Author Topic: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".  (Read 2280 times)

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Offline Bicycle Rider

Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« on: July 28, 2011, 02:20:27 pm »
This is my first post here, so please excuse me if I inadvertently step on any "A.C.A. Forum specific" rules of etiquette. :-[

I am in the primary stages of planning a double cross country bike trip. It will be a combination of camp & motel, all self contained (I will post in the companions wanted section when I have a planned route). My intention is to start in late February or early March 2013, (Mayan calenders permitting ;) ). The itinerary so far is as follows: I want to start from my home just north of Columbia, SC, travel along "a southern route" so I can make a stop at my daughter's house just north on Dallas TX. I will be ending my western leg at my brother's house in L.A. From there I will ride north up to Paso Robles in time for the Great Western Bicycle Rally (Memorial Day weekend), then back home accessing the "Classic" Trans America trail via the Western Express route. The second half is easy, as the routes are almost completely mapped already. It is the Southern outbound route however that is causing me problems.

Originally I figured the Southern Tier would be the way out, however upon looking at it I see it goes completely out of my way. It is way too far south, also the Classic route is too far north. In fact if it weren't for the Underground Railroad route the entire Southeast would be barren of A.C.A. routes. It is almost as if A.C.A. is purposely trying to avoid this entire part of the country, preferring to go around rather than through it. Now back in 1982 I drove from San Diego to Dallas via U.S. 380, which was a nice quiet road, but rather barren as far as places to stay. At least on a bicycle, and of course that was almost thirty years ago. goodness knows what it is like now.

So, after my long overly winded explanation, here is my question: Does anyone know of a safe, scenic, self-contained-bicycle-tourist-friendly route through the center of the Dixie states? Mapping programs (I have DeLorme's TopoUSA 8.0 on my computer) show where roads go, but really nothing about them. I have browsed this forum all the way back to January this year and found nothing relevant to my needs.

Please help. ??? :'(
« Last Edit: July 28, 2011, 02:30:48 pm by Bicycle Rider »
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline litespeed

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2011, 10:03:54 am »
Columbia SC to Dallas TX is a tough one. The most direct route is right across northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, southern Arkansas and eastern Texas. Lots of bad roads and bad food (but plenty of nice, courteous people). The main roads in this area tend to have no shoulders, gravel shoulders or small shoulders full of rumble strips. Back roads would be much less trafficked but require a lot of careful planning and good maps. You would also have to skirt the huge Atlanta area if, like me, you avoid major cities.

If you could make your way to just south of Nashville you could ride the Natchez Trace (A ride on my to-do list) to Natchez MS. This would be a somewhat zigzag route but would make about 1/3 of your trip to Dallas very pleasant. I believe the Southern Tier goes through or near Natchez.

A little trick I often use is to follow highways that parallel interstates. They are usually lightly trafficked and have plenty of services.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 12:02:57 pm by litespeed »

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2011, 05:01:29 pm »
Columbia SC to Dallas TX is a tough one. The most direct route is right across northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, southern Arkansas and eastern Texas. Lots of bad roads and bad food (but plenty of nice, courteous people). The main roads in this area tend to have no shoulders, gravel shoulders or small shoulders full of rumble strips. Back roads would be much less trafficked but require a lot of careful planning and good maps. You would also have to skirt the huge Atlanta area if, like me, you avoid major cities.

IOW, you're saying the rest of The South is just like the Carolinas? ;D   Here's what I've learned in the past ten years:

  • There are two types of pavement (if you don't count "crush and run" as pavement, that is): Asphalt and "chip and tar", which is basically gravel laid on top of tar which holds it together. I'm on an expedition type touring bike; long wheelbase, triple cranks, real low gears and touring tires. So these are usable, if not preferable.
  • "...no shoulders, gravel shoulders or small shoulders full of rumble strips" is irrelevant, because the drivers all go around you. And I mean really around you, into opposing lanes if necessary, or wait until it's blatantly obviously safe to do so. All without horns. Probably because there are no shoulders. Roads with shoulders they tend to just whiz by, just like in the cities.
  • Smaller "cities", meaning those with populations less than 100,000 are pretty much the same, and make pleasant POIs/stopping points.
  • There are a lot of state highways which most city dwellers would probably consider "back roads", and are very pleasant to ride, as long as traffic isn't too heavy (see previous item on shoulders).
  • The quality of the food is a matter of personal taste. And fast food is everywhere  ;)

These "back roads" would be my preferred route, actually. I would prefer avoiding really large cities (like Atlanta) whenever possible, as long as there are places to resupply and sleep. Camping is preferred, but I would like to use a motel at least once and a while. National Forest campgrounds are probably my best bet if the Carolinas are any indication, as I'm on a bicycle carrying a tent, not one of those Rolling Waldorf Astorias the "posers" in these parts call "campers".
 

