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Topics - indyfabz

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Routes / Three States Mini-Tour
« on: October 15, 2015, 02:59:55 pm »
Some selected photos from last weeks three-day trip on ACA's Atlantic Coast route between Port Jervis, NY to Philadelphia with a detour:

Rented an SUV one-way on Thursday and camped along the Delaware River in Matamoras, PA, not far from Port Jervis. Dropped the car off the next morning, pulled the bike out of the back and began riding, crossing into NJ in about the first three miles and entering the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Spent the first night at a campground up on the ridge above Portland, PA, the home town of the author of the song "All I Want For Christmas In My Two Front Teeth."  The campground I found has wooded tent sites for only $10, which is extremely cheap for that area.

From Portland I followed the ACA route proper through Belvidere to Philipsburg, NJ. I had already ridden the roads between Philipsburg and Milford, NJ twice this year, and since I would be camping on the PA side of the river that night I decided to cross over into Easton, PA and ride a portion of the Delaware & Lackawanna Trail system down to camp in Upper Black Eddy, across the river from Milford. While the trail is scenic and offers some nice views of the river, the surface was mostly not fine crushed rock, which made for slower going.

PA 32 along the river is not a particularly safe cycling route, so at the start of day three I went back a few miles and crossed over into Milford to again pick up the ACA route proper, opting for the wide-shoulder NJ 29 over the parallel D&R Trail until Stockton, where the shoulder disappears and the road becomes very rough in place. Picked up the trail alternative in Stockton for about 4 miles to Lambertville before crossing the Delaware one final time for the final segment home.

Overall, it was a great trip. Wildlife sightings included a large, pileated woodpecker, numerous deer and a flock of about a dozen wild turkeys. I would have liked to have spent the first night at the riverside campground in Worthington State Forest, but the place was packed to the gills for the holiday weekend. (I am going to contact the state about creating a few hiker-biker sites or at least having an overflow area for hikers and bikers. Seeing that the facility is close to the AT and directly on the Atlantic Coast route, it's a prime candidate for such sites.)

Routes / A Loop Through the Black Hills
« on: July 06, 2015, 02:20:07 pm »
Photos here:

Click on the first one and advance manually to see the captions. Unfortunately, I trashed my camera on the first night. I bought a replacement but didn't have a chance to charge the battery until after I had ridden up Spearfish Canyon, which was one of the most scenic parts of the trip.

My original itinerary included a foray into remote Northwest Nebraska. However, when I reached Edgemont on Day 3 I met a family at the municipal campground who told me the 35 mile dirt road that would take me to the main reason for going to Nebraska—Toadstool Geologic Park—would be a tough ride under good conditions and likely impassible by bike due the extensive flooding the area had experienced, so I scrubbed that portion of the mission and took a rest day in Edgemont instead. From there, It was a relatively short ride to Hot Springs, which was on my original itinerary. This change in plans resulted in a total point-point/day ride mileage of about 400. Excursions into towns and attractions such as the mammoth dig site in Hot Springs added at least another 30 miles. Ride With GPS shows about 26,500’ of climbing for the point-to-point/day ride mileage.

Things worked out like this:

Rapid City to Spearfish
Spearfish to Hill City
Hill City to Edgemont
Day Off in Edgemont with a 17 mile ride towards Nebraska and back
Edgemont to Hot Springs via Old Hwy 18 and U.S. 18
Hot Springs to Custer via Wind Cave N.P.
Loop from Custer to Sylvan Lake then Needles Highway
Day ride from Custer to Hill City and back
Custer to Mt. Rushmore KOA then a loop via Old Hill City Rd. Keystone, thence to Mt. Rushmore and back to the KOA via SD 244.
Mt. Rushmore KOA to Rapid City

Some random thoughts:

Food: This was my first tour of more than two days where I did not bring cooking gear. The reason for not doing so was that cooking on at least four days was not really practicable, either because of a lack of grocery stores and the fact that I was staying in a motel at the start and end of the trip. I thought this could be a problem and it was to some extent. When touring my body runs best on a high carb diet, and high carb meals are hard to come by in an area dominated by beef and fried foods. Even salad bars are short on fresh vegetables and long on things like tuna salad and macaroni salad drowning in mayo. Later in the trip, while staying in Custer for three nights, I did find a restaurant that had some options with decent carbs, which provided pleasant relief.

