When: Saturday April 26th for 2014 (with Sunday the 27th kept as a rain date--final decision to be made Friday). Start riding promptly at 8am. That may sound early, but this will be a LONG ride. Add roughly 50% to your time for 118 paved miles; bring lights if in doubt. Sunset is at 7:43pm on Saturday.
What: The 2014 Detour de Connecticut looks to build on the last three years' rides and the relative success of previous "invitation-only" events, or as a participant described one, "Nobody died." This year's "bow tie edition" (the rough shape of the route) looks like it will be 118 miles, now improved with more dirt. Yup, here's the kicker: about half that mileage is off paved roads, with maybe 5 miles tops on numbered highway routes, thus the Detour de CT. If you like D2R2, adventures, mild orienteering, don't mind getting a toe wet (ankles should stay dry this time), short rough sections, not to mention loads of gorgeous back roads, this is a ride for you. Note: this is a self-led ride; you are responsible for finding your way from the directions.
Route: New last year, and many thanks to Jessie, the route now exists as a single text document of cues (there are 3 columns per page, use one page at time--complete full page before continuing to columns on next page). The file can be downloaded from Google Docs HERE. While the route is the same as last year, I clarified the directions within the Mohegan Forest to hopefully keep more people on track. Within the cues there are references to numbered maps for which there are links below. Note, not all of the route has/can be mapped (you need the cues) and Map 8 has been removed due to changes this year. Also, Map 10 has one deviation from the cues (cues are correct) in the last 1/2 mile. Again, trust the cues; the maps are just visual aids.
The Bicycle: Minimum 32c tires are good for the soft soil sections, although I would avoid knobbies as there is still a lot of pavement, but an inverted tread tire might be nice. Some woods roads on the loop are very rough, but nothing a Model T couldn't handle. There are two sections of rail road track crossings where I had to walk as well as some potentially wet woods roads in the Mohegan State Forest. I'm not trying to impress anyone, but in choosing your equipment, keep in mind this is the evaluation of a retired pro mountain biker. If you consider a cross bike just a dirt-road-bike, a mountain bike might be a good choice. There are sections rougher than D2R2.
Lastly, there is a bike shop in Willimantic, but they are open only on Saturday, so if rain date is used, you get the idea. Regardless of the day, there are LONG stints with nothing resembling support, so plan for self sufficiency.
The Cost: I like free things, so this ride is free. If, on Monday, you feel like you did a fantastic ride, I'd encourage you to donate $5-10 to some bicycle organization of your choice. Again, this is completely voluntary; there is no cost for riding this loop.
Food: The center, or knot, of the bow tie is Willimantic, CT, and the route passes through at roughly 1/3 and 2/3 distance. These will be opportunities to buy food. I recommend the coop in town which is not far off the route. Also, on the second pass through town, the loop will go by a roadside natural water spring.
Parking: I know not everyone will ride to the start, but you get serious bonus points if you do. There is limited parking right at the trail head. Nearby are Progress Dr. and Utopia Rd. which should be reasonable for street parking. If you drive, you are responsible for obeying parking laws.
One more plug: Why am I doing this? I like riding a bike, and I like riding bikes with other people. I like back roads. I like dirts roads. I like woods roads, and I like sharing what I've found with others. This loop is not for everyone, but I love it. It's challenging, frequently beautiful, and comprises so many of the reasons I enjoy spending time on two wheels.
Disclaimer: This is just a possible route. I will be riding the loop at the specified day and time. If other's choose to do the same, they do so at their own risk and choosing. To my knowledge, there is no restricted open public access sections of the route, but I do not guaranty this. Obey all no trespassing signs. Route is not solely on maintained public roads.