Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
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Here are a few collected things to consider:
In addition to two days out and two days back, another thought to consider is taking Amtrak one direction. You'll want to pick stations with "baggage service". For example, both Hastings, NE and Omaha, NE are such stations. Looking at Amtrak's web site might give some other possibilities.
For me, shoulders and traffic volumes are related. As an example, one year I decided to follow the Lincoln Highway from Cheyenne to Cedar Rapids, IA. Much of the route was US 30. In NE it mostly has decent paved shoulders and crossing the border into IA they changed to gravel. It turned out there were better alternatives there than on US 30. However, as I've gotten to smaller and less populated roads in NE, CO or KS a lack of shoulders hasn't been a big deal because on some roads traffic is pretty rare.
You'll probably know best what distance increment you find most comfortable between towns. Personally, I'm willing to take some longer gaps between towns because the areas are then more rural and with less traffic. I simply prepare for some longer distances.
In addition to state highway (and bicycle) maps already mentioned, you might get some ideas by browsing past routes for organized rides such as BRAN. They most likely wouldn't pick the really busy roads with no shoulders.
I don't know if you are camping or looking at motels. If it is the latter (or sometimes the former), one thing I tend to do is look at a site like motelguide.com for Mom & Pop motels, which is most of what you find away from interstates. I don't necessarily make reservations, but instead I'll go from day to day keeping in mind those smaller towns that have motels and decide that day where I'll stop depending on the weather, etc. (Useful to pick towns with two motels or that you reliably know the particular motel is open - since I've had occasions to find ones listed in motelguide.com that are no longer open to the public).