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Messages - indyfabz

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General Discussion / Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« on: July 24, 2015, 12:07:07 pm »
Well, North Dakota isn't the most exciting place to ride. But if you want to tick off coast-to-coast, I suppose you better continue where you left off. Once you get to Minnesota, the riding will get better.

Heh. Yeah. ND can be quaint in many ways, but it's definitely not exciting unless you consider something like visiting the birthplace of Lawrence Welk exciting. MN was definitely more interesting.

OP: I believe that the NT route has changed since you last did it six year ago due to the danger posed by oil-related traffic. It now enters ND south of where it used to. If you want to continue on, maybe go all the way to the Davenport, IA area. That looks to be about 1,200 miles from the western border of ND.

Routes / Re: Missoula, Mt. to Bear Tooth Hwy.
« on: July 24, 2015, 11:51:25 am »
While I certainly defer to the experts, if you don't mind some "dirt" you could head east from Missoula to Rock Creek Rd. Not sure if there are through frontage roads all the way. We rode I-90 for about 3 miles from the start/end of Rock Creek Rd. to Clinton. Take Rock Creek for about 40 miles and hang a left towards Phillipsburg. From there, take MT 1 to Anaconda. Crackerville Rd. will take you to an I-90 interchange (No. 211), but you can follow frontage roads (Bossard, crossing under I-90 to Wild Horse Meadow and then Nissler, some portions are unpaved) all the way to a trail that takes you into the center of Butte. From Butte you can take Continental Drive to MT 2 over Pipestone Pass (not as hard going west to east) and continue east to Whitehall, which would hook you up with the L&C route. There is camping along Rock Creek, in Phillipsburg, Georgetown Lake, Anaconda and Butte.

Subsequently made this:

I have ridden all the roads at least once (some of them twice) in the opposite direction except the miles between 157 and the end. The on-line map does not show a through frontage road between Clinton and Rock Creek, but maybe it's wrong. IIRC, the forst 10 miles of Rock Creek are paved then it turns to dirt until you cross the creek for the second time and make the climb over the ridge to Phillipsburg, where there is a nice motel/campground on W. Broadway just of MT 1. Grocery store across the street and a short walk into the center of town. In Butte the route takes you by the Hotel Finlen. It's a nice place to stay if you want to stop in town for the night. A room in the kitchy motor lodge portion won't break the bank. Get a first floor room and roll your bikes in. There is a KOA in town, but it didn't look nice and it's right next to the interstate on Kaw Ave. As you can see, Pipestone Pass is very gradual. The descent should be fun. I had a head wind both times I climbed it in the opposite direction. The shoulder is somewhat small but the traffic was minimal. Heading east, I suspect it might be busiest in the late afternoon/evening with people leaving Butte.

Let me know if you would like more details.

Routes / Re: Northern Tier - Whitefish to Libby, Montana via Rt 2?
« on: July 23, 2015, 09:14:52 am »
We did not experience much traffic on U.S. 93 between Whitefish and Fortine, but perhaps that was due to the time of year. We started the Waterton-Glacier loop in mid-June of 2009. I would guess that recreational traffic picks up as the season progresses.

OP: If you opt not to ride U.S. 2, I recommend sticking to the official route rather than simply staying on U.S. 93 to Eureka. The portions off U.S. 93 are pretty (especially the portion between Fortine and Eureka) and should give you a break from any traffic on the highway. If you need food and/or water, the store slightly off route in Olney is worth a stop. It has a cool old collection of pop/soda bottles. And the Conoco in Fortine was amusing. There was a bar/casino in the back. There is a door leading to it near the bathrooms of the c-store. Opening it was like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy first opens the door after landing in Munchkin Land, only in reverse.

Routes / Re: Summit to NYC via GW Bridge
« on: July 21, 2015, 08:16:42 am »
There is a bicycle directions option on Google Maps. For some reason, the new version hides it. Next to the pedestrian icon you should see three dots. Put your cursor on that and the bicycle icon should appear.

