Author Topic: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?  (Read 4816 times)

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Offline sspeed

Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« on: October 13, 2012, 01:02:44 pm »
In the spring I plan to take about two weeks to go from Denver, CO to NW Iowa.

I'm considering two options:

1) Map my own route NE across Colorado and Nebraska using Google bike routes and state biking info, about 600 or miles.

2) Denver, CO to Ordway, CO, pick up TransAmerica route, ride that 2/3 of the way across Kansas, then snake NE up to Lewis and Clark trail and follow that to NW Iowa.  Definitely longer route, but maybe better amenities?

Still deciding which way is best, obviously following the Adventure Cycling routes for part of it would be easier to find food and camping, it's also quite a bit more out of the way and may be more than two weeks can handle.

Any thoughts?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2012, 02:09:45 pm »
I have found Google bicycle directions good for getting you to the grocery store, but not good for getting you to Iowa. Instead, Google driving directions with the "avoid highways" option usually produces an acceptable bicycling route.

Since you didn't say where in NW Iowa, let me just arbitrarily presume that you want to go to Le Mars. Google driving directions without the avoid highways option shows 620 miles. With the avoid highways option adds only 4 miles and seems to be a reasonable route.

The route piecing together the TA and L&C would add almost 400 miles and would not, in my opinion, be that much better of a route. The ACA service directory, however, would find you a lot of free places to camp.

Two weeks is very generous for the shorter route, and doable but tight on the longer route.

Since you only have two weeks, I'd suggest you take the shorter route so you have more time to smell the roses, see the sights, talk to locals, deal with breakdowns, etc. It depends in part on whether you enjoy the actual riding the best, or whether you enjoy all the other parts of the experience the best.

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2012, 03:38:49 pm »
Thank you for that feedback!

The route you mention is the route I am leaning towards.  I considered the Adventure Cycling route for two reason, first was the ease of finding food and camping vs going out looking for it.  That gives a bit of peace of mind on a first major trip.

The second was, being on the TransAm route, there's a better chance of running in to other cyclists, which can be a real mind-saver sometimes.  On the other hand, it could be super annoying as well depending on who you run in to..

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2013, 03:55:21 pm »
Thanks John,

I'm looking at this again today... Avoid Highways with Google Maps puts me on what look to possibly be some very busy roads, such as Hwy 30 across Nebraska, Hwy 75 in Iowa (which I know is a 4 lane 65mph road).  I wonder if they've change avoid highways to just mean avoiding interstates?

I went back to their bike routes, it suggests the "Cowboy Trail"... It looks like it could be promising as I've heard that mentioned elsewhere, but I also see it going on what I know are gravel roads, which I'd like to avoid.

I think I'm thinking way too much about my possible route... :)

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2013, 04:41:30 pm »
After reading up some more, looks like the Cowboy Trail is terrible and poorly maintained.  Looking at other options still.

Offline JMilyko

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2013, 09:30:37 am »
sspeed,

You might find it helpful to see what information the bicycle/pedestrian coordinators for these states have available:

http://www.walkinginfo.org/assistance/contacts.cfm

Best,
.Jennifer.
*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Jennifer H. Milyko
Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2013, 11:23:30 am »
That's a great link Jennifer, thank you!

Offline JMilyko

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2013, 03:05:15 pm »
You bet! Be sure to write back when you return and let us know how it goes for you.

Best,
.Jennifer.
*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Jennifer H. Milyko
Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline jamawani

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2013, 10:38:19 pm »
Sspeed - Nebraska has some of the finest touring in the Great Plains.  I have traversed the state many times - including on my very first cross-country trip.  I think crossing Nebraska is way more scenic than Hwy 96 in Kansas.  That said, spring is a very stormy time - not to mention there's a big difference between early spring and late spring.

Anyhoo, leaving from Denver is rather tricky.  There is no longer a good back road from Denver to Fort Morgan.  I-76 was built in many places right over US 6.  Sometimes there is a butt-ugly service road right up against the interstate - other times you have to ride on the interstate - legal but not pretty.  I suggest hopping on a shuttle bus and riding from Fort Collins east on Hwy 14.  Way nicer.

From Sterling, you can follow the South Platte valley up to Julesburg on the old road - US 138 - almost no traffic.

Nebraska presents a number of opportunities depending on your preferences.  US 30 follows the Platte Valley and has moderate-plus traffic, but good shoulders for the most part and lots of towns with services.  But, but, but - - Hwy 92 from Arthur to Broken Bow runs thru the Sandhills - an area where the land has never been plowed for farming.  There is almost no traffic and you can see what the Great Plains looked like 200 years ago.

From Broken Bow you can continue eastwards on Hwy 92 (I'm assuming you will see the advantages of choice #2 above) towards Omaha with increasing traffic.  Or you can continue northeast on Round Valley Road to Sargent.  Then head east on Hwy 91 and zig northeast thru Norfolk and Wayne, a college town.

