Author Topic: Northern Tier or better idea?  (Read 2103 times)

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hismaimai8888

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Northern Tier or better idea?
« on: November 13, 2018, 12:32:20 am »
Hello,
First time posting here and looking for a little advice.  I live in Vancouver BC and I have three weeks off this summer and exploring my options.  I have already ridden from Seattle to the MT/ND border and have the opportunity to get a ride to where I left off 6 years ago and continue east on the Northern Tier so that I can eventually make it across the US.  I can probably cover 1200 miles during those 3 weeks. 

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2018, 09:34:18 am »
Welcome to ACA Forums!  You really do not ask a question so I am guessing here  ;) .  As an FYI, the NT route changed several years ago due to oil truck traffic in ND.  Be sure your starting point is the same as your old ending point and that you can easily get to the NT route.

I personally would continue as I like to finish what I start if possible, assuming I was enjoying it.

Also, you might want to include a rest day or two and/or a travel day or two in the 21 days so maybe the 1200 miles is a tad aggressive if you ride the typical average 60 miles per RIDING day.

Best, John


Online John Nelson

Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2018, 10:20:51 am »
Six years ago is almost exactly the same time that the ACA changed the route at the MT/ND border. So were you at the MT/ND border on the pre-2012 route, or the MT/ND border on the post-2012 route?

As John said, many people like to finish what they started. If you're one of them, then finishing the NT is probably a good idea. Your next decision is whether to take the full NT route, or to use the North Lakes Route and and possibly the Lake Erie Connector, because 1200 miles past the MT/ND border will get you to the point in MN where you have to choose. If you decide to take the North Lakes Route, you'll have to then decide whether to go through the Upper Peninsula or take the ferry across Lake Michigan. I went through the Upper Peninsula and took the Lake Erie Connector and I liked it.

You'll have to pick a place from which to get home at the end of the 1200 miles. I assume you'll want to fly home and therefore will be looking for an airport. Minneapolis, Chicago and Green Bay are possibilities.

You should then be able to finish the NT in your third segment in another year.

If you don't feel you need to complete what you started, there are of course many, many other route possibilities. Since you live in Vancouver, the Pacific Coast Route immediately comes to mind and is stunningly beautiful--more beautiful that what you'll see on the NT, and less lonely.

Have fun.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2018, 01:54:11 pm »
The route now drops S/SE at Wolf Point, MT rather that staying on U.S. 2 and crossing the border a bit east of Culbertson. Amtrak's Empire Builder stops at Wolf Point, so that may be convenient for you. (You no longer need to box your bike or get off at a station with checked baggage service.)

Dickinson, ND to Muscatine, IA is about 1,200 miles. So maybe think about heading to Minneapolis for transportation back home. IIRC, one of the NT map sections has a spur into Minneapolis. Major air hub. The Empire Builder also stops there.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2018, 02:06:23 pm »
I have wondered how all the gear of a self-contained cyclist would be treated by Amtrak if you pickup/drop off at a non-Checked Baggage station like Wolf Point.  Yes, you may get off with your bike at Wolf Point but all your gear would have to be carry-on since they do not offered checked bag service at Wolf Point.  Would they allow 4 panniers, a handlebar bag, and/or a rack pack (or gear that goes on rack) all to be allowed as carry-on since the limit according Amtrak is 2 personal and 2 fairly large bags.  Of course you could pay $20 each for a maxiumum of two additional bags (4 large bags total).
Has anyone have actual experience with this and how rough is it to get the bike loaded, and all the gear while the conductor is "encouraging" you to quickly get on board?

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2018, 08:39:50 am »
I have taken the Vermonter, which has roll on service, twice with four panniers. The first time I put a couple of them in an old duffel bag and carried the other two in my hand. Ended up giving away the bag to a student when I got off. The second I put them in a sleeping bag storage bag that I had no use for. No one cared. The thing with the roll on service is that the passenger loads the bike. It's impossible to get the bike around the vestibule corners with panniers on.

The Empire Builder offers Trainside Checked Bicycle Service. Here is what the web site says:

"Standard full-size bicycles may be transported in bicycle racks located in the baggage car. Passengers are not allowed in baggage cars, so Amtrak personnel will store and secure your bike in the bike racks. Before handing your bicycle to an Amtrak crew member, please remove any large seat/saddlebags, handlebar bags or panniers. These items must be consolidated and either checked or carried with you onto the train. This service is only available at select stations. Advance reservations are required. "

https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard

I really don't think the train crew will care if you walk on with two panniers in each hand and a bar bag hanging from your shoulder. The total volume would likely be less than a lot of suitcases I have seen carried on board.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2018, 09:23:39 am »
Thanks, that is good to know they are not rigid about it.  John

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2018, 09:37:12 am »
I am actually going to dial back what I originally wrote because I am not sure I ever nailed down whether or not, when Trainside Checked Service in available, you can get on an off with a bike at stations that don't offer checked baggage service.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Northern Tier or better idea?
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2018, 09:44:21 am »
Amtrak basically says that to verify if bike services is available at BOTH origin and destination, just put in the origin and destination into the Fare Finder and IF bicycle service is available at both locations, the "bike service" symbol will appear.
I sort of knew that but was more concerned that I would be rejected for too many bags (assuming I can't find a gym bag).
Best, John