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  1. #1
    meaculpa
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    My first self-contained tour, Kentucky???

    Hi. Outside of a 115 mile, 2-day MS ride, I've never done a big ride (+50 mile) much less a tour.
    Though I do ride 10 miles a day in commuting to work & back, my ambition is to do something more like short tours or just overnights in local state parks.

    So when a good friend said his brother wants us to get together for a 3-5 day ride this June, I just said hell yes. We live in Pennsylvania & the brother lives in Atlanta, GA. His inspiration is lets do a ride in Kentucky. I am open to riding anywhere but there seems to be not a whole lot of bicycle-touring information involving Kentucky, except for the TransAm which briefly runs into & then exits right back out of the state. I did find one travel-log from some TA riders on Crazyguyonabike, but their photos are way less than encouraging. It just looked bland compared with other journals.

    All I want to ask of experienced tourists on this forum is this: has anyone here ridden around Kentucky? Can you recommend some 3-4 day rides?

    Alternative question: Should I suggest another state or multi-state route? Could you recommend some other mid-atlantic states with better routes?
    Thank-you!

  2. #2
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Check out the Land Between the Lakes. This is a great place for a 3 to 4 day tour. Anything but bland IMO if you like rolling hills, lots of trees, and plenty of water near by, the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers and of course Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. They have some wonderful bike trails and campgrounds in that area and traffic is not bad.

    Just wanted to add that I knew a group that rented a house boat on Barkley (very common) and traveled around the lake, as it is very sizable, with their bikes aboard, would dock up, ride the day and come back and move on.
    Last edited by robow; 04-22-09 at 11:44 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    The only part of Kentucky I rode was the Trans America, but Kentucky was nice as long as you don't mind being chased by dogs. I didn't mind them, but if anyone in your party is especially afraid of dogs, a Kentucky tour might be an ordeal for them.

    The terrain was rolling and quite pleasant. If the part we saw is typical, expect some narrow, winding, sometimes tree lined roads with no shoulder, but also not much traffic.

  4. #4
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Kentucky is a beautiful state. I wouldn't mind riding there for a week based on my driving across the state. They also have one of the best state park systems in the USA.

    Here's another suggestion, however. Check out some of the cross-state supported tours like GOBA (Ohio), TRIRI (Indiana), Bike Virginia, etc. They are relatively inexpensive if you camp out. They carry all of your gear from town to town, so all you have to do is ride each day. They also provide routes and sag support. Many of the cross-state tours are scheduled for June, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one to fit your timeframe.

    My brother lives in Chicago and I'm in NC. We have met "halfway" for the GOBA and TRIRI rides, and we've done similar supported tours in Wisconsin, Georgia and North Carolina.

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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    I live and tour in Kentucky and there are plenty of good tours in Kentucky. The suggestion of Land Between the Lakes is a good one and for 3-5 days it would great.

    However, June in Kentucky can be pretty hot and humid. If I were you, I'd think about going North for a tour. How about the Finger Lakes in New York? Would probably be better weather and closer drive. When It gets hot I go up to Wisconsin's upper peninsula, another suggestion, I can give you a perfect 5/6 day loop there.

    I can help you with whatever route you choose in KY.

  6. #6
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
    Here's another suggestion, however. Check out some of the cross-state supported tours like GOBA (Ohio), TRIRI (Indiana), Bike Virginia, etc. They are relatively inexpensive if you camp out. They carry all of your gear from town to town, so all you have to do is ride each day. They also provide routes and sag support. Many of the cross-state tours are scheduled for June, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one to fit your timeframe.
    Not knocking these rides, but keep in mind that they are a completely different experience from what most touring is. Some people love them, some don't.

  7. #7
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    supported tour

    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Not knocking these rides, but keep in mind that they are a completely different experience from what most touring is. Some people love them, some don't.
    No doubt that a supported tour would be a different experience. However, for most people they are much more doable. The expense is lower because you don't have to invest in racks, panniers and other gear (unless you already own them). You don't have to worry about planning routes or finding places to stay at night. You don't have to carry a lot of weight, so you can travel easier and farther.