My advice wasn't based on speed. It was based on the fact that that area has heavy traffic congestion and is not particularly scenic. And all the commercial development on many of the roads makes you susceptible to the right hook, which NJ drivers have perfected beyond any I have encountered. I commuted in NJ for years. I can't tell you the number of times people sped past me only to turn in front of me a few seconds later to get to a Dunkin' Donuts or a gas station.

Google gives a couple of alternative bike routes, one of which goes through downtown Union and Newark. If you follow one of them, I would definitely not pick that one.

Here is route we use to the 14th St. ferry dock in Hoboken:

As noted, it is circuitous. It was designed to pass through points of interest like the 633+ year old oak tree in Basking Ridge and the Great Swamp. IIRC, the route intersects the ACA route in the Raritan/Somerville area, maybe in the vicinity of U.S. 206 and NJ 28.

Good luck.

Routes / Re: Northern Tier - Whitefish to Libby, Montana via Rt 2?
« on: July 21, 2015, 07:48:25 am »
Haven't ridden it, but I will say that you would be missing a beautiful stretch of the route in that area--MT 37 along the east shore of Lake Koocanusa.

Routes / Re: Summit to NYC via GW Bridge
« on: July 20, 2015, 11:36:10 am »
In case you already read my post, I wanted to clarify that there is ferry service between Hoboken and Manhattan during the week. I believe weekday service sails from the NJ Transit train station in the center of town, and there are several destinations, including at least one closer to the Brooklyn Bridge access. The station is a beautifully restored building originally constructed in 1934. If you were to sail to the World Financial Center you would be close to the 9/11 memorial. There is a lot of construction going on in that area, but if your ride is planned for next year things should be much, much better by then.

Here is a map of the ferry service across the Hudson:

Didn't we exchange ideas on this a while back? Taking the UGRR route to PA Route V at Bessemer to the Atlantic Coast route?

Routes / Re: Summit to NYC via GW Bridge
« on: July 20, 2015, 10:20:14 am »
As noted, the only way you can actually ride a bike into Manhattan from the direction is via the GW Bridge from Fort Lee, NJ.

Hopefully someone who can recommend a route up there will chime in, but having ridden from New Hope/Lambertville (on the Atlantic Coast route) to Brooklyn 15 times I recommend the ferry from somewhere like Jersey City or Hoboken. (IIRC, on the weekends the only ferry service in that area is from the 14th Street dock in Hoboken to the Midtown dock in Manhattan. BTW...Those ferries do not accommodate cars.) 14th St. to Midtown is a fun, pretty ride of about a 15 min. that lets you off recreation path along the Hudson River Greenway. You take that south to Warren Street, make a left take Warren to City Hall Park, cut through the park on the path and you are at the foot of the bike/pedestrian path that goes above the Brooklyn Bridge. IMO, that is a Champs Élysées moment. S. Portland Ave. is not that far from the Brooklyn side of the bridge.

To get to Fort Lee from Summit you are going to have to cross the Hackensack River, and there are not too many ways to do that by bike. While I know it's not the definitive word, Google Maps routes one through Newark. NJ is the most densely populated state in the nation. Newark is the most densely populated part of NJ. I certainly would not want to ride through that area on a weekday. Probably not even on a weekend to avoid a ferry ride.

I can give you a route from the Summit area to Jersey City that goes north to Hoboken for the ferry. It's the route my local club uses for its annual ride to Brooklyn. It passes through some of the towns ACA's route does, but it is, by design, more meandering. The only problem with it is that it goes through the Port of Elizabeth & Newark. Getting into the port area and riding through it on a weekday would be extremely unpleasant and very risky to your well being due to the amount of truck and other traffic. Our ride is the Sunday before Labor Day, when the port is empty. It ends at the Nu Hotel at 84 Smith St. in Downtown Brooklyn. That's not even a mile from S. Portland. If you want a nice place to stay when you get there, the Nu Hotel is a funky, Euro-style hotel that will allow you to bring your bike in the room. Just be prepared to cough up more than $260 for a room (including tax), which is actually quite reasonable for that area. A night walk out to the promenade is, of course, a must. Once of the greatest urban views in the world. You can even see Lady Liberty off in the distance.

