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Cycling across America, east to west, 2014, rails-to-trails

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Cycling across America, east to west, 2014, rails-to-trails

Old 11-05-13, 12:25 PM
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ees2112
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Cycling across America, east to west, 2014, rails-to-trails

Cycling across America, east to west, 2014, rails-to-trails

Hi everyone. I am new to the forums but they look like a great place to be.

I have been car-free for most of my 34 years on this planet. So I feel very welcome and interested in that forum. But for years and years I have been wanting to cycle America, and I have finally carved out the time to do so. I am planning on starting in April 2014.

My goals, in order of importance, roughly are:

1. Knit together as many rails-to-trails as possible. The entire C&O Canal and GAP, and Katy trails are a must. Also, the Burr Road in Utah.
2. Camp as much as possible, to save $$ and also to
3. see as much awesome natural beauty as possible.

I have a route that I've been working on for a few months. But my Google-fu is running out, and I have a few more big questions and gaps.

I am having trouble finding resources. Can anyone point me to a route or blog or info on someone who has done something similar with the rails-to-trails? All I am finding so far are people hugging the coasts and southern border, the TransAm ACA route, and the RAAM. Which give good info. But I am trying to do something a bit different. Roughly:

Start DC, C&O Canal Towpath
GAP
follow entire Ohio river along RTE 52 etc (big question mark here)
Cut across tip of ILL to STL
Katy trail
Cross KS
Cross CO at Wolf Creek Pass, Durango etc
Burr road
HWY 12 UT, cut across to
HWY 6 NV (Area 51 )
RTE 120 CA, thru YOS and home.

I just discovered this forum, and with it, also a link to bikemap.com. I will be putting my current work in progress up there, shortly.

I am aware that, due to wind and hill grades, it is easier to head west to east. But I thought that for psychological reasons it might be better to cycle towards home (California).

Another somewhat question is how smart it is to start in April. Life circumstances make that the best time. I realize it will be cold and wet. I have no problem camping in snow, but will any parts of the first bit be totally impassable? From what I read so far, it doesn't seem so. And of course, we'll just have to wait and see how the winter this year plays out. But any intl on that score is very much appreciated.

Any and all opinions and input are very welcomed! Thank you all!
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Old 11-05-13, 12:34 PM
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Adventure cycling association should be your go to source. They have the America bike route system and their own maps and guides. Tried rails to trails .org?
Trail link by rails to trails conservancy?
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Old 11-05-13, 12:47 PM
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You could easily have mud trouble on the C&O in April due to spring rains. Also, the Big Savage Tunnel on the GAP typically does not open until at least April 10, so you would have to wait until at least that date to start as, going E-W, you hit the tunnel the first day. According to the official web site for the trail, there is no easy way around the tunnel.
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Old 11-05-13, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
Adventure cycling association should be your go to source. They have the America bike route system and their own maps and guides. Tried rails to trails .org?
Trail link by rails to trails conservancy?
Yes, I have been to those sites, and I feel like I've exhausted the info there. Am looking for a few more specifics.
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Old 11-05-13, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
You could easily have mud trouble on the C&O in April due to spring rains. Also, the Big Savage Tunnel on the GAP typically does not open until at least April 10, so you would have to wait until at least that date to start as, going E-W, you hit the tunnel the first day. According to the official web site for the trail, there is no easy way around the tunnel.
I'm cool with mud. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of very steep (ie. traction issues), so I think we're good there.

Planning on getting dirty.

Walking a little is OK.
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Old 11-05-13, 02:16 PM
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I don't know enough about it to recommend it, but have you looked at the American Discovery Trail?

Me, I usually prefer to avoid bike trails when on tour. Adventure Cycling routes are nice if you are willing to ride on roads. I have ridden a number of them including the TA, the ST, the Pacific Coast, and 1000 miles of the Sierra Cascades route. I have also done some non AC routes and generally prefer the AC maps when they go where I want to go.
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Old 11-05-13, 02:35 PM
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Looks like ADT is more of a hiking thing.
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Old 11-05-13, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ees2112 View Post
I'm cool with mud. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of very steep (ie. traction issues), so I think we're good there.
My bud had tracction issues on a very muddy C&O. You don't need incline to lose traction/sink into in mud.

