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View Poll Results: Which route should I take?
New Orleans to Milwaukee 6 33.33%
Boston to Milwaukee 1 5.56%
Montreal to Milwaukee 6 33.33%
I've got a better idea...! 5 27.78%
Voters: 18. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 03-11-10, 01:41 AM   #1
neilfein
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I've got a month to tour - early plans

This is very early planning - I wouldn't leave until mid-May, but I'd like to end up in Milwaukee - we have friends there we haven't seen in a few years. Here are the ground rules:
  • I have to be able to get me and my bike to the starting point without driving or flying. (I don't drive, and I hate flying.) That pretty much means using Amtrak and checking the bike as baggage (or shipping it).
  • I'll be camping to save money, and I'd love to use Adventure Cycling routes where I can.
  • Stealth camping - I'll do it if I have to, but it's not my preference.

Here are the pros and cons, as I see them. I'm sure people will tell me I'm wrong about a lot of this! The titles link to very, very rough Google Maps routes.

New Orleans to Milwaukee Edit - see below - New Orleans to Chicago via the Mississippi river and Route 66
Pros
:
  • I can use parts of the Great Rivers and Underground Railroad routes.
  • I've never been to New Orleans, and would very much like to.
Cons:
  • Indiana seems to be a lot of empty space, and camping may be tough.

Boston to Milwaukee

Pros:
  • Can use the Northern Tier route through New York State
  • Goes along the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie
  • Cuts through Canada!
Cons:
  • Michigan is a lot of empty space

Montreal to Milwaukee
Pros:
  • The majority of this route is in Canada, where I've never ridden
  • This route also goes along the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie
  • Can use the AC Lake Erie connector route
Cons:
  • Again, Michigan looks like it'll be tough to cross

So... any thoughts on this? Am I dead wrong about Michigan and Mississippi lacking in campgrounds? I'd love to hear what everyone here has to say.

If anyone else has ideas for a 1-month, 1K mi tour, I'd love to hear it also! Thanks!
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Last edited by neilfein; 03-13-10 at 12:21 AM.
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Old 03-11-10, 02:23 AM   #2
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The route I'd recomend between New Orleans and Milwaukee might be a bit too long for your time and distance specs, but it would be a beautiful ride. From New Orleans, head to Natchez, then follow the Natchez Trace Parkway to Nashville. From there head towards the Mississippi and follow the Mississippi River Trail up to someplace near Savanna, at which point you'd cut northeast to meet up with the rail to trail route that connects to Madison, and from there the rail to trail on to Milwaukee. It looks to be about 1500 miles to do it that way, but I think it would be much nicer than just heading straight north from New Orleans. There's plenty of camping along the Trace, and there's also lots of camping along the river. Ride guides are available for the MRT, and I remember the Illinois one being particularly useful. http://www.bikelib.org/maps-and-ride...i-river-trail/

I can't offer any first hand advice about the other routes, except to tell you that there is a ferry from Muskegon, MI across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. http://www.lake-express.com/
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Old 03-11-10, 05:51 AM   #3
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You could do much better scenery wise IMO. If you have a month and haven't done it the Pacific Coast would be high on my list. You can get to and from on Amtrak. Various sections in the Rockies (Colorado) or Cascades (Oregon) would be fun as well. Those options are extremely scenic and great for a tour.

BTW on your comment about "a lot of empty space, and camping may be tough"... Assuming small widely spaced towns, I always found those types of areas the absolute easiest to camp. Town parks are usually my first option and if that doesn't work asking around has always led to a place to camp in someone's yard, a church lot, or maybe I'd even get an invite to stay inside.
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Old 03-11-10, 08:10 AM   #4
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Being biased about NOLA, naturally I'd recommend that as the starting point. Plan on spending at least 3 days exploring the city hot spots and savoring the culture. There are lots of WS hosts there. I'd then use the MRT maps and ACA maps to plot a route to Milwaukee, or as close as I could get in the allotted time. Motels when available and camping when not.
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Old 03-11-10, 08:13 AM   #5
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I agree with staehpj1, there are lots of nicer places to ride than around Milwaukee. Rocky Mountains anywhere, Pacific Coast anywhere, parts of Utah & Arizona. Also, which month are we talking about here, that makes a difference!

