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Trip 22 -- NYC-Boston Walk
Day 2: New Rochelle to Norwalk
Today: 44381 steps/37.97 km/23.59 mi/7h 7m
The remnants of Laura threaten to produce the very soaker I thought was unlikely when I started the journey. When I go to sleep, I check the latest forecast: Most of the rain will be in the morning. Fair enough -- I can sleep in and start later.
I wake up and the forecast has changed: The rain will be in the afternoon. I have about three hours of "good" weather (less than a 50% rain chance) before it sets in. I take the Radisson's plastic laundry bag in case I need to put it over my head, though I'm more concerned about protecting the computer. It's unlikely moderate rain would affect the contents of my backpack, but a downpour could be awful.
Today's stretch is entirely on Route 1, the Boston Post Road. The air has the perfume of greenery and humidity; it's overcast but not raining. It's perfect walking weather, cloudy and breezy. I see no one on the sidewalk, so I remove my mask and hurriedly write the note "no one out -> mask off," at which point I almost bump into someone.
The incident happens in front of a Hyundai outlet. New Rochelle wants to sell cars. Farther along there are Mercedes-Benz and Honda dealers, a combination Jaguar and Land Rover dealership, and then one selling Jeeps, Chryslers, Rams, and Dodges. Then Porsches. And places to fix and polish them: a car wash, an auto-body shop. Finally some floral beauty: Larchmont Nurseries and Tony's Nursery are pretty and colorful. And from the window of an antique shop, a painted naked woman looks over her shoulder at me as she retreats into her red background.
It starts to drizzle. Rain is to walking what turbulence is to flying. A little bit isn't bad and can sometimes even feel nice. The problem is that you don't know how uncomfortable it's going to get. The few drops are refreshing, but I worry that it's the beginning of something fierce.
At step 6,000, Harbor Island Park suddenly pops into view. I'd forgotten that I'm so close to the coast. Sailboats are anchored. The park contains a one-room schoolhouse, in use from 1816 to 1855 and moved in 1994 from a few blocks away. I peer inside; there's a furnace in the center, and there are wooden desks with slates identical to those found in all period schoolhouses in the country. Next to that is a "Happy to Chat" bench: "Sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello," it says. A lovely concept, I think, though it could get creepy, and of course nowadays we're all supposed to stay apart from each other.
Four minutes later a plaque marks the spot where, on September 23, 1661, John Richbell purchased Mamaroneck from the chief Wappaquewam. Then another sign, in Rye, describes three sites in the "Boston Post Road Historic District." John Jay, the first Supreme Court justice, spent his childhood here, and his son built a mansion. Another mansion has been in the same family almost continuously since 1831. And Whitby Castle, finished in 1854, is now a golf club.
I've begun the walk on a Friday so that two of the walking days are Saturdays, because listening to the news quiz "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" on National Public Radio is an especially enjoyable way to spend an hour on a Saturday morning. Today they announce a new game called "What's New With German Nudists?" to introduce the recent story about a naked man running after a wild boar in Berlin who stole his computer. We also learn that a way to protect cows is to paint eyes on their behinds, so they appear to have spotted their predators. And many pages on the Scottish Wikipedia site were actually written in English, with spellings to evoke Scottish accents. Mo Rocca confirms my belief that Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech was more reminiscent of an amateur audition for "Evita" than cogent discourse.
The program ends as I reach Port Chester, the last town in New York. The drizzle has stopped. There are many Central American restaurants, and their cooking finds its way to my nose. It's too early for lunch, but this lively stretch, with Port Chester's elevated train station in the center, merits future exploration.
Just after noon, as I take my 19,000th step of the day, I cross the little bridge over the Byram River into Connecticut.
The problem is that the first town is Greenwich, which I've long thought of as a boring, snooty place. Back in college, when I drove between Boston and New York a few times, I once needed to stop somewhere and make a phone call; this was when such activity was accomplished by means of a public pay phone. I made the mistake of thinking there might be one in Greenwich, a place I had heard of, and I exited the highway. I drove for miles without finding a gas station, restaurant, or other establishment that might serve people looking for basic utilities.
Around a month ago, I decided to take the train up to Connecticut and have a walk around some pretty coastline. I wanted to find a park near the water, and I had enjoyed a lovely stroll in Stamford in May, walking the triangle of Kosciuszko Park after consuming a seafood lunch outside on the first day establishments were allowed to reopen with outdoor dining. Greenwich seemed to offer a few similar peninsulas that might allow for a fine walk.
Greenwich Point Park looked ideal, but research revealed that they don't want outsiders to enjoy the trails and beach. Anyone entering the beach road has to pay, whether in a car or on foot, and if that weren't bad enough, they don't sell access there -- it has to be prepurchased somewhere in town, at an office that isn't open on weekends. So I didn't bother, and instead I wandered around Riverside, where I got a glimpse of the water before "Private Road" and "Get the Hell Out of Here" signs marked the extent of my welcome.
