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Thread: Tour planning

  1. #1
    Occasional poster countrydirt's Avatar
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    Tour planning

    Some call me a bit meticulous, others say it is OCD, whatever you might call me, unprepared is not the description!
    I am beginning the planning for a 2013 Spring tour when my oldest son graduates from Tulane University in mid-May. My plan is to tour to his graduation and then ride back home in the car with my wife and other sons.
    Interstate and main highway driving showed us that it is around 1400 miles. I am beginning the route planning. I will be starting at Holyoke, Colorado which is the intersection of US 6 and 287. Either direction I head initially, south or east, will ultimately lead south. I would love to hear resources for bike routes across Kansas, OK, TX, maybe Missouri and Arkansas. and ultimately Louisiana. My plan would be to camp as much as possible. I will tour fully loaded (4 panniers) on a bike yet to be built and fine tuned.
    I have found a good online set of maps for Kansas. I would rather spend as little time as possible on the plain plains, thus the thought of trickling southeast across Kansas and perhaps hitting Arkansas around Mountain Home. I could hit part of the ACA northern tier in southern Kansas by riding straight south from my home and catching it east of Eads. I don't want to ride the OK or TX panhandles - been there, done that.
    So, I patiently await your input and advice.
    Yes, I am a novice, having only done 2 two day point to point tours, but feel like I have plenty of time to absorb information and fine-tune my planning.

  2. #2
    Canadian Chick Aquakitty's Avatar
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    Oh man, I never understood people like yo who can wait that long for a tour! personally I'd be planning to go in a month just to try stuff out. Honestly if you;ve already done 2 day tours, there's not much difference other than riding more days and maybe bringing a few different items.

  3. #3
    Occasional poster countrydirt's Avatar
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    Oops, my title should have been more specific - I am looking for tour route planning help to get me from NE Colorado to New Orleans.

    I expect I will have several short tours before I go on this big one.

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    3 years is enough time to apply for a federal grant, purchase right-of-way, design and construct your own bike path for the entire length of your trip.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Over the next 3 years you could cycle your preferred route and several other possible routes all on weekends, long weekends, etc.

    1) Buy good paper maps ... ones with some detail to them. In fact, you might opt to pick up several different ones. Go to a local Tourist Information centre and get maps for each of the states you'll be going through, plus a handful of tourist maps. Go to your local automobile association and get some state maps from them ... many automobile associations have that sort of thing. Bookstores are also a good source of maps and travel books.

    2) Get on your bicycle and ride out in the direction you're thinking of going. Do day trips to see what route might be the nicest to get from your place to maybe 100 km up the road. Do weekend trips to see what the roads are like further out. Drive to a town 300 km away, and cycle in that area to see what the roads there are like. Drive to a town 500km away and check out the roads around there. Etc. etc. until you've covered the whole distance.

    By doing this you will accomplish the following:

    -- you will get into shape with all that cycling
    -- you will figure out what you want in a bicycle
    -- you will figure out what you want when it comes to gear (and that you probably don't need four panniers)
    -- you will get to see a lot of your country, more than you would see riding in a direct line from home to your son's University.
    -- and if it turns out that you don't get to do the ride in 3 years time (because 3 years is a long way off and you just never know what will happen in that time) you will have done a lot of touring and will have seen a lot of country.

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    As a "New Orleanian" of sorts (though I live here and my family is from here, I wasn't raised here), were I planning to do the ride you are considering, I'd head south/southweastward, hook up with the ACA Trans Am route/Katy Trail (across Missouri if I had tires wider than 28's), head east to hook up with the Mississippi River Trail (St. Louis), and then follow it south to New Orleans.

    Some advantages:
    1) well-established & documented routes (the TA and MRT are documented enough via online journals that you might be able to forego buying the official maps given enough online time; then again, you could buy the "official" maps/sections/books.)
    2) fairly difficult to get lost even soloing
    3) even the locals are familiar with "cycle touring" to some extent (a plus as you might be more likely to have warm showers type hosts/free public camp spots).

    A few possible disadvantages:
    1) longer than simply cutting diagonally/directly SE
    2) weather - either a late, cold winter as you leave Colorado (longer route means leaving a week or so earlier) or an early heat wave as you descend into Louisiana

  7. #7
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I know nothing about that part of the country so no route help.

    I'm another who suggests you take several tours prior to the big one. You can sort out your equipment and packing lists, learn what kind of tourer you are (there are many different varieties) and you'll feel much more confident when the big tour arrives. You may also learn more about how to design a route.

