Touring - Help deciding on tour route in New England.
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01-09-13, 01:54 AM
Some advice would be appreciated. We are two adults and an 11 year old from Australia hoping to do some bicycle touring around New England at the end of September/Early October 2013.
We are travelling on Bike Fridays, my husband and son on a tandem and myself on a tourer. We are coming to ‘leaf peep’ as it has been on my list since I cycled from Banff to Jasper many years ago. In the USA we cycled the Katy trail in Sep ’10.
There is so much good information on the web that now I find myself quite confused and was hoping some fellow cyclists may help me.
Our ideal ride is not too hilly (some are okay) and around 35-55 miles per day, a few either side is fine especially if it’s good surface and flattish we can add extra. We have only around 10-12 days to cycle as are hoping to visit Washington, New York, Lancaster area and Boston as well in our 3 week trip.
Logistics of course is the other issue as we will be reliant on transport to these places.
I have looked at the Lake Champlain area of Vermont and this has a lot of appeal, thinking of starting in Burlington, going across the lake to Grand Isle (should we go up to Isle La Motte or North Hero?), across to Plattsburg and back across at Essex or Port Kent then heading west to some of the small towns, which ones? I have looked at Vergennes, Shelburne, Brandon, Middlebury, Stowe, Smugglers Notch (my son thinks there are some really cool things to do there and we could always walk the hill I guess.) to name a few but we can’t do all of them in the time allotted and perhaps there are other towns that should be on the must do list. We were thinking around 6 days in this area. Suggestions would be very welcome.
This leaves us with another 5 or so days of cycling and we have looked at a couple of other options but I want to make a more educated decision than guesswork. I have looked at the Acadia National Park in Maine, thinking a ride from Portland or close by to Bar Harbor but logistics could be an issue with a longish drive from Maine assuming we get a rental car and would then have to do a circuit or find a solution to get us back to Portland but it does look like a lovely area although October may be dodgy weather wise?
I have also looked at the Erie Canal, it would be great to see Niagara Falls so we could do something from Buffalo teaming it up with Lake Champlain. We don’t have time to do the whole 400 miles sadly but would happily look at the best sectors and use Amtrak in between or some other form of transport, at a loss for what but perhaps those from around these parts may know.
I also saw the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O Canal and the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pennsylvania but am concerned about the surface. We cycled the Canal Du Midi in France and it was pretty rough going so we are not afraid of being off tarmac but don’t want the arms still shaking at the end of the day. It also made for slow going. We want to see the fall foliage but also like to have small towns enroute. My son loved our last canal trip because he found the locks and boats interesting and a good distraction.
Think I have said enough, would be great to hear from some of you and appreciate your help.
01-09-13, 09:06 AM
1. You may have trouble brining a Bike Friday Tandem on Amtrak:
If you are required to check it, your options are very limited as most trains and stations do not have checked baggage service.
2. Camping or not?
3. There are relatively few leaves to peep at in Lancaster County, PA (which I sssume is the Lancaster you are talking about). And unless you were to pick your route very carefully, you are going encounter more than the occasional hill.
4. The GAP and Pine Creek are not paved, but the surfaces are pretty good. I cannot imagine being able to easily access Pine Creek other than by car. Public transit options in that part of the world are limited. Maybe there is some bus to Williamsport. From where I that would be I couldn't begin to tell you.
In general, it sounds like you are trying to pack too much into the short time you have. I would pick one area and concentrate on it. Maybe two if you intend to rent a car. I have ridden in the Lake Champlain area and through some of those VT towns you mention. Very pretty, but as soon as you go too far west-east you hit some serious hills. I believe there is a guide to the Lake Champlain bike route. That may be the way to go.
01-09-13, 09:09 AM
Welcome to the forums,
As far as your tour, I live outside of Burlington and know the area well. A tour around Lake Champlain is beautiful and the roads north of Burlington around the lake are relatively flat. South of Burlington/Plattsburgh there are more hills along the lake, but no epic climbs. The numerous towns you noted (Middlebury/Brandon/Vergennes) are all very nice, but as you head away from the lake toward the Green Mtns, the climbs will be more numerous, some steep. Crossing the spine of the Green Mtns via one of the notches/gaps is very rewarding, but will require some extra effort.
