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Come On Down! The Water’s Fine!

Sure, today started out iffy.

But by early afternoon, the sun came out. Clouds skittered away. With the temperature in the mid-80s, it was perfect beach weather.

You wouldn’t know it at Compo though. From one jetty to the other, the sand was empty.

On South Beach, picnic tables and grills that last year were as hard to snag as Harvard admissions, begged for action.

Even Hillspoint Road — usually chock-a-block with non-sticker folks who park (way past the limit), then walk to Compo or (even closer) Old Mill Beach — looked as lonesome as North Dakota.

Is anybody here? Anyone?

Or is Westport traveling through another dimension, not only of sight and sound but of mind …

Everyone’s Asking About That Construction By Bertucci’s…

Westporters are wondering what’s happening next to Westport Wash & Wax, where Long Lots Road feeds into Post Road East.

As reported last December on “06880,” it’s the new town trend: retail, offices and residential.

White Plains-based DMC LLC is constructing 2 mixed-use buildings — 3 stories, 10,000 square feet each. Retail and offices will occupy the first floor; 16 residences will be above.

Plus 4 more townhouses at the rear of the property, each with 3 2-bedroom units.

The site of the new retail/office/residential complex at the foot of Long Lots Road. The green building has been torn down.

Six of the 28 (total) apartments are “affordable,” according to state 8-30g regulations.

Included in the development: 93 parking spaces.

Right now, work is going on behind a construction fence. All that’s visible from the road is a single chimney.

Meanwhile, a few yards away at the former Bertucci’s, work progresses s-l-o-w-l-y on Ignazio Pizza. That’s the 2nd location for the thin-crust pizzeria. The 1st is underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s a toss-up which place — the as-yet-unnamed retail/office/residential complex, or Ignazio Pizza — will open first.

Paul Newman Lives — At The Farmers’ Market

Westporters of a certain age remember Paul Newman as one of the most famous movie idols of the 20th century — and our neighbor.

The man. The legend. The US postage stamp.

Younger Westporters — and their counterparts all around the country — know him as a salad dressing, popcorn and lemonade guy.

Lost in all that is the fact in 2006 that Paul Newman — who, don’t forget, was also a race car driver, and the founder of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — teamed up with Michel Nischan to start The Dressing Room.

That superbly named restaurant next to the Westport Country Playhouse was Fairfield County’s first farm-to-table restaurant. And — thanks to the star power of its 2 owners — it helped kick-start a whole new way for local residents to look at food.

Here’s something else many folks don’t know (or forgot): The Playhouse parking lot was the original site of the Westport Farmers’ Market. The location was convenient and open. Both Newman and Nischan helped plant the seed, and watched it grow.

This September marks the 10th anniversary of Paul Newman’s death. To honor this remarkable man — one who during his 50 years gave tons of time, energy and money back to the town — the Farmers’ Market has created a special project with Newman’s Own. (The charitable foundation is one more of his legacies.)

Paul Newman often shopped at the Westport Farmer’s Market. He was a particular fan of the locally produced honey.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at this Thursday’s Farmers’ Market — and also on Thursday, August 16 — everyone is invited to share their memories of Paul Newman.

Newman’s Own will bring a life-sized cutout of their founder to the Market (now bigger than ever, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot). Video equipment will be on hand to record stories and tributes.

Clips may be shared by Newman’s Own Foundation, in a video and on social media.

Can’t make it to the market? Submissions can be emailed: social@newmansownfoundation.org.

There must be a million Paul Newman stories in Westport. Let’s start those cameras rolling.

Traffic Tales: Back In The Day

The ongoing intense, important and interesting discussion about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge — including effects on spillover traffic from I-95, particularly with tractor-trailers and other large vehicles — got me thinking.

The highway — then called the Connecticut Turnpike — sliced through Saugatuck in the 1950s, devastating that tight-knit, largely Italian neighborhood. Homes and businesses were demolished. Families were uprooted. Entire roads disappeared.

But for the rest of Westport, “the thruway” was a godsend. Post Road traffic had become almost unbearable. Trucks rumbled through day and night. Route 1 was the main — and really the only — direct route between New York and Boston.

