Welcome to the site for all the latest information about Connecticut's dirty little century, roughly 118miles in early September, about half off paved surfaces. Please start by reading The Basics (this is a link) for information about the ride (if current year Basics is not yet available, the previous year will give a general gist).

Rather than answer individual questions repeatedly, please address questions as "comments" to the MOST RECENT post and I will answer in a blog posting for all to see.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A review

Joe took the time to make a write up of his experience on and off the roads of eastern CT. I hope to keep this ride going, so if you were able to join us and had a good time, let some others know.
Thank you.


The route for the Detour de Connecticut was great. I thought you might enjoy hearing about a little of my experience from the day:

As you know, we all met up at the Hop River trail-head on an ordinary Saturday, but with questionable weather forecasted, and with a challenging route planned. It was great to see so many friends and acquaintances made it to the start of the ride. We left the parking lot like a stage of the Tour de France, “gruppo compatto”. It was a great way to start the ride and the day. As we easily rolled along the mild grades of the rail trail, it turned out to be a great time to chat with old friends. I caught up with Todd, who I haven’t had a chance to speak with in years, and I spoke with some other riders I met on last fall’s epic ride (The ride known to most of us as the “river crossing” off-road ride).

After we crossed thru Willimantic, the pace of the front group picked up slightly faster than my heavy touring bike could handle. As we headed out of town on Plains Road, and raced through an off-road section, which was full of fast whoops and turns, I eased my pace and took my time in the woods. I was really on the ride to enjoy the day!

When I returned back onto the pavement, a handful of us created a "second" group. Once we got rolling, my friend Melanie sat on my wheel, while I drafted, Jordan’s boyfriend, who followed Jordan, who was being towed along by her father Wayne. The back roads were really pretty, and Wayne was motoring pretty hard at the front on his Richard Sachs CX bike, I noticed that our small group was down to only the five of us. The others had fallen off and created perhaps a third group. I knew this was Mel’s first ride in excess of 100 miles, so I encouraged her to stay with Jordan and her father since they were making good time. I figured they were pretty well seasoned at riding longer rides like this, and they knew the route. As I later learned, they were only riding to Willimantic, so I was a little worried about my decision to encourage Mel to push the pace. I knew she had a goal to finish the entire ride, and based upon her breathing at times, I knew she had been burning some matches. As we continued through the rolling hills I felt pretty good and helped Wayne keep a steady pace at the front. Jordan’s boyfriend peeled off the group somewhere near Canterbury to head to work. After we crossed Route 14, we came across Robert who had been popped from the front group and was waiting to ride with a group. We all got together and took turns being the last one up the climbs until we got to the rail trail again.

Once we were back on the bony Greenways route, we picked up another rider from the front group named Tony who was eating a sandwich while waiting at one of the yellow gates. More riders only slowed us down with more mechanicals etc, although the added company was nice. I enjoyed conversing with Tony about his bike touring experiences and adventures.

On a very rocky section, Robert experienced multiple flats, at which point he ended up walking out to the main road and hitchhiked back to Willimantic where he met back up with us at Willi brew. The six of us hung out there outside under an umbrella, and had burgers and beers, and enjoyed the nice afternoon for a while. As a brief rain shower passed by, we waited inside the restaurant and kept dry. Then Robert hitched a ride back to Manchester with our draft mates (via roof rack), while me, Mel, and Tony rode down the Airline Trail, and up and over thru Mesh, chugged over the climbs and slid back down off birch mtn. The only interruptions we had was a lost or found Fig Newton, the cute coffee shop stop in East Hampton, and small passing shower that washed a bunch of the dirt off of my legs.

The three of us stayed together and completed the entire route in around 9 hrs ride time and had a great time. Mel was psyched since she is an avid mountain biker by nature, and this was her first time logging this many miles in one day. I think she is still smiling.

Thanks again for putting together this distinctive route for this non-organized ride on such an ordinary day.

Hoping we can do it again!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Many thanks

Thanks to everyone that came out yesterday and allowing me to share. Hopefully everyone found some personal gems on their own tour. I'll post some more pictures Todd took in a day to two, including one documenting my complete flip, tuck, and roll off the bike over an unleashed dog on the Airline Trail. Luckily for the owner's liability, she picked a mountain biker who knows how to crash.
Thanks again,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Let's hope for a sunny day Saturday

Slight chance of rain in the forecast for Saturday, but not enough to make sense pushing back the ride to Sunday. Let's do it; Saturday it is!
I plan to make it down to the trail head by 7:45 on Saturday morning to give people a chance to ask any last questions. It will be nice if we can roll out en masse, but of course, with the directions, people are free to set whatever pace they wish.

