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Messages - whitebirch

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Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: Today at 10:11:19 pm »
Hi Jamawani,

Thanks for the very thoughtful reply!  Much appreciated.  You've got us thinking once again about a southern start.  We would all carry dog spray, for sure.  But I'm just not confident my daughter could have the presence of mind to control her bike and aim the spray and make it all work.  Or even my wife or me, for that matter!  And even if nothing bad happened, one post I read really stuck with me, where a solo woman stopped her trip because she was sick of riding in fear all day.  I know that's not the typical traveler, but it's not all that out-of-the ordinary, either.  We had a Warmshowers guy from Italy stay with us in Maine last summer after he did a W to E cross country ride.  He reached Missouri and then Kentuck, I think, and got so unnerved by the dogs that he hopped on a bus and rode north to Ohio to continue his ride.  And he seemed like a normal, enthusiastic guy, not particularly prone to overblown worries.  So all I'm saying is, we'd probably be able to handle the southern dogs ok, but I've seen enough anecdotal evidence to conclude that the dog problems can really dominate a trip.  And we already have the grandparents worrying about us taking our daughter on this kind of trip, that throwing in the dog thing just might tip everyone over the edge!

As for overall route:  Don't worry, I wouldn't miss Nebraska.  Actually, you're probably the one to convince me to go that way instead of across Kansas.  If we have to skip a section, I was thinking maybe southern Indiana and/or Illinois.  Southern Indiana sounds real nice, but southern Illinois sounds a bit ho hum, no offense to anyone who's from there.  Or maybe we don't skip anything and we just see how far we get, and if we only make it to Missoula or Idaho, then that's ok.  Or maybe you're absolutely right and we won't have any trouble making it all the way.  We do plan to finish in Seattle, although if we're ahead of schedule perhaps we'd make it to the Olympic Peninsula or the San Juan Islands.

Since our initial thinking when I posted last spring, we've decided to take on more hills/mountains where it makes sense.  For example, we'll probably  take Rte 20/12 across the Niobrara Valley to Crawford, then head up through Black Hills, which sound way too fun to miss!  Then across the Bighorns, if we're doing ok with the hills by then.  The middle route across Wyoming (fr Lusk and beyond) just sounded way too uneventful.

Thanks again for all the thoughts and ideas!


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: Today at 06:47:46 pm »
Also keep in mind that if the forecast pans out 2017 is going to be much wetter than normal across the north. Soaking in places. Therefore why a lot of people are doing XC rides in 2016.

Hi PacificNorthwestRider92 -- What you're saying about rainfall in 2017 is interesting, but I'm very skeptical.  I don't know of any scientific systems that can accurately predict weather and climate over a year away.  The National Weather Service does provide predictions of general precipitation and weather trends for three-month periods (see here: - and they only go up to Jan-Feb of 2017), but my understanding is that these are not very reliable so far out.

Can you let us know what source(s) you're relying on?  As I said, I'm skeptical. But maybe you know of some credible source that I've never heard of.



Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 28, 2015, 09:53:15 pm »
Rob -

Have you considered starting some place like Sapelo Island, Georgia? (Or Jekyll Island)
Then head across southern Georgia and southern Alabama - many civil rights sites.
Then grab the Underground RR ACA route -
Then working your way northwest up to St. Louie?
At 25 miles per day with every 5th day off - it would take about 9 weeks.
Not to mention lovely azaleas and dogwoods - and very few climbs.

Hi jamawani,

Yes, I have thought about starting in the south, and it's very tempting.  I took a hard look at starting on the Southern Tier in St. Augustine and heading west until we hit the Underground Rail Road Route.  I'd love the Civil War and Civil Rights stuff, the nice southern spring.  Azaleas and dogwoods sound absolutely lovely!

Honestly, what keeps steering me away are the dogs.  I've heard from too many people and read too many blogs about how biking in the south can be a harrowing experience.  If it were just me, or just my wife and me, I think we would go for it.  But with our then-10 year-old daughter along (who is small for her age), it just seems too scary.  Once or twice I've thought to myself, "maybe I'm over-reacting."  But then I'll go read some blogs about trips through the south and it really does seem like a considerable number of them are dominated by negative dog encounters.  And they're not even biking with kids.

I think our mid-Atlantic start in March would be very much weather dependent.  If it were a cold winter, we might wait a few weeks for things to warm up.  Or we might make 10 miles a day for a time, instead of 25.  If the towpath is a mess, then we'd try for side roads (I know, they're hilly!), or wait a few weeks for it to dry out.  All of this might mean we have to catch a bus across part of the midwest to make up time.  But it still seems to me like a better option than running the gauntlet of the dogs through the south. 

