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.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Got Jumps?

This so-called gravel-grinder thing has, of course, gained in popularity over the past years, so how does the Detour de Connecticut go about standing out from the growing pack?  It isn't the oldest, longest, or hardest, maybe the Connecticutest?  Well, rather than just try for another superlative, for 2013 we're going big, as in big-air: the Detour now has dirt jumps!

Traditionally, we've rolled on the road visible frame left,
but we'll have to detour right for next year.

Okay, okay, so it really wasn't the ride's doing, but Willimantic has added a tandem 8-pack of good size bumps to the park we roll through just before stopping at the roadside natural spring; I think that's somewhere around mile 80, so just about right for livening things up.  Go big, or go home.

In other update news, yes, I'm still alive and hopefully so is the ride, for April 27th, 2013.  Heck, even if the prior wasn't true, no reason for others not to show.  Last week I rode the Airline Trail from Willy to Rt85 and improvements easing the step up/down from the high bridge before the powerline detour were appreciated as well as some new gravel to cover the roots previously lacing the trail in that section.  I've also heard the powerline detour itself may no longer be needed; we'll see if in time for 2013.  Nice to see the condition of these trails continue to improve--just pray they don't pave 'em.

And one teaser: I'm thinking of a Wee-tour de Connecticut for 2013 as well.  Same day, but just the eastern loop of the bow tie, start-timed to get everyone out there together.

Monday, April 30, 2012

It happened...again!

Thanks to Joe for the pictures in this posting

2012 and another Detour de Connecticut for the books, under what may have been absolutely perfect conditions.  I want to thank everyone who came out to ride with me--that's the whole reason.  Also, special thanks to Brendan for his help in scouting & cutting branches, Art for GPS assistance, Andy from NY for more .gpx assistance, and let's all give a huge thank you to Glen for the absolutely stellar feed stop with fresh muffins out in Hampton.  Hip, hip, hooray!

We even managed to convince a born & bred Vermonter 
that CT can be a pretty nice place.

Moving forward, I'm going to take Todd's sage advice and shoot for consistency (my apologies to anyone who was stymied by the date changes).  Let's plan to do it again next year on the last Saturday in April, with a Sunday rain date.  I may make one or two small tweeks to the route, but I'm pleased with how it rides now, so the loop should remain largely untouched--time to start working on something different for a fall ride....

2012's Detour de Connecticut came...
...and went.
Hope you were there.

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Tomorrow!

Weather looks nearly perfect for a long ride tomorrow, so it's a go, Saturday for the 2012 Detour de Connecticut.  Woohoo!

High for tomorrow's forecast is the upper 50s, which is good.  Some have asked why such an early date for a long ride, and the answer is: water.  There are some long sections of this loop without support beyond what you carry with you, so water would be a tremendous issue in hot, summer weather.  That said, there are a few places along (or just off ) the route for filling bottles.

1) On the first run into Willimantic, there is a supermarket across rt32 from where we enter the cemetery.  If you want to top off, get food, this is possibly the last option before returning in Willimantic later in the ride.  Personally, I don't expect to stop here.
2) #58 Old Kings Highway in Hampton (either in front of house or red barn on opposite side of street).  A kind soul and fellow rider will be leaving a cooler of water out by the road for us.  Unfortunately, Glen will be working and can't join us, but if you stop into Scott's Cyclery in Willimantic, be sure to give him a thank you.
3) On the 2nd trip into Willimantic, there is natural spring on the right side of the road just after exiting the park onto rt66 (see cues between maps 7/8).
(Pictures of the spring can be found HERE.  Ignore the written notes, however; they were for last year)
4) About midway through the cue between maps 8/9, the route crosses Main Street in East Hampton, CT.  If you head about a block south (left) on Main, there is a public library on the left.  Be aware, however, they close at 5pm on Saturday, so this could possibly be a miss for some.  Heading the opposite direction (north) on Main about 3/4 mile, there is another supermarket on the right, just after crossing rt66 at a traffic light.

As for the start, I plan to roll out at 8am sharp.  Also, I'm aiming for arriving there about 7:40am to answer any last questions, sign autographs, kiss babies, etc.  I'll be the guy on a dark green bike, with green plastic water bottle cages, a green helmet, and a not-green beard.  Yes, I do like green, but those are actually all just coincidences.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


So here it--or rather, they--are: .gpx files.  First some thanks are due to Andy from NY for putting together the big picture without ever seeing the route, and to Art for loaning me a GPS unit and creating files for me.  Thanks fellow, I WOULDN'T have done it without you.

