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Old 09-02-08, 04:50 PM   #1
Bacciagalupe
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How do you prep your route for long tours?

Just curious as to how y'all plan out your routes for longer ventures, especially in regards to making sure there are campsites and stores within your daily range.

I'm particularly impressed with the Adventure Cycling maps, since they put everything you need right in front of you. It's almost too easy. My next big trip will use some AC maps, but most of the time I'll be off that route.

So, if I wanted to generate my own equivalent of an AC map, what are the best methods? Do you use guide books to find the best campsites? Or wing it and hope for the best?
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Old 09-02-08, 05:12 PM   #2
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I just went into Google Maps and asked for direction from San Diego to New York, avoiding highways. I'm 1400 miles into it right now, in the middle of Kansas and everything is okay except for an excess of flat tires, and a shortage of bicycle shops.

I've just been sleeping wherever. My best night was actually in a big culvert in Colorado. It was stand up height, and empty and dry inside. Good for a small fire that wouldn't attract attention I gambled a bit on it not flash flooding, but I had all my stuff packed up and ready to move out if it did.
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Old 09-02-08, 05:54 PM   #3
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Three things are needed to plan your own routes - and Google Maps isn't one of them.

1. Generally speaking, you want nice quiet roads.
Almost every state has AADT maps - statewide, some with county roads.
AADT - average annual daily traffic figures.
http://www.ksdot.org/burtransplan/ma...rafficDist.asp
Also, many states have bicycling maps on line that vary from good to so-so.
Shoulder width is tougher to find - however, shoulders are needed more on busy roads than quiet ones.

2. Camping - each state has a state park system, many counties in the Midwest have county parks with camping. National forests have websites listing campsites - plus there is random camping on public lands.

3. Supplies - don't count on remote little dots in the interior west to have anything. Aquick check on yellowpages.com will confirm if there is a store/cafe - which is all you really need. Can check for motels, too. Bike shops are rarer and can be found before you leave.

The problem with many of the online mapping programs is that they don't distinguish between highways, county roads, and dirt roads. I have seen more than one Bikely or Google route that included nonexistent roads in the West.
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Old 09-02-08, 06:09 PM   #4
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jamawani has some good points but i wouldn't totally rule out google maps. i just finished my tour using aaa maps and the google maps program on my blackberry as well as researching crazyguy and other sites at the libraries along the way. i also picked up a few good state maps at the tourist offices along the way.

www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/rosey2008

google maps saved me a number of times (as long as i had cell reception of course) and was a great supplement. i was generally winging it as far as lodging along the way. i managed to go the whole way (except for the last 3 days with my father) without relying on a hotel so it is definitely possible.

most of all, of course, have fun with it.
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Old 09-03-08, 06:29 AM   #5
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i use mapmyride.com to make individual maps sheets of about 25 miles each - and include a view of the elevation graph. i ride a lot in the mountains, like to know what climbs are coming, how longs the coasting is going to last.
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Old 09-03-08, 07:24 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Three things are needed to plan your own routes - and Google Maps isn't one of them.

1. Generally speaking, you want nice quiet roads.
Almost every state has AADT maps - statewide, some with county roads.
AADT - average annual daily traffic figures.
http://www.ksdot.org/burtransplan/ma...rafficDist.asp
Also, many states have bicycling maps on line that vary from good to so-so.
Shoulder width is tougher to find - however, shoulders are needed more on busy roads than quiet ones.

2. Camping - each state has a state park system, many counties in the Midwest have county parks with camping. National forests have websites listing campsites - plus there is random camping on public lands.

3. Supplies - don't count on remote little dots in the interior west to have anything. Aquick check on yellowpages.com will confirm if there is a store/cafe - which is all you really need. Can check for motels, too. Bike shops are rarer and can be found before you leave.

The problem with many of the online mapping programs is that they don't distinguish between highways, county roads, and dirt roads. I have seen more than one Bikely or Google route that included nonexistent roads in the West.
These tips work great west of the Mississippi and Kansas is probably the easiest state on the Union to route across. Compare the DOT map above to the one for Kentucky http://kytcgis.ky.gov/trafficcounts/viewer.htm OMG, try using that map! Well the answer is that you can't, it's basically useless. The resource that I use in simply the AAA state maps, the scale used on these maps is very helpful. There are only 2 levels of roads shown (smaller than highways and interstates) they are a black line and a thinner dark grey line. The dark grey line roads are the ones to go for wherever possible. Sure, there are more rural roads available, but trying to link all these together for a long tour is really, really time consuming.

Next is lodging, more difficult, these maps have a campground symbol which generally just shows state parks and forests, I try to connect as many of these together as possible for the overall route. Then for the in between spaces I connect small size towns to pass through, these can be identified by the size and color of the text on the map.

Small black text = Town in name only, maybe a gas station or convenience store, and maybe not.