If you need to find me before the start, and we haven't met,
this is what I look like with a comical mustache (it's gone now)
and a very serious head on a stake.
And yes, this picture was take along the De Tour route.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lest it not be self evident

This is a self guided tour. In the past, rides I've instigated have been led group rides, but for something of this scale, everyone needs to run their own pace, thus the maps, directions, cue sheets, GPX file, and signs from GOD painted on the road. OK, I made up that last part, but the idea is, make sure you have what you need to find your way. I do expect lots of groups to form as people find their pace, and I truly hope nobody will be left to ride alone (I'd suggest it is good form to wait for someone riding in your group should they need time to address mechanical issues), but don't expect the whole group (no, I don't know how big that will be, but I'm excited to find out) to stay as one for a guided tour.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stay west old cranky ones

This is a word of warning for those who may not enjoy rough passage.
A look at the maps will show the eastern half of the bow tie has one of the longest sections of pavement on the ride, but do not be deceived, it also carries many of the roughest sections of the route. Luckily, the first taste of this comes early with the first section of cued instructions right at the end of map 1. This section is relatively short but will give a good sample of longer section to come in the eastern half. If someone does not enjoy this section, they would be well advised to return to Willimantic and rejoin the western half of the looped headed towards East Hampton. If however, you find that first cued section manageable, I say with little reservation, what follows are some of my favorite sections of the loop.

In case of rain

As originally advertised, the ride is scheduled for Saturday May 7th (just over a week away!) with the 8th held as a rain date. That's one of the advantages of a "disorganized" ride without feed stops and other various logistics: it's no big deal to start 24hrs late. Still, it isn't a group ride without a group all on the same day, so while the current forecast (but who trusts a 10 day weather prediction in New England) for Saturday is looking good, I will post a final decision of Saturday or Sunday by the night of Thursday the 5th. Light showers shouldn't be an issue, but there is no reason to go out for a day if misery in the pouring rain.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just a hint

A smattering of people have asked about a shorter version. Officially (for this unsanctioned ride), I am not acknowledging such an option exists. This isn't just because I'm a stubborn grouch, but also because it would be something like Sofie's Choice; how do you ask a route designer which part to cut? How could I love one part less?

That said, I'd like to see as many people out there enjoying as much as they can, so here's the hint: the "bow tie" is effectively a figure 8, crossing itself in the middle. I'd wager there is a pretty easy way to cut it down, but remember, you're only cheating yourself!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Airline Trail crosses Rt. 2

This is in the middle of the 17 mile section of rail trail in the second to last section of cued instructions. Let's start with a map. After crossing under Rt. 2, the trail is accessed through the Park & Ride commuter lot on the left. Turn left into the lot, then head right through the lot to find the trail.

The break in the guard rail, roughly in the center of this photo is the access point.

Notes: Maps 2, 3, 4, and 5


Map 2:
a) About half way between destination D and the map end at E, there is a left turn off Brooklyn Rd. onto Stetson Rd. It is best to look for the sign for Preston Rd. as more accurately, Stetson is off this road, but right at the intersection. A quick look at the map, and this is clear, but Google's directions miss this nuance.

Map 3:
a) At destination B, just be aware there is no sign for the rail trail, but it is there IMMEDIATELY after turning right on Station Rd. Look for the gate.
b) Why leave the trail for destination D? Very wet, heavy gravel, and downed trees, are a few good reasons. Plus, a quick spin on the pavement is a very welcome relief for the legs at this point.

Map 4:
a) Just about half way between points A & B (pretty much at the start of this map), there is a natural water spring on the right which offers an excellent mix of hydrogen and oxygen. Look for the structure pictured below (and likely a bunch of cars parked as people fill jugs).

b) Willimatic will be about the only place on the route to stop for provisions. The food coop is about 1/3 of a mile east of the route on Valley St and one needn't be a member to shop there, while there are other less wholesome options along Rt. 66/Main St.

Map 5:
a) Once in the Meshomasic State Forest, the route stays on dirt roads open to vehicle traffic. If there is a closed gate, that is the wrong way. At every intersection, the Detour stays right if that way would be easily passable with a road car. No four wheelin' in this section.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

2,000 Words

Just a couple teasers for tonight. My ride today took me over the Airline Trail viaduct a couple miles outside the center of East Hampton. Here's a preview of the view, although come May, it should be a fair sight greener.

Notes: Map 1


Not to leave out the Luddites like myself, I will post a series of notes for the different Google mapped sections. These are just extra hints for either places the route might deviate slightly from what Google could map, or locations where a turn might be hard to spot. So, on with the first installment, covering Map 1.

a) Between destinations C & D, there is the crossing of Hebron Rd./Rt316. The route will actually turn right slightly before shown on map, joining the pointy end of where Center St. and Center Rd. meet. Head down Center St. to left of Hebron Rd. and cross under where the RR bridge once was. Take a right on Monument Ln and right up the driveway for #3 to rejoin the trail.
Note: the .gpx file of this location is accurate.