There are three files here
1) 2012Detour beta: Andy spent a lot of time working on this file and it is really good, but has errors that were unavoidable by someone who hasn't seen the route.  This one covers the full route, but be sure to have the other two files and know when you need to switch to them.
2) 2012Detour Willy east: This is an actual capture from riding the most confusing and off-the-beaten-path sections of the loop.  It starts where the first long section of rail trail ends.
3) 2012Detour end: This is the very end of the loop starting at the intersection of Camp Meeting Road and Finley Street in the southeast of Manchester.  Again, this is an actual ride capture and should help with the twists and turns through Porter Reservoir.
MORE IMPORTANT WARNINGS: I've reviewed these files and they are quite good, but there are bound to still be discrepancies.  The cues and maps in The Basics are still good to have along as a back up and in possible confusing points--remember batteries die, electronics fail, people get lost with GPS all the time, etc, etc.
REMEMBER: This is just a possible route, one I'll be riding.  What you do with it is at your own risk.  Obey all signs.

Ok, you survived all the warnings, disclaimers, and cautions; the files can be found at https://docs.google.com/open?id=0By8yG6qk2sszNXFXdGJXcVVibEk  Yes, I intentionally didn't create a link so you'd have to read through the post to find them.  And finally, as a (admittedly slightly less each day) confirmed Luddite, did I mention: "You kids with your wiz-bang electronics, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!  My feet hurt.  Grumble, grumble...."

Updates and other ramblings

First and foremost, as of noon on Thursday 4/26/2012, I have added further clarification to the cued instructions for the sections between maps2/3 and maps 4/5.  If you had printed the instructions prior to that time, review those sections in The Basics for changes.  Note, the course has not changed, but hopefully these added details will avoid some uncertainty out in the woods.

Furthermore, the 2nd of these two section between maps 4/5 is the crossing of the Mohegan State Forest.  While *most* of this crossing involves following the most worn path, it is also the longest section away from "civilization" and may have little or no cell phone coverage (this aspect is also true of other sections of the route--cell phone is NOT an adequate bail out plan for this ride!!!).  If you don't have an excellent sense of direction, a compass would be good, light insurance to have along for certainty you don't wind up lost and circling.  Cycling good, circling bad.

Also, regarding time for the ride, my early estimate of 9 hours being a fastest time and longer being likely for most seems accurate.  I recommend that everyone have some lights and reflectors as sunset is at 7:45 Saturday, just 11 3/4hrs after the start--things can go wrong; you may be delayed.

Lastly, hopefully by the end of the day I will be posting some .gpx files.  Yes files, you will have to an estimated full route file (which has inaccuracies) with two other sections files that are actual captures of riding the route.  More or less, even with gps, you will want the instructions and Google maps along for the ride.

And finally, lastly, I will still make the final call on rain delay by noon on Friday, but right now Saturday is looking like a go.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Less than a week to go

Right now the weather forecast looks good for Saturday with temps in the upper 50s and partly cloudy, but that's a pretty long range prediction considering recent successes in figuring out this new climate of ours.  Final decision on exercising the Sunday rain date option will be posted by noon on Friday.  Either way, the rain of yesterday should help firm up some sections that were dry to the point of being powdery.

My hope is to get out Wednesday with a borrowed GPS unit (thank you, Art) and ride the first (and most confusing) portion of the loop.  If all goes as planned, I'll have an accurate .gpx file to post here, although for the full loop, you may need to splice a few separate files.  Regardless, the maps and cues will be good to have along on ride date.

Also, after Wednesday, I hope to have a better estimate of how long the ride will take.  Last year, on both a slightly shorter and less rough course, the first two riders finished in a few ticks over 8 hours.  I'm guessing breaking 9 hours this year will be a serious accomplishment, so be prepared: food, clothing, and LIGHTS, as well as an exit strategy should you need to cut the ride short.

Lastly, a few people have asked about a shorter version of the ride, and I had hoped to introduce a "Wee Tour de Connecticut," but alas I don't think I can make a proper job of it for this year, so there won't be anything detailed posted to those ends, but anyone should feel free to jump in for as much of the ride as they like.

Monday, April 2, 2012

If you come, they will build it.

In what could only be a response to last year's Detour de Connecticut, the powers-that-be have come through for this years event with a new bridge spanning the gap of Rt316 on the Hop River rail trail. They made the effort; now it's up to you.

