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Messages - whitebirch

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Routes / Re: New improved route NY/CT border to Northern Maine
« on: January 07, 2016, 12:20:46 pm »

PLEASE ... remember that many of these small towns now have a serious heroin and prescription drug problem.  So sometimes it's better in some areas to just hammer away on 202 with the trucks , and then pick your home-town battles wisely.

Hi IKnowUrider,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  I just wanted to quickly reply to say that I think you're overstating the heroin thing.  I don't meant to minimize the problem, either in Maine or nationally.  Millions of people across the country are struggling with heroin and other addictions. 

But I think the typical touring cyclist won't see any of the fallout from this problem, at least here in Maine. 

I wouldn't let the fear of drug or crime issues affect any part of your route through Maine.  It's really a nonfactor, in my opinion.

Ok, now I'm really getting to work!


Routes / Re: New improved route NY/CT border to Northern Maine
« on: January 07, 2016, 12:09:56 pm »
WhiteBirch, your link is broken, page does not exist

Try this:

Routes / Re: New improved route NY/CT border to Northern Maine
« on: January 07, 2016, 12:08:39 pm »

Would you say your route is better than ACA's and if so why, i.e. less traffic, more scenic, more services, etc.?

Hi John,

Well, maybe it's a bit cheeky of me to say my route is better than ACA's Atlantic Coast Route through Maine, but yes, I'll go ahead and say it!

Here's an elaboration:

-- From the NH/ME border up through Wells, I wouldn't change a thing.  The coastal road there is beautiful, right on the ocean.  It'll be busy in July and August, but beach road busy, not highway and truck busy.  Doable for most cyclists.  And outside of those months it's much quieter.

-- North of Wells, if you're not in a hurry you can take Route 9 to stay along the coast and go through Kennebunkport, which is a cutesy tourist town.  It will wind around to Biddeford-Saco, where you can jump on the Eastern Trail (also the East Coast Greenway).  The trail will take you almost the whole way into Portland on pretty hard packed surfaces.  You'll go right across the beautiful Scarborough Marsh.  One or two road spots in South Portland, but not bad. 

-- I would definitely not go inland at Kennebunk, the way the ACA route goes.  There are really no interesting towns on that entire arc around Portland, until you hit Freeport.  Some of the roads are nice, but not nice enough so as to avoid Portland.  I live in Portland and bike here daily.  It's a city of 65,000 people, and almost all of the roads are quite manageable.  Especially if you come across from South Portland, hit the main commercial area, and then continue out of town on the East Coast Greenway route, there's nothing a fairly experience cyclist would have trouble with. 

-- North of Portland along the coast to Freeport is good cycling as well.  These are not sleepy back roads, but the traffic is pretty moderate. 

-- From Freeport to Damariscotta, I think the ACA Route gets it right, for the most part.  There are some nice sections here, and then some unavoidable stretches of Route 1.  Route 1 here isn't terrible - there's usually a decent shoulder.  But it's a steady stream of traffic pretty much any time of year. 

-- From Damariscotta to Belfast, I would do it differently from the ACA, following some version of the route I linked to in an earlier post.  Waldoboro and Camden are nice coastal towns, but in my opinion not worth all the extra time on Route 1 (and Route 90, which is a cutoff of Route 1 that most through vehicle travelers take).  Route 52 from Camden to Belfast is very nice, so that's a plus for the ACA Route.  But I'd bail off Route 1 much earlier, as per my linked route.  My route through this area is a bit hillier and a bit more convoluted, but there are some great stretches of road here, and for the most part very quiet.  The towns are small but pretty neat.  Union, Appleton, and Searsmont are all traditional small New England villages. 

-- Past Belfast, there's an unavoidable stretch on Route 1.  It's not as bad as Route 1 further south, but it's still pretty busy most of the year.  Some of the towns here are interesting, though.  And the Downeast Narrows Bridge Observatory is a must see on a clear day, as is Fort Knox right next to it.  I've never ridden the 176/172 roundabout way to Ellsworth, but I suspect it's pretty quiet and worth the detour off Route 1. 

-- From Ellsworth south to Bar Harbor, I think it's a true shame that both the ACA and Northern Tier stay on Route 3.  That's a huge sprawled out commercial area.  If you like mini golf and other tourist traps, you'll find it here.  But there's a much nicer backdoor way down to Bar Harbor.  You take Route 230 out of Ellsworth and follow it almost all the way, until you hit Goose Cove Road cutoff back to a later section of 230.  Then you're right near the bridge to Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor, where you have to rejoin Route 3.