The problem with riding to Milwaukee is that a lot of your tour is in the vicinity of Milwaukee - personally I found the midwest / plains states to be the least appealing of my cross country tour. That said, the Wisconsin River valley was OK.

West is best & the higher the better.
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Old 03-11-10, 08:17 AM   #6
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I second valygrl's remarks and, of course, staehpj1's.

If I had a month to get from somewhere to Milwaukee, I'd start in Seattle.

On the other hand.... Are you riding the Tikit? I'd also consider riding from home, more or less; take the fully loaded bike on NJTransit /Metro North as far North as it goes, then ride up the Hudson to Albany and take the Erie Canal path to Buffalo; then through Canada and Michigan.

Re. "a lot of empty space," (sheeyut!) isn't that the whole point? Enjoy the subtle changes in landscape as you proceed, keep an eye on flora, fauna and architecture, and enjoy the ride.
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Old 03-11-10, 08:38 AM   #7
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With a month... Washington Parks loop and connect with the Northern Tier and ride to Glacier. Fantastic stuff to see all the way.

Catch train home from East Glacier.
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Old 03-11-10, 09:35 AM   #8
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I should have added... Make Milwaukee a train stop on the way home to visit your friends.
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Old 03-11-10, 10:00 AM   #9
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Wow, lots of great feedback. Thanks, everybody!

@ishva - I know about the ferry, and taking it is on my short list - if I decide to not go through Chicago. The Mississippi River Trail looks seriously awesome, I'll have to take a hard look at that.

@staehpj1, valygrl, rhm - I'm not ruling out other routes, but I think I'll save California for a future trip. I do have relatives in LA and Seattle, though. Making Milwaukee a stop on the train is a good idea. In terms of scenery, I think an historic route would more than make up for that. I'm a decent climber, but I think the Rocky Mountains might be a bit much for me. I might consider a route from, say, Jacksonville FL or Dallas TX.

@rhm - The Tikit won't haul camping gear in a racks-n-panniers setup, which is more flexible than a trailer when shipping the bike and dealing with ferries. And ferries are awesome, so there will be ferries if I have anything to say about it (and I do).

@kyakdiver - Taking the Washington Parks loop to the Lewis and Clark route sounds even more interesting. Let's see... yep, the Seattle station has checked baggage (no surprise) so I can get the bike there, but it's three days of travel time. (New Orleans is a 30-hour train ride, and Montreal is 13 hours.)

Everybody, I think I'll save Boston for another time. It'd be a fun trip if I go through Long Island and Connecticut. (That's a short trip, 4-5 days.) Also, I'd be riding through NY state that way, and I live in New Jersey; I can do that anytime.
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Old 03-11-10, 10:28 AM   #10
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@staehpj1, valygrl, rhm - I'm not ruling out other routes, but I think I'll save California for a future trip. I do have relatives in LA and Seattle, though. Making Milwaukee a stop on the train is a good idea. In terms of scenery, I think an historic route would more than make up for that. I'm a decent climber, but I think the Rocky Mountains might be a bit much for me. I might consider a route from, say, Jacksonville FL or Dallas TX.
First, have a great trip where every you go.

On the climbing in the Rockies thing, nothing wrong with saving them, but... On the TA we found the Rockies and Cascades to be easier than we would have guessed. The climbs are typically very long but not as steep as you are probably used to near home. Anything over 6% was generally considered steep and you could go 70 or 80 miles at a few percent but usually most of it was a gentle grade. I don't think anything we saw in the Rockies and Cascades exceeded 10% and 8% was infrequent. I think that tends to be the norm out West.

I may eat those words on the Sierra Cascades Route this Summer though
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Old 03-11-10, 10:31 AM   #11
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First, have a great trip where every you go.

On the climbing in the Rockies thing, nothing wrong with saving them, but... On the TA we found the Rockies and Cascades to be easier than we would have guessed. The climbs are typically very long but not as steep as you are probably used to near home. Anything over 6% was generally considered steep and you could go 70 or 80 miles at a few percent but usually most of it was a gentle grade. I don't think anything we saw in the Rockies and Cascades exceeded 10% and 8% was infrequent. I think that tends to be the norm out West.