The time of the year you will be visiting is beautiful, and as such there will be much more traffic with visitors from out of state. Lodging will also be in short supply, especially on weekends. Rt 100 is especially busy, so though beautiful, may be best to limit your time on it.
The Adventure Cycling organizations has a circle route from Burlington, then north toward Canada, then east to New Hampshire, then south, then West toward Middlebury, then north again to Burlington. About 350 miles.
If you should need some help about Burlington, shipping your bikes, good bike shops in Burlington, or anything else, just email/PM me, be happy to help.
01-09-13, 10:15 AM
If you are interested in going up the Maine coast, one thing that makes the logistics MUCH easier is that there is an Amtrak train called the Downeaster from Boston's North Station up to Portland that actually has a bike car (which most Amtrak trains do not). You can't get bikes on and off at every station, but you can in Boston and in Portland. They stipulate that they only take "normal" upright bicycles and no tandems, but I think a Bike Friday tandem would be okay because you could separate it into two parts and use two spaces on the rack. So you'd make three bicycle reservations with your three train tickets. The rack may not easily hold small wheels, but if you bring a lock or bungee cord for each it should be fine. I've taken the Downeaster with my bike a bunch of times and it's always been easy and convenient, and the train personnel are always friendly, helpful, and accommodating. Portland is a great cycling city with lots of marked bike lanes and routes, and also has lots of amazing food.
The Maine Coast is an extremely popular touring route, too; I've run into more bike tourists on the same road there than anywhere else. There are plenty of towns along the way if you want motels (and in Sept./Oct you'll be going at off-peak times, so many may be discounted) as well as campgrounds. Most other parts of Maine would involve long distances between services, but the area between Portland and Acadia will have plenty. And the coastal landscape is really, really different from what you'll see in other parts of New England. You can't really ride right along the coast because the coastline is very convoluted and is made up of lots and lots of little "fingers" and inlets. But it's a really neat area, quite unique. The beaches are really something special, too. Rather than expanses of sand or gravel (although there is some), they have all these smooth rocks of various sizes. And lots and lots of fog. Visitors often make stacks of stones called cairns, which are really neat to see appearing out of the fog when you walk around. And Acadia is spectacular and unlike anything else you'll find on your trip.
It's probably a bit too late, but maybe you'll even catch the end of blueberry season. There's nothing like downing a pint of fresh wild blueberries in one go from a stand by the side of the road. :)
I did a tour of New England starting in Pennsylvania, ending in Boston and riding up to Acadia National Park through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine in September, 2010. It was wonderful to bike through forests as the trees slowly changed color. I used a combination of ACA routes and self-created ones to make my way. I wrote a journal of the ride (http://www.biketouringtips.com/showJournalPages.php?jid=40) that you might find useful.
It would be a shame to miss Acadia National Park with its wonderful coastal views.
Note that it is one of the most visited National Parks in the nation due to huge cruise ships visiting Bar Harbor daily.
I spent a week in Burlington with my wife driving around but did no biking. It is a nice town with plenty of tourist services and many nice places to visit nearby.
I can certainly agree with VT_speeds comments on how pretty the area is to ride in. I have friends who live near the Quebec Vermont border and we ride in northern Vermont sometimes and I always am impressed by the scenery and in general how drivers are fairly good for respecting bicyclists.
As a parent who has biked with kids about that age, I guess the thing I wonder is balancing areas that will be fun for the 11 yr old too.
Dont get me wrong, the landscape is great, the roads are in good condition, but it might just be "trees, trees and more trees" to an 11 yr old after a few days. The towns are fairly small etc but you will have a better idea than us about how much time is too much being on a bike for your child, depending on what other "stuff" there is to do.
Also keep in mind that the end of sept and beginning of oct can be a real roulette wheel with the weather. We"ve had some nice warm and dry falls lately, but cool and rainy periods can happen too. You could be riding in shorts at 20c or it could be 7c and raining...it really is the luck of the draw when it comes to a specific week, so that said, good rain jackets, pants and rain booties should certainly be on the list of things to bring.
Have fun planning things.
01-09-13, 02:23 PM
Thanks for your quick reply. Just to answer your questions:
1. Re Amtrak - The tandem bike breaks down and we pack into a standard soft bike carry bag, this usually fits on baggage racks at end of carriages so think we should be okay, it weights less than 50lbs (22kg).
