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Old 08-11-11, 03:52 PM   #1
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October Touring in the midwest?

Hey everyone, I had some vacation days leftover so I put in for Oct. 26-31. I've wanted to do a bike tour this year (it'll be my first) but I don't really know where to go that'd be enjoyable at the end of October. I'm a hearty guy and stay quite warm naturally, so the weather isn't my concern, it's more that I'll spend 4-5 days looking at dead trees and everything around here. Harvested cornfields aren't great scenery around here.

I'm considering a rail to tour sort of trip somewhere in the south or southeast, but where would be close enough that I could train in/out and make it back to work on Tuesday? Where is enjoyable to tour near the end of the fall?

Thanks for any info!
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Old 08-11-11, 06:40 PM   #2
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the Katy Trail from St Charles (by St Louis) to Clinton Missouri. Rail to trail, crushed limestone. I did a portion of this last year and it was nice. Trail head is near St. Louis and is about 6 hours from Chicago. you can camp or hotel on this trail.
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Old 08-11-11, 09:34 PM   #3
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The LITTLE MIAMI north on Cincinnati is another option. It is paved and links up to similar trails. Goes through several quaint towns with hotels.
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Old 08-12-11, 05:37 AM   #4
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Maybe Skyline Drive and possibly some of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia? Check, but I think the Fall colors should still be good then.

If you are into canal towpaths and rail trails (I am not), consider maybe the GAP trail and the C&O towpath from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. Personally I am not that crazy about that kind of touring, but a lot of folks love it and that should be a great time of year for that route.

BTW, It would probably be easier and maybe cheaper to fly than use the train. I really want to like the train, but have usually found it slow, tiring, and expensive for longer distances. I have bought plane tickets on a bike friendly airline (Southwest or Frontier), flown out with my bike, and had a bike shop pack and ship the bike home at the end for less than the train ticket. Depending on the destinations I have also found that sometimes it is faster and cheaper to rent a car than to take the train.
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Old 08-12-11, 07:51 AM   #5
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I've heard about the Katy trail so I'd vote for that option so far.

Are you into history, or do you like fishing, if either then pick a destination or route to incorporate some of those things. Cahokia mounds is down by St. Louis so you could incorporate that into a route along the river. Spend your evenings looking for places playing some Delta Blues or such.

The Blue Ridge parkway might be getting iffy weatherwise towards the end of October, as will places up here in Wisconsin. But speaking of that you could work out a route that takes you from home and up into Wisconsin and over to Iowa and back again. Could be nice if the weather cooperates.

Or what about heading over to Utah and western Colorado? Visit Moab and Canyonlands and other major places there since the weather would be cooler and most of the tourists would be gone.

Just a few thoughts.
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Old 08-16-11, 09:22 AM   #6
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I am also doing a Midwest fall trip. I will be riding the top of Michigan trails. (WWW.trailcouncil.org) I will be riding several of the trails and also ride some state forest roads. Some of the trails are unimproved, so I will be riding my salsa Fargo.

My trip is scheduled for October 1-3. The temperatures could range from the 60's during the day to the 20's at night. It is a real gamble. I will be camping. Still trying to figure out what sleeping bag I am going to take for the weather.