When you see this (note the traffic light in the distance),
the route is nearing the turn onto Center St.
And here is the actual turn.

b) Between destinations F & G, be certain to take Plains Rd, NOT Old Plains Rd. which come just before.

c) Below is a photo of where to turn off Plains Rd. at the end of Map 1.

The noted wood guard rail post are just out of the shot to the right.

For the non-Luddite

Tom was nice and, in his words, OCD enough to create a .gxp file of the route for use with GPS and then spent even more time making corrections I recommended. So, many thanks to Tom for giving us this helpful tool.

See, it's a (poorly tied) bow tie!

Note, however, this is not a capture from an actually running of the course, so there are bound to be some small discrepancies, particularly on the unmapped trailways, but I've reviewed the file with DeLorme's Topo and say it is quite accurate. It would still be a good idea to have the maps and definitely the cued instructions along for the ride as a second reference and backup.

You can download the file here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bathrooms, without humor

There are no bathrooms at the start, so best to avail yourself of what you need before arriving. If, however, you just don't get the timing right, there is a trail side port-o-lavatory after 2.5 miles. While I haven't confirmed facilities, there are also parks at the ends of Map 1 and Map 3, so these would be good place to look if you don't want the complexity of the indoor plumbing you might find in downtown Willimantic.

Follow you nose; it always knows.

Parking, should you be of that mind.

As stated earlier, there is limited parking right at the start of Rail Trail, but I rode past Utopia Rd. and Progress Dr. in Manchester yesterday and found no curbside parking restrictions aside from a bus stop and fire hydrants. Just to make sure nobody finds an unpleasant greeting under the wiper upon their return, here is a run down of CT parking laws:

Do not park:
• In an intersection.
• On a crosswalk or sidewalk.
• In a construction area if your vehicle will block traffic.
• Within 25 feet of a stop sign.
• Within 25 feet of a pedestrian safety zone.
• Within 10 feet of a fire hydrant.
• More than one foot from the curb.
• Blocking a driveway, alley, private road or area of the curb removed or lowered for access to the sidewalk.
• On a bridge or overpass or in a tunnel or underpass.
• On the wrong side of the street.
• In a space marked for the handicapped, unless you have a handicap license plate, tag or sticker.
• On the roadside of a parked vehicle (double parking).
• On railroad tracks.
• Where a sign says you cannot park.

Also, the actual entry to the rail trail is somewhat obscured if you don't know where to look. Below is a picture of the location, taken on Colonial Rd. and facing the traffic light on Parker St.

Click on the photo for a larger view.
The green and white sign roughly in the center is for the rail trail, with the (small) parking lot entry just in front of it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Todd asked:

"Fenders recommended? And if so, are we talking splatter shields or full-gentleman mud guards?"

I've been riding it without fenders and just taking it easy through the handful of short wet sections to keep some oil on my chain. Saturday there was definitely water in places, but it had rained the day before and we even saw some remnants of snow in places, so that is still a factor. In a month's time, I'm hopeful for a very, if not completely, dry run. Of course, it will still be spring and still be New England.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mark asked:

"What you say is the surface mix? %pave, %dirt road, %railtrail, %singletrack?"

Of the roughly 50% not paved, about 75% is rail trail, which is a mixture of improved fine stone (most sections west of Willimantic) and unimproved ranging from pretty solid to soft and (right now) even wet in places. The remaining 25% is a mix of dirt roads (longest section is near the end in Meshomasic state forest), discontinued roads, and one section of smooth ATV trail along the river that was too good to pass up. Nothing is singletrack.

Just a reminder, please pose your comment/questions to the most recent post for the best chance of me noticing them.

Test Run

For my birthday, yesterday Brendan and I did a test run of the loop. It was my first complete circuit and Brendan's first time seeing most of the eastern half, and at least the two of agree, it rides nicely, with a good mixture of slower sections and paved road intermissions to give the legs a break. There are a few true challenges, but even if some are forced to walk, it should be for only a hundred yards or two. Brendan was on a cross bike with about 35c tires and definitely had an easier time on the soft stuff that I, but I still managed to ride the whole route, minus the RR crossing, on the road bike.

It's a long ride. At a conversational pace, we took just under 9 1/2 hours including a couple short stops. I would say 9 hours ride time, so that holds pretty well with my estimate of taking a pavement time and multiplying by 1.5. Both of us ride numbers free, so I still don't have an exact mileage count, but I would say the 113 mile map estimate if fairly accurate within a couple miles.

