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New Haven, CT to Watch Hill, RI

Old 08-30-20, 04:20 PM
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KenCT 
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New Haven, CT to Watch Hill, RI

I am planning a ride from New Haven, CT to Watch Hill, RI with a couple of friends. We have arraigned for transportation back after the ride.

Our route has us on Boston Post Road/Route 1 for most of the ride. It is an 80 mile segment that will be part of the 100+ miles we are riding that day.

Anyone here ever ride all or part of that route before? Any suggestions welcome.

Thanks
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Old 08-30-20, 05:29 PM
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It has been a number of years since I did an end-to-end Connecticut coast ride that took in a chunk of the territory you'll be traveling, but I can tell you that, at New Haven, I turned off Rt. 1 and made my way onto Rt. 142 then to Rt. 146 to take in some water views (my favorite scenery) and the towns of Branford, Indian Neck, Pine Orchard, Leetes Island, Guilford before heading back onto Rt. 1. I found Old Saybrook to be a nice place to spend the evening.

The next day,I got back on Rt. 1 to cross the CT River and then dipped back toward the water on Rt. 156, which took me through Black Hall, Sound View, and Niantic before dumping me back onto Rt. 1 at Waterford. Next comes the Gold Star Bridge, which you'll access in New London. If you need specific directions to get to the bridge's bikeway, I can provide them.

After the bridge, I can get you to Mystic using neighborhood roads and state parks that are much more pleasant than Rt. 1. Plan some time in downtown Mystic if you have never been there. It's my favorite place on earth.

Once you're in Mystic, you might as well just use Rt. 1 to get to Westerly, RI, as the little detours I have taken over the years were nothing special. At Westerly, make your way down toward Misquamicut Beach, which is in the same area as Watch Hill.

I've left out some details because it will be time-consuming to add them here and I'm not sure if you're looking to sight-see or to mash your way between the starting and end points. Let me know if you need any more info.

Have a great ride!
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Old 08-30-20, 06:59 PM
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Thanks for the info, I'll add some of the off Rte 1 roads you mentioned. The ride is taking place instead of the annual Closer to Free ride. We were planning on riding the century, but since there are no organized rides this year, participants are encouraged to do their own ride on Sept 12th.

I've driven over the Gold Star bridge many times and did not realize there was a bike/pedestrian lane there until I started mapping the ride. Any info on that would be helpful.

I agree, Mystic is a great place to visit. My wife and I have done in state vacations there both before and after we had kids. Unfortunately we will not have time to visit on this ride.
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Old 08-30-20, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by KenCT View Post
I've driven over the Gold Star bridge many times and did not realize there was a bike/pedestrian lane there until I started mapping the ride. Any info on that would be helpful.
It's on the north side and across a substantial guard rail from the highway and the grade is reasonable though I felt a bit unsettled the whole way. I forgot exactly where the New London side entrance is but it's a bit back from the water and should be on maps. On the Groton side there's a short curvy hill (a descent for you) to where it T's into a path that goes to a condo complex one way and out alongside an on-ramp the other you'll probably want to take. Rt. 1 Groton is not particularly nice, I'd either go south and enjoy Avery Point, ride through the aiport, take the G&S Trolley Trail, gravel path through Haley Farm, and 215 through Noank, or bypass it to the north on 184 which is a decent ride. But East of Mystic village Rt 1. is a nice ride out towards Stonington (detour out to the lighthouse if you have time). Past Stonington there are a few narrow spots but it's not bad if traffic isn't too heavy... did most of my rides there this March/April when lots was shut down and it was great.

Do consult a map and look at elevations! There are some pretty serious hills on some of the secondary roads as you get north from the water.

You're probably looking to ride through but if you have time to kill, in New London you can go a bit south to Fort Trumball and see the Eagle, from Groton you can take Military Highway north to the Nautilus Overlook, and you can go up one side of the Mystic River Estuary by turning on Gravel Street just before the drawbridge where you'll get a great view of the historic seaport across the river, then cross at Old Mystic and come back down the east side to the seaport itself and get back on Rt 1 towards RI.