There's a lot to take in here, and this is all probably better placed in a new thread.  Not sure how to do that, exactly.

Happy Riding!  I have to get some work done today!


Routes / Re: New improved route NY/CT border to Northern Maine
« on: January 06, 2016, 07:48:15 pm »
Well, I don't mean to burst your bubble, OP, but I can think of much nicer routes through Maine than taking Rte 202 the whole way.  I live in Portland and have done a fair amount of riding in Southern Maine.  Rte 202 tends to be a pretty busy thoroughfare.  There's probably a good shoulder most of the way, but you'll have cars and trucks whizzing by you at 50-60 mph. 

There are lots of back roads all over York County, where you cross over from New Hampshire.  There's also the Eastern Trail from Kittery to Portland, and a good set of roads and trails from Portland to Bath.  After Bath you have to get on Route 1 for a bit, but there are lots of back roads that can get you from Woolwich or Wiscasset up to Belfast.  Some hills here and there, but it's very quiet. 

Here's a route from Portland to Belfast that hits lots of back roads and stays away from Route 1 almost the whole way:

Routes / Re: Crossing Southern Illinois
« on: December 28, 2015, 09:25:35 am »
Hmmm....  I really like the idea of riding across the Mississippi right across the Eads Bridge, right by the Arch.  And I was also hoping to check out the Gateway Geyser in East St. Louis, apparently the second highest fountain in the world!

Anyone else have thoughts about safety in East St. Louis?  From Cahokia Mounds State Park, is one approach better than any other?



Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: December 24, 2015, 09:13:05 am »

Years back I did the C&O in the summer and it was great - quiet, cool, adventurous.
But my roommate did it in the fall - when it was rainy - and was miserable.
As early as you are planning, all the water will be turned off, and the towpath will be a sea of mud.

I know you have talked about short daily mileage - and a six month window.
But March is just too early for this part of the country.
Not to mention what a pain it is to get across Chesapeake Bay.

Hi everyone,

Just a follow up to jamawani and indyfabz, as you both gave me very helpful advice:

1) We decided to do the trip from April through September, instead of March through August.  We decided it's not such a big deal if our daughter misses the first part of the next school year.  And it would beat slogging through March along the C&O and GAP.  Of course, it might mean more heat across the midwest, and we'll miss those highly touted wildflowers in the Bighorns.  But you can't have it all.

2) My wife's work just underwent some unexpected changes, so all of a sudden we're making the trip in 2016 instead of 2017!  We're jumping out of our bones excited!  Exactly 100 days until we pedal away from the ocean on April 2!

I'll probably have more questions between now and April, but thanks again for all the help, and Happy Holidays to both of you and everyone else out there!


Routes / Crossing Southern Illinois
« on: December 24, 2015, 09:05:16 am »
Hi everyone,

Merry happy everything! 

I'm planning an east to west cross-country route, and I have questions about southern Illinois.  My two fixed points at this time are Vincennes, Indiana and St. Louis.  I'd also like to visit Cahokia Mounds just east of STL.

This will be in late May or early June, most likely.  Hopefully before the major heat comes.  I'll be with my wife and our 9-year-old daughter, but I can hook her bike to mine for busy sections.  Still, we're trying to avoid busy roads, and I assume Route 50 is busy. 

I've worked out the following route:

I'd love to hear any comments or thoughts.

Among my questions:

-- Go north of Carlyle Lake or South?
-- Are there some towns we shouldn't miss in this general area?

-- Are the towns along Route 50 pretty interesting, or are we fine going further north and more off the beaten path?

-- Is there a good route that skirts Route 50 but doesn't actually follow it?  It looks like there's an Old Route 50 along the eastern sections, but I seem to lose it as I head west. 

Thanks for any advice!


General Discussion / Boston to Maine - Islabike Try Out?
« on: December 06, 2015, 10:09:19 pm »
Hi folks,

We're wondering if anyone knows of a family that owns an Islabike Beinn we could come try out with our daughter.

We're trying to decide between the 20 large and the 24, and we've never even seen one of these bikes here in Maine. But we're wondering if there's someone around here who owns one who would let us try one out, even just for a few minutes. Given the price, we want to make sure our daughter feels comfortable on it before we spend the money.  We'd also consider buying used, but mostly we're just looking for a try out.