So...  what say you?  Am I too fixated on the dogs?  Should I take another look at a southern start option?


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 25, 2015, 02:44:08 pm »
Thanks so much for this helpful information, jamawani! 

We would most likely be coming through in August, and I didn't realize just how desolate and blazing hot it can be in the southeastern corner of the state. 

The Highway 20 Route is tempting, but I'm not sure how much time we'll have by that point in our trip, and we're not the best hill climbers.

What do you think about cutting up to Spokane and going across Route 2 to Wilbur or Coulee City, and then dropping down to Ellensburg from there?  (We think we can get a ride across the bridge at Vantage.) Is Route 2 safe enough and nice enough for a family route? 

And do you know anything about Route 28 that cuts sw from Rte 2 at Davenport?  That looks nice on paper, but not sure if it's still too desolate and dry.  And I haven't checked to see about services in those small towns. 

Anyway, thanks again for weighing in already!


Routes / West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 24, 2015, 05:10:20 pm »
Hi everyone,

I'm planning an E-W cross-country ride with my wife and then 10-year old daughter in spring/summer 2017. Overall route is Delaware to Seattle. My daughter will be on her own bike, but can hook up to mine in high traffic or hilly areas.

We'll be going from DC to Pittsburgh on the C&O and GAP. From Pittsburgh, next major destination will be Holmes County, Ohio. Probably Millersburg, where we'll pick up the Ohio to Erie / Underground Railroad route heading towards Cincinatti.

So my question is, what's the best way out of Pittsburgh to the West, aiming for Holmes County? I think the obvious crossing of the Ohio River would be in Steubenville, not further down in Wheeling or further up in Lawrenceville / East Liverpool.

Here's how Google maps in bicycle mode sends us: Across the Allegheny to some bike trails, then across the West End Bridge and up Steuben St., to Rte 60 (Lincoln Highway) and then Rte 50 (Noblestown Rd) to the Panhandle Trail.

Is this the obvious best way? Or is it a Google Maps fail for any reason?

We're pretty comfortable with urban and suburban cycling, and I assume we'll have our daughter hooked up, at least until we reach the Panhandle Trail. But we don't like to take stupid risks, so if there's a better way, or ways, we'd love to hear from you.

Thanks in advance, and Happy Thanksgiving!


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 24, 2015, 05:08:51 pm »
Second request!  No one out there has any ideas?    I posted on the Bike Forums Pacific Northwest forum, but was curious whether people on this forum had any thoughts.

Thanks again!


Routes / Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 17, 2015, 07:09:19 pm »
Hi everyone,

November dreaming time!  I'm trying to fill in a few gaps on my E to W cross-country 2017 route.  Overall route is from Delaware to Seattle, taking lots of time for stops, as we'll have our 10-year old daughter with us. 

We're also trying to hit lots of trails.  So our route looks pretty set on taking the Coeur d' Alene Trail to Plummer.  And then we'd like to pick up the John Wayne Trail from Ellensburg heading east.

(I've looked at the North Idaho Centennial Trail and Spokane Centennial Trail, but that would mean missing the best part of the CDA Trail, right?  If anyone has great things to say about those first two trails over the western part of the CDA Trail, I'm willing to hear you out.)

My real question for all you route mavens is, what's the best route from Plummer to Ellensburg?  I've ruled out the John Wayne Trail through that area because it's widely considered to be mountain bike only. 

Here are three options generated by Google maps in bicycle mode, but the first choice uses a lot of the JWT:

We'd take a less direct but quieter route, but we'll probably only make 25-35 miles a day, so long stretches in the desert will be tough on us.  We can stock up and do one or two days without services, but nothing more than that, hopefully. 

I also don't know any of the parks, towns and cities in this area, so good destinations to know about would also be useful. 

Thanks for your help!


Routes / Re: Cross-US Trail-Based Route - Feedback Please!
« on: April 24, 2015, 12:02:35 pm »
Thanks for these ideas, Cheesehawk!  I was vaguely aware that there are lots of trails and good riding in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but it's great to see you link some of them up in this way. 

And it's helpful to have this in the back pocket if we get the urge to head north sooner.  I think we'll probably stay further south to do the Katy Trail and to follow more of the Missouri and L&C routes.  But who knows how it will all shake out.  On our last trip, we were quite clear that we weren't going to do the Cabot Trail because it was so hilly and we wouldn't have time.  But then as we got closer and were in a groove, we went for it and it was one of the best decisions of the trip. 