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Old 08-30-20, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by KenCT View Post
...I've driven over the Gold Star bridge many times and did not realize there was a bike/pedestrian lane there until I started mapping the ride. Any info on that would be helpful.
I guess if you are entering New London via Rt. 1, your best bet will be to follow it onto Bank Street and then Water Street. After passing the ferry terminal, make your first right onto Crystal Avenue and your first left onto State Pier Road. Take State Pier under I-95 and make a right onto Williams Street. Here you'll find a couple of convenience stores if you need supplies or water for the big climb up the bridge. Make your first left (at Mr. G's Restaurant) onto Bailey Circle and follow signs onto the bridge bikeway.

At the end of the bridge, you'll reach a "T" intersection, where you'll have a choice of going left or right. Left will take you to Rt. 1 and through a pretty busy section of Groton and on to Mystic. Right will take you Riverview Avenue, which will lead you toward Mystic (and Rt. 1) in what I think is a more scenic and enjoyable way. You'd have a bit of "off-roading" to do at Bluff Point and Haley Farm State Parks, so if you're riding skinny tires, you might want to skip this. If not, follow these cues:

* Turn right at T-intersection after the bridge and make a quick right onto Riverview.
* Climb Riverview and bear left onto Walker Hill
* Climb Walker Hill and enjoy the downhill toward Rt. 12, which, if you turn right, becomes Rt. 1.
* There's a Subway sandwich shop, a Jersey Mike's, a Chipotle, and a convenience store at Rt. 12. Here, you have to make a decision whether to be a kill-joy and just get on Rt. 12/Rt. 1 or to be daring and try my alternate route. If you choose the latter:

* Cross Rt. 12 and continue on Toll Gate Road to Rt. 184 (another convenience store on your right).
* Left on Rt. 184 and take your first right onto Buddington Road, which will take you through a quiet street and along a reservoir to, you guessed it, Rt. 1 (aka Poquonnock Rd)
* Left on Rt. 1 and go about 1500 feet until you see a small boardwalk that skirts the Poquonnock River. Get on it and ride it along the river until the end. As an alternative, you can continue on Rt. 1 a short distance past the boardwalk and turn right on Depot Road. Either way, at the end, you will arrive at an overpass. Go under it and ride the dirt and gravel road that leads into the parking lot for Bluff Point State Park>
* As you reach the parking lot, you will see a path to your left that leads into the woods. It's a dirt path, but wide and well-traveled. Stay on the well-worn surface, turn right when in doubt, and proceed through the park until you reach a fairly loose gravel section along the AMTRAK right-of-way at the end. This is a short piece, so just be careful and you shouldn't have to worry about a face-plant.
* At the end of the gravel portion, re-enter the woods and climb a short, rooty hill (this isn't really that bad) until you are back on a dirt surface. Soon, you will see an abandoned covered bridge to your left. Ride to the end of the dirt path and make a sharp left onto a concrete path that will take you over the bridge. You will know when the path is at its end.
* Once over the bridge, you will immediately see a utility pole on your right. Proceed to the SECOND pole and enter the woods again where you see a green gate. This is Haley Farms State Park. Ride through the dirt trails to the end.
* Exit Haley Farms State Park and turn right onto Brook Street
* Take Brook Street to the end (pass the first road labeled "215" and resist the urge to turn onto it as it will take you 1.5 miles out of your way) and bear left onto the SECOND Rt. 215. This will take you all the way into Mystic, by the "SIFT" Bake Shop and Mystic Pizza.
* At the end of Rt. 215, turn right onto Rt. 1, cross the drawbridge, stop at the (second) Mystic Market (a mile or two past town) for lunch, and continue on your way.

OK, my guess is that you're doing this as a "roadie" ride and that I just wasted a lot of time typing this all out for you; however, someone else (with fatter tires and no deadlines) might want to give this route a try some time. I ride from the New London Ferry to Mystic at least once a year, either for lunch or as part of a ride to points further north in Rhode Island and it's my favorite route of all.

Have fun, and let me know if you use any of this!
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Old 08-31-20, 03:46 AM
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Thank you, this is very helpful.
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Old 08-31-20, 08:25 PM
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I personally would skip bluff point (on a through ride, it can be fun to explore on a local one but is quite rough in spots) and instead get on the the paved G&S trolley trail from Depot Road. That will bring you to the destination side of the covered bridge from where you can enter the dirt path through Haley Farm, which is quite a bit tamer than some of the sections if you go the Bluff Point way (though it can form puddles when it's been wet).

What doing one or both of those does is avoids the fairly serious climb of Fort Hill in Rt. 1 just past Grasso Regional Technical High School. That said, this is past the bad-traffic part of route 1, so if you want to do the hill and stay on pavement, that's a fine choice too.