    However, you are also traveling with many more cyclists, which can be a plus or minus depending on how you look at things. Your agenda is determined somewhat by the routes planned by organizers. You have to share camping facilities, showers, etc. with other cyclists.

    I'm not knocking loaded touring. I'm just pointing out that there are other ways to tour that can be much easier and potentially less expensive.

  8. #8
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Not knocking these rides, but keep in mind that they are a completely different experience from what most touring is. Some people love them, some don't.
    I've done both and enjoyed both, different flavors of the same ice cream, and I like ice cream.

    Loaded touring is more about the self-reliance thing and you meet a lot of people along the way.

    Group tour, light, fast, cover more miles, see more things. Don't meet many locals, but your with your cycling peer group

  9. #9
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=tarwheel;8784698]No doubt that a supported tour would be a different experience. However, for most people they are much more doable. The expense is lower because you don't have to invest in racks, panniers and other gear (unless you already own them).[/QUOTE]

    I'm not so sure of that, in many cases those organized supported tours are IMO quite pricey and charge more than enough to go out and purchase all the gear you need and you'll have it forever.

  10. #10
    meaculpa
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    Lots to think about

    I am glad I checked w/this forum. The CGOAB journal probably does an injustice to the beauty of Kentucky ( I recall that early american indians used it as a hunting preserve, none lived there but most tribes could hunt for elk, buffalo etc...gotta love history...).

    However, maybe the lack of road shoulder plus the high tempatures of June would suggest a more northern state or higher altitude might be in order.

    Don't get me wrong, I am ready to tour anywhere. I just want to do a multi-day ride for the love of pete!
    So Kentucky is, without a doubt, an option.

    The other thought I have is west to east, mountains to coast, a ride across North Carolina.

    But as I am one and the brothers are two, I may in fact be...outnumbered here. But does anyone have an alternative ride that would out-do my ideas?

  11. #11
    Geeky Member :)
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    Kentucky would be a great place that time of the year. It is not our peak temp time. Nights and mornings should be nice and day time temps with be like you are riding in summer. Isn't that the point in riding

    Depending on your desires/mood, you can do point-to-point rides or you could do a circular ride starting and ending in Central KY. You can ride for days and see all sorts of fun sights, beautiful horse farms, etc. The roads are very nice in the Bluegrass region.

    Most of the negative dog commentary comes from riding in the hills of Eastern KY.

    I live and ride in KY.
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  12. #12
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaculpa View Post
    I am glad I checked w/this forum. The CGOAB journal probably does an injustice to the beauty of Kentucky ( I recall that early american indians used it as a hunting preserve, none lived there but most tribes could hunt for elk, buffalo etc...gotta love history...).

    However, maybe the lack of road shoulder plus the high tempatures of June would suggest a more northern state or higher altitude might be in order.

    Don't get me wrong, I am ready to tour anywhere. I just want to do a multi-day ride for the love of pete!
    So Kentucky is, without a doubt, an option.

    The other thought I have is west to east, mountains to coast, a ride across North Carolina.

    But as I am one and the brothers are two, I may in fact be...outnumbered here. But does anyone have an alternative ride that would out-do my ideas?
    Have you considered the Bike Forums Pittsburgh to DC trip Spinnaker is leading? 3-5 days puts you in Cumberland, MD. It shouldn't be too hard to get a shuttle back to Pittsburgh.

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    I grew up riding in Kentucky. I strongly suggest central KY if you're interested in seeing some very pretty scenery, especially the horse farms. Drivers in the countryside tend to give you plenty of room (except for the occasional redneck who throws a McDonald's paper cup out the window-- and where doesn't that happen) and the geography is challenging without being daunting. Lots of rolling hills and greenery. We've got something called "knolls" which is, IIRC, unique to central Kentucky. It makes for fascinating terrain that's very interesting to watch without making you feel as if you were in a training phase for Le Tour de France.

