Think of any major theme in the development of Connecticut and chances are good that if it's not on the shoreline, it has unfolded along Route 44.
Starting Monday and through most of July, The Courant will bring to life the iconic, historic U.S. highway that cuts across the state's northern breadth. I will walk the full length of Route 44 from Salisbury, on the New York state line, to Putnam on the Rhode Island side.
It's part of our 250th anniversary celebration, as we spend the month exploring the changing landscape of the state.
Among the roads that cross the entire state, Route 44 best tells the story of Connecticut's diversity, heritage and modern issues. I'll find the people and places that deliver the full-color picture, averaging a little under 8 miles a day for the full, 106-mile stretch.
Look for blog, video and photo coverage online at http://www.courant.com/explore44, and in tweets with the hashtag #explore44. We'll also have some longer stories in August as The Courant delves into Connecticut's communities.
Along Route 44, governors, industrial giants, war heroes and, in one West Hartford tavern, the state's fattest man have all played out their moments of glory. Way back in 1635, when settlers were just arriving along the Connecticut River, Salisbury was the site of an Indian village and Route 44 was a trail leading toward Hartford.
Connecticut craftsmen forged nearly 1,000 cannons for the Revolutionary War and great leaders named Hale and Knowlton gave their lives for American Independence, trekking to battle along roads that became Route 44. The state's land grant university, the modern aerospace industry, the nation's first suburban tract and central Connecticut's main urban center all grew up on or near the highway — as did an herb farmer who gained national renown.
A limestone processing plant, still active today, played a key role in Project Manhattan, preparing magnesium for the atomic bomb.
But it's not just about history. The controversial, proposed Rock Cats baseball stadium in Hartford would sit right along Route 44. Up the road a bit, in West Hartford, Arnold Chase, occupant of a 50,000-square-foot mansion along Route 44, has joined other neighbors to fight a planned Doppler radar tower nearby in Avon.
The roadway passes some of the most opulent wealth on the planet, and some of the deepest poverty in the nation. It crosses the Housatonic, Farmington, Connecticut and Quinebaug rivers, not to mention two waterways called the Still River.
I'll identify the farm in Coventry that had this year's best strawberries — along with other food reports from eateries famous and obscure.
The quest has been a long time in the making. I first pitched the story 16 years ago when an editor asked for offbeat ideas but the idea lay dormant until The Courant's 250th gave us the push we needed.
If you live or work along the road and have a story to tell about a landmark big or small, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (include ROUTE 44 in the subject line) or post a note at http://www.courant.com/explore44.
Or just look for me, walking along the side of the road, dodging traffic in a red "Courant 250th Anniversary" hat. I probably won't take a ride but I might gladly accept some shelter, a respite from the roadway. And I'd love to talk with you about the route that defines our part of the world.