Not just any ride commands this kind of infrastructure.
(Note: crowds already amassing to see this year's Detour roll through town)
Thanks to Tony C for the photo.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Picking a date: Part 2

Thanks to those who clicked their opinion, looks like I get my pick up moving up the date to the last weekend of April. No more changes, I'm sticking to this one. So, we'll shoot for Saturday the 28th of April with Sunday the 29th for a rain date if the early weekend forecast is bad.

Speaking of rain, we've had a mix of various wetness over the last 24hrs, so it may be a few days before I can reasonably get out for (hopefully) one last recon ride. I'll shoot for having a current "The Basics 2012" page up and running by the end of next week. I'm really liking the additions for this year and hope we get a good crowd out to enjoy them.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Half the fun of leading...

...is figuring out where to go.

I'm starting to feel a little like James Joyce in a story a professor once recounted to me. While editing The Dead, Joyce was obsessing over every detail to the point where his wife finally forced him to send it to the publishers.

For the changes to this year's route, I'm being a bit more organized in my search than in 2011. I've been spending a bit more time looking at maps, including topos, BEFORE heading out for recon rides, and ironically, the task is now that much harder. Yes, I've successfully found a number of new dirt options, but I'm also finding that much more to explore, as well as agonizing over those really nice sections that just don't fit in well with the rest of the route.

Will this section make the final cut?
Stay tuned to find out.

That said, I think one more ride out east to explore the Mohegan State Forest will have me ready to finalize this year's loop. I hope to have maps and cues up by later this week or early the next.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's a labor of love

Just another warm February day yesterday and I was out for 9 hours of recon riding. Hopefully, I will have this year's loop finalized and posted within a week or two. The good news is I'm discovering a lot of cool roads, and, of course, a few dead ends.

ABOVE: I prepare to cross,
the stream below
(Yes, it was cold, and no, this won't make it on the route...this year.)

Well, actually, there's more good news than that. So far, I've found three additional dirt sections to break up the easternmost south to north run of the ride. Still looking at a few different options in the region of Goodwin State Forest, but that will require another jaunt out that way. I really liked last year's ride, but I'm thinking this one will be even better.

A teaser shot: covered bridge to be added to this year's ride
(Possibly 2, if they place the new bridge on the Hop River Trail in time)

So make your plans, and come on out; it'll be a good time!

The Basics 2012

When: Saturday April 28th for 2012 (with Sunday the 29th 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 115 paved miles; bring lights if in doubt. Sunset is at 7:45pm on Saturday. I had considered Sunday with a Saturday rain date, but this makes more sense.

What: The 2012 Detour de Connecticut looks to build on last year's ride 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 pushing 115+ 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: Because of Google map's limited knowledge, there are 10 mapped sections connected by verbal cue sheet instructions. Yes, I know about GPS, map my whatever, and so forth.
Note: The GPX file from last year is out of date and no longer the route (if someone wants to make a new one, I can post it).

-Shortly after turning right on Flanders, the route crosses a bridge.
-Immediately after the bridge, there is a small Greenways sign on the left. Follow the arrow left onto a woods road with a yellow gate.
-After the gate, stay right to rejoin the old rail bed.
-Turn left onto the rail bed (not crossing under the road)
-Follow rail bed until seeing a yellow (can't miss it) painted cement block building, turn right before the building to rejoin the road.
-Turn left on the road (rt 66) a cross larger bridge over the river.
-About 2000ft after the bridge, Valley Oil is on the right, then #62 Columbia Ave
-Enter parking lot and cross in from of #62 Columbia, going over the stone wall (exercise caution) to enter the cemetery
-Turn Right on the cemetery road and follow it past a small brick structure on the right.
-Shortly after the brick structure, the cemetery road will start to curve left. Go onto the grass and head for the rear corner of the cemetery.
-Just about in the rear corner of the cemetery, there is a path on the right heading down to rail road tracks. Take it.
-NOTE: rail line is active. Control speed on descent and walk across tracks after looking both ways.
-Cross 3 sets of tracks to get down to a dirt road.
-Turn left on dirt road and follow out to pavement.

