The Dirty Water

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The hill. Doesn't look like much anymore, but at seven years old, that's Col de Galibier.
The hill. Doesn’t look like much anymore, but at seven years old, that’s Col de Galibier.

I grew up in a dead mill town called Waterbury, Connecticut. Like that place, throughout my life I have tended to lose more than I win, yet I keep on going.

My house was on a hillside, crawling up the Naugatuck Valley, trees and houses pockmarked all the way up from the baseball stadium. In the summer there was fireworks. In the winter there was sometimes sledding. There were no kids in my neighborhood. I was my own friend.


Losing more than winning.
Losing more than winning.


I don’t remember what my first bike was, but I remember riding it. The hill was too steep for me so I zigzagged up, pushing until I was halfway, then turning and going far faster than my mother would have approved of, all the way down to the curve at the bottom of the hill where the snow plows sometimes crashed into the woods in the winter when it was too icy.

The hill was my friend. It was a difficult friend to have.



I climbed straight up it when I got older, all the way up and beyond, past the projects at the top of the hill where later a classmate of mine would shoot and kill another classmate. Up the hill to where the playground was, and the pharmacy across the street where I would buy sodas.

When I bought a car, I still rode my bike.


Gettin' gnar in the Dirty Water.
Gettin’ gnar in the Dirty Water.
Droppin' the wall in the back yard.
Droppin’ the wall in the back yard.


I grew up in Waterbury.

We called it The Dirty Water.

What can I say. The smell of bike grease and the promise of a long hill turns me on. I lose more than I win, but I always have two wheels.

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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

16 Replies to “The Dirty Water”

  1. Sorry D2. I grew up in a place called San Diego. There was lots of p___y, great waves, and when you finally got bored of San Diego you headed south and cruised down Baja. Winning all around. Lots of great hills to ride too.

  2. I worked several job sites in CT doing groundwater remediation so yeah CT has the dirty water. Stayed in Meriden a month and rode the shit out of Castle Craig several times.

  3. Always wanted to meet someone from Waterbury…our rolling machines in the old shop were built there. Things must be nearly a 100 years old. I thought everything in CT was high end and WB seems more like Scranton.

  4. Waterbury was famous for its rolling mills, but when the mills shut down, the town died. That’s probably how you ended up with that rolling machine. Waterbury is very much like Scranton. Central Connecticut in general is like that; Connecticut has fancy places, but they’re along the coast mostly, and closer to NYC. Central CT is a tough place.

  5. The first time I went downhill mountain biking was with Al from the Bike Rack. It wasn’t far from my house. I made myself a pest at the Bike Rack…that place was how I started learning to be a wrench.

    I grew up in Waterbury. Was born in 82, lived there until I went to college in 2000. My family still lives there, so I’ve been back a lot over the years.

    Did you live in the Dirty Water?

  6. Grew up in Meriden with family in Waterbury; central CT is indeed a tough place. Thanks for the essays and pics. Funny how people associate CT with wealth and privilege; there’s lots of blue collar communities around CT.

  7. Grew up in Naugatuck. My mom worked at Waterbury Hospital, I was born there too.

    Bought my first bmx bike at Bike Rack.

  8. I manage a shop a few exits down 84. We know Al and Dave well, my boss and I go out to dinner with Dave once a month. They’re good people. We’ll tack stuff on our orders for them to help with freight. Tough spot to live/have a shop. Did you ever downhill with Guy Carlson? I know he rode with Al a lot.

  9. Ha! Yeah, I rode with Guy a bit. I remember riding some urban stuff with Guy in Naugatuck. He was a good dude, though I only rode with him a few times before I moved away.

    Are Al and Dave both still at the Bike Rack?

  10. I’ll have to stop in next time I’m in town…bring ’em some DC schwag. That would be a good shop to go take photos at. Those guys were always legit.

  11. A good read… couldn’t have said it better. everything you said is how I grew up too. Right to going downhilling with Al. Been in the shop down 84 a few times too… but Bike Rack is and will always be my go to shop. I haven’t been on my bike in a long time,but I still stop and see Al and Dave

  12. john, get on your bike. DC, great read, especially the comments, brings me nostalgia from my days of growing up with mountain bikes and small shops on the edge of a national forest, thinking about how good I had it and didn’t know.

  13. I grew up not far as away in Naugatuck… There was an enormous (it seemed) ravine behind my house I used to ride my bike down. Lots of crashes. Lots of scars.