In the end, I think you are going to find that, absent possibly a very circuitous route, you are not going to be able to cobble together a route with a signficant portion of rail-trail miles. Even with a circuitous route, the percentage of miles on trials may actually go down since you will likely need more road miles to reach the trails.

A similar topic was recently started on ACA's forum by someone looking to go from MN to CA on mostly trails. Don't think it's going to happen.
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Old 11-05-13, 02:42 PM
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If you are willing to cut across Illinois further north, you can ride canal trails and some R2T's for almost the entire width of 250 miles.

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Old 11-05-13, 02:57 PM
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Wow, can I have a link to that map in greater detail? Looks fuzzy here. And a link to some info? Looks pretty neat!
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Old 11-05-13, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ees2112 View Post
Looks like ADT is more of a hiking thing.
Yes, but the majority of it is apparently open to bicycles. From what I read the 850 miles that is not open to bikes has detours around the off limits sections. Since you want to stay off of roads, it just might be worth looking at. Check out http://www.discoverytrail.org/news/faqs.html and read the section labeled "Is the entire ADT open to bicycles?".

I personally think riding on the road is the way to go though.
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Old 11-05-13, 03:53 PM
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You're going to be more concerned with pages 5-9 but there is even exact routing, turn by turn. Just Google "Grand Illinois Trail" and there are several sites and lots of info. available

http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/recreati...usersguide.pdf
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Old 11-05-13, 04:12 PM
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Very cool info, folks. Thank you.

Here is my map in progress: http://www.bikemap.net/en/route/2373...8.5254/terrain
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Old 11-05-13, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I personally think riding on the road is the way to go though.
I'm really a roadie at heart, as well, but sometimes you gotta have teeth on your tires to get to the really beautiful spots.
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Old 11-05-13, 04:26 PM
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I guess there is some truth to that, but in my experience you can see just as beautiful country on small roads as on bike trails.

For a coast to coast trip I personally prefer to stay on roads the vast majority of the time and even intentionally dodged some of the crappier bike trails on the TA. On the other hand, I do plan to do a dirt road and off road bike packing tour this year. For that I prefer dirt roads and trails as opposed to "bike trails".
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Old 11-05-13, 04:39 PM
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I like 4x4 roads and trails, too, but I think it depends a lot on the area. In certain areas, like where I used to live in Oz, I'd be afraid of being run down by a suicidal dirtbiker, ATV or logging truck.

For this trip, roads are actually the majority, at this point. I don't have all year long to do this. Otherwise, I might be able to consider more of that ADT, which does look great. But I think I might have to be retired before I get to that one.

I want to hit the long trails like the GAP etc for the camping and bike-friendly services along them, as well as the scenery. But I am equally excited about roads like HWY 12 in Utah through Brice Canyon. So it's definitely a mix. I think you and I are really mostly on the same page here.
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Old 11-05-13, 07:51 PM
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I notice you're heading right thru East St. Louis en route to crossing the Mississippi, I would suggest hitting that early Sunday AM or consider re-routing north to the Chain of Rocks bridge and you could then ride the St. Louis River trail. Much safer.
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Old 11-05-13, 11:56 PM
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I love your idea. Rails-to-trails will be a welcome relief to the cars you will be fighting half the time.
Starting in April might put you in the Rocky Mountain region too soon. I would not advise Colorado, or similar, before June 1st. There is still plenty of snow and camping might be pretty tough.
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Old 11-06-13, 07:21 AM
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Once you get to the Midwest, you can cross almost the entire state of Wisconsin on rails-to-trails. Go to the WI State Park website for more information. WI was the site of the first R-2-T with the Sparta-Elroy trail and they have added many more since then. Even in areas where you would have to ride on roads, the scenery is nice and traffic is light in rural areas. Almost every town has a bar and drivers are mostly friendly to cyclists. An ideal place to tour -- in the warmer months.
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Old 11-06-13, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
I notice you're heading right thru East St. Louis en route to crossing the Mississippi, I would suggest hitting that early Sunday AM or consider re-routing north to the Chain of Rocks bridge and you could then ride the St. Louis River trail. Much safer.
I was looking at some website, and it was suggesting (I thought) that there are bikepaths (maybe I mistook "greenway" for "bikepath") all along the river, beginning fairly south of STL proper? So, my idea was to come in from the southeast, and ride along the length. Am I totally misguided here?
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Old 11-06-13, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
I notice you're heading right thru East St. Louis en route to crossing the Mississippi, I would suggest hitting that early Sunday AM or consider re-routing north to the Chain of Rocks bridge and you could then ride the St. Louis River trail. Much safer.
Agreed about ESL. I do a ride through it about once every couple of years that we call the Urban Assault Ride. We do it early on a weekend morning so that the crack heads are sleeping it off. The trouble with the Chain of Rocks Bridge is that the dang thing is often closed. Still it's a great thing to ride across.