I once did the entire Northern Tier. Mandatory ferry crossing between Ticonderoga, NY and VT. I don't feel like I cheated.

I wondered if there is much savings by doing my own cooking when you have to shop in small markets and buy small amounts of everything and so on?

While that can be an issue at times, I think you can save more in the end by cooking yourself. More importantly, you have more flexibility to satisfy your dietary wants/needs. Last month I did my first tour of more than 3 days where I did not take cooking gear. My body runs best on a carb-based diet. I usually cook pasta every night. That need was difficult to meet in South Dakota. Most restaurants had a lot of meat and fried foods. I always carry an emergency supply of pasta with me. Even that, some olive oil, fresh garlic and a can of white beans would have been preferable to another burger.

General Discussion / Re: 12 days - NY to Norfolk
« on: July 17, 2015, 09:17:13 am »
Hotels along that part of the east coast are going to be relatively expensive. $70/night and up, at least.

And a word of warning: The Pope is coming to Philadelphia on/around September 25th in connection with some huge "convention" (the meeting of world families or something like that) and will be hanging around for the weekend. (I believe he will be visiting New York earlier that week.) Up to 2 million visitors are expected, which is a lot considering that population of the city is only about 1.4 million. Don't count on finding a room in Philadelphia or anywhere in the area that week. When the Pope's visit was announced rooms started filling up as far away as Newark, Delaware. I live about 5 blocks from where he will be saying an outdoor mass on September 27th. We are planning to leave town that week and return the following Monday.

Labor Day is September 7 this year. It's a big holiday weekend. Expect high occupancy rates during the week leading up to the holiday.

Finally, how do you plan to get out of New York? It's not an easy place to ride your bike out of if you are heading west or south. You might want to look at taking some form of public transportation such as a ferry or train.

Another male here, but I have toured with my female partner. Like me, she tried to wash her shorts every night. Like me, she carried a second pair in the event conditions were not good for drying and riding in wet/damp shorts the next day might have been a bit uncomfortable (e.g., cold temsp). I also crossed the country many years ago with a group that included five women. They did the same. I wouldn't sweat the few extra ounces.

Wash (I usually combine washing with my shower, assuming I have one) ASAP after the end of the day's ride to allow as much time for drying as possible.

Routes / Re: Ochco Divide Campground on Trans-Am (Oregon)
« on: July 16, 2015, 09:33:03 am »
The web site says you can make reservations. Maybe call Reserve America at 1-877-444-6777, at least for the fee question.

At the risk of sounding like a Sally Struthers plea for donations, if you save $5 a day--the price of a cup of coffee at some locations--from now until June of next year you should be able to purchase the bike and gear suitable for self-contained trips.

And having done tours where I have gotten hotel rooms and eaten out on occasion I can tell you those costs can add up quickly, even in small towns. For example, back in '11 the GF and I got a room at the cheaper of the two places in Wisdom, MT, a small town on the TA route. With tax it was around $50/night. We could have camped for free. Also on the TA route: Jackson Hot Springs, 18 miles down the road, will cost you over $130/night for a cabin. Mountain Spirit Inn in Darby, MT will cost you about $80/night. Stayed at a cheap place in Hamilton, MT last year and paid about $63/night including tax. Dillon, MT looks to be even pricier. I recently got back from the Black Hills of SD. The one motel in the nowhere town of Edgemont wants $60/night plus tax. Camping at the municipal campground, with showers, was $10/night. I could have camped at the fairgrounds for free. If you spend even $20 more/night because you are staying in motels vs. camping, you are talking an additional $1,600 for an 80 day trip. (Unless you do a lot Warm Showers and Couch Surfing, I think that $20 figure is very conservative.)  Again, shopping smartly, you could probably outfit yourself for the trip for that amount, if not less.

Then there is the issue of reservations.  Many places are small and can fill up, especially during high season.

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.

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