It also looked like the new school that Groton is building on top of the hill might eventually connect through to the parking lot of Grasso Tech, which could provide a tamer approach to the hill with no traffic. But the time I rode in the driveway of Grasso Tech after failing the hill on Rt 1, there was construction fence blocking any connection upwards. Came back out and said what the heck and climbed the hill on Rt 1 after all, fortunately no cars until I got past the steep part.
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Old 09-01-20, 11:49 AM
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Uni Chris - First of all, if you tell me you made it even HALF-way up Fort Hill on a UNICYCLE, you are now my cycling IDOL!

Second, I'm not sure what you mean by getting on the trolley trail "on the destination side." The one time I was even able to find the trolley trail, it was off that road that branches off Depot to the left, right where you'd normally go straight into Bluff Point Park. From there, it led me to the same point where I had to cross the AMTRAK bridge into Haley Farms Park, so I'm a little confused as to what you mean by the "destination side," unless I am missing something. Did they extend the trolley trail over the past five years or so?

I agree that Bluff Point is not a great place for a road bike. I usually ride balloon tires, so the dirt, gravel, and roots are no problem for me; however, a roadie might easily find him/herself planted face-first in the earth if not super careful. I just like the contrast of the quiet, rustic paths in Bluff Point and Haley Farms after fighting the ferry traffic in New London and huffing and puffing across the noisy Gold Star Bridge.

I haven't ridden to Mystic and points north via Rt. 1 in many years, so I don't know about the construction and the current traffic situation in downtown Groton anymore, but I do know that I like my current route A LOT better and will NEVER go back to Rt.1, the commercial district of Groton, and Fort Hill again.

So where do YOU go up that way? I'm a big fan of Mystic, Stonington Village, Misquamicut Beach, and Narragansett.
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Old 09-01-20, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
I'm not sure what you mean by getting on the trolley trail "on the destination side." The one time I was even able to find the trolley trail, it was off that road that branches off Depot to the left, right where you'd normally go straight into Bluff Point Park. From there, it led me to the same point where I had to cross the AMTRAK bridge into Haley Farms Park, so I'm a little confused as to what you mean by the "destination side," unless I am missing something. Did they extend the trolley trail over the past five years or so?
One can get on the G&S trolley trail by going on a little track through the woods from Indsutrial Drive off Depot Road. But I prefer to furn on Fitch Ave through the postwar housing, Midway Oval and finally right on Knoxville which ends at a cul-de-sac where the Trolley trail starts.

The Trolley Trail brings you to the green metal Haley Farm gate just short of the northeast side of the covered brige. In contrast if you ride southeast along the south side of the Amtrak ROW from Bluff Point, then after a short rocky climb (I walked, and that was descending!) you end up on the southwest side of the covered bridge by the infamous Mumford Cove code-lock gate and the probably legitimate but overgrown utility ROW. Going from the G&S Trolley Trail through Haley Farm of course avoids both of those access issues.

I haven't ridden to Mystic and points north via Rt. 1 in many years, so I don't know about the construction and the current traffic situation in downtown Groton anymore, but I do know that I like my current route A LOT better and will NEVER go back to Rt.1, the commercial district of Groton, and Fort Hill again.
This spring I'd regularly take the trolley trail out to route 1 (bypassing fort hill) and go west to the low-lying shopping areas (Big Y, Aldi, etc), it wasn't too bad. But west of that what the locals call "Hamburger Hill" (from all the fast food) gets a bit more dicey, and as you get further west and closer to the bridge you end up with effectively highway style underpasses and no shoulder - that was a one time experience on a quite day not to be repeated.

So where do YOU go up that way? I'm a big fan of Mystic, Stonington Village, Misquamicut Beach, and Narragansett.
I actually tended to prefer to go south through Avery point, past Electric Boat and then try to find a not too steep way through old Groton past the fort to get to the south side access of the bridge path. But I also had some nice rides to the north - Gungywamp was a must do just from the name and was nice. Once a bit east of the bridge 184 and then south along the east side of the Mystic River estuary is nice. And I had some nice interior rides on route 2 east the limited access section at Foxwoods potentially most of the way to RI, on Pequot Trail, and Shewville became a habitual way back south. That said, the day I went all the way up to 165 proved to be a mistake - fast and no shoulder. But retreating south on 164 was fine. Rode into RI once early on but then it became off limits so stayed on the CT side thereafter. Ultimately had some really nice rides in the 50 mile range, but never found an ideal Century course and ended up relocating to MA so did those along the old Farmington Canal route straddling the MA/CT border mid-state instead.