ees2112, With your current map, you'll be riding within a mile of my home in Belleville, Illinois. Maybe I could meet up with you. However I'm going to suggest a slightly different route. When you are on Illinois Hwy 177 after Mascoutah, turn north on Hwy 158 near Scott AFB. Get on Hwy 161 west then back onto 158 north. It has a wide shoulder after the first mile but is pretty rough for the first few miles. Gets much better. Stay on Hwy 158 until you get to Troy, Illinois. Then turn west onto West Edwardsville Road. About a mile after crossing over I-55, you are going to go under a bike path bridge. Turn right onto Old Troy Rd and get on the bike path. You are now on Madison County Trails.

http://www.mcttrails.org/

Take the MCT Goshen Trail north. It joins with the MCT Nickel Plate Trail. From it get on the MCT Watershed Trail. At the end of the Watershed Trail get on the road and head due west to the city of Hartford. Get on the MCT Confluence Trail which is on top of the levy overlooking the Mississippi River. Head north towards Alton.

Cross the Alton Bridge on Hwy 67 into Missouri. (This is the same bride RAAM uses). At the town of West Alton, get on Hwy 94 north and find your way over to the little town of Machens on Machens Rd. Here starts the KATY Trail! Enjoy the next 230 miles or so.
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Old 11-06-13, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
I love your idea. Rails-to-trails will be a welcome relief to the cars you will be fighting half the time.
Starting in April might put you in the Rocky Mountain region too soon. I would not advise Colorado, or similar, before June 1st. There is still plenty of snow and camping might be pretty tough.
Thank you so much for the input. I was also talking about this to husband-of-cousin (cousin-in-law?) who lives in CO. He was saying that by May, much will have melted, except for the tip tops. So, if we commit to summiting, and descending a fair bit in the same day, we could miss most of it. That said, I don't mind camping in snow at all. I've gotten quite into it lately, taking a pack on the XC skis, and sleeping with the camelbak. So this doesn't bother me at all. The only thing that would suck is if the road is completely closed, but he said that particular road is plowed a lot, and that shouldn't be a problem. Do you agree with that assessment?
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Old 11-06-13, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
You are now on Madison County Trails.

http://www.mcttrails.org/
AWESOME! Thank you so much for this, I will eat up this info tonight. And yes, I'd love to meet up!
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Old 11-06-13, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
Once you get to the Midwest, you can cross almost the entire state of Wisconsin on rails-to-trails. Go to the WI State Park website for more information. WI was the site of the first R-2-T with the Sparta-Elroy trail and they have added many more since then. Even in areas where you would have to ride on roads, the scenery is nice and traffic is light in rural areas. Almost every town has a bar and drivers are mostly friendly to cyclists. An ideal place to tour -- in the warmer months.
This, plus the Grand IL Trail, would make for some very fun zigzagging, for a future Great Lakes type adventure. Thank you! Looks very awesome.
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Old 11-06-13, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ees2112 View Post
. The only thing that would suck is if the road is completely closed, but he said that particular road is plowed a lot, and that shouldn't be a problem. Do you agree with that assessment?
Hwy 160 should be plowed. Don't know much about the shoulder conditions for bicycle riding, though. I'd be prepared for a couple tough days during the week it will take you to cross through colorado/utah higher elevations.
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