Thursday, October 3, 2019

Connecticut's Chlorophyll Superhighways: Day Four of the Vermont to Rhode Island Adventure Ride

The coughing from my neighbor’s room woke me from a dead sleep.  My eyes opened, and I gasped for breath. As I wandered into the bathroom, the air was thick with nostalgia and mold spores.  The grungy and faded mid 1960’s brown, tan and orange tile décor in the bathroom conjured memories from my childhood home. The décor was “dated” in the 80’s when I was growing up.  Now it was on the line between comical and ironically vintage.  After a hot shower I loaded up the bike and escaped out into the fresh air under brilliant blue skies.  I had a lot of ground to cover that day. Luckily Connecticut is criss crossed with bikeways- chlorophyll superhighways that were just what the doctor ordered to transport me across the state and nurse me back to my old self.

I fled the hotel as fast as my spinning wheels would take me, speeding up the road away from Manchester and toward a bike shop where I hoped to get some more supplies for the last couple of days.  When I found the shop closed, I settled on a nearby Cumberland Farms for breakfast and set up camp on their patio.  As I ate I chatted up a young guy with his family in tow who had told me used to bike and hoped to get back into mountain biking.  We talked bikes and bikepacking, until I could tell that his wife was getting antsy- either about the prospect of her husband sinking a few hundred bucks into a bikepacking rig or the fact we lingered for well over half an hour covering the details of different bike models and reliving (in detail) some of our favorite adventures.  Their toddler was decidedly not interested.

I eventually set out, well later than intended, and excited to see what the day had to offer.  I had originally planned to make my way through Case Mountain Park, but instead rode the Charter Oak Greenway to its terminus, where I jumped onto a long road section; marked as part of the East Coast Greenway.  Growing quickly tired of pavement I spied some singletrack on my map, and hopped onto a ribbon of dirt in Bolton.  Through woods and fields I descended out of Bolton to connect with Hop River State Park rail trail.  The singletrack was adorned with short technical sections mixed in with buff singletrack and made for an entertaining descent.  I stopped on a picnic bench high above an open field, and soaked in the view while scarfing down lunch.

Not a bad spot for lunch.
The Hop River trail was wide hard packed dirt under trees.  It was fast, and also wild.  Twice I happened upon deer ambling in the thick woods next to the trail, and spied rabbits darting into the bush, and even spied turkeys calmly strolling through the forest.  Just before Willimantic the trial dumped out onto the road which crossed over the river on a high bridge.   A ramp wound around the bridge and back down to the river again.  The wildlife in this section was less appealing.  As I turned the corner to pass under the bridge, I startled a gaunt figure busy stuffing a paper bag into one of the pvc tubes under the overpass.  I didn’t stick around to chat or pet his pit bull, and hammered by along the trail.  Just after the bridge, the trail joined with the Airline State Park Trail. The Airline is also an old rail bed that runs southwest/northeast between East Hampton and Putnam, CT traversing nearly the whole eastern half of the state.

The Hop River Trail.
After jumping on the Airline just before Willimantic, it followed road through the city, and emerged on the far side where it slowly climbed, in a mostly straight line out of town.  I was again under trees and on gravel. The trail continued its climb, past North Windham and Clark’s Corner.  The miles ticked away until I reached Pine Acres Lake, the highest point of the day’s ride.   There I took a brief detour onto singletrack near the lake, before jumping back out onto the trail.  Now descending, the trail continued toward Putnam.  As it approached town, the doubletrack became singletrack, which slowly devolved into an overgrown bramble at the bottom of a small ravine.  My superhighway had become a bushwhack.   I pushed forward, collecting burrs and sticky seeds until finally the blowdowns and underbrush forced me to retreat onto a road crossing above.

I descended on roads down into Putnam, hitting the town as rush hour traffic started to fill the roads.  In the center of town I found a sub shop, and bought a late lunch which I devoured on a picnic table along side the river.  I  took my time lazing away, watching traffic, and just soaking in the sun and cool afternoon breeze.

Ahh.... singletrack.

As evening approached I checked my map and saw that the West Thompson Dam campground was not far from my dinner spot.  I called ahead and confirmed they still had a spot for me.   A short and quiet road ride brought me to the park where I chatted with the caretakers.   They were an older couple from Florida- retired military- who staffed different campgrounds during the summer.  They brought me some wood, and I finally set up my hammock for my first night of camping of the trip.

Home for the night.
It was a cold night and I struggled to stay warm in the early hours of the morning. But the décor in this place was just fine.  And instead of waking up to the sound of someone dying of TB, the next morning’s alarm would be the sound of birds welcoming the sun.

Read about Day One here: Taconicked: Day One of the VT to RI Adventure Ride

Read about Day Two here: Seven Levels of Wet: Day Two of the VT to RI Adventure Ride

Read about Day Three here:  Miles of Metacomet: Day 3 of the VT to RI Adventure Ride

Here's the map for the fourth day's route:

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