splash pad, this impressive and free public resource offers a bike stand and an assortment of tools including several wrenches, a couple of screwdrivers, a tire iron and a pedal wrench, which earned a thumbs-up from my bike-savvy husband, who came along for the ride. Most important, there’s a pump to get your tires ready and a water fountain for filling up your bottle.

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We made our first stop at Fussy Coffee on Winchester Avenue at Munson Street—a good alternate starting point, with a Bike New Haven station on the corner. Opened earlier this summer, Fussy Coffee (pictured second) features a menu offering not only the expected coffee drinks but also some more unusual items such as Luxardo Cherry Coffee Soda ($5.50) and Watermelon Lime Cold Brew ($4.75), plus a breakfast menu, sandwiches, salads and—perfect for a bike snack—Belgian Frites ($6-9). We had a long ride ahead, so we stuck around just long enough to down a decadent Thai Iced Tea with cream ($2.50). With its concrete floors and beautiful wood tables, chairs and stools, Fussy Coffee has a cool industrial vibe—and its air conditioning was a literally cool refresher.

Farther up the path, we ran into local artist Kwadwo Adae (pictured third) working on his colorful new Women’s Empowerment Mural, a collection of 17 female figures doing their own take on the Statue of Liberty, from a “Latina abuela” carrying a cane to a blue-haired teenager with a transgender symbol on her t-shirt. Many of the figures are modeled on women Adae knows or has met, including Newhallville matriarch Florence Caldwell; Westville musician and producer Hanifa Washington; New Haven youth coordinator (and Adae’s partner) Katie Jones; and his meditation teacher, Khushi, with whom he has traveled overseas to run mural-making and meditation programs. The Women’s Empowerment Mural is supported by a long list of grants, and more than 200 members of the community had helped paint it by the time we saw it. You’ll also find a smaller Adae mural farther south along the path, depicting runners against the New Haven skyline.

A ride through Hamden’s industrial backyard leads eventually to a tunnel under Skiff Street, the local bike path’s biggest hill and a bridge over Dixwell Avenue. Turn right on the far side of the bridge to exit the bike path and right again to reach Common Grounds, a different coffee shop with a different vibe, perched on a hill next to the bridge. Here baked goods rule, with coffee cake, carrot cake, muffins, scones, 10 kinds of biscotti and giant chocolate chip cookies. We bought two of them for $3.06 apiece and carried them out in our backpack for later. Straight-up coffee at Common Grounds runs $2.12 for a small cup, $2.59 for a large, but there are also some appealing cold drinks on the menu, including frozen lattes ($4.95-5.52) and smoothies ($4.95).

From here, the bike path offers up a long, flat and shady stretch. Don’t pass up the “Area for Rest and Prayer” on the right side of the path as we always have. For the first time, we stopped and rolled our bikes down into the glen, where a purple bridge (pictured first) invites cyclists to cross the stream and take a load off. Wind chimes in the trees were still, and we were surprised how quiet it was in this charming little spot in a private back yard, where the burble of the brook and birdsong really did soothe our spirits. A mailbox mounted on a fence contains a guest book full of notes from other travelers who’ve stopped by.

Just past the bike path’s Sherman Avenue parking area, brewpub Mikro’s new location (pictured fourth and fifth) is a winner for cyclists. Its patio, just steps from the path, was full late on a Tuesday afternoon, and patrons were playing tiki toss and cornhole on the nearby deck. Mikro offers a rotating list of 20 microbrews on tap ($6-15, with most in the $7-9 range) as well as a full dinner menu and brunch on Sundays.

Not far north of Mikro, after crossing West Woods Road, you can take a pit stop at Cheshire Cycle (which is actually in Hamden) by hopping off the bike path at People’s United Bank and following the parking lot along Whitney Avenue a few yards. Mechanics there will gladly repair flats, but avid cyclists will want to stop in just to gawk at some of the cutting-edge and classic frames hanging in this jam-packed shop, as my husband did. When he started throwing around obscure words like “biopace” and “XTR gears” with the guy behind the counter, I dragged him out of there.

Back on the bike path, just north of Cheshire Cycle, take a right on Todd Street and dip down to Whitney Avenue for a stop at B & D Deli Works, a classic sandwich shop with outdoor seating. We missed out on a snack because B & D closes up shop at 2:30 on weekdays, 2 on Saturdays. But get there in time for lunch and you’ll find a selection of deli sandwiches ($4.99-7.50), clubs ($8.99), paninis ($8.99), hot dogs ($3.59-8.25), wraps ($7.99), soups ($2.99-3.50) and salads ($6.99-9.99). B & D also serves breakfast, starting at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 7 on Saturdays.

North of there, you’ll start noticing the damage from May’s tornado, which ripped through the area. The Lock Keeper’s House, a historic building that now serves as the Hamden Police Department’s Mount Carmel substation, sits on this stretch of the path. Here you’ll find a water fountain, trail maps and—at least on the day we passed through—a couple of water bowls out for pups.

We ended our ride at Brooksvale Park (pictured sixth and seventh) in the north end of Hamden. A small brown sign points the way. Turn left off the main path, traverse a small bridge and cross Brooksvale Avenue up to the park, where you can say hello to the sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits and whoever else happens to be about. We sat in the shade and shared our delicious Common Grounds cookie without a worry for our waistlines.

After all, by the end of the return ride, we had logged about 22 miles.

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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