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Messages - Ike

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New England / Re: Coast of Maine? Anybody do it?
« on: April 25, 2012, 07:00:22 pm »
I no longer live in Maine, but it is a great state to bicycle in. In 2006, when I still lived there, I took an 18 day tour of south central and western Maine. I started in New Sharon (Franklin Co.), cycled to Camden, and then followed the ACA Northern Tier route (including lots of detours) to the ME/NH border and turned back east to New Sharon following various back roads.

I don't recall having any issue with traffic on the ACA Northern Tier route through Maine. However, I road this section to the ME/NH border in early May. In contrast, auto and RV traffic along the coastal portion will be much heavier in the summer.

If you want to stay off of US 1, you easily can. Maine has an abundance of rural roads that are great to ride. If you are willing to purchase the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, you can use that to plan a ride that avoids US 1 easily, which is what I did when I took detours off of the ACA route. A route off of US 1 and ACA's Northern Tier certainly won't be the most direct route, but could be more pleasant, in my opinion.

Although, if you are riding from Maine to Iowa, then it may not be worth purchasing a whole giant atlas for a state you will most likely be spending less than a week in. You could plan an alternate Maine route when you get there by stopping in Rockland's (or any Maine) public library and looking at their Maine atlas. You can plan an alternative to the ACA route pretty easily and then just photocopy the appropriate atlas pages to take with you.

General Discussion / Re: Bike Box
« on: April 16, 2012, 06:19:10 pm »
I've had no problems when using a cardboard bike box on airline flights. However, the box can get beat up. To reduce the risk of damage to your bike, I would highly recommend lining the inside of the box with an extra layer of cardboard as well as using an excessive amount of packing tape on the outside of the box.  Cover the entire bottom, top, and ends of the box with tape, and it never hurts to tape the sides thoroughly either. This usually goes a long way towards keeping the box in one piece or tearing apart. I've nearly covered my current cardboard bike box with packing tape and I've been able to use it several times.

Packing tape is cheap. Your bike isn't.
Enjoy the trip.

General Discussion / Re: Long distance trip alone?
« on: March 15, 2012, 11:43:38 am »
It is very interesting to read about why some people would never tour alone, because this contrasts completely with my own preference--I always tour alone.

Solo bicycle tours and backpacking trips, for me, are an important means to recharge my mental batteries. My chosen career often brings me in contact with many, many people and I need time away from humans. However, on a bike tour, unless I was riding in an extremely remote area, I have never really been completely alone. There are always people around and many are interested in the journey. Finding people to talk to isn't difficult if you are a normally social person.

I tend to be fairly introverted anyway, so my conversations with strangers normally don't go very far. Feelings of loneliness will happen if you are traveling solo, so it can be important to make sure your mind is occupied. Keeping a detailed journal, reading, and nature observation are all vital activities that help keep my solo tours enjoyable. Without those activities, my evenings could easily become boring and lonely.

Touring alone is safe and fun. I wouldn't do it if my experiences told me otherwise.

Routes / Re: Pittsburgh to Washington, DC
« on: March 14, 2012, 04:03:45 pm »
Even though the extreme eastern section of the C&O goes through dense suburban and urban areas, I still enjoyed a "rural" experience almost all of the way to DC. It was only within 10 miles of DC that the C&O became crowded. I rode this section the Sunday before Columbus Day and the weather was nearly perfect. If I had pedaled that section on a weekday morning, I doubt I would've had to share this section of trail with many other people. The C&O is shrouded by forest for most of its length so it was only within 5-10 miles of DC that it really felt urban to me. Plus, like others have said, the GAP and C&O's surfaces are mostly crushed limestone, so you shouldn't encounter many people "jogging/skating" away from towns the larger population centers along the trail like Cumberland, Harpers Ferry, and DC. This also applies to the GAP, especially near Pittsburgh.

In general, I abhor cycling through suburban areas, unless I am confident that the route is safe for bicycles. Too often, when riding towards a suburban or urban area, I've ridden semi-quiet rural roads that quickly became busy 2-4 lane highways with limited or no shoulders. I would highly recommend sticking with the C&O Canal all of the way to DC as it will take you nearly all the way to the National Mall without the stress of cycling on unknown suburban or urban streets.