You can PM us or reply through the forum. We live in Portland.

Many thanks!

Rob and Sarah

Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 29, 2015, 10:11:19 pm »
Hi Jamawani,

Thanks for the very thoughtful reply!  Much appreciated.  You've got us thinking once again about a southern start.  We would all carry dog spray, for sure.  But I'm just not confident my daughter could have the presence of mind to control her bike and aim the spray and make it all work.  Or even my wife or me, for that matter!  And even if nothing bad happened, one post I read really stuck with me, where a solo woman stopped her trip because she was sick of riding in fear all day.  I know that's not the typical traveler, but it's not all that out-of-the ordinary, either.  We had a Warmshowers guy from Italy stay with us in Maine last summer after he did a W to E cross country ride.  He reached Missouri and then Kentuck, I think, and got so unnerved by the dogs that he hopped on a bus and rode north to Ohio to continue his ride.  And he seemed like a normal, enthusiastic guy, not particularly prone to overblown worries.  So all I'm saying is, we'd probably be able to handle the southern dogs ok, but I've seen enough anecdotal evidence to conclude that the dog problems can really dominate a trip.  And we already have the grandparents worrying about us taking our daughter on this kind of trip, that throwing in the dog thing just might tip everyone over the edge!

As for overall route:  Don't worry, I wouldn't miss Nebraska.  Actually, you're probably the one to convince me to go that way instead of across Kansas.  If we have to skip a section, I was thinking maybe southern Indiana and/or Illinois.  Southern Indiana sounds real nice, but southern Illinois sounds a bit ho hum, no offense to anyone who's from there.  Or maybe we don't skip anything and we just see how far we get, and if we only make it to Missoula or Idaho, then that's ok.  Or maybe you're absolutely right and we won't have any trouble making it all the way.  We do plan to finish in Seattle, although if we're ahead of schedule perhaps we'd make it to the Olympic Peninsula or the San Juan Islands.

Since our initial thinking when I posted last spring, we've decided to take on more hills/mountains where it makes sense.  For example, we'll probably  take Rte 20/12 across the Niobrara Valley to Crawford, then head up through Black Hills, which sound way too fun to miss!  Then across the Bighorns, if we're doing ok with the hills by then.  The middle route across Wyoming (fr Lusk and beyond) just sounded way too uneventful.

Thanks again for all the thoughts and ideas!


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 29, 2015, 06:47:46 pm »
Also keep in mind that if the forecast pans out 2017 is going to be much wetter than normal across the north. Soaking in places. Therefore why a lot of people are doing XC rides in 2016.

Hi PacificNorthwestRider92 -- What you're saying about rainfall in 2017 is interesting, but I'm very skeptical.  I don't know of any scientific systems that can accurately predict weather and climate over a year away.  The National Weather Service does provide predictions of general precipitation and weather trends for three-month periods (see here: - and they only go up to Jan-Feb of 2017), but my understanding is that these are not very reliable so far out.

Can you let us know what source(s) you're relying on?  As I said, I'm skeptical. But maybe you know of some credible source that I've never heard of.



Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 28, 2015, 09:53:15 pm »
Rob -

Have you considered starting some place like Sapelo Island, Georgia? (Or Jekyll Island)
Then head across southern Georgia and southern Alabama - many civil rights sites.
Then grab the Underground RR ACA route -
Then working your way northwest up to St. Louie?
At 25 miles per day with every 5th day off - it would take about 9 weeks.
Not to mention lovely azaleas and dogwoods - and very few climbs.

Hi jamawani,

Yes, I have thought about starting in the south, and it's very tempting.  I took a hard look at starting on the Southern Tier in St. Augustine and heading west until we hit the Underground Rail Road Route.  I'd love the Civil War and Civil Rights stuff, the nice southern spring.  Azaleas and dogwoods sound absolutely lovely!

Honestly, what keeps steering me away are the dogs.  I've heard from too many people and read too many blogs about how biking in the south can be a harrowing experience.  If it were just me, or just my wife and me, I think we would go for it.  But with our then-10 year-old daughter along (who is small for her age), it just seems too scary.  Once or twice I've thought to myself, "maybe I'm over-reacting."  But then I'll go read some blogs about trips through the south and it really does seem like a considerable number of them are dominated by negative dog encounters.  And they're not even biking with kids.

