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Try the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. From Plummer Idaho past Wallace to Mullan... over 70 miles one way, following the river and the lake... Flat, great scenery and nice places to stop, eat, and sight see. One of the premier rail trails in the USAYes, truly a gem. I took my wife on this and stayed in the hotel at Kellog that has the ski run starting at it. On day 2 we went up and back from Kellog to Mullen. I thought Wallace was one of the coolest western towns I've seen. Mullen---not so much.
Traffic seems to pick up quite a bit south of San Francisco. Some of the people I met along the way seemed to have hostile attitudes. The ride was fantastic. The people sucked in general, but some were fine.
For paved roads, the east and midwest have the western states beat. There are numerous county and state paved roads connecting all of the small towns in the east and midwest. All of the farm towns up and down every river. The west does not have many towns. And the few roads connecting the few towns are main, highly traveled roads. The west does have the advantage of every paved road being a scenic road through the mountains.
Would (or did?) he prefer backpacking or bike touring? It is curious to ponder that many great physicists and mathematicians love to walk.