We’ve been so lucky with the weather this winter; so far, we’ve dodged all the storms. We had sleet and a snowy mix the night before this tour, but the day dawned with temps in the high thirties and bright sunshine with dry pavement. Lucky Ducks!
Our destination was Hartford, a city we’ve never completely explored before. Our group numbered 65 and all were relieved that the temperature was comfortable. Temps in the high 50’s were predicted by afternoon. After a brief rest stop on Brainard Road, we met our local guides, born and brought up in this fair city. The guide on my coach was Mike McGarry who claims the honorary title of Mayor of Hartford. It seems he’s run for the office unsuccessfully three times and he had the personality to go with the office. All this seems reasonable to me.
We started our tour in the heart of downtown, passing by the State Capitol with its gold leaf dome and iconic design. We saw the armory, many churches, and beautiful parks. Our destination was St. Joseph’s Cathedral, seat of the archbishop of Hartford. The church had been destroyed by fire in 1956. And, arising like a phoenix from the ashes, the present structure is amazing and was dedicated in 1962. The stained-glass windows are sensational; they flood the cathedral with colored light. We were greeted by one of the priests there, probably because our guide is a parishioner.
After our tour, the group boarded the coach for our next stop. Mike took us to the Connecticut State Supreme Court and Museum of Connecticut History. The Neoclassic limestone building is impressive – a grand columned front, and interior with splendid marble staircases and lofty ceilings. Our time was mostly spent in the Connecticut Collections galleries dedicated to the many firms who manufactured goods and services that put Hartford on the map. Here, we learned about products produced by Colt Firearms, Chase, Electrolux, and many, many more.
Insurance has always been a major product in Hartford, and we visited quite a few buildings representing the industry. Our next stop was the Mark Twain house visitor center. Folks enjoyed this quick stop, particularly because of the fine gift shop at this facility. We had fun posing with a Lego image of the writer. Back in the bus – and this time, we headed for the Colt mansion and the various factory and out-buildings that were part of the Colt Empire in its heyday. When Mrs. Colt died, she had no heirs, so all of her wealth was bequeathed to the city of Hartford. The result is the Coltsville National Historical Park, a series of marvelous playing fields and athletic facilities. Wonderful.
When our tour was done, our drivers dropped us off at Chowder Pot IV for lunch. We enjoyed Prime Rib, Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Baked Stuffed Shrimp in one of their well-kept banquet rooms complete with private bartender. This restaurant really understands groups and were sensational hosts. Everybody was asked how they like their beef; everybody loved their meals.
Our next stop was the 80-acre Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. This small museum is one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. Beneath its geodesic dome, we found an exceptional display of early Jurassic fossil tracks that were made 200 million years ago. The Museum presents a bird’s-eye view of the preserved Mesozoic floodplain covered with tracks, dioramas of Triassic and Jurassic environments, collections of fossils, and interactive exhibits. The trackway in Rocky Hill, CT has been designated a registered Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of Interior.
Dilophosaurus is the dinosaur believed to have made the tracks that are on display in the Exhibit Center. The first large carnivorous dinosaurs appeared in the early Jurassic. The Eubrontes tracks, which are the most abundant large fossil track found in the central valley of Connecticut, are attributed to an 18 to 20-foot long predator. This ceratosaur quite likely was related to Dilophosaurus. The rangers on duty were great. They gave a trackside talk and hosted us at a showing of a film about Dilophosaurus. Everybody had a great time and got back on the bus after a fun day in Hartford.