Slightly larger black text = Small town with grocery, fair chance at a motel or camping, for sure Churches. (These are the towns that I try to string together)

Medium red text = Large town / small city with all amenities, and maybe camping. (I avoid these for the most part, unless looking for a bike shop)

Large red text = Medium to large city, again with all amenities and maybe camping. (I avoid these, unless looking for a bike shop)

In those small in between towns, I try to google them ahead of time, or just ask around when I get there for camping first, then motels, then churches. I have yet to find a rural church that turned me away for camping, they usually make their restroom available to me.

Anyway, that's my method, and if there is an ACA route going my way, I take it!
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Old 09-03-08, 08:01 AM   #7
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These tips work great west of the Mississippi and Kansas is probably the easiest state on the Union to route across. Compare the DOT map above to the one for Kentucky http://kytcgis.ky.gov/trafficcounts/viewer.htm OMG, try using that map! Well the answer is that you can't, it's basically useless. The resource that I use in simply the AAA state maps, the scale used on these maps is very helpful. There are only 2 levels of roads shown (smaller than highways and interstates) they are a black line and a thinner dark grey line. The dark grey line roads are the ones to go for wherever possible. Sure, there are more rural roads available, but trying to link all these together for a long tour is really, really time consuming.

Next is lodging, more difficult, these maps have a campground symbol which generally just shows state parks and forests, I try to connect as many of these together as possible for the overall route. Then for the in between spaces I connect small size towns to pass through, these can be identified by the size and color of the text on the map.

Small black text = Town in name only, maybe a gas station or convenience store, and maybe not.

Slightly larger black text = Small town with grocery, fair chance at a motel or camping, for sure Churches. (These are the towns that I try to string together)

Medium red text = Large town / small city with all amenities, and maybe camping. (I avoid these for the most part, unless looking for a bike shop)

Large red text = Medium to large city, again with all amenities and maybe camping. (I avoid these, unless looking for a bike shop)

In those small in between towns, I try to google them ahead of time, or just ask around when I get there for camping first, then motels, then churches. I have yet to find a rural church that turned me away for camping, they usually make their restroom available to me.

Anyway, that's my method, and if there is an ACA route going my way, I take it!
I tend to agree with all of that.

I am inclined to not worry so much about finding the lightest traveled roads, but merely with avoiding the very worst ones. I don't have a huge amount of route finding experience because I too tend to use AC routes where possible. There are times when I second guess the AC routes and do my own thing for a few days for one reason or another. When that happens I just used whatever state maps that I could find for free on entering the state.

I am sure that I will do tours in the future where AC maps are not the answer, but I do like them where they are applicable.

Jamawani's methods are probably great for the remote West, but in the areas where they work well I tend to be likely to be on an AC route. He is a wealth of knowledge of the west and touring in general, but I am not inclined to wade through the AADT maps like he does. I guess that I am a bit lazy and not all that interested in detailed planning. I kind of like to just leave with little or no real planning. AC maps make that possible and I get my exploring fix by going off route for some of the trip is I feel so moved.

If in the future I feel the desire to do a non AC route I am inclined to start with a google maps route and improvise as needed.

FWIW: I have found Google maps extremely useful for mapping one or two day rides, but have not had reason to use it for a long tour yet. The Satellite view when zoomed in can often tell a lot about what to expect. Map My Ride is great for generating turn by turn cue sheets and elevation profiles, but is a PITA for long routes unless you do them in small chunks.
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Old 09-03-08, 09:15 AM   #8
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Fine. Do whatever.

The original poster asked about routes that were not AC or other designated routes. I have twenty years of touring experience. Six cross country trips - most of which were off-AC. And probably 60,000 miles of touring in North America - both east and west of the Mississippi. If you don't care to find traffic volume maps on line - then fine. Do whatever you wish. However, seeing as there are two cyclists deaths posted in this forum today, one would think that choosing a road with low traffic volume would be in a cyclist's best interests.

It's too bad you are unable to find the appropriate web pages for Kentucky AADT. And given your tone, I really don't care to tell you where they are. Actually, in the east almost every US and state highway has high traffic volume - but there are excellent secondary roads (hint, hint). That's how AC routes the TransAm thru Kentucky and Virginia. However, if you are in Nevada, I would not want to be low on water coming into Coaldale, Warm Springs, or Currant. All of which are small black dots on the AAA map - and other maps, too.

Current technological tools are excellent, but should be viewed as tools. In the West, search and rescue teams are having to deal with more and more people whose GPS has failed and need rescue. http://www.abc4.com/news/local/story...2-cd408e6a9afb

To quote:

“We have, like four GPS systems and all told us the same so we didn’t see that something is wrong,”
“We don't have water, we don't have food, we don't have nothing. We have ten kids and one of them is sick,”

Great.
And my taxes go to support the local search and rescue unit.
Everybody knows that websites copy other website info - GPS systems included.
And the information about West Virginia roads is increasingly downloaded by people in India.
Yet, given the internet - it is EXTREMELY easy to research a safe and relatively quiet route.
But if you don't care to do so, that is your option.
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Old 09-03-08, 09:34 AM   #9
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Fine. Do whatever.

