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St Louis to New Orleans which route to take

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St Louis to New Orleans which route to take

Old 04-19-12, 02:52 AM
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jmcneil1
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St Louis to New Orleans which route to take

Trying to decide which route to take from St Louis to New Orleans. Choice is between following the MRT , or the ACA Great Rivers route which uses the Natchez Trace. Will be doing mixture of camping and motels. Seeking opinions,suggestions, recommendations
thanks
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Old 04-19-12, 11:23 AM
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drmweaver2
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To be honest, as a Louisianian, neither route is particularly scenic south of Natchez except for short periods in the Spring and Fall when foilage blooms or turns to autumn coloring. Both are damned flat in comparison to almost anywhere except Florida. The most memorable parts of either ride will be the heat, humidity and mosquitoes depending on the timing of your ride.

The MRT doesn't actually follow the river in many places - the river meanders and there's just no point in riding 5 miles to go one. In some places, the MRT is atop the river levee, yet you still won't have an unobstructed view of the river for a mile or more at a time --- trees between the levee and river will block your view.

Below (south of) Natchez, you have a couple choices on how to get to New Orleans. The MRT or roll your own and ride through a pretty nicely wooded but thinly populated section of SW Mississippi and SE Louisiana (north of Lake Ponchatrain). In the La. part, locals tend to not be bike friendly in my experience, but won't actively seek to run you off the road for the most part (there're always exceptions in the summer and on Friday evenings after work). Figure 2 long days of riding minimum to get from Natchez to New Orleans if you ride the shortest route - and stealth camping might be the only option depending on your specific route/location at dusk. If you are not following the MRT, figure to ride the section from Ponchatoula to La Place (Hwy 51) in about 2 hours - almost totally alone (be prepared for ZERO help in case of a heat injury/emergency) but swamp on both sides of the road and boring, boring, boring with only 1 spot to replace/replenish your water - Manchac. That section is routinely ridden by local randonneurs and the road surface is in great shape, but it's a lonely section.

If you take the MRT route and intend to go through Baton Rouge to New Orleans, there's actually a way to cut 30 miles off your distance - take Hwy 61/Airline Hwy between the two instead of the MRT/River Road route. I prefer that rather than meandering like the river - but - the price is riding on the shoulder of a 4-lane divided highway with some 18-wheeler traffic (not a lot) instead of on a narrow 2-lane road with absolutely zero view of anything for miles (the levee will/may block your view of the river as you ride below it elevation wise). Personally, I've had fewer close calls on Hwy 61 than on River Road whether on bike, on motorcycle or in the car. Pick your poison.

I have ridden and driven the entire length of the NTP. It's a nice ride but, for me, it's a been there, done it thing. Not a ride I really need to repeat due to it being particularly appealing in any way. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with it. It's just nothing special - but the MRT itself isn't either except as a means of getting from one place to another.
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Old 04-19-12, 05:07 PM
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Thank you , very much appreciate the detail and candor. I had expected it to be a bit of a push between Natchez and New Orleans. At that point of the trip I will be just looking to make time and cover distance as the highlights for me of the ride will be past .
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Old 04-19-12, 07:19 PM
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Additional info: No bikes are allowed to be ridden on The Causeway across Lake Ponchatrain. That means, if you are riding directly from Natchez to New Orleans, rather than following the MRT, you need to go around either the western side of Lake Ponchatrain (the aforementioned Ponchatoula-La Place/Hwy 51 route) or go around the eastern side of the Lake. The latter will definitely add mileage to a Natchez-New Orleans ride!

If, for whatever reason, you choose to ride into New Orleans from the east, look up the location of Ft. Pike on Google Maps. That is the location of the only viable bridge for bikes. The other two eastern side bridges are an Interstate (no bikes allowed) and a 2-lane bridge with no "shoulders" and drivers who appear to have a severe dislike of any vehicle moving under 55 mph. Consequently, getting to New Orleans via the west side of Lake Ponchatrain is highly recommended.

Last edited by drmweaver2; 04-20-12 at 11:04 AM. Reason: added: from the east in para 2
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Old 04-20-12, 12:52 AM
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Have you considered finishing your trip in Hammond, LA? There's Amtrak service there and you could ship your bike to Carbondale (with you on board), or take the train to New Orleans and return to Carbondale. I know, Carbondale isn't St. Louis, but it is fairly close. Amtrak is great because their bike boxes are huge and their charge for shipping bikes is minimal.

Are you planning to go north to south, or south to north? At some times of the year the prevailing winds in the Mississippi valley are strongly from the south. Weatherspark can provide some good information on this.
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Old 04-20-12, 01:31 AM
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North to South.Will be starting in Chicago following Route 66 till St. Louis. Taking Amtrak from Boston to Chicago. Have reviewed wind data and understand potential of strong headwinds. Biggest concern will be the heat and humidity !
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