Cdavey warns about the challenging terrain of Appalachians. He is right. The GAP/C&O almost exclusively follow stream and river valleys. It is the easiest route across the Appalachians that I know of. Tunnels along the way eliminate the need to climb any mountains unless you want to. There are plenty of opportunities to leave the GAP or C&O and explore quiet rural areas if you would like. I really enjoyed cycling up to Mount Davis (PA's high point) and exploring Antietam National Battlefield.

The GAP/C&O is a spectacular ride, even if it isn't the most physically challenging route across the Appalachians. I really would love to ride it again.

General Discussion / Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 22, 2011, 02:19:34 pm »
A few years ago (with the exception of the Golden Age and Golden Access Passes), you used to have to purchase separate passes for federal sites. The Golden Eagle Pass covered US Forest Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Park Pass was only for national parks entrance fees. Today, the America the Beautiful Pass is supposed to cover all entrance fees to any federal area with one. Don't count on it to provide camping discounts. The America The Beautiful Pass will not provide discounts for camping in national parks and other federally run campgrounds usually won't honor it. AAA or other private discounts are not accepted at federal sites either.

Like others have written, entrance fees for national parks, and the extra campground fees, vary considerably from park to park. If you're planning a long cross country trip, you probably have an idea about what parks you'd like to visit and what national forests or other public lands you'll ride through. Since the pass won't provide discounts for NPS campgrounds, I'd contact the individual national forests, BLM sites, or other federal areas that I was determined to visit and ask what the pass actually covers. Entrance fees are almost universally covered so you needn't worry about that. Bicyclists riding into a park usually are charged less than an auto, but $5-10 per park can add up over the course of a summer. When the National Park Pass was $50, it was easy make the pass to pay for itself. Now, however, the America The Beautiful Pass is $80, so it is harder to recoup the cost. For a long cycling trip, especially in areas with lots of public land, I think it is a worthwhile purchase even if it is only used to cover entrance fees.

Gear Talk / Re: GEAR - It's adding up! Where can I compromise?
« on: April 07, 2011, 06:15:58 pm »
If you really want to know where you can compromise, be sure to take a short weekend tour. This isn't a new idea (many, many members of this forum have suggested this on other threads), but I think it is one of the most important steps you can take. Of course once you buy some items and use them over a weekend, you might not be able to return them to the store. However, you may be able to determine what clothing you need to bring.

Pick a weekend when the weather is wet and cool. This is the absolute best test for your clothing, fire starters, and tolerance of poor weather. For myself, the only way to know if I really need rain pants or just warm tights is to get out and get wet.

Routes / Re: east coast tour route planning questions
« on: February 28, 2011, 02:03:52 am »
I spent a couple of summers on the eastern shore of Virginia several years ago. I'd avoid US13 in Maryland and Virginia as you ride south, but otherwise the Delmarva Peninsula offers some really nice cycling opportunities.

Routes / Re: Atlantic Coast Route, not much coast
« on: February 28, 2011, 01:46:07 am »

I only rode from DC to Charleston, but from what I remember if you plan properly and are willing to stray from Adventure Cycling's route from time to time, you shouldn't have trouble finding restaurants and/or convenience stores. However, I took the Outer Banks alternate, so I can't say anything about the mainland route through NC. I also cooked most of my meals, so I didn't necessarily look at the route from your perspective. A stash of PB & J or a jar of Nutella will help you through any hunger problems.

Last fall, I completed a trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Charleston, SC. I rode the GAP and C & O to Washington, DC--and I really can't stop raving about the GAP and C & O. If anyone thinks there's a better auto free bicycle route in the country, I'd love to know where it might be.

You have a lot of choices, but I concur with briwasson and cdavey. If you only could choose one section of either the GAP or C & O, I'd ride the GAP from Connellsville to Cumberland. The landscape is beautiful, the towns are friendly, the trail is well maintained, and it felt remote in places. Between Connellsville and Ohiopyle, you ride for ~17 miles without crossing a road, which is a lot for the eastern US. It was a spectacular ride, to say the least.

