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Old 08-31-14, 03:11 PM   #1
etsisk
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Planning something epic...

ok, my long distance hiking plans did not come to fruition (although my walking-with-a-pack knee problems *did*...), so I'm shifting gears, so to, um, speak. I don't know that I'd be up to a cross country with the Rockies and Sierra Nevada ranges by next year, but I would be up to some east coast riding! So here's the thing: 1. I want to do a good long multi month bike trip (easy to do because I'm old and new at this and gonna go easy easy easy, at least at first); 2. I'm a private pilot and haven't been to Oshkosh for Airventure in a while now. Soooo, I'm looking at joining up two long trips:

1. The Atlantic Coast Route (Adventure Cycling Assn.) from Key West to Bar Harbor, ME. 2626 miles

2. Then take this route from Bar Harbor ME to Oshkosh WI, including a ferry across Lake Michigan 1334 miles

The OSH route goes through Canada, so I would need to know what the tricks are for riding a bike route that goes across the border, if anyone can advise. It's all pretty long - plus I'd have to get back home (either riding back through the mtns in NC/VA/WVA or (nearly as cool) riding to Milwaukee and taking a sleeper berth back to NC on AMTRAK), but I think it's certainly doable. People are doing the same mileage, but with MUCH greater elev changes, going transAmerica. The thing is that I'm looking to go from one epic thing that I can't do to another one that I can (one which I have ALWAYS wanted to do).

What do y'all think? Pluses? Minuses? Considerations? Warnings?

Thanks in advance for any help on this!

Tom
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Old 08-31-14, 06:46 PM   #2
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I don't have any advice. All I can say is...WOW!
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Old 08-31-14, 07:27 PM   #3
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you might think about taking a shakedown cruise or two. Tampa and/or Orlando would be good.
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Old 08-31-14, 10:06 PM   #4
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Amtrak from Milwaukee to NC, you change trains in Chicago. Milwaukee to Chicago is the last part of the Empire Builder line. Generally Empire Builder is quite late, you might stay overnight in Chicago if the train gets to Milwaukee and then to Chicago too late. If you have not traveled Amtrak before, you may be shocked at the price for a sleeper when you are traveling alone, good luck picking a day when the price is not too exorbitant for a sleeper. The Amtrak staff in Chicago transfer your bike (in the Amtrak bike box) and other checked luggage for you to the other train in Chicago, just like airlines do. So, in Milwaukee you want to have everything you will want on both trains in your carryon bag(s), and just in case you are in Chicago for an extra night, have your stuff that you would want in a motel in your carryon too. I assume you have traveled on Amtrak with a bike before so you know you need to get on and off at luggage stops, etc.

My experience crossing the Canadian border is in Montana to British Columbia and back into Montana from Alberta. This was on the Glacier Waterton loop in 2012, there are cyclists riding this loop enough that the border staff probably see a cyclist every day in summer. Crossing the border you need a passport, the credit card sized passport works since this is a land crossing, not in the air. But if you only have the passport book, that works too. I got yelled at by US border guards for taking a photo of my bike with the border in the background, they said it was a security area. I thought they were going to confiscate my camera memory card, but they did not. Other than the camera incident, crossing the boarder was extremely simple. Canadians did not mind my taking a photo. I did not have to unpack anything on the bike for either crossing.

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Old 08-31-14, 10:19 PM   #5
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If you have not traveled Amtrak before, you may be shocked at the price for a sleeper when you are traveling alone, good luck picking a day when the price is not too exorbitant for a sleeper.
Two things about this:
1. Amtrak sets its ticket prices in a weird way. It sets a certain number of each seat type at a very low price and sell those. Then it sells the next batch at a higher price, and so on. Therefore, if you know well in advance when you will travel, you can get a decent price. Occasionally, they will add a car to a train and that causes cheap tickets to become available again, but that is rare.

2. If you happen to make a few purchases with a credit card, you can get Amtrak tickets for free. They have the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. This program has a MasterCard by Chase, the Guest Rewards card. Every so often, they run a promo where they give you 12,000 points for getting a card and spending $500 in the first six weeks (or some such time). A sleeper ticket can be had for 15,000 points if you are travelling in one zone. Other ways to get points include simple credit card purchases at one point per dollar. So, since the trip isn't until next year, you may be able to get your sleeper berth for free (plus the opportunity cost of whatever your current credit card would have given you for the purchases).
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Old 08-31-14, 10:46 PM   #6
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CORRECTION: I commented above that you would be on the Empire Builder starting in Milwaukee. I forgot that there are other trains to Chicago that originate in Milwaukee. That might be a better option, maybe less chance of it being late. Also, I think there is a bus service sold thru Amtrak from Oshkosh if you might be interested, but I do not know if the bus can take bikes or not. Amtrak is very poor at telling people on the phone accurate information about the bus services that they sell tickets for under contract.
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Old 08-31-14, 10:55 PM   #7
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Thanks for the tips, y'all. I DO plan to do a lot of shakedown cruises between now and then. A lot. They'll inform as to whether this is something I can do or not. I feel pretty good about my chances, but I'm not going on feeling alone.