I may eat those words on the Sierra Cascades Route this Summer though
you will
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Old 03-11-10, 11:34 AM   #12
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First, have a great trip where every you go.

On the climbing in the Rockies thing, nothing wrong with saving them, but... On the TA we found the Rockies and Cascades to be easier than we would have guessed. ...
I too found the Rockies much easier than expected. I mean yeah, it was a lot of climbing-- but also some wonderful long descents. It's one of the few rides I really want to again.
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Old 03-11-10, 12:00 PM   #13
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I too found the Rockies much easier than expected. I mean yeah, it was a lot of climbing-- but also some wonderful long descents. It's one of the few rides I really want to again.
I liked it so much I moved here.
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Old 03-11-10, 12:02 PM   #14
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I liked it so much I moved here.
I can understand why. I may do the same when I retire.
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Old 03-11-10, 02:40 PM   #15
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I'm a decent climber, but I think the Rocky Mountains might be a bit much for me.
Get up into the Canadian Rockies. There are climbs, of course, but most are fairly gradual. You just settle in and ride. With a month to play with, my suggestion would be to look into a route in BC and Alberta.


If you really want to stay on the east coast, my inclination would be to cycle from Montreal up into the Maritimes.

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Old 03-11-10, 11:15 PM   #16
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Of your choices, the one I think that suits you best is starting from Montreal. I'm sure you would enjoy New Orleans, but the route north is long and I think you'll find a lot of the "empty space" you didn't want. Southern Ontario and Quebec are fairly densely populated, or so I've heard. Also, it's an easier location to get to, which means more time for riding and less for Amtrak.

The East Coast Greenway would be an option to consider as well.
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Old 03-12-10, 11:46 AM   #17
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Having gone to college in the midwest, I would say that Indiana is not the only place that will seem big and empty. Ohio is endless and kind of bland, and it doesn't start or stop there. I would echo the sentiments above that you might want to take the train through Milwaukee and ride somewhere else for the bulk of the tour.
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Old 03-12-10, 12:23 PM   #18
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If I go go through Indiana, I'm thinking about taking the hit in extra distance and following the Mississippi. There would at least be historic items of interest. Indiana also has a follow-the-Mississippi route that looks interesting.
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Old 03-12-10, 11:47 PM   #19
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If I'm coming from the south, I'm cutting out Milwaukee and riding to Chicago is a good idea, thanks to everyone that suggested it. I can ship the bike home from Chicago and hop a train to our friends in Milwaukee. (90 minutes and $22 on Amtrak.)

ishiva's idea about heading to Natchez and then up the Mississippi is a good one. (Nashville's a little out of the way, unfortunately.) I also get to go through Baton Rouge that way.

If I follow the river up to St Louis, I can ride the old Route 66 nearly all the way to Chicago. I need to red through it more, but there's a route put together by the League of Illinois Bicyclists that could be a lot of fun. (Unfortunately, there are some people in Illinois I won't be able to meet up with if I do that.)

New Orleans to Chicago via the Mississippi river and route 66 from St Louis is 1200 miles, easily. Allowing for travel days, that puts me at 50 miles a day, not counting any rest days or sightseeing. A bit of a stretch for me, but certainly reasonable.

Edit: rough routes on Google Maps
01 - New Orleans to Natchez, 180 miles
02 - Natchez to Memphis, 340 miles
03 - Memphis to St Louis, 330 miles
04 - St Louis to Chicago (via Route 66), 340 miles

(I think I'd probably cross into Arkansas at Memphis - there's a pedestrian walkway over the route 55 bridge, but Google Maps won't let me use it.)
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Last edited by neilfein; 03-13-10 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Split rough route into 4 segments for easier loading
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Old 04-13-10, 04:50 PM   #20
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I thought I'd update this:

Due to changing health reasons, I'm not taking a month to tour just yet. I've got a shorter Boston to New York tour I'd like to do, and I'm hoping to do the St-Louis - Chicago part of this in June, but a month on the road just at the moment. I do hope to ride the Mississippi sometime soon, though! (I even bought the trail guide.)

Thanks again to everyone who gave me advice!
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