Touring - Northward Route Across Kansas
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08-18-12, 11:41 AM
Planning to ride north across Kansas next Spring, coming out of Oklahoma, headed for Nebraska. I've been looking at US 281 on the map. Has anyone ridden that before? What are the road conditions? How about US 77?
08-18-12, 06:17 PM
In order to give you a better answer, can you say where you going from and to? What is your preferred riding style, i.e. low traffic roads or the shortest route? Are you self-contained or will you need restaurants for every meal and/or motels along the way?
A short answer is to look at the Kansas State Bicycle Map http://www.ksdot.org/burRail/bike/biking/KsBicyGuid.asp and the Nebraska State Bicycle Map http://www.dor.state.ne.us/docs/bicycle-guide-current-2.pdf and do what you feel is appropriate for you.
I have ridden from Mexico to Winnipeg via Tulsa and did eastern KS & NE. The winds can either be a blessing or a curse. Some days I would do a century in 6-7 hours (fully loaded) and then the wind would come as a very strong headwind and I would creep along at 5mph.
People are friendly, most non-large towns have somewhere to camp (may just be a city park). Biggest hassle is the rural area is dying off so finding restaurants and motels can be a pain.
08-18-12, 06:45 PM
TulsaJohn, I'm starting in Jacksonville, FL, coming across Florida panhandle thru hometown of Mobile, AL, across MS and up the Delta country of AR, across AR and thru Boston Mountains by Buffalo River, thru OK to Okemah and then north thru Ponca City, across KS to pick up NE 2 in Grand Island to SD, then MT, ID, WA, down OR and CA coast, turning East north of SF across NV, UT, NM, TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, and back to Jacksonville; if all goes well :). I'll be camping. Thanks for the info on KS.
08-18-12, 09:04 PM
Formerly of Lawrence, KS - -
The Flint Hills are lovely in late spring - low traffic - natural prairie landscape.
Generally Hwy 99 - bit east of Ponca City but worth it.
Check Kansas DOT and Nebr DOT for traffic volume maps -
Often these are better than the state "Bike Maps" - since they show actual traffic numbers.
08-18-12, 09:25 PM
I agree on 99. I was on it last week on a motorcycle from west of Tulsa up through Emporia. Nice ride. Low traffic. The Tallgrass Prairie and Flint Hills are beautiful. I would be very concerned about heavy oilfield traffic on 281. Sorry I can't confirm but there are some hot spots in that area right now. Not sure about 77. Looks like a great trip!
08-18-12, 10:06 PM
The Kansas Bike Map - Major Huh?
Red = High Traffic
Blue = Moderate Traffic
Orange = Low Traffic
Only three categories?
With a zillion colors to use - red & orange??
And why is blue between red and orange???
These guys get paid?
Their definitions are pretty good - <1000, 1000-3000, >3000
And the shoulder info is nice.
But a readable map it isn't.
08-19-12, 06:18 AM
Jamawani, thanks for the info, I like the looks of the route and it is straight up from the route I plan to take in OK.
08-19-12, 06:20 AM
Keith, thanks for the info, 99 looks like a good route. Ever ridden 14 north?
08-19-12, 09:26 AM
Nope. Try contacting the folks at High Gear Cycles in Emporia. They should be able to fill you in on that area. They also run a little race called the Dirty Kanza 200 and can fill you in on some gravel options through the Flint Hills if you are in the mood for something a little different.
08-19-12, 11:59 AM
Thanks, good to know about the shop in Emporia, I was looking at maybe going into Topeka for that, I will be at about the 2,000 mile point in that area, ready for a new chain. I appreciate the help. Ride safely.
08-20-12, 12:19 PM
I rode KS-99 from Pawhuska, OK to to Eureka, KS then over to Cassoday, KS (via US-54 to Rosalia then county roads). From there, KS-177 to Alta Vista (the Flint Hills road and is very nice, even in August) and a nice county road (old K-10) to Alma. From there, I entered Nebraska at Summerfield, KS but then I was too east for your route. I can recommend my route except the stretch between Westmoreland and Blaine, KS had a ton of gravel truck traffic in mid-morning. Camping and food was available. If you want, contact me via private message and I can send you the GPS codes and a cue sheet if you want.
I have also been on US-183 between La Crosse, KS and Holdredge, NE. It was a "make miles, not smiles" route as it is a road with usually a decent shoulder but the traffic was higher than I like. It is doable but not as pleasant.
Another suggestion is to take my route up to Alta Vista, then work diagonally over to Junction City on KS-52 or Humbolt Creek Rd. From Jct City, head NW toward Clay Center via county roads and KS-15. From there, almost any road except for US-81 has sub-2,vehiclesales per day so should be good. If you are not opposed to riding on chat (finely ground gravel), you might consider taking the Cowboy Trail, a rail trail going from Norfolk, NE west to Valentine, NE. From there, head north up to the Black Hills on another rail trail, Mickelsoneson(spelling?) Trail, which is also very nice.
As a final note, I might take a tour this fall going from Greenville, MS back to Tulsa roughly in a Greenville to Russellville, AR, to Mulberry to Winslow, AR to Tulsa mainly via low traffic highways or county roads. If you want that roGPS's gps codes and a cue sheet, let me know. Actually, I have it routed down to DeFuniak Springs, FL but don't have time to do it all this fall.
I agree wholeheartedly about checking other sources such as DOT traffic counts, etc., but wanted to give you a quick answer. At least KS has a map. My state (OK) just doesn't see the need and the OK bicycle advocacy group doesn't either unfortunately but that is another issue.
08-20-12, 01:47 PM
Combining KS 99 with KS 177 is ideal for a route thru the Flint Hills -
Since the Flint Hills actually have a slight diagonal course.
Also, it sounds like the OP wants to get bike services at Emporia.
Rather than head west on a very busy US 50,
it might be better to head north on county roads thru Americus to US 54
Then head west on US 54 to Council Grove - a lovely town.
(Yes, you miss Tallgrass Prairie NP - but you have lots of great grass.)
From CG you can head north on KS 177 then to KS 57 to Junction City.
From JC you can head west on KS 18, then north on KS 14.
(Or you can use emptier county road via Minneapolis and Jamestown.)
KS 18 is a very pleasant ride - low traffic and shoulders!
08-20-12, 08:49 PM
+1 on TulsaJohns comments on state maps. From our perspective, what Kansas offers looks pretty impressive. Keep in touch Woodsy. Maybe I can at least feed you when you come through.
08-22-12, 08:28 PM
One thing to do if you are not too worried about weight is to have a spare chain fitted to the correct size before you leave and just take it with you. Be sure to put a quick link on both chains so they can be removed. Makes it easy to clean chain too while on tour. If you don't want to carry it but don't want to ride out of your way, just send a package care of General Delivery to a town with a 6 day a week post office (and only one). I send specialty medicines and other items that way that need to be replenished via this method and it works great.
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