Around Michigan, most of the campgrounds close October 31 for the season.
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Old 08-16-11, 10:07 PM   #7
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You can take a train from Chicago to Alton, IL then ride to the East end of the Katy at Machens, MO. You could get a hotel room in St. Charles, MO or Alton the first night. Research will tell you where camping and lodging places are along the trail. Chicago to Alton is probably a 4-5 hour train ride. You could be on the trail the same day you leave Chicago. The Katy would be excellent in late October. If you haven't been along the river bluffs you should see them. Much more scenic than dead trees and cornfields. I wish I could get time off in the fall, but I am lucky enough to be able to take day trips on the Katy. One of my favorite times to go is mid-winter when the high for the day is below freezing and there isn't much or any snow on the ground.
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Old 08-16-11, 10:39 PM   #8
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If you take a train to alton, you could try getting to the Katy Trail staying in alton overnight, then taking the rivertrail north on highway 3 for about maybe 15 miles and taking the ferry ($4 or so for bikes) to west alton (Missouri) and riding to that to the trail (google maps says another 13 miles)
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Old 08-17-11, 04:42 PM   #9
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If you take a train to alton, you could try getting to the Katy Trail staying in alton overnight, then taking the rivertrail north on highway 3 for about maybe 15 miles and taking the ferry ($4 or so for bikes) to west alton (Missouri) and riding to that to the trail (google maps says another 13 miles)
The River front trail is worth seeing but it would add a considerable amount of distance before you get to the Katy. It's much shorter from the Alton train station, across the bridge at Alton, then on to Machens.
The ferry at Grafton, IL is currently out of business - which is a shame. You would have to go all the way to the Golden Eagle ferry in Calhoun Co. IL. But still, that would be an interesting longcut (as opposed to a shortcut).
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Old 08-17-11, 04:55 PM   #10
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The River front trail is worth seeing but it would add a considerable amount of distance before you get to the Katy. It's much shorter from the Alton train station, across the bridge at Alton, then on to Machens.
The ferry at Grafton, IL is currently out of business - which is a shame. You would have to go all the way to the Golden Eagle ferry in Calhoun Co. IL. But still, that would be an interesting longcut (as opposed to a shortcut).
This would be the best course. Follow the Katy west to Sedalia and then catch the train back to St Louis. Or you could go all the way to Clinton then north to Warrensburg and catch the train back.
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Old 08-17-11, 09:01 PM   #11
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I thought the ferry started running again in April. I could very much be wrong, though.
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Old 08-18-11, 12:15 AM   #12
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Consider taking the train all the way to Sedalia; you'd catch the 9:25 a.m. train to St. Louis from Chicago, connect in St. Louis, arrive Sedalia around 7:30, stay in a motel, then off you go on the Katy trail the next day! Then ride back as far as you can. If you make it to St. Charles, around 190 miles or so, and have some time left over, instead of riding to Alton via the US 67 bridge, hop over into gorgeous Calhoun County Illinois via the Golden Eagle ferry. Cycle through Calhoun County (I recommend going on the Mississippi River Road that goes up the west side of the county then over the ridge to Kampsville), cross the Illinois River on the ferry at Kampsville (that and the Golden Eagle ferry gives you 2 bike friendly crossings of big rivers), and cycle east/northeast/southeast to pick up a train to Chicago in Alton, Carlinville, or Springfield. Four of the daily trains allow you to bring your bike on board without boxing, though you are supposed to get a reservation. This would allow 5 full days of biking because the last train from St. Louis to Chicago leaves around 5:30 p.m. from St. Louis, and later from Alton, Carlinville, etc.

Or, another alternative from St. Charles is to take the Golden Eagle ferry across the Mississippi, bike to the Brussels Ferry, then take the Brussels Ferry across the Illinois, and bike the trail that parallels the river all the way to Alton.
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Old 08-18-11, 12:22 AM   #13
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One other thought -- if you take the train to St. Louis or Alton after work on the 25th, you could stay the night in either place in a motel, then head off in the morning either on the bike, or you could take the morning train out of St. Louis to Sedalia, which would get you into Sedalia a little bit before 1, thereby giving you a half day of cycling on the 26th, and leaving you with all of the next 5 days to cycle back to St. Louis, Alton, Carlinville, etc. This plan gives you 5 1/2 days of cycling instead of the 5 days in the plan I posted above.
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Old 08-18-11, 11:22 AM   #14
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+1 for OldZephyr
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Old 08-18-11, 08:45 PM   #15
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I thought the ferry started running again in April. I could very much be wrong, though.
I stopped at the fruit stand by the landing a few days ago and the lady told me the Grafton ferry had quit running. I was surprised too.
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Old 08-18-11, 10:08 PM   #16
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If you could bring a heavier sleeping bag, Minnesota has a bunch of interesting tours. SE Minnesota into Wisconsin along the Root River is great. There's a great trail between Hinckley and Duluth.
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/list.html

Iowa has a few trails too. I did a few overnights in mid October last year and it was very warm. Although it is usually a little colder.
http://www.iowadot.gov/iowabikes/tra...gnificant.html
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Old 08-19-11, 07:59 AM   #17
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I did the Katy trail last year, Oct 27 thru Nov 1. Weather was great, only one day was sub-freezing in the morning. You might want to add a day or two or three to your vacation for better flexibility if you do Katy trail.

We drove to Kirkwood Amtrak station, parked for free with an Amtrak parking permit and took the train west to Sedalia. Biked to Clinton (camped outside of Clinton community center for free, very nice community center staff) and then biked back east. Kirkwood is not on the trail, the final 20 miles of our trip was thru St Louis suburbia during rush hour traffic.

