I'm new to the forum and new to bike touring-- though I have been a bike mechanic with Nice Ride Minnesota and a commuter/alleycat racer for some time-- and I have an urgent question:
I'm planning to snowbird from Minneapolis and do my first bike tour down on the Southern Tier route this winter (as in, starting in less than a month), but I can't for the life of me figure out how to get somewhere warm enough to start from. We just had our first (albiet briefly) lingering snowfall here for the season, and the temperatures are regularly dipping below freezing now, so I don't feel confident about riding out of town on my bike in a couple weeks.
I was initially planning to take Amtrak to the Southeast and start down in Jacksonville by the East end of the Southern Tier route, but despite the low price of the train fare, I'm not sure it will work; it seems taking a bike (much less a touring bike and a set of large panniers) on Amtrak is quite difficult. I'm not shy about assembly and disassembly of bikes, but I'm a little leery of stripping parts off to fit my baby in a cardboard box and having to partially reassemble her upon arrival in a strange city. I also don't know how I would manage to bring my panniers aboard; they're a full set of "kitty litter" box panniers, and are quite bulky even when empty. I had considered removing the mounting hardware and stacking them together and packing their contents into a large duffel bag, but again that sounds like a huge hassle to deal with upon arrival in Florida.
If anyone has either any advice on taking Amtrak with a loaded bike, or on alternate means of transportation-- ride-sharing websites, car rental feasibility, et cetera-- I'd really appreciate it.