Post Road, near the Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection, a few years before I-95 was built. Fairfield Furniture is now National Hall.

I know this only because I have heard stories from people who lived here then. When my parents moved to Westport, the Turnpike was open. It was fresh, modern and new — a symbol of postwar modernity, heralding a very promising future.

What I do not know — and what many “06880” readers would like to hear — is what the Post Road was really like, in the years before I-95.

How bad was it? Did it affect parking, businesses, homes? How did people cope?

If you lived in Westport in the pre-thruway days, let us know. Click “Comments” below. Tell us what you remember. If you’ve got photos, send them along.

And if you’ve got any advice for the town and state, as we grapple once again with the future of Saugatuck, we’d love to hear it.

Calling All Young Shoots

The Westport Farmers’ Market celebrates creativity.

Every Thursday, the Imperial Avenue parking lot teems with vendors offering creative ways to prepare fresh food (and not just produce — there’s meat, baked goods and more). Musicians perform. It’s fun, funky and alive.

There’s a lot to do, and see. It’s a photographer’s paradise too.

Which is why I’m happy to promote one of the the Farmers’ Market’s more creative opportunities.

An annual contest highlights images taken all summer long. And it’s got an especially creative name: The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition.

Get it?

“Towhead Tomatoes” — 2016 Fan Favorite winner, and 2nd place in 15-18 age group. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

There are 3 age groups: 8-10 years old, 11-14 and 15-18. All photos must be taken somewhere on the Farmers’ Market premises. Submissions are due by August 25.

This is no rinky-dink affair. Jurors include Lillie Fortino, Westport Arts Center director of education; Stephanie Webster, editor-in-chief of CTBites; Eileen Sawyer, a photographer and member of the WFM board of directors, and Liz Rueven, founding editor www.kosherlikeme.com.

First-place winners in each category receive a $100 cash prize, and the chance to lead a food photo shoot with Bill Taibe (chef/owner of The Whelk, Ka Wa Ni and Jesup Hall). Second-place winners get $50.

Winners will also have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor).

Anastasia Davis won 1st place in 2016 in the 11-14 age group for this shot.

The public can also vote online for their favorite images. “Fan favorites” get a 1-year membership to the Westport Arts Center, and a Farmers’ Market t-shirt.

Click here for photo guidelines and submission info. Click here to see past submissions.

Then fire away!

“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein placed 1st in 2016 in the 8-10 category.

Lending A Hand To Knock Down Playgrounds

Both Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools lost their playgrounds last weekend.

It’s all good.

In preparation for new playgrounds — designed for social interaction and cooperative play, with interactive climbing blocks, slides, spinning elements, quiet areas and more — the schools partnered with Kids Around the World. The organization helps children and families affected by war, poverty, illness and natural disasters.

The old playgrounds will be donated to third world countries, where such things are luxuries.

On Saturday, kids and parents worked together to dismantle the playgrounds. The next days, pros did the heavy lifting.

It’s hard work getting rid of a playground.

At Kings Highway, Robbie Guimond — father of 2 students — brought plenty of equipment, and paid a crew himself, to do the excavation work.

Robbie’s other daughter is at Earthplace. He’s helping with the excavation of a new playground there too.

Robbie Guimond takes a brief break yesterday.

It takes a village — and a guy with excavating equipment — to get rid of a playground.

Soon, the village will enjoy brand new playgrounds.

Tyler Hicks’ Refugees

This summer, Jerusalem Peacebuilders Youth Leadership Program brings Jewish, Christian and Muslim teenagers from across the Middle East to 4 sites in the US. They learn about each other — and themselves — in the hopes of creating a better future across religions, cultures and nationalities.

New Haven is one of those 4 hosts. This week, participants worked together on a large mural depicting young refugees washing ashore. Called “We Welcome Refugees,” it will hang near Exit 42 of I-95 in West Haven.

Working on the mural, on the New Haven Green. (Photo/Carly Wanna for New Haven Independent)

According to the New Haven Independent, the mural was inspired by a photo of a young Turkish boy arriving in Greece in 2015. Artist Russell Rainbolt — who is working with the Jerusalem Peacebuilders teens — generalized the image to represent all refugees, everywhere. That fits well with the program’s theme of a common humanity.

