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  1. #1
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    Minneapolis to Montana on Hwy 212

    Hi all - this is my first post on Bike Forums. I am planning to ride from Minneapolis, MN to SE Montana this summer on US Highway 212. It's about 800 miles one way; 1600 miles round trip; I hope to do it in about 30 days. I plan to camp wherever I happen to be at the end of each day. This will be my first long tour although I have done some overnighters. Also, I don't have a car, so ride a lot in my daily life too. If anyone has ridden this route before I would be very grateful to hear your thoughts on it; or if you just have general advice that would be good too. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I've toured in the general area, tho not Hwy 12. Looks like a great route to Montana. 12 should have a shoulder as it's a US highway. No big mountains to struggle over, tho lots of rollers. Note the dramatic difference when you leave Minnesota. SD highways were designed for cycling. Towns spaced just right all the way, thus no problem with water supply. And you can probably camp in their parks. You're gonna have a fine ride.

    Having a senior moment, I looked at Hwy 12, not 212. Oh well, not much difference. Either would be a good ride. Towns seems a little scarcer on 212. I actually rode 212 aways in SE MT, 14 in SD, and 68 in MN, south of 212.
    Last edited by Cyclebum; 02-05-12 at 03:25 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Wish I had some specific info to offer but I have not biked that route. I hope the city parks, police stations, and fairgrounds provide places to camp, or allow you access even if they're not set up for bike tourers. It seems to be hit or miss from my experience. Good luck!

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    I imagine it can be pretty darn hot and shadeless that part of SD and MT. Also, there are probably some long stretches of nothing but open ranch/farm land that might not provide such good camping, especially if it's fenced off. You might want to plan on trying to find places in the towns you pass through.

    And are you going to simply turn around and ride the same route back home? If so, and you have the time, consider turning NE and hooking up with Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier route which will take you near Minneapolis. They are coming out with a new routing this year to get around all the traffic caused by oil and gas exploration. I am pretty sure the new route goes through Bismark, ND.

  5. #5
    Avoid trauma Lake_Tom's Avatar
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    State departments of transportation usually have traffic volume maps online somewhere.
    You can open http://maps.google.com, and see the highways that you are ride on by dragging the "little yellow man" down to the route. Then you can see if there is a shoulder.
    I smell the spring in the smoky wind.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lake_Tom View Post
    State departments of transportation usually have traffic volume maps online somewhere.
    You can open http://maps.google.com, and see the highways that you are ride on by dragging the "little yellow man" down to the route. Then you can see if there is a shoulder.
    Thanks dude. Had never noticed the 'little yellow man' and wouldn't have known what to do with him if I had.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lake_Tom View Post
    State departments of transportation usually have traffic volume maps online somewhere.
    You can open http://maps.google.com, and see the highways that you are ride on by dragging the "little yellow man" down to the route. Then you can see if there is a shoulder.
    Great advice. I find Google Street View to be enormously helpful in choosing routes.

    Minnesota does have traffic count maps for each county as well as a statewide map: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/traffic/d...l/volumes.html

    South Dakota has a statewide traffic count map: http://www.sddot.com/pe/data/Docs/tr...affic_2010.pdf

    I try to avoid routes with an AADT (average annual daily traffic) count of more than 1000 vehicles a day unless there's a good shoulder. Under 500 usually is bliss.

    Looking at US212 in Minnesota, the AADT is over 3000 for quite a distance out of the Twin Cities. In fact, it generally doesn't get below 1000 until you reach Redfield, SD. So, I'd suggest taking something like the Luce Line Trail west out of the Twin Cities to avoid the heaviest traffic, and then when you get to its end, use town and county roads to head west until even the "main" highways like US 212 are lightly travelled (west of the Missouri River there isn't a lot of traffic in South Dakota on US 212).

    There are lots of options. The Minnesota link above includes links to county highway maps which show you which roads are paved. Or, you can use Google Street View.

    It takes more time to work out a trip this way, but there are huge benefits. It's safer, prettier, and a lot more fun!

  8. #8
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    I just used google street view for US 212 at random locations... Does not have a shoulder on some of the views, has a small one on some other views, but I suspect it's light traffic for the most part. Also many parts on street view didn't show a single tree with the land fenced off on both sides. As others have said, you can camp at most town parks.

    As far as towns spaced apart on US 212, that's not completely true, there's a huge section in Western South Dakota that has zero towns, a 76 mile stretch between Faith, SD and Newell, SD

    Examples include: http://maps.google.com/?ll=44.768091...2,42.25,,0,0.1 - no trees, land fenced off on both sides etc....

    Does look like a good route, but expect a lot of winds due to the lack of trees, although most of the winds in the praries tend to blow north to south or south to north so crosswinds will be your challenge.

  9. #9
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    If you are interested in going off route a touch, a look through part of my journal as we rode through the area. We crossed 212 in or near Madison MN and stayed a little south of it through most of south dakota. This link picks up the journal as we entered MN. http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...id=225614&v=Az

    Would be happy to answer any specific questions. Traffic was a non-issue on our route.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Thanks dude. Had never noticed the 'little yellow man' and wouldn't have known what to do with him if I had.
    Holy Cow, I've noticed that "yellow man" for a long time and thought it was just a meaningless symbol. Even when you mouse over him there is no pop up explainer, he just leans to the right a bit. Knowing this before would have saved us from some horrible gravel roads that google maps sent us on in MN with their "bicycle routing" button. Thank you so much for mentioning it Lake_Tom!!!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by EriktheFish View Post
    Holy Cow, I've noticed that "yellow man" for a long time and thought it was just a meaningless symbol. Even when you mouse over him there is no pop up explainer, he just leans to the right a bit. Knowing this before would have saved us from some horrible gravel roads that google maps sent us on in MN with their "bicycle routing" button. Thank you so much for mentioning it Lake_Tom!!!
    Note that not all roads are viewable in Street View. Seems unlikely that the gravel roads you got are shown on Street View. Move the little man over a road. If it turns blue it's viewable. If not and you try to leave the man on the road, he'll simply return to his resting place.

    Last summer we did a loop in MT. I used Google Maps to plan our route into and out of Butte. Leaving Butte I picked the bucolic sounding Blue Bird Trail, thinking it must be a recreation trail. But it wasn't available on Street View. Turened out to be horrible. I think it may have been a cattle trail at one point. We had to walk in places.

  12. #12
    Avoid trauma Lake_Tom's Avatar
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    "They hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me out of the room!
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