If you could make your way to just south of Nashville you could ride the Natchez Trace (A ride on my to-do list) to Natchez MS. This would be a somewhat zigzag route but would make about 1/3 of your trip to Dallas very pleasant. I believe the Southern Tier goes through or near Natchez.

A little trick I often use is to follow highways that parallel interstates. They are usually lightly trafficked and have plenty of services.

Where is the Natches Trace (it's not a mountain bike trail is it)? I don't see anything on the ACA route diagrams in the South except the Underground Railroad Route, which is north/south. Naturally, I don't expect any one person to know how to get all the way across, which is why I am asking so early. But a bunch of pieces that can be linked together (or at least warnings of routes to be avoided) maybe I can put together into something enjoyable. As I noted earlier, I have the entire US available down to a scale of 1 inch = 500 feet. But no details about the "roads" themselves.

Edit: I found the natchez trail, and at first glance it does look good all the way from Nashville area to the Jackson mississippi area, which is directly east of dallas/FW area. So I have a feasable route to the middle of Mississippi, at least.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 05:29:44 pm by Bicycle Rider »
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline litespeed

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2011, 05:38:59 pm »
The Natchez Trace is a scenic parkway going from just south of Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. A good guidebook is the "Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway' by F. Lynne Bachleda. For bicyclists there is Glen Wanner's "Bicycling the Natchez Trace: A Guide to the Natchez Parkway and Nearby Scenic Routes". Also the national Park Service offers a packet of materials for bicyclists on The Trace.

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2011, 02:59:41 pm »
The Natchez Trace is a scenic parkway going from just south of Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. A good guidebook is the "Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway' by F. Lynne Bachleda. For bicyclists there is Glen Wanner's "Bicycling the Natchez Trace: A Guide to the Natchez Parkway and Nearby Scenic Routes". Also the national Park Service offers a packet of materials for bicyclists on The Trace.

There are also web pages, some of which have maps and updates, probably more reliable than an unchangable book. Although I will check it out as well. I know good roads to get up to the Asheville area at least, and from there US 70 meanders more or less the same corridor I-40, so it should be a good choice; most of the traffic taking the faster interstate, yet still "populated". However it does require me to climb across the Blue Ridge very early in my tour (I'm starting end of February start of March), weather and my own lack of conditioning so early in the year may make this a rather tough start. I would still prefer to travel around "under" (south) of the mountains, through Georgia and Alabama if I can.

BTW, anyone know what US 380 is like these days as far as bicycle touring (supplies, motels and campgrounds) is concerned? It was a nice drive when I took it eastward back in 1982, and it goes almost all the way from Denton to San Antonio NM, and from there it's just a short hop up to old US 66. Hopefully there will be a useable bike route in place by then.
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2011, 03:58:29 pm »
I know good roads to get up to the Asheville area at least, and from there US 70 meanders more or less the same corridor I-40, so it should be a good choice; most of the traffic taking the faster interstate, yet still "populated". However it does require me to climb across the Blue Ridge very early in my tour (I'm starting end of February start of March), weather and my own lack of conditioning so early in the year may make this a rather tough start. I would still prefer to travel around "under" (south) of the mountains, through Georgia and Alabama if I can.

I've hesitated to jump in because I don't know of a good route, but U.S. 70 is gonna be "interesting" through some of the cities, like Asheville, Knoxville, and Nashville.  I'd try to avoid it in Knoxville from the Holston River out past Lenoir City, and around Nashville from about Lebanon to Kingston Springs, because these are major city streets.  Plus there's the whole "go west southwest by starting northwest" thing.