Nice. But why is this story “06880”-worthy?

The photo that the Rainbolt and the teenagers are working from was taken by New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks.

The Tyler Hicks photo that inspired artist Russell Rainbolt. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

And — as proud Westporters know — that Pulitzer Prize winner is a 1988 graduate of Staples High School.

For the past couple of decades, he’s wandered — and photographed — the world. These days, he lives in Kenya.

But an impressive interpretation of his work will soon hang a few miles from here. “06880” is indeed where Westport — and West Haven — meet the world.

(Hat tip: Mary Webber)

Westporters Set Cross Country Bike Race Record. The Rest Of Us Are Slugs.

I have written stories about Westporters who have rowed across the Atlantic Oceanrun a marathon at the North Pole, and raced 156 miles across the Moroccan desert in 5 days — while carrying all food and equipment on his back.

Now here’s another neighbor who will make you feel like a worthless sloth, even if you did Crossfit for 8 hours in between performing brain surgery and ensuring world peace.

Mark Pattinson and Eneas Freyre bicycled across America. They rode 3,000 miles from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. They climbed 175,000 feet, crossed 3 major mountain ranges, 2 deserts, and 12 states. That’s almost 1/2 again as long as the Tour de France. (Which takes 21 days.)

Riding 1-hour shifts — which means eating, drinking, washing and sleeping, all during the 1 hour “off” — the 2 men raced cross country in just 6 days, 11 hours.

Their average time of 19.79 miles an hour was achieved despite biking the final 2 days in torrential rain — with an easterly wind blowing in their faces. It started as they crossed the Mississippi River, and did not let up all the way to Maryland.

Still — this almost sounds like an afterthought — they set a Race Across America 2-man record. They blew past the previous average of 19.65 miles per hour.

If you’re as exhausted reading this as I was typing it, take a rest. You deserve it!

Mark Pattinson (right) with support crew member Gabriel Holm.

Welcome back! Ready for more?

This was not Pattinson’s 1st rodeo — er, ride from one coast to the other. He did it 8 previous times since 2008, finishing 2nd 4 times. You can read about one of those races here.

Those were all solo efforts. He slept a couple of hours a night, for 9 days — and so did his support crew.

This time, Pattinson and Freyre were always on the move. So were their support vehicles. The logistics were almost as much a challenge as the physical effort.

Almost.

On the road, somewhere in America.

Pattinson — who in real life works in finance, and has 4 kids ranging in age from 18 to 7 — is a very experienced cross country bike rider.

Freyre was not.

But he owns TT Endurance, the “total training” cycling and running center on the Post Road opposite the Toyota dealer.

Pattinson trains there. They realized that his experience, coupled with Freyre’s speed, would make an ideal team.

The guidebook told racers where to go. It did not tell them how to prepare.

Pattinson knew how to prepare for the event. Freyre devised his own routine.

He left his house in Redding, and biked to Westport. He trained clients all day, riding a stationary bike himself during breaks.

He’d leave TT around 9 p.m., then ride home for another hour and a half in the dark.

A few weeks before this year’s Race Across America, the duo flew to California for a simulation. With a skeleton support crew, they rode the first 600 miles of the course, far into the Arizona desert.

It took them just 30 hours.

Westport’s 2 riders at the start of the Race Across America, in Oceanside, California.

Freyre knew he could ride quickly. But could he keep it up? The test showed him he could.

“Mark was confident. He’d done it before,” Freyre says. “I was learning to manage my nutrition, keep my stress levels low, and decompress as much as possible when I was off the bike.”

Earlier this month, they pedaled off.

When Freyre asked Pattinson how fast he should be going, his partner replied, “Don’t slow down.”

Time for another break! See you in a few minutes!

The sun set. Mark Pattinson and Eneas Freyre pedaled on.

In addition to everything else, it should be noted that the 22 teams in the Race Across America included 4 8-man squads, and 16 4-man teams. Only 4 of those larger teams beat Pattinson and Freyre.