2. No Camping - Would like to stay in accommodation along the way
3. Yes Lancaster County, PA - this is just a whim and we don't need to cycle there or go at all, was not thinking leaf peeping in this area. We can disregard this area if required.
4. Okay thanks, will take Pine Creek off list and still consider GAP
5. Alot of the tours I have looked at were around 6 days for Lake Champlain hence considering somewhere else for the other 6 days, would be lovely to concentrate on one area however given the cost of getting there we would like to see a little more. That's why we thought of the Erie Canal, it was close by and could make a tour of the two areas, really wish we had longer! We could also hire a car and drive to Maine but that would obviously take out time in travel. Leaf peeping is the main reason for trip but if I can do all that Vermont around Lake Champlain in 6 days happy to see other things instead.
Hope that explains our plans a little better. Think Lake Champlain for leaf peeping a definite, just need to work out 6 day route (7 if we take off from other). Then look at GAP, Erie, Maine I guess for other 5-6 days.
Remember you can be leaf peeping while driving as well. Do something like the trip around the lake and rent a car and drive across VT on Rt 4, gorgeous around the Killington area during leaf peeping season(I rode most all of Rt 4 Columbus Day 2011). After getting into NH continue on Rt 4 to Rt 118. This brings you out on the southwest side of the White Mtns. Drive on over to Lincoln and catch the Kancgamanus(sp??) Highway and take it over to Conway. From there you are only a few miles from the Maine border. You could probably catch Rt 16 up to Gorham, and then drive Rt 2 to I-95 and take it up Bangor and hop on over to Acadia. Or possibly stay a bit further south and ride up along the seacoast toward Acadia. The crossing from west VT to eastern ME should only take one day leaving you with another 4-5 days for riding up the seacoast.
01-09-13, 04:31 PM
Sounds ideal bikenh and will give that due consideration, my son doesn't particularly like being stuck in a car but if it only takes a day. Are the roads particularly bendy?
01-09-13, 04:53 PM
Also, remember that the leaf peeping season varies substanially in its peak time. the Lake Champlain area is the last to change & reach peak. Colors change first in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, then the spine of the Green Mtns, then the Champlain Valley. I live in the foothills of the Green Mtns, and many years we are at
Peak, yet when I get to work in Burlington there is no color change.
01-09-13, 04:55 PM
Welcome to the board, Margot!
…Are the roads particularly bendy?
…not too bad in a lefty/righty sense, but can be a bit of a drag in an upanddowny sense, especially if you're used to somewhere flat, like The Netherlands :) (from which part of Oz do you hail?) Good luck in your planning, and if you're in the Southern NH region, give us a holler and we could meet up (perhaps the whole gang? From what I remember, we are many here in SNH) Good luck!
01-09-13, 05:35 PM
Vermont and the Lake Champlain area is quite nice, although as some other posters mentioned, there is often some climbing involved. My wife and I did a nice three-day group tour through the Vermont area a couple of years ago and were based out of the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes. We did different routes on different days, the longest being 84 miles, but most being considerably shorter than that. There is a fair amount of climbing in the area, but even on the 85 mile route, the elevation gain was only about 2,200, which really isn't bad for that distance.
I've included the URLs to the routes hosted on Strava so you can get an idea of the areas covered; you can even download the files to make your own maps/directions, should be so inclined. Vermont's a great place to ride in the summer.
01-09-13, 10:06 PM
Lancaster County (and eastern PA in general) is really gorgeous, it's lovely cycling. Hilly, though. I did a 1000k through Eastern PA that was one of the most gorgeous rides I've ever done. Maybe not leaf peeping, but still nice.
One thing to consider if you ride in Vermont (well, rural Vermont especailly, but the rest of New England too) is that there are lots of really nice dirt roads. They are mostly hard pack, and you can ride on them with road tires, although it's a bit slower and more difficult than roads. But they are gorgeous and very lightly traveled and often in better shape than the paved ones. If you have a chance, it would be completely worth it to incorporate some of them. They're not hard to find - they're still normal public roads, they're just the really small ones. You can often find them with Google StreetView. But it would be too bad to do what you're hoping will be a comprehensive tour of New England and not do some dirt roads.
01-10-13, 03:10 AM
Wow you guys are great, thanks so much for all the suggestions so far. It's alot to take in but here I go.
Brian, will look at some elevations and try to steer clear of RT100, will try and plan out an itinerary and see how I go.