I have never taken a bike on Amtrak, so the "luggage stop" thing is good to know about. Thanks - that's important. As is the info about tickets and border crossings. Good stuff to know.
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Old 09-01-14, 12:58 PM   #8
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...
I have never taken a bike on Amtrak, so the "luggage stop" thing is good to know about. Thanks - that's important. As is the info about tickets and border crossings. Good stuff to know.
You should spend some quality time on the Amtrak website.

Lots of trains stop at stations where they do not have any staff and they do not open the luggage compartment, so yes the luggage stop can be a big deal.

Some trains use Amtrak boxes (you buy the box from them and load your bike in it yourself), some trains use bike racks, I was on one train that the conductor told us to put our bikes in the front row of seats. There is a small fee for oversize luggage with the bike, I do not recall what it is but I can assure you it is much cheaper than airlines. Bike boxes are huge, you leave both wheels on the bike. I had two empty panniers on the bike in the box too. I usually call the station several days ahead to make sure they have a bike box to sell me.

I can say with certainty that Empire Builder uses the Amtrak bike box. I have no clue on other trains you might use.

My last trip was Empire Builder from Columbus WI (near Madison) to Portland OR, then a bus to Astoria OR. Ride bikes 892 miles to San Fransisco CA, bus from Fisherman's Wharf to Amtrak Station in Emoryville CA (bus had bike rack on front), Amtrak California Zepher train to Chicago IL, then a bus to Madison (bikes in boxes in luggage area of this bus). There were two of us, we got lucky on a good price for a roomette sleeper to Portland, but used regular seats for the return to Chicago. We adjusted our day of travel for each direction by a day to get lower ticket prices.

Amtrak sizing for carryon and for checked luggage is very generous, you get more inches for each than you would on an airplane. But they are firm on the 50 pound limit per item. I carried two light weight mesh duffels, one was 36" X 16" diameter that had about three panniers worth of gear in it to check along with the bike box on my last trip. For carryons I had a 28" X 13" diameter duffel, a one dollar grocery store bag and my handlebar bag. The duffels resided in the bottom of my panniers for 892 miles, they are lightweight at 310 and 440 grams for the two of them so I did not mind carrying them the whole trip.



I always recommend that people pull their pedals off the day before they get to the train station so they know with certainty that they can get them off, some bike shops thread them on really tight.
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Old 09-02-14, 04:52 AM   #9
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the atlantic coast route may be boring, but it will be easy.
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Old 09-02-14, 05:35 AM   #10
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the atlantic coast route may be boring, but it will be easy.
ACA's Atlantic Coast Route has some challenging parts in the northeast, such as hilly NW CT and climbing out of the Hudson River valley. The section from Lambertville, NJ up to Port Jervis, NY, which includes the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where bear sightings are common, is not boring. Same for Lancaster County, PA and many other places along the route.
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Old 09-03-14, 08:14 AM   #11
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Thanks for all this help, y'all! This is just what I needed. I don't know if I'll take the train or ride back - or take the train somewhere else and ride back from there! The possibilities are endless!
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Old 09-08-14, 08:26 PM   #12
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ok, my long distance hiking plans did not come to fruition (although my walking-with-a-pack knee problems *did*...), so I'm shifting gears, so to, um, speak.!
This is a coincidence, as a very similar thing happened to me this spring. I managed 215 miles of the AT before my knee cried uncle. My alternate plan became bicycling to rehab the knee and improve overall conditioning. I bought a hybrid bike for cyclocamping and am looking for a route. Let me know if you are looking for someone with whom to share the misery, er, miles!
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Old 09-09-14, 03:51 PM   #13
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Sure! I'm always up for company! I'm not speed racer, mind you, but if that's ok, then yeah!
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Old 09-09-14, 07:47 PM   #14
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Sure! I'm always up for company! I'm not speed racer, mind you, but if that's ok, then yeah!
I tried to send a private message but they won't let me. If you are of a mind to, email me leeloodot32tri at yahoodotcom.
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Old 09-09-14, 09:20 PM   #15
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done
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