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.

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.