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.
-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.
-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.
-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!
-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).
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.