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, 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.