Someday I'm going to figure out how to generate my own heatmap of where I've tried riding, with the good stuff in green and the "not doing that again!" in red.

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Old 09-02-20, 04:10 AM
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I guess I will try Fitch Avenue next year. I'm not sure I want to miss out on the ride through Bluff Point, but after more than twenty years of riding from Long Island to the Mystic/Stonington area every year, it may be time to mix it up a bit.

Thanks for your input!
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Old 09-08-20, 06:48 AM
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I am more familiar with the route from Saybrookto Watch Hill but Tom's suggestions west of there are excellent, Rte 146 is one the nicest roads ever.


Along that route, there are a few scenic roads that go closer to the shore and are more scenic and they get you off of Rte 1 -which isn't bad down there-depending on your time and desire to keep miles down. These are in Madison (Middle Beach Rd) Clinton (Causeway) and if you don't mind dirt, the Branford Trolley Trail (it was OK with dirt the last time I was there a few years ago).

Likewise, I would recommend taking Rte 154 to Saybrook it dips south a bit, but well worth it, I recommend that as it is very scenic and also avoids a busy section of Rte 1.

Finding the bicycle access at the Saybrook bridge was difficult a few years ago and I well remember well how it defied my attempts at dead reckoning the first time I tried to find it. It might be marked now, I haven't been there in a while either.

The access to that bridge is a small sidewalk just before the American Legion building on 80 Essex Rd,

From the bridge follow 156 to Waterford, where you can again avoid a long section of Rte 1 that isn't that great. You can avoid a busy stretch in Waterford by dipping south following Gardiner Wood Rd , Shore Rd, Great Neck Ridgewood to New London,(very nice too) follow Tom's route thru NL on Pequot, Bank, Water (on the busy side but easiest way) and like Tom mentioned the entrance to the bridge -which is also hard to fine- is on road Mr G's restaurant is on.

Once across the New London/Groton bridge, I would suggest avoiding going south in Groton and would stay on Rte 184 to Old Mystic and then go south south on River Rd (a favorite road of mine) and follow Rte 1 to Westerly and stay off of Rte 1 in Westerly- it is awful. There is a nicer route that was always marked by several charity rides' painted street markings and might be easier to follow. (Main St, Beach St Watch Hill Road.

Hope this helps- now I have to get down there.
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Old 09-08-20, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by cdale56 View Post
I am more familiar with the route from Saybrookto Watch Hill but Tom's suggestions west of there are excellent, Rte 146 is one the nicest roads ever.
Yes! 146 and 154 were part of a longer ride I did up the entire Connecticut/Rhode Island shore several years ago and I can tell you they were great roads to ride.

When I did the above ride, I stayed at a Comfort Inn on Essex Road in Old Saybrook and was pleasantly surprised to wake up in the morning and find that bridge path you mentioned right outside my door!

Regarding 184 to Old Mystic, I'm going to check that out on Google Maps now and maybe try it the next time.

Thanks, cdale.
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Old 09-09-20, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
Regarding 184 to Old Mystic, I'm going to check that out on Google Maps now and maybe try it the next time.
The limited-access Rt 1/ Rt 184 split immediately east of the Gold Star Bridge isn't a great place to ride. But if one exits the bike path to Grove, then takes Walker Hill to Toll Gate Rd and follows that east to the intersection with rt 184, the rest of 184 is a pretty nice ride and felt comfortable even when I was just getting back into road riding after years of being trails-only. And riding south from Old Mystic on either side of the Mystic River Estuary is a real joy - the western side perhaps more rural with walkers outnumbering cars but the eastern isn't bad either.

The straight diagonal line from Midway to Haley Farm is the paved G&S Trolley Trail on the north side of the tracks, the more rugged gravel route is opposite the tracks just south of that, initially flat as it follows a modern rail grade rather than the very rolling one a trolley could manage, but right before the covered bridge there's a serious and quite rocky hillside.

Rt 1 is the brief highest point of the lower track above Midway and then the underline of "Mystic" - from Mystic to the RI border it's reasonable, there's one kind of narrow stretch but it isn't bad at low traffic hours. Also can be nice to take 1A. I've done detours for fun on Barn Island, get some leg work out there following the road, and going onto the trails through the marsh is a mix of riding and (at least for me) walking.