I think our mid-Atlantic start in March would be very much weather dependent.  If it were a cold winter, we might wait a few weeks for things to warm up.  Or we might make 10 miles a day for a time, instead of 25.  If the towpath is a mess, then we'd try for side roads (I know, they're hilly!), or wait a few weeks for it to dry out.  All of this might mean we have to catch a bus across part of the midwest to make up time.  But it still seems to me like a better option than running the gauntlet of the dogs through the south. 

So...  what say you?  Am I too fixated on the dogs?  Should I take another look at a southern start option?


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 25, 2015, 02:44:08 pm »
Thanks so much for this helpful information, jamawani! 

We would most likely be coming through in August, and I didn't realize just how desolate and blazing hot it can be in the southeastern corner of the state. 

The Highway 20 Route is tempting, but I'm not sure how much time we'll have by that point in our trip, and we're not the best hill climbers.

What do you think about cutting up to Spokane and going across Route 2 to Wilbur or Coulee City, and then dropping down to Ellensburg from there?  (We think we can get a ride across the bridge at Vantage.) Is Route 2 safe enough and nice enough for a family route? 

And do you know anything about Route 28 that cuts sw from Rte 2 at Davenport?  That looks nice on paper, but not sure if it's still too desolate and dry.  And I haven't checked to see about services in those small towns. 

Anyway, thanks again for weighing in already!


Routes / West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 24, 2015, 05:10:20 pm »
Hi everyone,

I'm planning an E-W cross-country ride with my wife and then 10-year old daughter in spring/summer 2017. Overall route is Delaware to Seattle. My daughter will be on her own bike, but can hook up to mine in high traffic or hilly areas.

We'll be going from DC to Pittsburgh on the C&O and GAP. From Pittsburgh, next major destination will be Holmes County, Ohio. Probably Millersburg, where we'll pick up the Ohio to Erie / Underground Railroad route heading towards Cincinatti.

So my question is, what's the best way out of Pittsburgh to the West, aiming for Holmes County? I think the obvious crossing of the Ohio River would be in Steubenville, not further down in Wheeling or further up in Lawrenceville / East Liverpool.

Here's how Google maps in bicycle mode sends us: Across the Allegheny to some bike trails, then across the West End Bridge and up Steuben St., to Rte 60 (Lincoln Highway) and then Rte 50 (Noblestown Rd) to the Panhandle Trail.

Is this the obvious best way? Or is it a Google Maps fail for any reason?

We're pretty comfortable with urban and suburban cycling, and I assume we'll have our daughter hooked up, at least until we reach the Panhandle Trail. But we don't like to take stupid risks, so if there's a better way, or ways, we'd love to hear from you.

Thanks in advance, and Happy Thanksgiving!


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 24, 2015, 05:08:51 pm »
Second request!  No one out there has any ideas?    I posted on the Bike Forums Pacific Northwest forum, but was curious whether people on this forum had any thoughts.

Thanks again!


Routes / Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 17, 2015, 07:09:19 pm »
Hi everyone,

November dreaming time!  I'm trying to fill in a few gaps on my E to W cross-country 2017 route.  Overall route is from Delaware to Seattle, taking lots of time for stops, as we'll have our 10-year old daughter with us. 

We're also trying to hit lots of trails.  So our route looks pretty set on taking the Coeur d' Alene Trail to Plummer.  And then we'd like to pick up the John Wayne Trail from Ellensburg heading east.

(I've looked at the North Idaho Centennial Trail and Spokane Centennial Trail, but that would mean missing the best part of the CDA Trail, right?  If anyone has great things to say about those first two trails over the western part of the CDA Trail, I'm willing to hear you out.)

My real question for all you route mavens is, what's the best route from Plummer to Ellensburg?  I've ruled out the John Wayne Trail through that area because it's widely considered to be mountain bike only. 

Here are three options generated by Google maps in bicycle mode, but the first choice uses a lot of the JWT:

We'd take a less direct but quieter route, but we'll probably only make 25-35 miles a day, so long stretches in the desert will be tough on us.  We can stock up and do one or two days without services, but nothing more than that, hopefully. 

I also don't know any of the parks, towns and cities in this area, so good destinations to know about would also be useful. 

Thanks for your help!


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