Hello again from Connecticut, USA!
Welcome to Part II of my exciting visit to Connecticut, USA. If you missed Part I, then be sure to listen to The Radio Vagabond episode (#187) or read the blog post to get caught up with all the magic that this charming city has to offer.
Quick recap: I arrived in Connecticut, USA from Providence and attended a CouchCrash organised by the Couchsurfing community here. They call it ConnectiCOUCH and it’s a weekend full of exciting experiences and parties for locals and travellers alike to meet up and make lasting friendships. After a wonderful walking tour of Hartford with local Margaret, we got back into her car and headed towards Manchester. And here is where we start this episode…
ORIGIN OF THE YANKEES
Directionally challenged Margaret tells me that because Connecticut is situated between New York and Boston, the state is divided into Boston and New York sports fans: for football they are either Patriots or Giants fans, and for baseball it’s between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The sports rivalry is insane here.
“My son is a Yankees supporter, and I am a Red Sox fan, and he would taunt me by wearing his Yankees hat around the house as a joke. It’s all friendly rivalry and it’s the same in most households in the region – families split in terms of their support for different sports teams” says Margaret.
Margaret tells me how the Yankees became the Yankees.
“When the Dutch first arrived in Connecticut from New York, they set up a fort in the area – now known as Hartford. Around the same time, an English pastor from Massachusetts by the name of Thomas Hooker settled in Hartford with his followers, unbeknownst to the Dutch. When the Dutch returned to Hartford after being away for a few years, they were met with Hooker and his people on their land. Of course, little skirmishes ensued for the rights to the land, but ultimately, they let Hooker stay and they left. But they were unhappy about this and called the settlers ‘Jankers’ which in Dutch means ‘thief’. In the Dutch language, the letter J is pronounced as a Y, hence the name Yankees.”
I wonder how many Yankees fans today know the original meaning of the name…
CONNECTICOUCH WEEKEND OUTINGS
The first day was our Hartford Day. There were four different things to choose from, and I chose to tour the Mark Twain House & Museum in the morning and the Hartford Walking Tour with Margaret in the afternoon (which you can listen to in Part I).
Other options were a visit to the Old New-Gate Prison, a former prison and copper mine site, and adventures in nature: a hike, a visit to Wadsworth Falls State Park and then that River Tubing thing I talked to Jason about in the latest episode, where you flowed down the Farmington River just west of Hartford.
Before Margaret joined us, when I was exploring Mark Twain’s House, she did a tour of Coltsville National Park where Samuel Colt started his Hartford factory on the banks of the Connecticut River in 1847. Yes, that Samuel Colt, as in Colt Firearms.
“Samuel Colt was an entrepreneur who wanted to get into the gun manufacturing industry. After a first failed attempt in Patterson, New Jersey, he returned to his birthplace of Connecticut to give it a try. At first, he wasn’t received well by the locals: he couldn’t secure land or finance, among other things. Somehow, he scavenged money and built up his Colt gun manufacturing empire which took off during the American Civil War. However, he passed away in his 40s and left the company to his wife which was a huge scandal back in those days. His wife, Elizabeth, was young (in her 30s) and was very short, but she ran that company like a badass boss. She took care of workers and ran the business even better than her late husband and propelled it into the household name we know today. She was a remarkable woman, and one of my personal heroines.”
Margaret tells me that Samuel Colt wasn’t a pushover, either. Rollin White, a friend of Samuel’s and an engineer in his factory, approached him with a suggestion about Samuel’s gun design. Being the hardened man he was, Samuel dismissed White’s suggestions. White then took his ideas and patent and approached Winchester gun manufacturers and gave them the designs – which they took. They began manufacturing Colt’s guns and gave White $0.25 for each gun sold, which turned White into a wealthy man. Even when Colt tried to update his original designs, the Winchester gun company took Colt to court.
Margaret tells about Manchester: how the city has a unique blend of traditional and historic village type of set up and a more modern side of the city with shopping malls and high-rise buildings. She tells me that there is a lovely community in the area, and it is a great place to raise a family.
ENGLISH INFLUENCE IN NEW ENGLAND
The next day was Colchester Day. Yes, another place named after a place in good old England. But I guess that is okay since we are in New England after all. In the first episode of this season, I already talked about Boston being named after the small city of Boston, England.