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Old 09-09-20, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
The limited-access Rt 1/ Rt 184 split immediately east of the Gold Star Bridge isn't a great place to ride.
Uni: I'm pretty sure you've seen my route, so I won't bore you with it again. Based on what you suggested as an alternate, I would pick up 184 at Subway/Chipotle (new!) and continue past Buddington, which is where I normally turn off toward Rt. 1. I sort of have a "connection" with Buddington for some reason, though. I think it has to do with certain songs that have come up on my mp3 player while I was riding through there over the years. Hopefully, I will create new memories on Rt. 184!
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Old 09-09-20, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
I would pick up 184 at Subway/Chipotle (new!) and continue past Buddington, which is where I normally turn off toward Rt. 1.
Personally I'd be on Toll Gate Rd for most of that, and only come in to 184 a few hundred yards before the turn onto Buddington. If you really want Buddington, you'll probably miss the decent part of 184 between there and Old Mystic. But it's nothing spectacular, just a nice comfortable ride.

I sort of have a "connection" with Buddington for some reason, though. I think it has to do with certain songs that have come up on my mp3 player while I was riding through there over the years.
Pretty sure I used Buddington a number of times; for me it's "Gungywamp" that sticks, I just can't get over the name. (And "Wyassup" which demands question marks)

Have half a mind to ask about your opinion of either Bridgeport to New Haven or Madison to New Haven as sometime I want to do a more linear century up the canal route from there to MA. But the more I think about it, what I'll probably do is start in New Haven and then if things are going well just continue another 20 miles further north in MA and arrange a ride home from there... which would be logistically safer and more linear than hockey stick.

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Old 09-13-20, 06:34 AM
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Thanks for the impetus- I have to get down there now; I think I will use the Shore Line East rail line for a point to point ride from Branford.
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Old 09-13-20, 07:00 AM
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We did the ride on Saturday, 10 riders set off from Southbury, CT to Watch Hill, RI. as part of the Closer to Free virtual ride Closer to Free

This was the first century for 5 of the 10 riders, me included.

Thank you for the advice on the route especially through Mystic and New London.


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Old 09-13-20, 07:05 AM
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Did you include Bluff Point and Haley Farms state parks?
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Old 09-13-20, 09:58 AM
  #19  
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Unfortunately no, we had some delays and decided to press on and complete the ride before it got too dark. They are on my list for a future ride.
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Old 09-13-20, 11:15 AM
  #20  
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Looks to me like the bridge over the Thames to 184 and then south from Old Mystic to pick up route 1 to RI, while that skips the fun stuff in Groton it's probably the most efficient for a long through ride day.

Hoping to do more long rides in CT in the future, so would love to hear about the western parts of the ride before New London. What was comfortable and what was hairy?
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Old 09-13-20, 01:49 PM
  #21  
KenCT 
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Many short climbs between New Haven and Stonington. The first 15 miles of our ride had about 900 feet of climbing. 1,600 feet from mile 15 to about 75. Last 35 miles had 2,000 feet. The steepest grade was 10.6% at mile 74.7.

Crossing the Baldwin Bridge in Old Saybrook was easy. The path over the Goldstar is narrow and the light pole bases protrude into the path. Route 1 had its moments with traffic but not too bad. We did go through downtown Mystic and it was packed, traffic moved very slowly there.

Our route as ridden: RidewithGPS Route

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Old 09-13-20, 06:40 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by KenCT View Post
Unfortunately no, we had some delays and decided to press on and complete the ride before it got too dark. They are on my list for a future ride.
When and if you ever have the time and inclination, I would like some more specifics about your route, as the map does not show any detail.
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Old 09-14-20, 05:14 PM
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KenCT 
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Link to the ride as recorded on my Wahoo Bolt and imported to RidewithGPS Southbury, CT to Watch Hill, RI
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Old 09-14-20, 05:57 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by KenCT View Post
Link to the ride as recorded on my Wahoo Bolt and imported to RidewithGPS Southbury, CT to Watch Hill, RI
'Looks like you hit all the towns and sights I remember most fondly from my end-to-end CT shore trip. Dang! This made me want to do it all over again!
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Old 09-15-20, 08:48 AM
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Congratulations on your first century.

As other have said, that SE corner of the state has many scenic roads that are off the main route and make nice riding when you have more time.
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