The original poster asked about routes that were not AC or other designated routes. I have twenty years of touring experience. Six cross country trips - most of which were off-AC. And probably 60,000 miles of touring in North America - both east and west of the Mississippi. If you don't care to find traffic volume maps on line - then fine. Do whatever you wish. However, seeing as there are two cyclists deaths posted in this forum today, one would think that choosing a road with low traffic volume would be in a cyclist's best interests.

It's too bad you are unable to find the appropriate web pages for Kentucky AADT. And given your tone, I really don't care to tell you where they are. Actually, in the east almost every US and state highway has high traffic volume - but there are excellent secondary roads (hint, hint). That's how AC routes the TransAm thru Kentucky and Virginia. However, if you are in Nevada, I would not want to be low on water coming into Coaldale, Warm Springs, or Currant. All of which are small black dots on the AAA map - and other maps, too.

Current technological tools are excellent, but should be viewed as tools. In the West, search and rescue teams are having to deal with more and more people whose GPS has failed and need rescue. http://www.abc4.com/news/local/story...2-cd408e6a9afb

To quote:

“We have, like four GPS systems and all told us the same so we didn’t see that something is wrong,”
“We don't have water, we don't have food, we don't have nothing. We have ten kids and one of them is sick,”

Great.
And my taxes go to support the local search and rescue unit.
Everybody knows that websites copy other website info - GPS systems included.
And the information about West Virginia roads is increasingly downloaded by people in India.
Yet, given the internet - it is EXTREMELY easy to research a safe and relatively quiet route.
But if you don't care to do so, that is your option.
Sorry jamawani, there was no tone intended, guess I should have put in or something. I said that your method was great west of the Mississippi. I was just illustrating the difference between eastern states and western ones and giving specific solutions to the problem. There was not disrespect intended.
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Old 09-03-08, 10:14 AM   #10
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Fine. Do whatever.
No disrespect was intended. If I offended you I apologize. I certainly recognize that you have a huge amount of experience and knowledge and that I don't have anything close to your knowledge of the subject. Nothing I have said was intended to discredit your advice in any way.

That said, while your advice is obviously excellent, I don't think it is the only reasonable approach. I don't think that my approach thus far has been unworkable or particularly reckless. I also didn't think it was unreasonable for a young acquaintance to leave on a cross country tour with only a general idea of where he was going gleaned from Google maps. He managed fine, relying mostly on state maps and local advice.
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Old 09-03-08, 12:15 PM   #11
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1. I go to my local CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) and pick up maps of the country where I will be doing my tour. If they've got some camping guides, I get them too.

2. I have a look over those maps to see possible routes before I go.

3. When I get there, I stop by the local Information/Visitor centres to pick up local maps and info (I love those places).

4. And then I ride generally following some combination of the CAA maps and the Visitor Info maps.


I rarely use an online map for my trips. They just aren't accurate enough in most cases, and are just simple awkward. I will occasionally print off a map from Mappoint of the area in a city coming out of an airport or train station or something, but that's it.
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Old 09-03-08, 12:33 PM   #12
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I just went into Google Maps and asked for direction from San Diego to New York, avoiding highways. I'm 1400 miles into it right now, in the middle of Kansas and everything is okay except for an excess of flat tires, and a shortage of bicycle shops.

I've just been sleeping wherever. My best night was actually in a big culvert in Colorado. It was stand up height, and empty and dry inside. Good for a small fire that wouldn't attract attention I gambled a bit on it not flash flooding, but I had all my stuff packed up and ready to move out if it did.
"I gambled a bit on it not flash flooding, but I had all my stuff packed up and ready to move out if it did".


HOLY HURRICANE KATRINA! Dan the man that was risky! Glad to see it worked out.

I 'head for the hills' when I tour. I usually carry enough stuff to get thru 2 days of riding without any food (ramen noodles, canned tuna, mac and cheese, etc). Nvere have gone longer than that without somekind of service in the USA.

In the east of course there is no problem.

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Old 09-03-08, 05:42 PM   #13
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I use "real maps" and Google earth. The latter is good to what kind of terrain you're going through. Although it doesn't identify dirt roads, you can see from satellite photos if the resolution is good enough. I search web for parks, ferries, anything that might be useful. I use Google image a lot as well to see what might be interesting. I do a lot of research so I don't bike through some places and miss something interesting that might be off road a bit.
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Old 09-03-08, 08:56 PM   #14
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I just ask Jamawani, and he tells me all the best roads.
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Old 09-03-08, 09:54 PM   #15
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There are loads of tour journals online for the more popular areas of the world. You can mine them for lots of good route and lodging ideas.
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Old 09-03-08, 09:58 PM   #16
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I use a combination of whatever resources I can find.
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Old 09-04-08, 10:23 AM   #17
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Over my bike touring life I have found myself shifting to more and more dirt/gravel/fire road touring. So I tend to use Forest Service & BLM maps in the US and explore an area more intensely rather than plotting long distance tours on pavement.

This change was in part a response to the increasing traffic volumes with more and more drivers failing the attitude test in relation to bikes on their road. My tours including the Divide Ride have become more relaxing and less stressful due to the lack of traffic on these less frequented tracks.

I hope that increasing gas prices will reduce road traffic enough to lure me back on pavement for touring more often.
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