The Mickelson Trail: My route included nearly all of this 108 mile rail-trail. It is unique. The surface varied between fine to larger gravel, dirt, lose sand, and even some rocks. Ruts from unusually heavy runoff were prevalent. There are several cattle gates which you have to open, negotiate and then close. There are many bridges that are less than smooth and have transitions which, in the exercise of caution, require you to slow down. Four tunnels and countless road and driveway crossings also require slowing. One evening I had to lift my bike over a downed tree. And not only is the trail not flat, you top out at over 6,000' and are over a mile a in altitude in several places. My first day on the trail I underestimated the time it would take me to get from the Englewood trailhead to Hill City. I didn't arrive in town until 8 p.m. With that said, it is a beautiful trail and passes through some isolated territory. Fortunately, there are several trailheads with shelters, rest rooms and cisterns with drinking water. If you plan to ride this trail without fenders, expect to get dirty if the surface is wet.

Sun & Rain: The sun was intense nearly every day. Even the official map for the Mickelson Trail warns you to bring sun block as much of the trail in not shaded. I know a few days were in the upper 80s, but even days in the high 70s felt much hotter due to the blazing sun hitting you at altitude. Every day but one was dry. Around 10:15 p.m. on the second night a storm that looked like it would miss my campground on the edge of Hill City suddenly moved over the area. It went from doing nothing to raining and then hailing in a matter of 90 seconds. The hailstones ranged from pea to ping pong ball sized. There were also heavy thunderstorms two nights in Custer.

I recommended good foul weather gear for the Mickelson. Before starting out on my day ride to Hill City I met a couple in the city park who was being shuttled up north on the trail so they could ride back to Custer. I thought I might run into them in Hill City. I did. While the brunt of the that afternoon's storm missed Hill City, the couple had gotten caught in the worst of it during the long descent into town. The temperature in town dropped by what seemed like some 20 degrees, so I can only imagine how cold it was up on the hill. Compounding matters was the fact that they had been delayed in the deluge by a herd of free range cattle blocking the trail. When the couple pulled into the shelter in town, the husband's fingers were literally blue from the could. He called the shuttle service, which was based in Hill City, and they got a ride back to Custer.

Climbing & Wind: The Black Hills are, well, hilly. The first day of the trip featured nearly 4,800’ of climbing in 60 miles. Much of that was in the first 35 miles or so of the ride. The second day threw close to 5,000’ of climbing at me. That’s a lot considering 40 of the day’s 70 miles was on the Mickelson Trail. The famed Needles Highway had many steep sections. I rode it clockwise and without gear during a no-move day in Custer. That allowed me to avoid the double-digit grade sections I would have encountered going the opposite way. On day two, including a fifteen minute “I need to get out of the blazing afternoon sun” shade break, one 3 mile climb took me nearly an hour going into the wind. On that subject, there was a good deal of wind, and it was often in my face. Not strong, gusty winds, but rather steady, usually between 10 and 15 mph.

Camping: Campgrounds where generally decent. The municipal campground/park in Spearfish was the nicest municipal campground I have ever stayed in, with lush grass and modern, clean facilities. I spent two nights at the municipal campground in Edgemont, which is next to the main BNSF coal train route out of Wyoming. At the height of traffic there were 135 car unit coal trains about every 35-45 minutes. I work in the rail biz so the action was of interest to me, but the noise did wake me a few times.

Overall: I had a great time. While I would have liked to have added Nebraska to the list of states I have toured in, everything worked out well in the end. Skipping Nebraska allowed me several days where I could take day rides without having to break camp. It also insured that I had time to visit the mammoth dig site, which would have been unlikely otherwise as the day from Nebraska to Hot Springs would have been an 82 mile one.

I have the route details on Ride With GPS if anyone is interested.

Routes / I Just Flew in From Missoula and...
« on: June 30, 2014, 04:08:53 pm »
...boy are my legs tired.