We could have done the trip in less time if we did not go west to Clinton from Sedalia which involved backtracking back thru Sedalia. But, we are retired so we chose to spend the time to do the whole length as we are not constrained by vacation schedules. You on the other hand have a more limited time budget.

Not many places to buy groceries or camp stove fuel on the trail, you have to leave the trail to find that stuff. I wish we would have known that when we started, we would have made a better effort find stores in Clinton or Sedalia instead of thinking that we would come across such places on the trail. There also was a shortage of restaurants, so credit card touring may not work very well.

There is an excellent guidebook available for the trail. I bought a used one that was one or two editions old for a good price on Amazon. That helped planning a lot.

Katy Roundhouse is a good campground that has a biker friendly fee structure. They have an area where you don't have to pay for RV hookups, etc. But no restaurant near the campground. They have a website you can find with an internet search.

The shelter (see photo) had a bar next door that also sold burgers, etc.

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Old 08-19-11, 11:50 AM   #18
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If you could bring a heavier sleeping bag, Minnesota has a bunch of interesting tours. SE Minnesota into Wisconsin along the Root River is great. There's a great trail between Hinckley and Duluth.
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/list.html
I agree that the Willard Munger Trail between Hinckley and Duluth is fun, with the first 15 miles out of Duluth being particularly nice as you climb out of the Lake Superior basin. And I've heard great things about the Root River Trail system farther south.

However, living in Duluth, I have to say that the weather around the end of October can be dicey. Some years it's wonderful and sunny and crisp and in the 50s or 60s during the day. Other years you get near freezing or below freezing temperatures and sleet or snow (there even was the Halloween "megastorm" in the early 90s -- around 3 feet of snow fell -- but that was most unusual). So if you decide to head north, check out the weather report ahead of time!
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Old 08-19-11, 02:33 PM   #19
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This is great info everyone, thanks so much! I think I know what I'm doing in October!
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Old 08-19-11, 03:43 PM   #20
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I've gone up the Willard Munger Trail and North Shore Drive/Gitchi Gami Trail(where available) around that time of year. I'm not an Autumn person, I like summer touring best, but anytime after September worked best with my job so there ya go. The North Shore is beautiful in the fall, but unpredictable. I had a 70 degree day followed by a 40 degree high. I did it hammock camping, to boot, so I was pretty cold at night. I'd do it again, though, with a tent and warmer bag. If you do go that route, I'd avoid the North Shore Drive on the weekends. It's a designated bike route, but tell that to the RVers rushing back home. Minnesota state parks don't turn away bicycle tourists, so you can count on having places to camp. The parks up there have a lot of old CCC buildings, stone shelters and bathhouses. Nice places to relax after a cold day, or a hot one. There are also a lot of cozy little state forest campgrounds.

Myself, I just finished the Katy trail a few days ago. It's not as consistently scenic as Northern Minnesota, but it's fun to just forget about route planning and follow a trail for a week. The nicest segment is around Rocheport, and my favorite place to stay was at the Turner Trail Shelter. A lot of the towns are barely specks, and you end up going a ways between services. Many of the campgrounds are a bit buggy(one was actually so full of frogs that their droppings coated pretty much everything), weedy, or rundown feeling. The town parks that allow camping(Marthasville even had showers) where much nicer!
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Old 08-19-11, 04:43 PM   #21
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The Turkey Run area of western IN is beautiful that time of year. Covered bridges, creeks, etc. Covered Bridge Cyclery in Greencastle could clue you in on some nice routes.
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Old 08-19-11, 07:02 PM   #22
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Many of the campgrounds are a bit buggy(one was actually so full of frogs that their droppings coated pretty much everything), weedy, or rundown feeling. The town parks that allow camping(Marthasville even had showers) where much nicer!
I have never, in all my born days, seen frog turds.

Marthasville is a very good place to camp.
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Old 08-20-11, 01:15 AM   #23
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The Turkey Run area of western IN is beautiful that time of year. Covered bridges, creeks, etc. Covered Bridge Cyclery in Greencastle could clue you in on some nice routes.
Been camping at Turkey Run state park once in my life, but it was amazing. barefoot hiking through rocky streams going uphill....wouldn't mind getting back there at some point!
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Old 10-17-11, 04:40 PM   #24
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So have you decided what you'll be doing? Or have you done it already?
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Old 10-18-11, 04:00 PM   #25
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My vacation is coming up next Tuesday, but I think I'm too poor to do anything :\
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