Today is no different. As soon as I enter Connecticut the sidewalk disappears, and I walk in the narrow shoulder. After a short while I find the sidewalk on the other side, so I cross. Now I'm on the left, facing traffic; I see on the right a bus stop. How are people supposed to get there?
Beyond the bus stop, the sidewalk resumes on the right, and it vanishes on the left. But Greenwich has lost its chance. What am I supposed to do, keep crossing the street? No way. I walk in the shoulder, at times so thin that two geckos couldn't socially distance, and I wave my right hand, pointing to the right, to get drivers coming at me to move toward their left lane.
The sidewalk keeps reappearing and disappearing, and I maintain a stubborn forward movement. The car dealerships resume, this time selling Paganis, Bentleys, Aston Martins, and Rolls-Royces. Next to an Audi seller is the unpainted wooden John Addington house, dating from around 1725.
The sidewalk takes me up toward a church, and I think it's going to bring me down on the other side, but it has mocked me again. It continues on a road to the left and I'm up over where I want to be, above a wall. I climb down the wall, cross the road, and get back on track. Farther along the sidewalk appears to veer left again, toward a shopping center on a parallel frontage road, but I've learned my lesson. I stay along the main road and approach the median between the main and side roads. That's clearly not where they want people to walk, but again there is a bus stop. How are people supposed to reach it?
It's time for lunch, but I'm determined not to spend money in Greenwich. Why should I? So I can pay a meal tax that will probably serve to enhance the experience of drivers and their high-end cars, reducing the space available to walkers even more?
A sign welcomes me to Cos Cob, but I'm skeptical. I open Google and type "is cos cob" and that's all Google needs. It finishes "part of greenwich," and underneath is the answer: "Cos Cob -- Neighborhood in Greenwich, Connecticut." I'm pretty sure the same is true for Riverside; I don't bother to look it up. I pass a diner with families shooing away flies, and I hope the flies return with their relatives. I won't eat until I reach Stamford.
The rain has started again, lightly, and it's refreshing. I've been walking for almost five hours, and finally I see that I'm in Stamford. I know this because there are people who aren't white and there are sidewalks on both sides of the street. I reach the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame, home to geese and a bronze statue of the baseball player.
There's a yellow taco truck along the park. I don't want lunch there, but I want something. They advertise tacos made from such body parts as cow brains, cow eyes, and cow head. I ask for the brains, and after a shout to the chef in back the woman says they're available. I order a taco and a mandarin Jarritos soda. Moments later it's revealed that they are out of the brains after all, and they don't have the eyes. But they do have the head. It's served piping hot, on two soft tortillas, and I add hot sauce. It's a perfect appetizer, the squishy flesh an ideal counterpart to the more robust tortillas and smooth sauce.
This is Stamford's west side, and the road has an abundance of Central American and Mexican restaurants and markets. I've been in Stamford before, including for a Scrabble tournament in 2011 where my club's director broke the tournament record with an 803-point game; one of his plays was "cothurni" and that's the only reason I know the word. From that visit and some monthly performances at a French bistro way back when, I know the city proper is big on office spaces and short on non-chain eateries. So I decide that the west side will offer the better food.
I order the chicken enchiladas in mole at Casa Villa Express, and they arrive on a plate so hot that the server wraps a napkin around the edge and warns me not to touch it directly. When they cool off, I savor the slightly sweet, slightly bitter flavor. I have two more Jarritos bottles, one grapefruit and one pineapple, and I use the restroom before noticing a sign saying it's out of service. Well, it seemed to work.
The afternoon rain never arrives, and the sidewalk never goes away, confirming that the problem lies with Greenwich and not Connecticut as a whole. It's sunny as I finish today's journey, two hours through the pleasant town of Darien. My hotel is the Doubletree and it's technically in Norwalk, but it's so close to the town line that some of the rooms may be in Darien. I collect the customary Doubletree welcome cookie from the front desk; I'll eat it later. My room affords an excellent view of the Costco parking lot behind the hotel. If I hook my eyes to the right, though, the view is lush with trees.
Today was four miles longer than yesterday, and I notice it. I flop down on the bed like a seal and fall asleep for an hour and a half. Around 7:30 I decide I should figure out dinner; this time I do check the map, to see if there's anything up ahead that I don't know about. There isn't, so I backtrack for ten minutes to Rory's (my first dinner in Connecticut might as well refer to a character from "Gilmore Girls"), where the seating is outside a cozy-looking house. There's one high-top table available way in the back, as though they were expecting me.
I start with a negroni and a spinach, beet, and caramelized-walnut salad -- there haven't been many vegetables on this trip so far -- and then I have a Malbec and a pork chop with a bourbon glaze and homemade applesauce. The glaze is subtly sweet with hints of maple; the chop is a little overdone for me, but I usually like meat rarer than most (those goats in Little Yemen were about five minutes shy of being ready to plate).
I'm amazed to have been spared the heavy rain, and I'm thankful that my feet are cooperating with the journey so far. I walk back to the Doubletree, the scent of the air as sweet as the cookie that awaits me.