The riders in 4- and 8-man teams got up to 6 hours of sleep each. Pattinson and Freyre had 20-minute naps.

How is that humanly possible?

“We just kept going,” Pattinson says, as simply as saying that if you leave TT Endurance and take a right, you’ll be on the Sherwood Island Connector.

“It was tiring, but we managed to eat, drink and sleep in the back of the van and then keep going.”

Freyre adds, “Mark put together an awesome crew. They knew how to keep everyone and everything moving.”

The 10 men and women — including 2017 Staples High School graduate Gabriel Holm, who just completed his first year at the University of Chicago — had plenty to do. Their vehicles protected the rider (especially at night); provided clothes and food and water, along with a place to nap; ferried the resting rider to the next changeover spot, and drove other crew members.

But they had challenges too. In the middle of the rainstorm, with 2 days to go, one of the vehicles — with Pattinson in it — suffered an electrical failure.

Freyre rode for well over an hour, looking for the changeover car with Pattinson. Another vehicle came, and relayed the message: He’d have to ride indefinitely, while arrangements were made to pick up Pattinson and bring him there.

“I was soaking wet. I had no idea when I could stop,” Freyre recalls.

Fortunately, it took only another hour for the other crew to fetch Pattinson, switch supplies, roar up the road and provide relief.

“That was the turning point,” Freyre says. “It could have been a disaster. But I stayed on the bike, Mark stayed calm, and the crew did its job.”

They were buoyed by the support of family members and TT clients, who watched on the Race’s live tracker and sent messages of encouragement. “They brought us home,” Freyre says.

They finished — wet, exhausted, but feeling “pretty good” — at 2 a.m. It was not exactly like the end of the Tour de France.

Mark and Eneas: ta-da!

Speaking metaphorically of the entire race — not just the end — Pattinson says, “It can be dark physically. And you can doubt why you’re there. But when you’ve got all that support behind you, you can do it.”

Well, you can do it, Mark and Eneas.

Congratulations on an amazing, record-breaking and almost unbelievable achievement.

Now it’s time for my nap.

 

Ben Casparius Starts In College World Series

It’s been a full day of sports here on “06880.”

This morning I reported that Cameron Wilson — son of 1975 Staples High School grad Dave Wilson — earned a coveted spot at the US Open golf tournament, this weekend on Long Island.

Then I posted a story on Rebecca Russo, who showed off her National Women’s Hockey League Isobal Cup yesterday at Saugatuck Elementary and Bedford Middle Schools.

Ben Casparius

And right now on ESPN you can watch Ben Casparius try to help the University of North Carolina win the College World Series. The Tar Heels are playing Oregon State University in the first game of the double-elimination event in Omaha.

Casparius was a 4-year star for Staples, leading the Wreckers to the 2017 state championship. He was Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year, among other honors, and graduated as the state’s all-time hits leader.

Though just a freshman, he’s in the lineup as UNC’s designated hitter.

That’s quite a day.

Meanwhile, if you’re in Russia for the World Cup, please send us a report.

We want to cover all the bases.

(Hat tip: David Goldstein)

Local Golfer Advances At US Open

Fred Cantor loves sports — all sports. He wants to make sure that “06880” readers know there’s a Westport connection to the US Open golf tournament, taking place now on Long Island:

It’s not often that a local golfer beats out a group of luminaries in a golf major.

But that’s exactly what happened yesterday at the US Open. Cameron Wilson made the cut at Shinnecock Hills, while PGA Tour legends like Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson will not be playing this weekend.

Cameron Wilson

Cameron grew up in Rowayton. He’s the son of Dave Wilson, a 1975 Staples High School graduate who is still active in town. Cameron was the subject of an “06880” story 4 years ago when as a Stanford University senior he won the NCAA tournament.

He learned the game at Shorehaven, just over the Westport border.

Earning the right to play the final 2 rounds at any tournament is a tremendous achievement.

But making the cut at the US Open is even tougher than at most PGA events.

Normally, a golfer who is part of the low 70 scores (including ties) moves forward. The US Open cutoff is more stringent: Only the the best 60 scores qualify to play Saturday and Sunday.

Kudos to Cameron. Now you know who to root for this weekend!