Lastly, we took some photos of the more confusing intersections which will be forthcoming here once Brendan forwards them to me. Thanks go to him for the good company, feedback, and cell phone photography.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Basics (2011)

Note: This is the description of the 2011 event. THE UPDATE "BASICS" FOR 2012 CAN BE FOUND HERE.

When: SATURDAY May 7th, 2011

What: The 2011 Detour de Connecticut looks to build on last fall's ride's success, or as one participant put it, "Nobody died." This year's "bow tie edition" (the rough shape of the route) eschews the prior's high bridge balancing aerobatics and river fording, but adds an extra 33 miles, give or take, for 113 miles total. 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.

Route: Because of Google map's limited knowledge, there are 5 mapped sections connected by verbal cue sheet instructions. Yes, I know about GPS, map my whatever, and so forth.
Update 4/9: Tom has provided a .gpx file of the route. Find it here.

Map 1 (addition notes here.)

-Heading down Plains Rd, you cross under RR tracks, then along playing fields, and finally across a river. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there are a series of wooden guard rail posts on the right. Where these posts end, turn immediately into the woods on a double track trail. Stay on the most worn trail which will head towards the RR tracks then curve left to parallel them roughly 50 yards away. Stay on this main trail for roughly 500 yards off the paved road and it will curve right (not an intersection turn) and cross directly over the RR tracks (the one place on route I had to walk).
-Continue on winding trail roughly 1 mile, riding the paved embankment up to the road at the end. Turn left on road.
There is one small stream crossing shortly before reaching the road, with a dry walking option just off the trail to the left.
Map 2 (additional notes here.)

-Pavement will end on Grant Hill. Continue straight on main road; do not turn to right where marked private. Continue down rough, eroded road with care before joining end of Sarah Pearl Rd. Section is 1/4-1/2 mile long.

Map 3 (additional notes here.)

-Very shortly after turning on Gordon Ave, take left onto park access road, just before parking lot. Stay left on roadways through park, turning left on rt66 at park exit. Almost immediately on your right after turning is a small stone block/pillar/solid-structure with a natural water spring at its base, just before starting to climb up the hill. Excellent water stop!

Map 4 (additional notes here.)

-Continue on Pleasant to smaller, elevated Lebanon town line sign along side stockade fence on right. Immediate right turn at end of fence. This takes you down under small a small power line run. At first intersection, turn left of rail trail.
-Continue on rail trail over TWO paved road crossing and over a “step-up” bridge to a large power line cut and turn right on the gravel power line service road. (Note, this is the second power line crossing, but the first one after crossing the second paved road.)
-Turn left on paved Cook Hill Rd. Continue 0.8 miles curving to the left.
-Just past a large farm on the left, turn right on continuation of the rail trail. Continue on trail roughly 17 miles. See here for note and picture to assist in finding the trail after crossing Rt. 2.
-In an industrial building parking lot with loading docks on your right, you are at the end of the rail trail. Turn left on Watrous St.
-T, right on Walnut Ave.
-T, left on Main St.
-1st right on Town Hall Rd.
-Follow up hill curving to the right until you can see an old train station with lots of old Volvos. Turn left onto multi-level paved area that looks like an old skateboard park because it is.
-Follow trail from back corner of skate park. Trail will turn sharp right then left just before reaching the road.
-Turn right on Forest St, continue 0.4, curving right.
-T left on Barton Hill Rd.
-T left on Rt66
-2nd right on Champion Hill Rd. Continue straight on Champion Hill, no turns. It will turn to gravel then woods road (don't follow gravel right into driveway). Returns to pavement after section of woods with no houses.
-T left on Clark Hill Rd, continue ¼ mile.
-After first house on right, turn right on large dirt road (Woodchopper's Rd, no street sign).

Map 5 (additional notes here.)
note: Reservoir Rd (not part of route, only important as a reference point) shown on map is barricaded, not open to motor vehicles.

The Bicycle: For all the scouting of this route, I was on an old road bike with 28c front tire and 23c rear tire. 32c would have been better and those weighing more than my 140 pounds may seek wider to help with soft soil sections of rail trail. I would avoid knobbies as there is still a lot of pavement, although 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 is only one spot, crossing railroad tracks, where I had to walk. 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. You probably don't want your carbon bling bike.
Lastly (for now), 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 Bike Walk CT. With their efforts, we can improve and expand the rail trail sections in future years. 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 (I will confirm this later). 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 section of the route, but I do not guaranty this. Obey all no trespassing signs. Route is not solely on maintained public roads.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's happening

As of today, the route is, I think, finalized. Still some work to do on writing cues for the sections that Google can't map, but with that and a date, we'll be up and running.

A teaser!