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    Occasional poster countrydirt's Avatar
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    Thanks for great ideas Machka and Drmweaver2. I am seeking maps from OK, TX, AR and LA. Kansas is pretty straight forward.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Wow! I can't imagine planning that far ahead. Even for a coast to coast trip a few weeks is the norm for me. I did plan 5 months ahead for the Sierra Cascades trip, but that was because I had to wait until then for logistical reasons, not because I wanted to plan for that long.

    Two concerns to consider:
    1. Having a destination of something like a graduation means a firm deadline. Firm deadlines can be joy killers in my experience. YMMV though. Still, maybe consider driving to the graduation and riding home.
    2. The country you are choosing isn't the most scenic or appealing for touring. But then that is my opinion and your opinion may be entirely different. I have ridden across Kansas twice, but it was part of a tour that also was in the mountains too, in both cases. Maybe you could consider riding through New Mexico. It is very nice, but would make the route longer. BTW, Oklahoma is my least favorite state to ride in so far. The roads are generally in poor shape and the scenery monotonous.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 08-06-10 at 11:55 AM.

  10. #10
    Day trip lover mr geeker's Avatar
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    i too plan out several months beforehand, but three years? three years is a very long time. road conditions could change, heck, whole sections that you planned to use could be decomissioned and you'd have to find a whole new route. granted, thats a worst case scenario, but still, it could happen.
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    How much time do you have? You say it's 1400 miles by the major roads, but my guess it will be at least 2000 via roads you'd actually want to ride on. The more time you have, the longer you can make your route, and the more flexibility you'll have. If you have time for 2500 miles, that'd be great.

    Many state highway departments produce maps listing traffic volumes and shoulder widths for the state roads. They may or may not refer to these as state bicycle maps. Check the DOT websites for the states on the route. My most important critera would be to find low traffic volume roads, the lowest you can find. Google satellite views are another valuable (but time-consuming) tool.

    Different people have different preferences, but my experience is that riding on high-traffic roads takes all the joy out of touring.

    I second the suggestion to try to piece this together by joining various ACA routes.

  12. #12
    Senior Member gtownviking's Avatar
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    Ummmm.....I am planning a C2C tour for the summer of 2016! I don't rush into things..LOL! Actually, it's the first summer after my youngest graduates from HS.

    In short, it's an East to West route starting in Hilton Head, SC going through, Augusta (pay homage to the Masters and dip my tire onto the the asphalt of Magnolia Lane! :-) to Northern Atlanta then make my way up to Marion, Ky where I will hook up with the Adventure Cycling Associate (ACA) Trans America (TA) route to Pueblo. Then off the route as I head north to friends house in northern Colorado Springs, Co. Then "mountain bike it" (jeep road) from Monument to Woodland Park. From there, head West on 24 making my way to Fairplay and over Hoosier pass via the ACA TA route. Then off the TA at Dillon making my way to Estes Park and over the Trail Ridge Road (12,000+ ft of elevation) and down to Granby....back on the ACA TA route all the way to Jackson, Wy, up through the Teton park roads and onto Yellowstone NP. Circle counter clockwise from "6:00" (South entrance) on the Grande Loop Road. Exit YNP at "9:00" (West entrance) and back on the TA from YNP to Twin Bridges....from there I will make my way to Waterton Park in Canada via Helena, then to Shelby and into Canada towards Del Bonita then West to Waterton. Then from Waterton return South in the the US towards St. Mary where I pick up the ACA's Northern Tier route. Proceed through Glacier NP over Logan Pass and stay on the NT until Anacortes, Wa. Then south on the ACA's Pacific down to Florence, Or. where I end.

    Yes, I have given this some thought...I have even created an Excel sheet with all the beginning and ending points (cities or campsites) for each day, the mileage, how many over night stays, rest days and time to leave with an estimated time to arrive. It's all linked together so when I change the start date from June 1, 2016 to August 8, 2016 all the dates following will change as well. Allowing me to "see" where I will be on a particular day. I would like to visit the YNP after the summer rush, mid to late August? If so, what date doI need to leave South Carolina? I have five years to play with this, watch and learn the weather patterns of the places I really want to see and then play around with dates. If I change a place (destination) and change the mileage, all of that is tracked and modified as well. I can "set" and "estimated average mph" and it will change the number of "hours in the saddle" column and the arrive time. I have the leave time for each day being at 9:00 a.m. It's still in it's rough form and I am trying to figure out a way to link it to an actual map.