Here in New England, you will also find a Bristol, Leeds, Oxford, Cambridge, Southampton, Dover, Ipswich, Essex, Middlesex, Kensington, Lancaster, Bath, Surrey, Nottingham, Kent, Coventry, Westminster, and Sheffield. I guess the British settlers were super homesick and unimaginative in the ‘naming of places’ department…
This is just 5% of the English location names that have been reused in New England. Don’t believe me? Google it, my friend.
And if you think that Manchester, Connecticut is the only Manchester in New England, think again. As far as I can see they have at least one Manchester in each of the six states of New England. And there are 35 Manchesters in total in the USA.
On that note, I might add: there is not a single Woman’s-Chester… but that might come soon after the Mr Potato Head controversy. If you’re reading this in the future, you won’t understand what I’m talking about but that was a thing that was a big part of the news here in March 2021.
But there are Manchesters all over. And as far as I know, not a single football team is called Manchester United (#missedopportunity). Please correct me if I’m wrong. And I might be, because I am wrong all the time. For example, I was wrong about something I mentioned in Part I…well, actually two things!
RIGHTING MY WRONGS
Okay, so the two things I said in the latest episode that are wrong:
- I said that Couchsurfing was totally free. It was when I joined, and it still is for most of the world but not if you live in the US.
With COVID and people not travelling they understandably need money to maintain the site. The base rate for becoming a member of the Couchsurfing community is now $14.29 per year – which is super affordable considering the lifelong experiences it offers. But as mentioned, only if you’re American (as of March 2021). If you are a verified member, you get a free year. Even if you’re American.
On their website they write:
“Due to the impact of Covid-19, we need your immediate help to keep Couchsurfing alive. All of us who are members of Couchsurfing believe in something greater than money, possessions, and status. It took over 14 years for the Couchsurfing community to come together. Without your immediate help, this community will be lost forever.”
To be honest, $14.29/year or $2.39 /month isn’t a lot. And knowing the community, I’m pretty sure that most of the members agree. We can’t imagine a world without Couchsurfing.
I wrote to ConnectiCOUCH organiser, Jason, who features in Part I, to hear his thoughts on the matter. This is what he says:
“It costs money to run websites and the thousands of dollars I’ve saved on Couchsurfing more than makes up for the $15 a year I can spend to support it.”
telbee works everywhere
The other thing I said that wasn’t right:
- The telbee web app that allows you to send voice messages to me only works in Chrome.
I said that it only works in Google Chrome. And apparently, that is not right. It should work in any browser. But Bernie Klein, the chief operating officer of telbee is a listener of The Radio Vagabond and a reader of the blog – because he sent me a voice message after the latest episode telling me that the app indeed works on all browsers.
“Hi Palle, I hope you are doing well and receiving interesting messages. I heard that you might be experiencing difficulty using the app on other browsers. But the app indeed works on all major browsers, including Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge.”
I’m not sure why I thought that but he’s absolutely right. It works in all the browsers I could get my hands on. Both on my Mac and on my phone.
So, I’m glad I got that set straight. Now there’s no excuse for you not to send me a message. Just click on the banner where it says talk to me.
Once you have recorded it, you get a chance to listen to it and rerecord it.
Right now, I would specifically like to know if you have ever used Couchsurfing.com. If you have, tell me your best Couchsurfing story from anywhere in the world. And if you never have, please tell me if it’s something you would consider doing and if not… why not.
Please record a message, but if you’re a bit shy and prefer to write, you can also do that.
BACK IN CONNECTICUT
I was spending the weekend at Jason and Lee’s wonderful house in Colchester, and that was where the group met the next morning.
This Saturday was to be Colchester Day, and again there were several different options to choose between in the program. Between 11 and 3pm there were six different choices:
I chose Godspeed Opera House
Devil’s Hopyard Hike, Nautilus Nuclear Sub Tour, Fox Farm Brewery Tour and Tasting, Airline Trail Bike Ride, Nike Missile Site and the one I chose: Godspeed Opera House.
