Bicycle Travel > Youth Bicyle Travel

Route suggestions for a Mother/Teen Daughter Multi-State Ride

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Afternoon forum folks,

I am hoping a few of you might provide a little route advice for our first long-distance mother/teen daughter charity ride this summer. I'd like to combine history, small towns, a relaxed pace, and as many paved, non-motorized roads as possible. All suggestions are welcome!

Here's what we're looking to do:
1) Multi-state, circle ride, preferably starting and ending Midwest (we live in Iowa)
2) Between 30 and 50 miles per day
3) Total trip time of about 30ish days, riding about 6 days per week
4) As many non-motorized trails as possible
5) Lots of camping options

We've considered the Mississippi River Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail, and the Northern Tier. I'm having difficulty identifying which routes have the most non-motorized trails. Any advice on that?

Thanks in advance. We can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Very best,

Pat Lamb:
My knee-jerk reaction is that you've put too many constraints on your wish list.  1,000-1,500 miles, to my knowledge, just isn't possible in a loop format while staying off roads.  You might be able to largely stay off roads on the continental divide trail, but that breaks the loop.

Having said that, the Adventure Cycling routes do an excellent job of keeping you on lightly traveled roads.  Their magazine had an article a few years back where a bunch of kids wondered if they could ride a mile naked in Kansas without anybody seeing them.  (Spoiler: they chose the wrong mile.)  Most TransAm veterans smiled, lots of roads are that empty.

Off the top of my head, you might try Lewis and Clark east on the Katy Trail, then head north on Great Rivers, then west on the Northern Tier until you meet up with L&C, then head back south.  (Adjust to fit where in Iowa you want to start, of course.)  NT has been re-jiggered to use more rail-trails in Minnesota, and of course you've got a couple hundred miles on the Katy.  I suspect that's as close as you can get to your previous wish list.

One more point about the AC maps, they'll have points of interest called out.  You might want to ask the various state tourism offices for maps, or get the state books from AAA, and plan out additional near-but-not-on the-route stops you want to make.  That should keep you busy for a few months while waiting for summer to arrive!

John Nelson:
I agree with Patrick that your problem might be overly constrained.

If your number one requirement is non-motorized trails, then I suggest you start there. You also mentioned "paved", but I'll note that there are a number of unpaved trails that are so smooth that they are virtually as good as paved (e.g., the Erie Canalway). So I'd recommend looking at various rails-to-trails routes and canalways around the country. Many of these (e.g., Katy Trail, Mickelson Trail, Erie Canalway) have built-up infrastructure to support the cyclist. These won't satisfy your "circle ride" requirement (although you could still get back to where you started with an out-and-back), and they may not satisfy your "multi-state" requirement, and they probably won't satisfy your 30-day requirement (at least not without taking some roads between trails).

As Patrick said, if you relax your non-motorized trails requirement, you can find many lonely back roads through beautiful country with almost no traffic that are pure joy to ride on. If your teen daughter is 13, I can understand desire to stay off roads for safety reasons. But if your teen daughter is 16, I'm sure she'll be safe on the back roads.

These are great suggestions, guys. Thank you! I think you're right, re: that the ride requirements are too constrained. It is a bit of a dream list (smile). The kiddo and I will simply have to buy a number of maps and brainstorm over the coming months. In truth, the planning is nearly as fun as the ride.

My biggest concern is safety. My daughter, who is 13, is fearless. That is often scary for a parent. We'll need to spend a good deal of time on safety drills this spring. If either of you are aware of a website with safety training videos, I'm all ears. We're pretty remote out here and I haven't located a nearby training class for her yet. If you guys have kids, then you know teenagers listen to the advice of others more readily than they do their parents. It'd be great to be able to point her in the direction of some outside safety advice. 

On the naked ride in Kansas, how hilarious! I am sad I missed that article. I would have laughed right off my chair. There ought to be an annual contest for just that sort of shenanigans. Love it.

Well, looks like it's time to order up some maps and get to work. Thanks again, guys!

Very best,

John Nelson:

--- Quote from: bethany on January 19, 2014, 12:15:05 pm ---We'll need to spend a good deal of time on safety drills this spring. If either of you are aware of a website with safety training videos, I'm all ears.

--- End quote ---

The road itself is a great teacher. When I started riding a lot a decade ago, I used to say that my objective was to stay alive long enough to learn the safety skills I needed. Some of the safety skills you need to know are not very intuitive. E.g., it's not very safe to ride within inches of the edge of the pavement. It's actually safer to ride farther out. Most accidents don't involve a car. You also learn that the cars approaching from behind are not your major risk, especially in populated areas. The biggest risks you encounter are at intersections, from turning traffic or from traffic entering the roadway. So it's key to ride in a manner that makes you visible. In many cases, that means riding well out from the edge of the road. And you need to understand where other dangers come from: opening car doors, potholes, cracks in the road, debris, wet leaves, dogs, clothing caught in wheels, crosswind, etc. And understand how to take lines through corners on fast descents, how to brake before and not in a turn, how to lean the bike in a corner, how to avoid and deal with shimmy if it should happen, how to keep your brakes from overheating, basic safety checks to make before every ride (ABC = Air, Brakes, Chain), the proper way to wear a helmet, shifting your weight back when braking hard, when to use the front and/or rear brakes, using hand signals, looking back without swerving, why not to ride on the sidewalk, when to take the lane, etc.

Have your daughter Google "bicycle safety" and read what comes up. She and you can read about everything I've mentioned above and more. Then go out on the road and practice. Ride behind her so that you can see how she's doing.


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