    I also have a list of everything I need for my trip on another sheet, with the item numbers, descriptions, manufacturer, model, color, etc. Where to buy it and how much it cost and of course, keeping a running total of costs. This list gets modified every so often as new products come out or as I learn about them.

    I then have a third sheet of my "Ultimate" wih list of bike and components and equipment and well, everything....as if money were no object so to speak.

    This is my little get-a-way each day. Bring it up and play with the dates and lists and check it against maps and I reference journals from www.crazyguyonabike.com.

    Yes, I'm a nerd with no life. LOL! eh-hem.....guess that's not really funny.

    I have way too much time on my hands.

    Guess I should go out to the garage and finish assembling the Miyata 710 I just got back from the powder coaters...... Bengal Tiger Red baby!

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gtownviking View Post
    I have even created an Excel sheet with all the beginning and ending points (cities or campsites) for each day, the mileage, how many over night stays, rest days and time to leave with an estimated time to arrive. It's all linked together so when I change the start date from June 1, 2016 to August 8, 2016 all the dates following will change as well. Allowing me to "see" where I will be on a particular day. I would like to visit the YNP after the summer rush, mid to late August? If so, what date doI need to leave South Carolina? I have five years to play with this, watch and learn the weather patterns of the places I really want to see and then play around with dates. If I change a place (destination) and change the mileage, all of that is tracked and modified as well. I can "set" and "estimated average mph" and it will change the number of "hours in the saddle" column and the arrive time. I have the leave time for each day being at 9:00 a.m. It's still in it's rough form and I am trying to figure out a way to link it to an actual map.
    Do you have any real-life experience to back up those average mph estimates etc? It's all very well and good to estimate that you will ride at 20 km/h (or whatever) but when you get out there with a loaded touring bicycle, you may discover that your estimated speeds are way off. Have you included the extra time involved in climbing and battling headwinds? Do you have any real-life idea of how long it takes you to do a long climb with a loaded touring bicycle?


    Quote Originally Posted by gtownviking View Post
    I also have a list of everything I need for my trip on another sheet, with the item numbers, descriptions, manufacturer, model, color, etc. Where to buy it and how much it cost and of course, keeping a running total of costs. This list gets modified every so often as new products come out or as I learn about them.

    I then have a third sheet of my "Ultimate" wih list of bike and components and equipment and well, everything....as if money were no object so to speak.
    Have you started buying these items? If not, why not? If you keep an eye on various online options like ebay, Nashbar, and MEC, you can collect your entire set of touring gear on sale.


    Quote Originally Posted by gtownviking View Post
    This is my little get-a-way each day. Bring it up and play with the dates and lists and check it against maps and I reference journals from www.crazyguyonabike.com. Yes, I'm a nerd with no life. LOL! eh-hem.....guess that's not really funny. I have way too much time on my hands.
    Why not stop dreaming and start doing? Have a look at my suggestion to the OP in Post #5. Start buying the stuff you need on sale ... and start doing parts of your ride. You've got lots of weekends in which to do all sorts of riding in your local area. And you've got 5 years in which to do the 5000 miles or whatever it is. You could take your 2-3 weeks of vacation each year and do 1/5th of the ride plus some extra exploring in the areas around. Then when you decide to do the whole ride, you'll really know what you're in for.

    It can be fun to plan and dream ... I used to do that way back when. But it can be even more fun to get out there and get real experience.

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    I've got the same thing myself. It's a handy planning tool, especially when you're looking at a long tour with specific goals. A few months ago I even discovered that my plan at the time had me entering some mountains a bit early in the season, and I was able to fix it by decreasing my daily mileage and adding a few extra tourist days in major cities. I'm glad I was able to figure out the problem now rather than by shivering in a little mountain town waiting for a pass to open up.

    Mine also includes estimated costs for camping, hotels, food, cell service, airline tickets, cash for tourist stuff, a cushion for bike repairs, and other things. It gives me a firm number I can plan for since my trip is merely waiting for my savings to catch up with my dreams. If all goes to plan I'll be leaving in July of 2012.

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    "Getting out and doing" may have to be delayed for logical reasons such as a previous poster suggests - accumulating savings, husbanding vacation time, coordinating with family needs, etc. To each his/her own schedule as far as planning ahead goes, I say.