If you could get into Atlanta and past I-75, the Silver Comet / Chief Ladiga trail would be an easy, 90-mile way out of town.  Once you get to Jacksonville, AL, I don't know how to direct you (except to say, stay off U.S. 431 north of Gadsden).  Ken Kifer referred to AL 79 as a bicyclist's secret gem, but once again, that takes you up north.  If you do head that way, U.S. 64 is getting widened, and shouldered, and doesn't see as much traffic as many other highways in the north Alabama and south central Tennessee area.  You might take 64, or some other back roads, west to the Natchez Trace, then head down to Natchez and find your way from there.

Offline Pgforde

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2011, 08:18:42 am »
My grand daughter and I just completed a modified Underground railroad trip from Mobile to Nashville (Www.blurb.com/books/2319447).  I would highly recommend your getting to Nashville and either taking the Trace all the way to Natchez, or following it to Tupelo, MS and then follow the UGR to Mobile.

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2011, 07:21:12 pm »
"Silver Comet / Chief Latiga trail"? If I type this into google will it bring up something I can use?

As far as US 70 is concerned, I have no intention of going into asheville, although i hear it is bicycle friendly, it is also out of my way. I will probably pass south of it. I was using asheville more as a reference point, as it is better known than, say Hendersonville or Brevard. Which would make a much more scenic trip, as I am more a 'mountain man" than Lowlander.
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2011, 12:37:42 pm »
Excellent! Silver Comet / Chief Latiga will take me from Atlanta to Anniston. I know SC 72/GA 72 is a good road to get almost all the way to Atlanta. I can include Stone Mountain into my itinerary too. :) I'll have to loop around the city, but that shouldn't be hard. Anyone have a good route around Atlanta from Stone Mountain area to the start of the SC/CL trail, that would be appreciated. I'm a quarter of the way there!

Still left is the stretch from Anniston to Denton, TX. And then on to El Lay CA.

EDIT: I just found the Route 66 forum, if this is finished in time it would very nicely complete my route! It is only 200 miles from Dallas to OK city (300 if I want to take the "hypotenuse"). And Route 66 goes all the way to Santa Monica beach. Keeping my eyes open. :D
'
EDIT: So much for that idea, the first maps aren't scheduled to come out untill a year after. :-[

« Last Edit: August 12, 2011, 11:18:47 am by Bicycle Rider »
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2011, 05:41:37 pm »
"Silver Comet / Chief Latiga trail"? If I type this into google will it bring up something I can use?

As far as US 70 is concerned, I have no intention of going into asheville, although i hear it is bicycle friendly, it is also out of my way. I will probably pass south of it. I was using asheville more as a reference point, as it is better known than, say Hendersonville or Brevard. Which would make a much more scenic trip, as I am more a 'mountain man" than Lowlander.

Don't get me wrong, I love the mountains. The problem I see with an outbound mountain route (and I will have to cross over the Blue Ridge just to get to Tennessee) is the time of year. I plan to start at the end of February - beginning of March. What will the weather be like then?
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Need help planning route through "the land of cotton".
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2011, 01:00:54 pm »
OK, here is what I have come up with so far. From the TWO recommendations I have received, I'm thinking that, because of the time of my leaving, using a southwestern route toward and around Atlanta and then taking the Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga rail/trail to Anniston, Alabama is my best choice. Although the Natchez trace will take me further west (half way across Mississippi as opposed to the eastern half of Alabama), the only way I could possibly reach it would be to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains. Undoubtedly a very beautiful route, but not very practical for late winter (I'm leaving the first week of March)! :o

I am also waiting for a map of state bicycle routes from the Louisiana DOT. These are actual roads, chosen for their "bikability" according to traffic volume, shoulders, and so on. And they are rated as such. That leaves me with western Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Texas as far as Denton left to plan; and perhaps the 200 miles up to historic Route 66 which will take me the rest of the way to Los Angeles. Since this thread seems to have died in childbirth, I am going to start three new ones, one for each state.

And before you say it, the A.C.A. Southern Tier is NOT an option. Using it would add at least 8-10 days to my journey. I need to be in Paso Robles, CA by Thursday before Memorial Day weekend to be in time for the Great Western Bicycle Rally. This includes stops at my Daughter's house in Denton, my brother's in El Lay, and any layovers as required.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2011, 01:02:38 pm by Bicycle Rider »
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades