Route Planning: PA to TN
I'm in the process of planning for a one-way trip from Pennsylvania to Tennessee for this upcoming summer. I've done several weekend bike trips, but nothing this long. I'm not really sure where to begin with route planning.
I've considered using Google cycling directions as a starting point and then editing to avoid areas of concern. But the directions are usually so far from ideal initially, that even after meticulous editing, there are still a lot of busy highways, dirt roads, sketchy locations, etc, along the route.
I know a lot of people enjoy just "winging it" and make up their route as they go. That's not how I would typically operate...I enjoy making a plan and sticking to it, but maybe some of you could change my mind.
I've also considered using Adventure Cycling maps. If I took their routes the whole way, my trip would be considerably longer, but perhaps I could get on and off of them when convenient.
I'd enjoy hearing your suggestions. I look forward to some invaluable wisdom.
Are you camping or staying indoors? Cooking your own food or having it prepared for you? How far are you planning on traveling a day?
Originally Posted by bigred90
I also live in pa. Philadelphia to be exact and have also thought about riding to Tennessee from here. Have you ever thought of riding to dc, then making your way to skyline drive and then the blue ridge parkway? I know the parkway ends in Tennessee. I actually wanted to do this next summer as well. The parkway is tough in terms of climbing but it is a tourist road. Where in pa do you live?
Skyline Drive and the BRP are nice riding, but accommodations on the BRP are pretty widely spaced. Leaving the BRP means a steep climb to get back in most places, so plan stops carefully there.
If you are crossing Maryland in my neck of the woods I may be able to give more info about the roads, but mostly north of Baltimore as I have not ridden much between Baltimore and DC.
BTW: If you need assistance or a place to stay in the Baltimore area let me know.
Lettting people know exactly from where to where might produce more responses.
You can also search here:
The author of this relatively recent journal passed through TN and PA:
Some of the days include route maps. Perhaps you can contact him for route details.
Thanks for the replies so far. To be specific, I will be travelling from Myerstown, PA to Cookeville, TN.
I plan on camping much of the way. I'd like to stick to campgrounds as much as possible, although a few nights of improvised stealth camping wouldn't be out of the question.
One thing I regret about previous trips is having too ambitious of a daily mileage. I think I would want to shoot for an average of 70-75 miles/day.
I'll be prepared to do a lot of cooking, although I'd like to stop at restaurants on a somewhat regular basis.
Last edited by bigred90; 12-02-11 at 11:02 PM.
First question is whether or not you want to make a stop in DC. That will determine how direct a route you're going to take. Personally, I would. There's nothing like riding in and out of a big city on a tour. For some reason it makes it feel like real transportation to me. I've never done the ride between Baltimore and DC but the ride from DC out to the Blue Ridge is relatively easy on the W&OD trail.
Since your most direct route in VA would be paralleling I-81 I would take the Blue Ridge Parkway. As noted above, it requires careful planning for provisions unless you really like climbing up and down the ridge. That'll get you to Sevierville (though the road through there is unpleasant and there might be better options). Don't know about routing through TN to your final destination.
Use the bicycle route option of Google Maps, along with some common sense, and you'll end up with a decent route. Look for interesting things along the way as a guide to "waypoints." If you're a Civil War history buff that will suggest a different route than if you like something else.
When I rode from Pittsburgh, PA to Atlanta, GA several decades ago I took Skyline/BRP. It's a nice ride of gentle, rolling hills with no long climbs or tough grades. We went just a few weeks before the peak of the fall colors and traffic was quite light. The two problems we had were a lack of showers in the campgrounds and the crappy food available. I would hope those issues have been dealt with over the years. If not, I didn't find the climb back up after going shopping and showering to be much of a problem.
One option on the southern end would be to take the BRP to Cherokee, NC; go down through Bryson City on U.S. 19, then cut over NC 28 to U.S. 129 to Vonore, TN 72 west to TN 58 north into Kingston, then west on U.S. 70 to Crossville. Not sure what the best way would be to get from Crossville to Cookeville.
My biggest concern would be the racetrack south out of Bryson City, but it's 4 lane divided racetrack with generally good shoulders. Once you hit 28, the road narrows and twists, so beware of motorcyclists on the tail of the dragon. 70 west of Kingston was lightly trafficed except at rush hour last time I went through -- most people take I-40.
Second biggest concern is the mountains. How many times do you want to climb 3,000' at 6%? How about 5 times in North Carolina?? One alternative would be to get off around Sparta, NC, cut over to Mouth of Wilson, VA, then come down through Whitetop to Damascus and cut south to Elizabethon. Nice, scenic, roads without too much traffic, and lots of twists and turns to keep motorists' speed down. One of these days I've really got to take U.S. 321 north from Newport to Greeneville, TN, to see if that's viable; I haven't been on 11E since they finished the interstate 35 years ago, but there were lots of little towns that made driving that route a hassle back then. Might be possible to take 107 down through Unicoi to Newport and pick up 321 there, but again, I haven't driven that route in a very long time.
If you decide not to take the Parkway, get a hold of the Adventure Cycling TransAm maps either side of Christiansburg, VA. 11 and I-81 are the main routes; short of a maze of twisty little local roads, you'll be following those to get from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. U.S. 11 often has a lot of local traffic, and AC does a decent job of routing around those sections. I'd try to avoid 11 through Roanoke/Salem, and from Abington through Bristol to either Johnson City or Kingsport, and through Knoxville. (Chilhowee to Meadowview is OK, though.)