    The thing that hasn't specifically been mentioned thus far is an enroute "D***! I'm not going to make it to New Orleans on time while cycling. I need to bail/change methods to get to New Orleans on time" plan. That should be somewhat factored into the route if at all possible. With this much time to plan, looking into where the Greyhound buslines and Amtrak lines meet up with any proposed route would certainly be worth a bit of time/effort. In this case, I'd concentrate on researching this from somewhere around the Louisiana/Texas or Arkansas/Louisiana or Mississippi/Louisiana state lines depending on your near-final routing.

    The method I incorporate is to set "hard coded" times, places, events on a calendar and work around/towards them. Fudge-factoring mileages/day can create either a flexible or a static arrival date so that one is neither too early (with the attendant hotel stay costs) nor too late (totally unacceptable in a case like this). Arriving early wouldn't lend itself to seeing the town with the graduate; arriving late could end up in patricide or divorce (wink).

    Something else to consider might be researching near-end-of-route delay days in case you made "phenomenal time" due to underestimating your physical prowess and resultant great speed, or, more likely in my case - having been pushed along helpfully by better than expected tailwinds. You might look for something to do, something to see rather than continuing along at a pace which would cause you to arrive early. In this case, Mississippi River plantation tours or a detour over to Natchez/Vicksburg could work - adding time to get there, a day or so to see each, that sort of thing. Again, factoring a bailout (or "oops, I screwed up and need to just head to New Orleans NOW") plan could be worthwhile.

    Personally, I like the planning aspect. Researching "the grand tour/trip" is as much fun as doing it - though it's a different kind of fun. At least that's been my experience with hiking expeditions. My own "big bike tour" is just around the corner and it's spawned preliminary plans for a follow-on tour that doesn't quite fit in with the first one.

  16. #16
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    If you love planning, then that's great.

    Personally, I'm not that keen on planning. I'm more of a ... OK let's pack up and go wherever the wind blows us ... sort of person.

    And I have no regrets doing that. In fact, I'm very glad I did. For one thing, I ended up meeting, getting to know, and marrying my husband that way. But on a less happy note ... because of medical difficulties that started June 2009, my energy and therefore my cycling, have diminished dramatically. In 2004 I decided to tour Australia for 3 months, which I did that year. If I had decided to wait 5 years, I may not have been able to do that.

    I know planning can be fun, but sometimes you've got to seize the day ... even in a small way ... or it might never happen.

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    that's exactly what I did when I went to Serbia. I even went entirely against what Machka usually suggest - I never do really long rides, my longest ride until then was 130km to the sea. I'd never even camped before and guess what, I had a great time and my daily mileage went from 80km daily to 200km and once even 240km. I changed my planning on the fly as I saw fit and it all worked out great

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    Quote Originally Posted by countrydirt View Post
    I am seeking maps from OK, TX, AR and LA. Kansas is pretty straight forward.
    Try these links then:
    Arkansas http://www.arkansashighways.com/plan...s/tourist.aspx

    Louisiana http://www.bikelouisiana.com (This is an "official/state" tourist site. There are links within the site to the DoT site for additional info.)

    Oklahoma http://www.okladot.state.ok.us/hqdiv...emap/index.htm

    Texas http://www.dot.state.tx.us/travel/

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    Quote Originally Posted by gtownviking View Post
    I have even created an Excel sheet with ...
    Quote Originally Posted by lshiva View Post
    I've got the same thing myself.
    I'd be interested in seeing what you guys came up with if you'd care to share/attach it to the thread. I was just beginning to play with doing something like this myself and would hate to re-invent the wheel if I didn't have to.

  20. #20
    Occasional poster countrydirt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
    Try these links then:
    Arkansas http://www.arkansashighways.com/plan...s/tourist.aspx

    Louisiana http://www.bikelouisiana.com (This is an "official/state" tourist site. There are links within the site to the DoT site for additional info.)

    Oklahoma http://www.okladot.state.ok.us/hqdiv...emap/index.htm

    Texas http://www.dot.state.tx.us/travel/
    Thank you for the map links - good stuff there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lechatmort View Post
    that's exactly what I did when I went to Serbia. I even went entirely against what Machka usually suggest - I never do really long rides, my longest ride until then was 130km to the sea. I'd never even camped before and guess what, I had a great time and my daily mileage went from 80km daily to 200km and once even 240km. I changed my planning on the fly as I saw fit and it all worked out great

    It must have been the palinka/rakija and the plejskavica with kajmak that kept you going, of course.