Reprised a loop from three years ago with a few modifications/new roads thrown into the mix.
Highlights of the trip include:d Gibbons Pass from Sula to Jackson, the lovely view from Big Hole Pass and descending out of the Pioneer Mountains to Wise River in rain, hail and even some wet snow, on the way to Divide Bridge Campground (saw about a dozen GDMR participants); the rough, unpaved but isolated and beautiful Melrose Bench Road between Melrose and Twin Bridges, which is not for those with loose teeth, skinny tires or flimsy wheels; two relaxing days at the Twin Bridges Bike Camp, where I crossed paths with Cycle Montana and took a 21 mile spin to Sheridan and back; Pipe Stone Pass, which is harder than it looks on paper, on the way to Butte; the Pintler Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Highway up to Georgetown Lake and then down to the pleasant town of Philipsburg; panning for sapphires at Gem Mountain and the wet and wild ride over narrow, twisty, unpaved Skalkaho Pass to Hamilton.

I inadvertantly tossed my daily mileage log, but there this is the approximate breakdown:
Missoula to Sula: 83 miles
Sula to Jackson: 67 miles
Jackson to Divide: 76 miles
Divide to Twin Bridges: 34 miles
Twin Bridges to Butte: 47 miles
Butte to Philipsburg: 57 miles
Philipsburg to Hamilton: 64
Hamilton to ACA Headquarters: 43

Travel got off to a rough start. Unbeknownst to me, my 6:00 a.m. flight from PHL to CHI had been cancelled the night before due to weather in the Midwest and I had been rebooked PHL-IAD-DEN-MSO. Fortunately, the flight to IAD left at 6:14, so there was not much of an additional wait, but I had a 4 hr. layover at DEN, so I didn’t arrive at MSO until 5 p.m., well after the original 12:45 p.m. arrival that I had booked. By the time I could get a cab to the KOA, it was nearly 6 p.m. (I am wondering if I should move to the area and start my own cab company.) One of the reasons I chose to ship my bike to/from the Missoula REI is that you can literally see the back of the store from the campground office, and they are open relatively late. My fully-assembled bike, stove and fuel bottle were waiting there for me. I also picked dup some last minute supplies, like fuel. At $40 for assembly and another $40 for re-boxing, I feel I got a good deal compared to locally, where a LBS boxing will run you about $75.

The original riding plan was to spend one night in Twin Bridges, ride to Ennis the next day and then on to Butte. That would have necessitated an 86 mile day to Butte with a 4 mile, 4% climb early on, Pipestone Pass late in the day and likely lots of headwind riding in between. Seemed like the waste of a good hotel room in Butte (the Hotel Finlen rocks!) so I took it easy and ended up in Butte with plenty of energy to enjoy a good steak at Casagranda’s. Gem Mountain was fun. Walked away with a total of 15.02 ctw in small sapphires. Not going to retire on that, but it was still worth the $20 for the bucket of gravel.

Biggest disappointment was not seeing many exotic critters. I did catch a glimpse of one Dahl sheep. Other than that, there was nothing notable of the four legged variety. Birds were a plenty, including cranes, herons, a few vocal owls and what looked like ospreys. On the road to Twin Bridges I startled two Common Snipes, which proceeded to put on a noisy show for me.

I will post a link to photos once I have uploaded them to Flickr. Send me a PM if you would like route details. With some planning and alternative overnight stops, this route can be done as a “credit card” tour. It would be unwise to attempt it with skinnier tires and/or less than sturdy wheels without a few route modifications. (I rode 37c Conti Top Contact IIs While there is a paved, parallel alternative to Gibbons Pass (Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Passes), avoiding Melrose Bench and Skalkaho Rds. would require route modifications which, in my opinion, would significantly detract from the nature of the route. You might also have to do a bit of I-90 riding to escape Butte. There is a series of frontage roads that you can use to avoid I-90, but there is a mile or so of unpaved riding that might be dicey on anything less than 32c tires, but maybe not.

Was out riding Saturday. Somewhere between Milford, NJ and Carpentersville, NJ there has been a minor slide at a culvert. The road is blocked to cars with Jersey barriers and there are detour signs posted. We ignored the signs. The short, damaged section of road is easily passable and not dangerous. If you are towing a trailer (Earlier in the day we saw a tandem towing a trailer cruise through Belvidere) you might have to un-hitch to get around the barriers or else push up the railroad embankment, but I would ignore the detour signs, especially since the detour likely involves some tough climbing. The area did not appear to be an active work zone so there is no telling when the road will be repaired. A similar (but more severe) slide at Carpentersville a few years ago took months to repair.