(For this section trust the directions first, but there are some dark green arrows painted in the woods for confirmation at key points--none at the pavement)
-At the end of Crescent (just before it become a driveway), turn left on a double track (posted "No ATVs" with yellow sign on tree) into the woods.
-Follow most worn track as it curves left and climbs up into a stand of pine trees.
-At the crest, there is a deserted camp site and a 2ft diameter pine on the ground (may be hidden by camp at first).
-Keeping the downed pine on the right, pass it, look for a smaller rotted pine parallel to it about 20-30ft beyond.
-On the far side of this rotted pine, turn right and follow parallel to it.
-After about 50 ft, stay left on worn path.
-When old concrete curbing is just visible beneath leaf cover, stay left and follow old, obscured, winding sidewalk path down to the road.

-Heading down Plains Rd, you cross under RR tracks, then along playing fields, and finally across a river. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there guard rail on the right. Where this ends, 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. These are active tracks, so look both ways.
-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 rail tie option just off the trail to the left.

(For this section trust the directions first, but there are some dark green arrows painted in the woods for confirmation at key points--none at the pavement)
-About 500ft after turning left on Devotion Rd, keep a sharp eye out for an old woods road on the right (there is a paved apron, but otherwise it is a very blind entry). Just inside the tree line, there is a yellow gate across it. This is the turn.
-Road is not heavily traveled, but keep to the most worn option. You will head predominantly east for almost the first mile before curving left to head mostly north for a little over a 1/2 mile before coming to a 90 degree T (there are two intersections prior to the T where the trail blends into another well worn track--you are looking for a true 90 degree T). Again, this is rough and in places wet, but stay on the best worn track.
-At the T, turn right (heading east).
-Within a 1/4 mile, take the first left off that is NOT a less worn track. If you come to a rocky, substantial wet area before turning, you went too far.
-After left, again, follow the most worn track out to Hanover Rd. There are wet sections.

-Within 50ft of crossing the covered bridge, turn left off the well traveled dirt road, climbing straight about 1/4 mile to gate at the end of Wright Pond Rd.

-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 on 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).

-After turning left on Finley and crossing under the highway, within a 1/4 mile look for a sign for Porter Reservoir and a narrow gap in the fence on the left. Through the gap and head roughly perpendicular to the road until you find a woods road heading into the tree line.
-Shortly after entering the woods, the road crosses diagonally under powerlines. Continue along this road, roughly paralleling the power lines (they will be on the left after crossing) until coming to a T.
-At the T, turn right.
-You will descend, curving to the right, to the reservoir, turn right to follow the path along the water.
-After travelling a little over 1/2 way around the reservoir, the path will cross the main feeder steam (over 10ft wide) and after crossing, there will be a grass meadow heading uphill to the right. Head into this grassy area & take the first right into the woods off of it.
-Stay left at all forks until you see a large house.
-As soon as the house is visible, look for a single track on the right. Take this to head down to the road (to the right of the house).
(I plan to mark this section of the route a day prior and will announce the marking system at the start of the ride).

The Bicycle: This year's loop has a bit more dirt and rough stuff than last year. 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 (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. 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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The best laid plans of mice and cyclists

Found during recon, not on the route, but close to it.

It's pretty much guaranteed that in this modern world, there will be conflicts, and no sooner do I pick a date for this year's Detour than the schedule conflicts start popping. So, I'll try for a little democracy with a poll (see the right sidebar). Personally, I'm voting for the end of April: earlier the better to avoid hot days, it has been a ridiculously mild winter so fewer thaw issues, and, hey, it's my birthday month!

A little of a progress report: I've been getting out for a little recon of the route and have already found ways to avoid much of rte 32 on the first pass through Willimantic--it includes a trip through the cemetery! Also, to the east, a reroute that will add a rocky road climb, and it even has a hillside spring to provide a water stop for the intestinally daring.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year!

Let's do it again! Alright, not too many specifics for now, but I think a early to mid May date works well, giving people some time for spring mileage but hopefully preempting a hot day that could make the long, remote rail trail grinds away from water murderous. Last year, there were some suggestions that a Sunday would be easier for many, and I am fine with that, but I want to keep a rain date option (a week later?) as I don't feel the loop needs inclement weather adding to the challenge. Call me weak.

Also, if looking at the route description from last year, keep in mind I expect a few changes. First, hopefully the new bridge will be in place along the Hop River Trail. Yea! Second, if I can describe it reasonably (I still insist on keeping gps optional), there are some viable paths I've found for the final run into the finish. Maybe this year I'll even shoot for getting all the instructions into one tidy post. No promises.

So feel free to post comments with your suggestions for the ideal date, or anything else of that nature. And oh yes, better start riding!