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Old 10-13-08, 01:11 PM   #1
joe_5700
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Planning a tour

I am planning a tour for the spring. I am coming up with 3 possible routes from my house and the tour will be 2 days out and 2 days back. I have never tried to come up with a tour before, but I have had great luck drawing out my Gilligan's Island type tours (the 3 hour variety). How do I know what roads/highways are considered tourable? Should the highway have a shoulder if it is not very busy? I live in Omaha Nebraska at the western edge of town, so all of my routes are very rural. I want to stick to rural/state highways that hit towns every 10 miles or so. Is there an increment between towns that should be considered too far or not a good idea? It's just hard planning something out not knowing what really lies down the road. I just do not want to drive 240+ miles and blow that gas or time.
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Old 10-13-08, 03:15 PM   #2
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Start lengthening your current rides so that you will have ridden all possible Day 1 (or most of Day 1) tour options out in any direction.

That way you'll be quite familiar with the types of highways in your area, and you'll be able to answer the question as to whether they've got shoulders or not ... or whether they're gravel or not.

And that way you'll also know how far you can go between towns and still be OK.

Aside from that, maps (paper maps) can help. Sometimes highway maps will have roads in different colors for how wide they are and what the pavement is like. If you're lucky enough to get ahold of a cycling map (I've got one for Alberta) it will tell you traffic density and shoulder width. And if you've got the money, get ahold of land ordinance maps ... they're the best! With them you can find all the secret little paved roads you never knew existed. I've got a whole set of them for this part of Alberta.
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Old 10-13-08, 03:37 PM   #3
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I don't know if this will be of help to you, but here is a link to Nebraska's bike map. It isn't a great map, but it might be a good place to start.

Have a good time,

Ray
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Old 10-13-08, 03:47 PM   #4
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I've biked all over southeast Neb. Did my master's thesis down in Pawnee City.
The tough part is getting out of a city.

There are a couple of Neb state websites that have road info.
County road maps - -
http://www.nebraskatransportation.or...countymaps.htm

Traffic volume map - -
http://www.nebraskatransportation.or...Flow%20Map.pdf

Shoulders really make a difference.
Unfortunately, a lot of Neb roads don't have any.
Call the Department of Roads and ask if they have shoulder width info on line.

Have you considered Iowa?
Great country roads.
Bike map - -
http://www.iowadotmaps.com/msp/pdf/bikemappdf.html

Maybe head up to Preparation Canyon -
Cross at Decatur (narrow bridge)
Then come back on the Nebraska side on country roads.
The Nebraska side is much hillier.

Best - J
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Old 10-13-08, 04:17 PM   #5
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I would definitely try and stay on roads with shoulders, even if there is not much traffic. My limited experience in Neb. makes me very scared of grain trucks. They drive like maniacs on narrow country roads.
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Old 10-13-08, 09:04 PM   #6
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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).
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Old 10-14-08, 07:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by CardiacKid View Post
I would definitely try and stay on roads with shoulders, even if there is not much traffic. .
+1 on that.

I always use google maps satellite view to see if there is a shoulder. I have had very pleasant rides on 4 lane roads because they had huge shoulders.
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Old 10-14-08, 07:47 AM   #8
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I always use google maps satellite view to see if there is a shoulder. I have had very pleasant rides on 4 lane roads because they had huge shoulders.
Then again -
I think most cyclists would opt for the quiet country lane with no traffic and no shoulders over the four-lane highway with wide shoulders.
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Old 10-14-08, 07:58 AM   #9
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Then again -
I think most cyclists would opt for the quiet country lane with no traffic and no shoulders over the four-lane highway with wide shoulders.
Oh no.. I love traffic!

Having a tour with quite country lanes is by far the best option. But unfortunately quiet country lanes don't always go where you want them too.
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Old 10-14-08, 09:14 AM   #10
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Thank you all for the excellent suggestions and information.

MEV, great suggestion on the Amtrak idea! It will allow me to travel twice as far. There is an easy way to bike to Hastings, NE using the "blue" or "green" roads using Raybo's link. I plan on staying at hotels as a sort of "reward" or goal. Afterall I could be faced with riding in the rain an entire day and have to set up a tent. It will also allow me to travel very lightly.

Right now the plan is to go solo, but I will start asking my friends after I have completely planned out everything.
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