After that, we went to Deep River Ferry and then a visit to Gillette Castle, which looks like a medieval fortress, but a step inside the stone castle reveals the built-in couches, table trackway, and wood carvings that all point to the creative genius that was William Gillette. Super interesting building.
Crash Cookout and Pool Party
After that we were all back at Jason & Lee’s House for the “ConnectiCOUCH Crash Cookout and Pool Party” – they have a thing for titles. It was a fantastic day.
COUCHSURFING IN THE USA
This hasn’t been my first time Couchsurfing experience in the USA. Before I tell you about the last bit of what we did at ConnectiCOUCH, let me remind you of another experience I had Couchsurfing. This was where I met Steve from Nashville. Listen to the full episode after this (it’s number 69).
On Sunday, the last day of the CouchCrash weekend, was “New Haven Day” with options to take a walking tour of New Haven, a trip to Walnut Beach, a nice Chauncey Peak hike, rock climbing and what I did… a visit to the PEZ Factory.
You know the iconic plastic PEZ dispensers where you tilt the head back and get a small peppermint candy pushed out. I grew up with them, so it was funny to be here at the factory that was actually like a PEZ museum. They have grown into being collector’s items all over the world.
The factory is in Connecticut, but PEZ Candy was actually invented in Vienna, Austria by Eduard Haas III as an alternative to smoking.
The name PEZ comes from the German word for peppermint, “PfeffErminZ” taking the P from the first letter, E from the middle and Z from the last letter to form the word PEZ. In 1952, PEZ came to the United States and in 1973, PEZ built the first candy manufacturing facility in Orange, CT. I visited the PEZ Visitor Center that they opened in 2011.
It’s over 4,000 square feet (370 m2) dedicated to all things PEZ. We got to see the largest, most comprehensive collection of PEZ memorabilia on public display anywhere in the world: including the iconic PEZ motorcycle, the world’s largest PEZ dispenser, and a viewing room looking into the production area.
There’s also a PEZ trivia game, retail area, interactive historical timeline and much more.
I was mostly amazed how many different PEZ dispensers there were, and it was interesting to learn about an iconic brand like that.
ONTO THE NEXT DESTINATION
We ended the day and CouchCrash weekend with pizza and games in the park. I really had a wonderful time in Connecticut with all the interesting people I met along the way.
It is great to know that I have good friends in this wonderful area of the US: that is the most rewarding aspect about traveling.
I am now on my way to meet Belinda close to Howard University in Boston. And I am so looking forward to that 🙂
My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See ya!
MESSAGE FROM A LISTENER
This is Dan from Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been enjoying your podcast for a while now. I think my favourite is your 12-hour Africa podcast – and yes, I listened to every minute of it!
If you are ever in Columbus, Ohio then look me up. There are a ton of interesting things to do here. I am also a travel podcaster much like yourself, although I am not a digital nomad. My show is called Zipping Around the World and I focus on travel logistics and traveling on your own without the help of a tour company. Oh, and by the way: I love Danish pickled herring.
Cheers Palle, and happy travels!”
Great to hear from you. I’m impressed that you actually listened to my record-breaking long episode from my entire trip through Africa. It’s right what Dan said, it is more than 12 hours long and completely without any advertising breaks.
And that you love Danish pickled herring: wow, I’m even more impressed! Not many non-Danish people like what we call “marineret sild”. Did you have a schnapps with it? A Danish akvavit? You should.
I also wrote a bit with Dan after his voice note, and he elaborated that he has some friends from Odense, Denmark, which his wife and he got to spend some time with several years ago. And as for your podcast, Zipping Around the World: I started listening to it after I got your message. And you have a great voice, some interesting stories and a ton of travel tips.
In one of my favourite episodes Dan talks about going on the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau for the day. Something I did myself, so I can relate to what Dan and his buddy Bill were talking about.
I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
I really would like to hear from you. Where are you and what are you doing as you listen to this episode? You can either send me an email on email@example.com or go to TheRadioVagabond.com/Contact. Or send me a voice message by clicking on the banner.
Either way, I would love to hear from you. It’s so nice to know who’s on the other end of this.
A special thank you to my sponsor, Hotels25.com, who always provide me with the best, most affordable accommodation wherever I am in the world.