Routes / Re: Cross-US Trail-Based Route - Feedback Please!
« on: April 19, 2015, 09:55:37 pm »
Thanks for all the feedback and ideas, folks!

In no particular order:

Yes, we'll be picking up the Iron Horse Trail in Ellensburg, where it's supposed to be in better condition.

I like the idea of a side trip on the Hiawatha, and didn't know about the shuttle!  Too good to miss, indeed!

Hill after hill in northwest Missouri.  Hmmm.... Might have to rethink that.  The Wabash Trace Trail sounds great, but maybe it's not worth it if it means hitting tons of hills first.

I think I ruled out the Columbia River Gorge because of the headwinds and also because it sounds pretty busy.  Beautiful, but busy. 

I go back and forth about Yellowstone.  I've read all the pros and cons.  Ultimately I think it's too hard to pass it right by, especially with our daughter seeing it for the first time.  But we might do some hitchhiking to see the geysers, and not try to bike to everything.  And hopefully we can ride early and late to avoid the heaviest traffic.

I originally considered the Oregon Trail route, but the lure of the mountains and beauty in Montana and Idaho are proving too strong.  I also have family in Seattle, so that's a more natural endpoint for us. 

Thanks again to everyone who's posted so far.  I'd love to hear any other thoughts!


Routes / Re: Cross-US Trail-Based Route - Feedback Please!
« on: April 17, 2015, 01:20:14 pm »
Hi John,

Thanks for these ideas.  I hadn't really noticed the Kansas trail possibilities and I'm going to add it our list of possibilities.  That said, I like the idea of heading north from mid-Missouri, as that's the time when we'll be getting more into summer, and as I said before we are heat averse.  I've heard that on average Nebraska (especially northern Nebraska) is a few degrees cooler than Kansas and just as if not more scenic. 

And yes, I've been intrigued by the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska, but from everything I can tell it's still pretty rough going.  I suspect we'll want to make some miles through Nebraska and 20 itself won't be too crowded to bike safely.  Of course, we can always decide when we get there.

I've also given the Mickelson Trail some long looks, but ultimately I think we won't have time to head into the Black Hills and then cut west.  Primarily because then we'd have to cross Wyoming via what seems to be a much hillier route through the Bighorns. 

Thanks again for the ideas and the good wishes!


Routes / Re: Cross-US Trail-Based Route - Feedback Please!
« on: April 17, 2015, 11:28:18 am »
Whoa, thanks for the heads up on the Big Savage Tunnel, indyfabz!  My first thought was "Nooooooooooo!  The whole trip is ruined!"  Then I got off the floor, went on the googlewebs, and found out that it's only a 9-mile closed section with an 11-mile detour and a shuttle option.  That sounds very work-aroundable!  So the trip is back on!

Come on, what else you got to throw on me?  Is that the best you can do?    :)


Routes / Cross-US Trail-Based Route - Feedback Please!
« on: April 16, 2015, 10:18:04 pm »
Hi everyone!

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!


Hi Morgan,

I can give you advice on the Maine, NB, NS portions, as we did a trip this way 3years ago.  How about at the Pipeline Pilgrimage this weekend?  Yup, funny coincidence, it's Rob from Portland who you just offered a ride home!

This sounds like an amazing and important journey and I can't wait to hear more!

Talk soon,


Routes / Re: Northern Tier Extension?
« on: March 26, 2015, 11:09:02 pm »
Hi Jim,

In 2012, my family and I did a route along coast of Maine, into a corner of New Brunswick, up through Nova Scotia, and on to the west coast of Newfoundland.  We then came back through Quebec and Maine.  A great great route, if you ask me!  Journal here:

Youth Bicyle Travel / Re: tour with small children
« on: February 15, 2012, 09:58:56 am »
I'd say give it a try, but be flexible with how it all goes. 

We took our then-two-year-old on an overnight bike trip three years ago.  Not the greatest experience, but I'm glad we tried it.  She did much better at 3 and 4. 

I would suggest stopping every hour or so, not every two hours, and having very modest mileage goals. 

Also, food bribery is allowed on bike trips.  We've found that a granola bar or a bag of gorp (with M&M's of course!) or dried fruit can be an instant kill switch on fussiness!  Just keep plying them with treats, healthy and otherwise, and it'll keep things much more fun.  And marshmallows at the campsite are a must!

Rob Levin

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