Mid-Atlantic / New Jersey Wolf Preserve & Campground
« on: October 15, 2012, 02:53:23 pm »
While on a day ride that included some of ACA's Atlantic Coast Route in the area of Delaware Water Gap, PA and the National Recreation Area of the same name I came across a neat place that you might want to visit on a side trip:

Who'd have thunk it in NJ?

To get there...A hundred or so feet north of the gas station on Rte. 611 in Portland, PA, which is a about 4 miles south of Delaware Water Gap, PA, there is pedestrian bridge to Columbia on the NJ side of the river. The wolf preserve is about 5.5 mile from there. Here is a map:

While on your way, if you make the right on Station Rd. from SR 94 and travel down it a short distance will see the Paulinskill Viaduct. When complteted in 1910, it was the largest reinforced concrete structre in the world. It used to carry DL&W's Lackawanna Cutoff, but it has not seen a train since about '79. New Jersey Transit has long range plans to reactivate the line all the way to Scranton. PA.


Temporary ACA Route Road Closures / Atlantic Coast #2, map 24
« on: June 06, 2012, 10:05:48 am »
sorry. don't have the map number handy. [added to subject .JHM.] saw road closure sign last saturday so i looked it up and found this from hunterdon county web site:

"COUNTY CULVERTS H-50, H-51 and H-53 at County Road 627-Riegelsville-Milford Road located in the Township of Holland will be closed at the intersection of Spring Garden Road and 3/10 of a mile from Bridge Street (Milford Borough).  County Road 627-Riegelsville-Milford Road will be Closed to All Traffic starting on June 4, 2012 for approximately 4-5 weeks.

The county bridge crew will be repairing Culverts H-50, H-51 and H-53 with pre-cast panels.

A detour will be posted."

being familiar with the area, i would follow the posted detour and resist any temptation to cross into PA and take sr 32, which is narrow, twisty in places and generally has no shoulder. the nj side is much nicer riding. this closed stretch is neat, but there are other neat parts.

Mid-Atlantic / Bull's Island Campground Closed for 2011
« on: October 07, 2011, 03:40:41 pm »
Unfortunately, the recent storms have forced an early closure of the campground at Bull's Island Recreation Area on the Atlantic Coast route about 7 miles north of Stockton, NJ. It would have normally closed for the season on October 31st.

The day use area, which is on higher ground and has bathrooms and water, remains open.  This is a fantastic place that I take a couple of three-day trips to every year. Let's hope it reopens on schedule next April.

Routes / OGRASM: Our Great Ride Around Southwest Montana
« on: July 12, 2011, 02:17:13 pm »
The rough cut of a slideshow from our recent (6/29-7/8) tour of southwest Montana (turn up the volume):

Flew into Missoula from Philaelphia and set out from the KOA the next Darby using the Old Darby Alternative. If you do this portion of the Trans Am route, I highly recommend the alternative for scenery and lack of traffic, and Red Barn Bicycles is worthy of a visit. The road surface presented no problems on 37c tires.  Continued on the Trans Am over Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Passes to Wisdom.  Continuing on the Trans Am, we picked up sandwiches to go in Jackson and then climbed Big Hole Pass, were the historical display area a short walk from the road made for a great lunch stop.  Near the bottom of the descent we turned left onto the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, which is on the GDMBR, ending up at Elkhorn Hot Springs when it turned out that nearby USFS Grasshopper Campground was closed. From there it was on to BLM Divide Bridge Campground along the Big Hole River.  We rolled into Twin Bridges on July 4th via the 20 mile unpaved Melrose Bench Road. Next stop Butte via Pipestone Pass, where we made an obligatory stop at Pork Chop John’s.  Then Philipsburg via Anaconda and Georgetown Lake. (The Inn at Phillipsburg, which is located across from a good grocery store and is a short walk from the center of town, has a nice area for tent campers, complete with shade, a clothes line, picnic tables and wooden lounge chairs, and the proprietor is awesome.)  The original plan from there was to ride the Skalkaho Highway back to Hamilton, but it was officially closed due to a washout.  AC staff member Casey, who we fortuitously met at Elkhorn, told us of an alternative to our planned detour through Drummond to Ekstrom’s Stage. It utilized the very scenic Rock Creek Road, which involved 30 miles of unpaved riding, just as much (if not less) dirt than we would have had on Skalkaho.  From Ekstrom’s Stage it was a short (but headwindy) 26 miles back to Missoula, where we were treated to ice cream at AC’s world headquarters.
The route (except for the areas in and immediately surrounding Butte) was as scenic as it was challenging.  Met several cyclists riding the Trans Am east to west, including a Scot who had made it all the way from VA to Lolo in about five weeks. In addition to the usual deer, we saw a mommy moose with her calf, two sandhill cranes, a couple dozen antelope, two snakes a bald eagle, and osprey or two and countless other species of birds. Send me a PM if you would like route and services specifics. With some modification of the daily distances, this loop can be done "credit card" style.