Routes / Re: Atlantic Coast Route, not much coast
« on: February 16, 2011, 03:53:05 am »
In November, I finished a north-south tour of the Atlantic Coast Route from DC to Charleston, but unlike Litespeed I avoided US17 whenever I could, especially through South Carolina. Much of it had no shoulder or a couple of feet of shoulder at most and I've never been comfortable riding highways without a shoulder. US17 north of Charleston doesn't have anything I would consider to be a shoulder either. In North Carolina, there was a stretch of US17 between Jacksonville and Wilmington that was excellent to ride, until I go close to Wilmington when traffic increased and the shoulder disappeared. From what I saw of US17 in the Carolinas, it seemed like the areas with the heaviest traffic usually had little to no shoulder.

Like others have written though, topography and development limit how much of the ocean you'll get to see. Much of the eastern seaboard is very flat with extensive salt marshes, sounds, and estuaries protected by long, sinuous barrier islands. These features limit the amount and location of roads. Adventure Cycling's route tries to avoid heavily trafficked roads and as a consequence it sometimes has to take a more inland route.

I've kept online journals for family and friends on some tours. On other tours, I haven't, but I've always kept a small hardback journal with me. Each night, not matter how tired I felt, I wrote about my experiences that day.

During each tour, there certainly were occasions when I didn't feel like writing, but I made myself do it and I'm glad I did. My journals from my bicycle tours are now some of my most prized possessions. You can experience so much on a bicycle tour that it is very easy to forget much of it. Online journals are fun to read, but mine never seemed to capture the same amount of detail as my hand written journal did. I suspect this was because I didn't want to commit a large amount of trying to find internet access, nor did I want to spend a lot of time indoors at a computer, and of course there were personal experiences that I didn't want to forget but wasn't comfortable sharing with the world.

On a long tour, the days will eventually blur together, especially after a few years pass and it will be easy to forget the details. No matter how you chose to record your thoughts and experiences though, just be sure to make the effort to do so. It will be well worth it.

General Discussion / Re: Luxuries
« on: February 16, 2011, 02:11:12 am »

I really enjoy relaxing at night with a book to read, especially if I'm traveling in the winter, spring, or fall when daylight is limited. I usually carry at least one book, plus a journal to write in, and a field guide to trees (I like to geek-out on tree ID).

I don't own a cell phone, but on a recent tour I had a difficult time finding payphones. Cell phones are almost a necessity for those who want to stay in close contact with family or friends. In some counties they were virtually non-existent. It's even more of a bummer when the local library is closed so you don't even have access to the internet. If you want to be able to contact someone reliably, carry your own phone.

Connecting ACA Routes / New Mexico/Arizona info.?
« on: September 02, 2006, 10:05:16 pm »
I drove it, but haven't ridden that stretch. It is a beautiful road from Socorro through Pie Town to the AZ border.  It has light traffic, so even if the shoulders aren't adequate (which I, unfortunately, can't remember if they are) for cycling the ride should be pleasant.  It does hit some high, exposed county though.  I would be prepared for cold and windy conditions in Oct.


Connecting ACA Routes / can you help me get from pittsburgh to ILL?
« on: May 19, 2006, 09:52:55 am »
If Indiana is still a mystery when you get there, stop at libraries and use the state road atlas hidden somewhere on the shelf.  Make photocopies of the pages you need.  Most libraries usually have an updated version that is accurate enough and the librarians are more than willing to help.  In a more populated state like Indiana, it wouldn't be hard to self plan a backroads route using a Delorme Gazetteer or its equivalent.  That's how I made it through Ohio from Aberdeen, OH to Monroeville, IN.  This wasn't difficult for Ohio, and I can't imagine it being any different for Indiana.


Gear Talk / Cyclocross tires for touring
« on: December 10, 2006, 04:12:26 pm »
Thanks for the input.  The unpaved roads in my area (I'm living in Death Valley for the winter) offer a wide range of surfaces, so I'll have to shop around.  Of course, nothing short of hitch hiking will help me in soft sand or really deep gravel. If touring tires work for the rest, then I'll stick with the widest pair I can get.


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