Here is a traffic volume map of Nebraska -
http://www.nebraskatransportation.org/maps/Statewide%20Traffic%20Flow%20Maps/2010-Statewide-Traffic-Flow-Map.pdf

Which I think is better than their Bike Map -
http://www.transportation.nebraska.gov/docs/bicycle-guide-current-2.pdf

Small towns in Nebraska are usually very generous to cyclists - letting them camp in town parks when they don't already have a small campground.  By all means, explore Nebraska.

Best - J

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2013, 12:48:21 pm »
Thank you Jamawani!  That is excellent feedback!

Take a look at this map:

https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=8900+E+Girard+Ave,+Denver,+CO&daddr=Yuma,+CO+to:Arthur,+NE+to:Broken+Bow,+NE+to:Sargent,+NE+to:Yankton,+SD+to:Hull,+IA&hl=en&ll=41.418015,-100.50293&spn=7.32261,14.27124&sll=41.885921,-98.85498&sspn=7.269751,14.27124&geocode=FagRXQId86K_-Slh_yPNmYdshzG7B4rgoiEcxw%3BFWA3ZAIdpong-Snj828ueaJzhzGedW1sgr5nMA%3BFUZVegIdU0_w-Sl5_0A_7hV3hzHr-QA6Wh1Wwg%3BFbu9dwIdeJgP-inzdT8zhluchzFx1IYQKbKzuw%3BFXJiewIdMLcT-ikX0HxNYY-chzFruqYqDMRy2Q%3BFUUpjgId39Ux-ilRw2-uCKGPhzETxHG087Mx7g%3BFXABkwId_x1F-inTYHCXlTmMhzFB5sy2sP4p-g&dirflg=b&mra=ls&t=m&z=7&lci=bike


What if I head out of Denver on the mentioned county roads towards Yuma, CO?  An alternative might be US 36 to Bennett and Last Chance.  I've been on that road before and it's very sparse traffic, although that puts me a little south....

Frum Yuma, go up towards Arthur, NE and do the Broken Bow, NE sand hills route you mentioned.

Connect that to Sargent, NE and Yankton, SD because otherwise it's trying to send me through Sioux City (no way).  Once to Iowa I know the roads there and that looks ok...

The only unknown here is if any of the roads mentioned are gravel, don't really want that...  The jump up to the sandhills adds some mileage, but it seems worth it.


Offline John Nelson

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2013, 02:09:18 pm »
A lot of that route Google gave you is not paved, some of it is "Authorized Vehicles Only" roads, some of it is on rough hiking trails and some is on private property. If you're okay with that, then fine, but it's just one of the reasons I'm not very fond of Google bicycling directions. I try to say on mostly paved roads.

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2013, 02:16:14 pm »
Thanks John, I suspected that.   I was going to go over the route with the printed state maps and refine it out... I was using Google mostly just for the general outline.  Do you use a better program that would allow me to map it out nicely using the suggestions in this thread?  I'd found one at one time, but can't think of what it was for the life of me now...

EDIT: The program I'd found was "Tyre", but I don't know if that is a great one or not, it's just one I found.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2013, 02:22:58 pm by sspeed »

Offline jamawani

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2013, 07:29:05 pm »

Google bike mapping is worthless.
Try ridewithgps.com - better than mapmyride.

Outside of eastern Nebraska there are very few paved roads that don't show up as such on the state highway map.  Most are state highways that have traffic counts on the traffic map.  Are you O.K. with maps?
Even the best programs leave much to be desired - use a map - on line or in paper form.

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2013, 11:56:11 am »
Thanks, I ordered the paper maps from Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.   I tried printing what they had on their site, but it was awful tiny and I was constantly scrolling on my screen trying to look at it online.

What I planned to do was get a general route from the suggestions.  Look at it on the printed maps and then put it in to Tyre.  Tyre is like Google Maps in that it let's you drag and change routes, etc.  It also will export a GPX file which I could upload as a route to my Garmin Edge.  It also lets me share the GPX file in case I want to send it to anyone for a sanity check.

Oh, planned date is probably end of June.

Offline sspeed

Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2013, 11:51:32 pm »
Thanks for everyone's help so far.  Since last post I ordered all paper bicycle maps from Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.  I then went through the paper maps, with suggestions from everyone, and loaded my tentative map based on traffic volumes and shoulders up in to the Tyre software, which I then pushed the GPX to Google Maps.

My resulting route is here:

http://www.motate.org/scottdeleeuw/trip/trip.php

It encompasses most of the suggestions given in this post, however I'm unsure about some sections.  Please take a look and give me feedback if you have a moment or two.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 04:08:35 pm by sspeed »