Coluber42, maybe we should so our tour the other way round if Maine is the go, hence arrive Maine 23 Sep, give or take a few days and head into Vermont 1st - 2nd week October. We roughly have 20Sep-11 Oct.
Raybo, thanks for the photos and encouragement to see Maine. I had a quick glance at the days you had in Maine on your journal but will go back and spend some more time reading it.
DJB - We do a cycle tour each year and my son really loves being on the tandem as long as we intersperse it with some fun things hence a few big cities but he also enjoys small towns. Understand re weather we toured Europe a couple of years back expecting cooler conditions and ended up with a heat wave of 39c (102F) so our warm clothes and wet weather gear wasn't required but we carried it.
Wil, we are from the northside of Sydney, Australia so not much flat here but no mountains either. Our son is prone to car sickness hence my question.
Cafzali, that last ride looks hard about the 60 mile mark, will work on elevations. We travel with a garmin so try to pre map our routes, sometimes you don't want to know what is ahead!
Coluber42, will work out route and look at various options
01-10-13, 05:08 AM
A source I use for exploring new areas is www.ridewithgps.com
You can search by city and find may rides mapped out that have been submitted by local riders. I find these routes often explore and use more interesting roads then I would have selected. You will have elevations and can often link and use parts of numerous routes to create a route for at least part of your tour.
01-10-13, 08:18 AM
Here is the resource I was thinking of:
Adventure Cycling Association also has routes in VT andNY, including one that incorporates part of the Erie Canal and Niagara Falls, ON.
Not trying to be a downer, but using Amtrak to get from somewhere like Burlington to somewhere along the GAP would take a couple of days in itself. It's a 13 hr. trip--9:00 a.m. to 10 p.m.--from Essex Jct. (about 5 miles outside of Burlington) to D.C. on weekdays. (13.5 hrs. during the weekend.) And you don't get to D.C. in time to connect with the train that would take you to Cumberland or Pittsburgh. You have to wait until the following afternoon, and you wouldn't arrive in Cumberland until about 7 p.m. Nearly midnight in Pittsburgh. If you are planning to fly home from where you arrived you would have to get yourself back.
IMO, Lancaster County is best in April and May. The Amish and Menonites are out working the fields, and you can usually count on not having to deal with the oppressive heat and humidity that can blanket the area as early as the first week in June. By late September/early August, there is less growing activity so the farms are less colorful.
01-13-13, 12:40 AM
Hi Brian and fellow tourers in Vermont,
We also use ride with GPS and have started plotting out a route in Vermont. So far we have 2 days to cycle Lake Champlain from Burlington. Is there anywhere in particular you would say was a must do here, Do we go up to North Hero or are we just as well crossing at Grand Isle? Is it worth a visit to Isle La Motte?
For the rest a rough itinerary in 4 days is:
Day 1 -
Burlington/Shelburne/Charlotte /Vergennes/Morgan Horse Farm/Middlebury
Day 2 -
Day 3 -
Day 4 -
Any comments on this route, is Middlebury worth doing the extra miles to? We would have done East Middlebury but will run out of time so if there is anywhere else you would suggest we should visit would love to hear more. We are really flexible as to where we go at this stage. We also realise we may be a little early for peak leaf peeping as will arrive early October but we are dictated by school holidays in Australia unfortunately.
01-13-13, 12:42 AM
Thanks Indyfabz, have been looking at both lots of maps. We are thinking pass on the GAP and just look at Maine and Vermont at this stage.
Thanks for your advice on Lancaster County, think we have run out of time anyway but really good to have the info to help us decide.
01-13-13, 12:52 AM
Thanks Raybo again and anyone else in Maine who would like to comment, have had more time to read through your journal and am a little worried about all the ups and downs!! The itinerary we are considering is:
Day 1 - Portland/Yarmouth/Freeport/Brunswick
Day 2 - Brunswick/Bath/Boothbay Harbor
Day 3 - Boothbay Harbor/Camden
Day 4 - Camden/Bucksport and somehow transfer to Bar Harbor - anyone got any ideas how to do this? I have looked at public transport and also considered dropping gear and leaving with husband and son then doing an extra 20 or so miles to Bangor Airport to get a rental car, not something I want to do but might consider if I had to.
Some of the roads on your journal Raybo look pretty ordinary I will have to map it out but if anyone has suggestions of best roads it would be great to hear from you.
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