    Moreover, Lexington, KY is at the intersection of I-75 (takes you all the way to Atlanta) and I-64 (comes in from PA). If you'd like more information, check out the Bluegrass Cycling Club, http://www.bgcycling.org/. You'll notice on their website that they have lots of regular rides and are a very active club. There's also a good map library.

    I second what people have to say about the weather. KY weather is truly impressive, with warm summer T-storms that make you feel just great. It's an awesome feeling to sit down in the middle of a road and just enjoy the summer shower. Feels like something straight out of The Shawshank Redepmtion. And I ran track all summer, so don't let the idea of heat and humidity bother you. Just prepare for bringing water in function of the day's forecast.

    P.S. I've never been threatened by a dog. As a general rule, stay away from Eastern KY unless you really want to go riding in the mountains.
    Last edited by kubark42; 04-26-09 at 03:41 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Start with a 3 day trip, just roll out of the garage, go somewhere, have a day off, and then roll back. It should be about 25 miles. You need a few warmup rides to get used to long days on a loaded bike. You can even load up your bike, and go for a long ride weekends, making the bike a few pounds heavier each time while you also slowly increase distance.

    The heat will make the seem pedalling harder, so you want to be ready.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    The comments about dogs only chasing in the eastern part of the state don't fit my experience there. We were chased by dogs on and off all the way across Missouri and Kentucky. It was a fairly frequent occurrence border to border on the Kentucky portion of the TA. That said it wasn't a big problem in my mind. My daughter didn't mind much either, but we are dog people. The other gal in our party found the chases quite unpleasant.

    As far as the suggestion of going from your door 25 miles taking a day off and riding back... That does allow you to sort out your gear and some people find it quite pleasant. I will say that it isn't a good sample of what a longer tour is like. It is enough different that you may like one and not the other. I know that if I had done a few of those mini tours first I probably would have quit touring without trying a long tour. I would be bored to tears on a trip like that, but loved doing a coast to coast tour. Someone else may love both or love the mini tours and hate the long ones.

    My point isn't that you should or should not do a mini tour, but merely that you shouldn't judge how you feel about all touring based on it.

    Such a shakedown cruise is probably a good idea, but three of us took off on the TransAmerica without having done any such shakedown and didn't regret it. How necessary a mini tour is for being prepared probably has a lot to do with how much camping you have done. Everyone in our group had done a good bit of self contained camping of one sort or another, so the transition to bike touring was easy. If you have some backpacking, canoe or kayak camping, or some other experience with fairly lightweight camping it isn't very hard to start off on a longer tour with no dry runs.

  16. #16
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    I lived in Bowling Green for a while and found some great riding through there -- especially around Mammoth Cave. You could also consider doing the Tennessee leg of the Natchez Trace. I rode down to Louisiana from Bowling Green last year, mostly on the trace, and it was quite pleasant. In Tennessee, at least, the scenery is nice, and so is the road, and there are plenty of camping spots. It should be real nice until you get to Mississippi.

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    Oh, and while we're on the subject of Kentucky, would anyone have any suggestions for getting from around the Bowling Green area to the Red River Gorge? I'm planning on riding up there from Louisiana this June/July (talk about hot!) and would appreciate any good route suggestions.

  18. #18
    meaculpa
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    This is excellent feedback guys. I am going to copy & email these responses to my friend & see if he wants to join the discussion (don't know if he's a member of BF or not).

    I'm encouraged by the fact that there is more than a few experienced tourists contributing to this thread. There's no doubt, I'm definitely not missing an opportunity to do a tour anywhere, but I would like it to be 2-4 friends & self-supported so that we can plan it all ourselves.

    But its not like suggestions are unwelcome. So please suggest some routes. And thanks again.


