First post in a long time! My wife and I have a daughter who is currently 8. We're looking into a cross-country tour in 2017, when she'll be 10. We did a 3 1/2 month tour of Maine, Atlantic Canada, and Quebec when she was 5 (using a Weehoo) and it went great. Then a 2-week tour in Quebec last summer where she was on her own bike w/ a Follow Me attachment for hills/heat/moods. We expect in two years she'll still be small enough to use a 20" bike and Follow Me, although there's a chance she would graduate to 24" tires in which case the Follow Me won't fit and she'd be completely on her own.
Now we're dreaming about the Big One, and I'd love any thoughts on our preliminary route. Some background and context:
-- We take our time. In 2012 we averaged 25 miles/day, five days a week. Although that pace would be painfully slow for most, we found it just about right for a 5-year old. For the 2017 trip we would aim for 30 miles/day, 5 days a week, or 150 miles per week. I suspect that across the plains we'll do better than this, but in the mountains maybe slower. This means that for a 3,500-mile crossing, we would need about 23 weeks. We plan to have 6 months off, so that works out just about right. We'll have 26 weeks or so from March 1 to the end of August, which includes getting back home to Maine.
-- We're especially slooooow on hills, and we have a history of knee problems. So although we'll take a hilly route if it's a standout (such as the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, one of the highlights of our last trip), all else being equal or nearly so, we'll take a flat road over a hilly road.
-- We like trails, so our daughter can ride without as much supervision or caution. We did Montreal to Quebec City last summer, almost all on trails, and we had a blast. I know trails can slow us down, and be dispiriting in the rain, and sometimes you miss cool towns or areas and feel like you're in a green tunnel. So if we're having those experiences we might switch to nearby roads. But in general I like the idea of working in as many trails as possible.
-- We are heat-averse. It's not that we like being cold, but we'd rather be a bit cold than bake in a heat wave.
-- We (I) are history buffs, and we're also birdwatchers and all-around naturalists.
-- If we're way behind, or in a long-term rut, we're keeping the option open of hopping on a bus or train to get across the plains. Basically if our daughter isn't having fun, no one around her will be having fun. So we won't punish her and ourselves with a forced march approach.
Ok, given those parameters, here's what I've laid out:
-- Start at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware around March 1. Ideally we'd start April 1, but in order to get back in time for school the following year, March 1 it is. If it's a late winter and the nights are still cold, we'll keep camping to a minimum and try Warmshowers, friends, hotels. If the days are still cold, then we'll just delay or hole up somewhere and wait it out.
-- Bike to DC. Only drawback is that we have to take a bike shuttle over the Bay Bridge to Annapolis, but we really want to start at the ocean, not the Chesapeake Bay. And we want to get to DC to pick up the...
-- C&O and GAP to Pittsburgh. You all saw this one coming, right? 347 miles of off-road bliss? I've read that the C&O can be muddy in the spring. If so we'll consider a work-around. Could also be cold in the Appalachians in March, but we'd rather be cold for a couple weeks in March than baking in July in the midwest.
-- Pittsburgh to Ohio Amish country, and then pick up the Ohio to Erie Trail (which I think is also the Underground Railroad Trail) to Cincinnati. About half of this segment would be on trails.
-- Cincinnati to St. Louis across southern Indiana and Illinois. Southern Indiana sounds pretty neat, although maybe a bit hilly in parts. Southern Illinois sounds a bit more mundane, but flatter! Any route suggestions in either state would be much appreciated! I've done a fair amount of research (state bike maps, other trip journals, etc) and have some ideas, but welcome any thoughts.
-- 170 miles or so of the Katy Trail to New Franklin, MO. From there, cut NW across Missouri to get to Iowa border at Blanchard, where we pick up the...
-- Wabash Trace Trail into Council Bluffs, Iowa. 63 more miles of trail!
-- Follow L&C up the Missouri to at least Sioux City. Then either cut across northeast Nebraska to Valentine, or else stay on L&C into part of South Dakota and then drop down onto Route 12 in northern Nebraska.
-- Route 20 across northern Nebraska. I keep reading all sorts of great things about cycling through Nebraska, and this route seems especially promising for low traffic. We might have to go all day to get from town to town, but that's ok.
-- Wyoming. This one's a bit of a puzzle still. We'd cut through Lusk, Douglas and Casper to Shoshone. Then I can't decide whether to (a) cut north through the Wind River Canyon and Thermopolis to hit Cody and enter Yellowstone from the east, or (b) pick up the Trans Am to go through Grand Tetons and enter Yellowstone from the south. Anyone know about the first route? I tried some searches but can't seem to find many reports of this route, although I read on a car-based site that it's a neat road and it doesn't look too bad on the Wyoming DOT Bike Map. In any case, hoping to reach Yellowstone in early July, before it's too hot on the plains and the crowds are too thick at the park.
-- From Yellowstone NP, head out through the north and take 89 and other roads to Bozeman, then Helena, then maybe Missoula and eventually on to Mullan, Idaho, to pick up the...
-- Coeur d'Alenes Trail. 71 miles of trail bliss? Really excited when I found out that this is more or less on our route.
-- Cross the Palouse in eastern Washington State, then get to Ellensburg, where we'd pick up the Iron Horse / John Wayne Frontier Trail for 100 miles or so. Then combination of roads and trails to our endpoint in Seattle. If we have time, we'd make it all the way to the Pacific at Olympia National Park.
Ok, that's quite a bit to read through. If you're still with me, I'd love any feedback! Any parts of this route you've done and loved? Done and regretted? Anything obvious I'm missing?
Thanks so much!