    Robi

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    I don't drink

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    You're going to cross some flat country and that means you could be coping with a lot of wind. If the prevailing winds are from the west, then you'll get a bit of a push, but if they're from the south (which is what I've heard from some Oklahoma and Texas riders) then you'll have to brace yourself for tough pedalling on the days you're heading south.

    When you're planning a route, make sure you build in some days for rest and some extra days in case you wind up with a serious problems. For instance, consider what happens if you have a breakdown in a small town in Kansas or Oklahoma and have to wait a day or two for the bike shop there to have the part to be shipped in. Or consider what happens if you need to take a day to rest because of an injury or minor illness. Chances are good nothing will go wrong, but it's good to be prepared, just in case.

    When you're getting the maps for Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, you'll be fine with a good highway map. However, Missouri and Arkansas have some rather hilly places. Consider topographical maps. If you want, a GPS with the topographical U.S. maps might help.
    Life is good.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    You're going to cross some flat country and that means you could be coping with a lot of wind.
    +1

    I've ridden across Kansas as part of a Fort Collins to Wichita and Wichita to Memphis rides. One thing I found that was important to be able to do was adjust my plans based on the winds. For example, if it was a day with strong winds coming from the south, that was a day to ride more eastwards and do that dog-leg south the next day.

    So my suggestion is to do some advance *planning* if that is your nature, but not to get too attached to any specific *plan*.

    To describe the difference, I also consider myself somewhat of a planner - particularly for routes that are new and different to me. Prior to a ride, I would have likely read any trip journals I could find, perhaps taken a shorter scale shakedown ride in part of the area, and researched likely locations of hotels or bike shops. I might know something about geography of the land, climate averages, visa requirements (for foreign trips), history of some towns, sights to see, etc.

    However, you won't find me with a detailed day-by-day itinerary, route sheet, guide or even knowing where I'll be each night. Instead, I'm going to vary that dynamically based on a number of different factors that I can't control, e.g.
    - weather including winds or precipitation
    - road construction schedules from state hwy departments
    - mechanical issues with the bike
    - new inputs from locals or local events I hadn't known about
    - how I'm feeling and whether I decide to ride another 30 miles one day or stop early...

    There are too many of those sorts of variables, that trying to pin down a detailed day-by-day plan turns into more of a straightjacket on the overall trip. For a planner type, that doesn't mean you just turn and "wing it", but instead focus your advance planning on learning in advance so you have one possible rough blueprint and then enough knowledge on many possible alternatives that you intelligently adjust these things as you go along.

    Now with that said, as I've gained experience cycle touring, I've also relied more on that past experience and less on planning for more "routine" trips. For example, this past week I cycled from Eugene, OR to San Jose, CA and it was along a rough route I'd done twelve years before, so while I didn't repeat exactly what I did before - I did rely on having been along the route once before.

  25. #25
    Senior Member gtownviking's Avatar
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    Machka.

    This excel sheet is simply a tool. I am well aware that the estimate for the average speed I will travel each day is exactly that, an estimate. I know my body and I know how I ride. How many hours my butt can handle sitting in the saddle, etc... I know there will be days that I average 7 or 8 or God forbid, 4. Then there will be days I average 16 or 17 or even more. I know there will be days I am supposed to ride according to the "schedule" but won't feel like it and I modify the schedule. This is simply a tool for me to use to help plan for dates (ranges) of where I would like to be. In doing my research, I am sure I will come across events in towns or cities that I would like to attend or be apart of.

    It's all loosely based but I have to start somewhere. I'm too anal to just load the bike, grab a map (or GPS) and go.

    Yes, I have started buying and getting "gifts" from friends and family for this venture. Tent, sleeping bag, and a few other things. I am in no rush to do this. Which leads to your other comment.

    I have obligations. Work being chief among them. I have a wife, who although is very understanding and does not enjoy biking, (how that little tidbit got past me when we were dating, I have no idea) she has said that as I "bike" across America, she will "SPA" across America. Meeting me in certain cities or towns where there is a nice resort and Spa for her to enjoy. So I have to take that into consideration.....sort of ;-)

    I have also started a new business that will require utmost attention until I get it going. Also, living in central Texas is not conducive to touring, especially in the summer. I have to wait until the weather cools off. There's a reason why most Southern Tier riders go in the winter...it's hotter 'n Hell here in the dead of summer and no, even riding in the early morning when it's only 93 degrees at 7:30 doesn't work either.

    So needless to say, I am left "dreaming" of this tour until the day arrives.

    Thank you for your encouragement to get out and ride.

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