Author Topic: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?  (Read 2229 times)

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Offline Mrshobiejoe

I've mostly done 2-3 week trips around Europe (mostly camping but some b&b and hotels and I am a warm shower host). This time I'm looking for a trip to celebrate a big birthday and be away 1-2 months so I'm thinking longer distance but the trans am doesn't really appeal.

 I've done the big mountains and some interesting routes but these days I prefer to be not too far from a bakery, cafe and bike shop although I'm realistic that won't always be the case. I'd love to discover small town America and largely avoid the cities but have access to shops and restaurants with nice food and places to stay! Which region do you think might offer this to me? Looking at some routes I'm wondering if the underground railway may have some good options especially on the northern sections of the route.

 I've travelled in the west before and I'm probably looking for a slightly more populated area and I'd prefer to avoid non stop mountain passes. I quite like using bike to rail trails and country roads but I've had pretty varied cycling experience so I'm capable of handling most roads- I'm just more into zen cycling than traffic dodging!

1. What is your timeframe for riding this route? I don't have a fixed time frame. Most likely is May-September but ideally is July-August and I'm happy to be guided as to the best timing.
2. What kind of riding do you like? Dislike? I'm looking for small town America with cafes and bakeries and pretty scenery. I'm not looking for days away from services or daily mountain climbs but moderately hilly and the odd day in the wild is ok.
3. Are you interested in taking in historic or cultural sites? Definitely looking for culture and history- I am not a speed /distance hound. I quite like to put the miles in and then arrive somewhere to stay early or mid afternoon and see the sites.
4. What are your overnight preferences? Camping in campgrounds, stealth camping, hotels, Warmshowers, a combination? Relaxed- I love camping but some warm showers and hotels would be nice to break things up. I only look to wild camp if I'm in the wilds.
5. What is your plan for eating? Restaurants or cooking in camp? I prefer to cook and like to be able to get nice ingredients and to buy a nice breakfast after twenty miles or so!. I really don't like fast food chains but I'm realistic that there may be some fast food meals.
6. How many miles a day do you intend to ride? Roughly 50.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2018, 10:41:44 am »
I must say, your post is by far one of the best "give me guidance" questions ever.  Most just say, I like small towns, anyone have recommendations?  THANKS for all the info.  It seems like you have a "go where my travels take me" attitude which is fantastic, the BEST way to travel if you can do it.

Based on your many thoughtful answers, I would suggest rambling around the upper midwest, MN, WI, MI, IA. OH.  You can definitely get a lot of small town feel without getting too much dead small town feel.  There are LOTS of bike paths/rail trails, CGs, bakeries, etc. and enough historic/cultural aspects to keep you happy.  There are several areas that have a heavily "foreign" influence, i.e. the town has a high percentage of the population with a Norwegian, German, Amish, etc. ancestry.

Be sure to search each state for "bike maps".  For instance, IA has a great bike map: https://iowadot.gov/maps/digital-maps/state-maps/iowa-bicycle-map.

The other states do also.  Based on your post, you seem to fairly experienced at touring.  In case you don't know, shoot for traffic counts that are less than 2k a day, ideally less than 1k vehicles a day.  If traffic is high, look for shoulders.
I would probably start in Iowa, ride north into Minnesota, dip SE to central Wisconsin and their numerous rail trails, ride up to Door County, WI, swing south to Manitowoc and take the ferry over to Michigan before heading south to Indiana and Ohio.
I would encourage you to review a lot of USA Today's "best of" travel articles.  They have numerous "best of " bakeries, ice cream, museums, odd attractions, etc. for all 50 states.  Granted they can be hit and miss as far as the "best" but it gives you at least some stuff to consider.  Make a list of all the things that interest you and if you get into the area, ride to it.
Enjoy the ride!  John

Offline Ryld

Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2018, 06:53:49 pm »
I would agree on the Door County Wisconsin advice before. I toured there it was so nice and they seemed to cater to all kinds of tourists too. There are many routes you can do with minimal traffic. You should buy a gallon of fresh cherry juice, chug it compulsively, and get the full money out of the use of the camping ground restrooms. There must be options somewhere in there to ferry to another Great Lakes State if you get cornered in a lake elbow somewhere or maybe they have bridges across them.

Offline Mrshobiejoe

Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2018, 02:04:34 am »
Thank you both. Not an area that would have ever have occurred to me (I'm in England). I now just need to damp down the sudden fascination with doing the trans America!

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2018, 12:52:52 pm »
Oh, if given a choice, and you have not done the TA, do the TA.  It is a classic.  It is a wonderful route.  About every 5-10 days the route's "flavor" changes, i.e. off the coast and into the lush mountains then into the dry arid areas then into rivers, etc.
Your previous tour request was another good one but again, if you have not done the TA and can leave pretty soon (eastbound at this date assuming you are leaving in 2018), the TA is a fantastic choice.
Wishing you a great tour whatever you decide to do!  John

Offline John Nelson

Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2018, 01:19:44 pm »
I know you said that the TA doesn't appeal to you, but I have to agree with John Nettles. The TA gives you the very best of small town America. If you don't have enough time and you want to avoid the mountains, then just ride from Yorktown, Virginia to Pueblo, Colorado. After Pueblo, the towns start getting a lot farther apart, so you won't see as many of them anyway.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2018, 03:06:58 pm »
BTW, if you go on the TA, you might consider the newly developed (this NOT an ACA route) "TransAm Eastern Express Route" as it has a lot of rail trails, including one with dirt and roots along the C&O canal.  It requires a bit more planning as the maps, while nice, are not quite as good as ACA's but then very few maps are.
If you prefer to mostly stick to the TA but would like a few rail trails, you should consider breaking off the TA near St. Louis, MO, and getting on the Katy Trail (a wonderful rail trail along the Missouri River and is part of the Lewis & Clark Route) and taking that to Clinton, MO, where you then would take hilly low-traffic back roads to near Girard, KS, and rejoin the TA there. 

Here is a link I got from CrazyGuyonaBike.com of the Eastern Express:  http://www.easternexpressroute.com/

Offline Mrshobiejoe

Re: Seeking small town America. Which states might be good to visit?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2018, 04:54:40 pm »
2019 and yes I did think that the eastern express looked the way to go IF I do it!! Frank Moritz has. done a great job on that one from the looks of it. The maps look really nice and I think I'd just make sure I had a slightly tougher bike for those rail to rides routes which might fit with some other stuff I'm thinking of doing.

I'd head for Salida though to see friends after Pueblo and it I did that I'd be tempted to go on to Moab via old road 90 and then I'm fulfilling a whole different cycling fantasy......maybe going on to SLC via Joes's Valley and then one might as well head up to Boise and connect back with the TA after that.  Stop me someone now!

« Last Edit: June 04, 2018, 01:38:20 am by Mrshobiejoe »