General Discussion / Shout Out to Twin Bridges Bike Camp
« on: July 11, 2011, 02:43:08 pm »
On July 4th, my partner and I had the pleasure of spending the night at the cyclist-only campground in Twin Bridges, MT.  It occupies a pretty spot along the Beaverhead River and is a three minute walk from the center of town.  A clean, hot shower and a clean bathroom.  The indoor shelter, which contains two picnic tables,  offered a welcome escape from the intense mosquitoes that are attributable to this year's abnormally wet winter and spring.  There is a large camp sink and a third picnic table outside.  There was even a BBQ grill, coals, lighter fluid and a can of Coleman Fuel.  You may sleep inside the shelter or pitch your tent on the surrounding grass.  About the facility, my partner remarked that it's "well proportioned."  Nothing is too small or too far away from anything else.

Not long after we arrived, the man who serves as the "caretaker" of the facilitiy stopped in to check on the place and to collect donations left by users. During our brief conversation, he explained that some of the town fathers still do not support the site because they feel cyclists do not spend much money.  (Next door there is a small motorist’s rest stop. A man came over from that stop, took himself a shower and left without leaving a donation.)  To counter that perception, he asked us to write in the sign-in book how much money we spent during our stay. (Usually, guests are asked to supply this information on a survey from, but the forms were out the day we were there.)  We went one step further and slipped a few store receipts into the box along with our donation.

Later in the evening we were joined by a solo cyclist riding to his home in St. Paul. MN and a German couple who was on the Trans Am east to west.  From looking at the guest book, they seem to be drawing a decent crowd.

Consider supporting this oasis if you have the opportunity to.  Twin Bridges has a fairly good-sized grocery store for a town of its size.  And while the restaurant portion of the Blue Anchor is closed (the bar side is still open), there are a couple of other eateries and coffee places in town along with a library.

Routes / McKenzie Pass Status
« on: June 17, 2011, 11:29:07 am »
Came across this:

The internal link says it looks like sometime in July before it will be fully open to vehciles.

Routes / Going to the Sun Road Status
« on: June 08, 2011, 07:57:30 am »
An amazing photo taken a few days ago which should give you an idea of how much work they have ahead of them:

Routes / For Those Planning N. Tier West to East
« on: April 20, 2011, 10:55:51 am »
While WADOT won't make a prediction right now, it sounds like there is a good chance SR 20 through the North Cascades won't be open for at least another six weeks.

You can follow the progress and sign up for email updates here:

Plowing of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier N.P. has been hampered by recent snow storms.

Rocky Mountain / Wise River to Butte?
« on: November 13, 2009, 01:33:36 pm »
This worked so well the last time I thought I would try it again.

Looking for a decent route from Wise River, MT to Butte, MT.  I have mapped out MT 43 to the I-15 frontage road to either Exit 111 or 116 of I-15 then I-15 to Exit 119, then German Gulch to Silverbow to Nissler to Grizzly Trail towards the center of town.  About 40 milesw total to the Butte KOA.  Wondering whether there is an alternative that might be more scenic than I-15.  Can't seem to find through roads using Google Maps.

Rocky Mountain / Skalkaho Pass Advice
« on: October 29, 2009, 10:54:33 am »
Would like to hear from anyone who has ridden Skalkaho Highway between Philipsburg and Hamilton, MT.  I am particularly interested in road conditions.  Using Google Street View, it's diffiuclt to tell whether the road is paved, and there is a gap in coverage that includes the pass.  I am also interested in when the road usually becomes passable.  I am hoping to use it as part of a trip that I would like to do in mid to late June.

Thanks in advance.

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