    "Have you considered the Bike Forums Pittsburgh to DC trip Spinnaker is leading? 3-5 days puts you in Cumberland, MD. It shouldn't be too hard to get a shuttle back to Pittsburgh."
    Historian, this is the first I've heard of it. I'll look into it but I think our ride will be a little further south (NC, SC, maybe Va...).

  19. #19
    meaculpa
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    I have to say its both fun & exhausting to try and plan one of these things: sooo many possibilities.

    So here is another question for you experienced Kentucky (& surrounding parts) bike tourists:

    A coworker had hiked & camped in the state & was horrified by how they kept getting ticks the whole trip. Not very encouraging.
    Just how bad are the ticks, camping-wise I mean? Did any of you (or all of you) have problems with these little *******s?
    Thanks.

  20. #20
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaculpa View Post

    So here is another question for you experienced Kentucky (& surrounding parts) bike tourists:

    A coworker had hiked & camped in the state & was horrified by how they kept getting ticks the whole trip. Not very encouraging.
    Just how bad are the ticks, camping-wise I mean? Did any of you (or all of you) have problems with these little *******s?
    Thanks.
    They can be found anywhere in the midwest at that time of the year. Just stay out of the brush and high grasses and oh, bring some tweezers
    Last edited by robow; 05-05-09 at 11:48 AM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaculpa View Post
    I have to say its both fun & exhausting to try and plan one of these things: sooo many possibilities.

    So here is another question for you experienced Kentucky (& surrounding parts) bike tourists:

    A coworker had hiked & camped in the state & was horrified by how they kept getting ticks the whole trip. Not very encouraging.
    Just how bad are the ticks, camping-wise I mean? Did any of you (or all of you) have problems with these little *******s?
    Thanks.
    Zero ticks between the three of us for the entire TA including the crossing of Kentucky.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaculpa View Post
    I have to say its both fun & exhausting to try and plan one of these things: sooo many possibilities.

    So here is another question for you experienced Kentucky (& surrounding parts) bike tourists:

    A coworker had hiked & camped in the state & was horrified by how they kept getting ticks the whole trip. Not very encouraging.
    Just how bad are the ticks, camping-wise I mean? Did any of you (or all of you) have problems with these little *******s?
    Thanks.
    Hiking is way different from biking. You're not going to get many ticks on the open road.

    If you are doing a lot of stealth camping you should probably make it a practice to check your body for them, though. Let your riding partner check your back. And unless you have really short hair, it would be a good idea to wear a hat or something when you're in the woods to keep them off your head as they can be tough to find.

  23. #23
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    Yes, some pockets of forest in KY are absolutely infested with ticks, but you won't get many on you as long as you stay out of the woods! Or if you do hike, stay on the trail and avoid brushing up against bushes and such. And I second the tweezers.

  24. #24
    meaculpa
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    I'm more concerned about the camping overnight, (not at all worried about it while riding of course.)

    I guess it just depends on how well-maintained are the campgrounds we'll be using, ie did they cut the grass? But onestabe is definitely right about protecting your head, so a hat or some cover should be in order.

    Also I may take along some doggie stuff like frontline. I work at an animal shelter & we apply a single drop to the tick. They usually release on their own, no buried head, or just die & are easier to pull out.
    Gross turn in touring topic, I know, but it had to be done.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaculpa View Post
    A coworker had hiked & camped in the state & was horrified by how they kept getting ticks the whole trip. Not very encouraging.
    Just how bad are the ticks, camping-wise I mean? Did any of you (or all of you) have problems with these little *******s?
    Hmm... I can't remember ever getting more than one or two ticks in my entire life in Kentucky. My father would take us to the mountains every weekend sometimes, and we'd go hiking all around, through forests and glades.

    Not saying that no one ever gets them, just saying it's been a very rare experience for me. Last tick I got was in Luxembourg, so you can get them just about anywhere!

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