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Messages - WaltGaber

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Youth Bicyle Travel / Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« on: October 26, 2006, 12:55:42 am »
When we lived in Tulsa, I led two different scout cycling trips on the Katy Trail for Troop 8.  My son and I (almost 12 at the time) rode the trail a couple of months prior to the first outing -- so we knew what to expect for trail conditions, trailheads, facilities, etc.  I also found the MO DNR website to be a good resource.

For both troop treks, I had several adults that indicated they'd prefer to provide support and/or only ride partial days. So, we drove to the start in Clinton and shuttled our vehicles along with us to carry gear and provide SAG support.

The first year,, we had a couple of pick-up trucks and a 15-passenger church van. We used the van for SAG and the trucks for gear - the van met us at each trail-head, the trucks went on to the next night's campground, shopped for food, etc.. For that trip, the minimum requirements were 1st class, 14 years and 6 weeks of training rides (1-2 rides per week increasing mileage from 5 to 30 miles) and everyone rode 55-60 miles per day.

The second trip
, was opened up to some younger scouts (success of the first trip led to pressure from families to include younger siblings). I broke the group into two segments -- older scouts rode the full mileage (50-60 miles per day) and the younger scouts rode half that and were shuttled the other half. This time, I had more parents that wanted to ride, so I tried a different approach -- we just had one vehicle travel with us during the day. The younger group started later each morning and were shuttled to their starting point -- so the SAG was able to adequatly cover both groups. Upon arriving in camp, I left two adults with the scouts to set up camp and prepare dinner while the other adults took the SAG vehicle back to shuttle the remaining vehicles forward.

We camped on both trips.  I did quite a bit of research and calling ahead of time to arrange the camping locations.  We got free camping for all but two nights -- typically in community parks and fairgrounds of the many small towns along the way.  We used one commercial campground (Katfish Katy's) and the youth hostel in Tebbetts.  Since we had support vehicles following us, one night was spent on the Daniel Boone farm -- our service project was harvesting part of a field of popcorn on the farm.

Now for the advice section:
1) I think the training rides are critical -- not just for physical preparation, but also to cover bike maintenance, working as a patrol/crew, trail etiquette, etc..  A big part of the preparation is building confidence in the youth that they can ride 50-60 miles a day and have fun doing it.
2) Research and plan your overnight locations carefully.  You cannot spend the night on the trail, so you'll need pre-arranged sites for camping. This article may be a bit dated, but was useful for my planning:
3) Do a bit of research about some of the history, geography and nature aspects you'll encounter along the way -- there is much to include: Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone, MKT railroad, Missouri River (floods, navigation, animals/birds/fish), St. Charles.  I created a list of topics and asked each scout to prepare some background info on one of the topics for sharing with the group.
4) Have a plan for handling medical emergencies and note that there are some sections where cell phone coverage is spotty.
5) I'd suggest traveling in groups of about 5-6 youth and 1-2 adults -- and group the riders by their natural pace.  You'll have some push-back from scouts that want to spend the whole time with their friends -- but there will be plenty of time to do that in the evenings.  If a group contains too great a range of riding abilities and strengths/weaknesses, everyone will become frustrated.  Insist that no one travel alone.  Concerning 2-deep leadership -- although some groups only had a single adult while traveling, the groups were not that far apart and we typically met up at trailheads with the SAG vehicle for snacks and liquids.  And the groups were expected to keep moving from one trailhead to the next except for photo/nature stops.

I can probably put you in touch with a couple of the Tulsa scout leaders that participated in these trips.  Also, let me know if you have specific questions.

BTW, since we've moved to Pennsylvania, my son and I have done a couple of other similar trips.
Summer 2005 we joined a Massachusetts Venturing Crew ( on a supported trip from Montreal to Boston.
Summer 2006 the two of us cycled/camped unsupported from Washington D.C. to our home in PA:

Routes / Mentor,OH to Greenwich CT
« on: October 27, 2006, 03:04:27 am »
Not sure about the routes on the Eastern end, but both PA & NY have designated bicycle routes that might be of use:

BicyclePA Routes

New York State Bike Route 17

Routes / Biking PA
« on: October 27, 2006, 02:52:17 am »
I did a weekend trip this past August from Erie to Oil Creek State Park that worked well.  Erie to Union City on Rte 97, then to Titusville via some back roads and Rte 8 - about 50 miles.  Camped at one of the Adirondack shelters on the backpacking trail in Oil Creek SP.  Saturday, I did a 65-mile round trip on roads and rail-trails south past Franklin & the Belmar bridge -- then camped at the second backpacking site.  Sunday, returned to Erie via Rts 8 & 97.  Didn't have to carry a tent because of the Adirondacks.  Both backpacking sites have service roads (less than 1 mile each) that enable cyclists to access the campsites.  I think the SP website says that only backpackers are allowed -- but I talked to one of the park rangers in advance and was told that it would be fine for a cyclist to use the service roads to get to those camps.  The standard PA state park fees apply.

Check out the PA state bicycle routes.  BicyclePA Routes  The portions that I've ridden generally have wide shoulders (except when passing through towns) and moderate traffic.

The only exception that I've encountered so far is a 15-mile section northeast of Pittsburgh on BikePA Route A from Coraopolis to Monaca on Rte 51.  I cycled most of Route A with my son on a Washington DC to Erie trip this summer. (see our travelogue at CrazyGuyOnABike).

Route 5 along Lake Erie is a nice ride.  I've cycled most of the way from Erie to Buffalo on it and intend to do a weekend camping trip to Evangola State Park in NY -- about a 70 mile one-way trip for me.

Hope this helps...

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