I've mentioned our little Friday morning ride before - otherwise known as the Friday Morning Throw Down (FMTD). It's a loop of over 30 miles in the lower Connecticut River Valley and down along the coast of Long Island Sound. It officially starts in Chester Center, but some folks (including me) get picked up along the way. It's an early ride - departing at 5:30am - and there are plenty of bailout opportunities in case you have to get to work a bit early that day.
It's an absolutely beautiful ride through stunning scenery. Only problem is, it's usually so fast that all you really see is the wheel of the guy in front of you. And the fastest sections tend to be the flattest. And the flattest tend to be the prettiest - down by the water. See the pic at the top of the post for a typical view - moving flat out, single file, along the shore. As you can imagine, if you're hardly able to take in the scenery while on the FMTD, you certainly won't be able to take any photos. If you stop, you'll never catch back on.
So, in order to document and share some of the scenes along the way, I took advantage of a beautiful morning earlier this week, riding solo and leaving at the same time as the FMTD would, to show you what we see when we're not too cross-eyed. Come along for a ride along the route at a leisurely pace so you can enjoy the view...
Those who follow me on Twitter will recognize this shot. Before I got lazy and started waiting for the guys at the end of my driveway, I used to get out ahead of them by a few minutes to warm up which sometimes gave me just enough time to record this view over the tracks, looking toward the sunrise.
Once we turn right onto Great Hammock Road, the ride begins in earnest. If you can pry your eyes from the back of the guy in front of you and turn your head to the right, this is what you'd see.
And if you turned your head to the left, perhaps looking over your shoulder to see if it was safe to peel off after your pull at the front, this is the view you'd see. Hopefully, your eyes would readjust in time to allow you see the road again.
After going through the 4-way stop, we turn along the south shore. Always the million-dollar view, along Knollwood Beach, this is the "leadout" portion of the causeway sprint. No matter how fast you're going at this point, you can't help but see the stunning sunrise over our town's two lighthouses (which you can barely make out in the distance).
And this, my friends, is the Causeway - location of the Causeway Sprint (natch). Like the tail of a comet, some of the guys start falling off the back at this point as the lead guys start drilling it even harder. It's a LONG causeway (I should actually measure it sometime) and the "finish" is way out there on the horizon, when you get back to the mainland. Wind is always a factor here, and when you get a tailwind, you can be cruising at 30-35mph and sprinting over 40. Alas, this morning there was a head/crosswind that put most of us in the gutter and sapped the sprint (kudos to GS for drilling a hole through the wall for a decisive "win").
At the end of the sprint, we coast/cooldown past Saybrook Point Inn and turn left on College Street. As we turn, we pass Fort Saybrook Park - also the site of the old Connecticut Valley Railroad yard and roundhouse. That's the excavation of the turntable pit and engine bays. Yet another reason I love it here, not only do we have great roads and scenery, but where else am I going to find a railroad archaeological dig by the water? Unfortunately, even though we're cooling down from the sprint by this point, we seldom pay much attention to this site as we go by, so I'm especially glad I stopped this time to get the pic.
The little jog north up to North Cove (you can see the jog in the map above) is part of the extended cooldown/mellow part of the ride. I guess you could stop along the way here to snap a few photos, but it was a lot nicer - being solo on this particular morning - to take my time.
Another shot of North Cove
And yet another - showing evidence of the ever-present wind.
Once we motor up Main Street and through town, we take a right back up and over the railroad tracks then another right to head east back toward the river. This is the view just after that road turns left and heads north. That's Old Lyme across the river, and the 1907 railroad bridge connecting the two towns.
After going "between the bridges" (the RR bridge to the south and the I-95 highway bridge to the north), we turn back west and head through Saybrook's Otter Cove section. The pace is usually pretty brisk from the last time we cross the tracks up to the Otter Cove turnoff, but the area itself is usually pretty mellow, very woodsy and wind-y. There is one clearing in the trees though, and we're treated to another view of the river - this time with a little fog burning off.
Once out of Otter Cove, we turn north again and head into Essex - literally right through the center of town. It'd be fun to mount a helmet cam to an R/C helicopter and video us from above, going around the roundabout. I'm not sure it would look as cool as those shots you see of 100+ racers doing it in the Tour, but I'd put this rotary in Essex Village up against anything in Europe for looks and charm (Paris & Rome notwithstanding).
The Loop continues north from here, along the river back to Chester Center but at this point, mostly because I'd taken a lot of extra time stopping to take pictures, and partly because I rode more of the route than I usually do before work (I usually peel off and head home right after Otter Cove), I was starting to run a bit late and needed to get to the office. It was such a beautiful morning though, I couldn't help but turn right at the rotary and head down Essex's Main Street to the end.
While not actually on the FMTD route, it's not that far off and if you have time, it's more than worth it, especially at sunrise. This is the dock next to the CT River Museum, right at the "Foot O' Main". I could sit here for hours, watching the fog burn off and following the sun as it makes its trip up and over the water. But I had to TT home to jump in the shower and get the workday started. No matter what kind of day I'd have though, it had already been a great day.
I hope you enjoyed this little trip around (most of) the Friday Morning Throwdown Loop. Maybe you can join us sometime, but if you do, don't bother bringing your camera. No matter how beautiful it is that day, you probably won't get a chance to use it.