Author Topic: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states  (Read 2313 times)

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Offline Nyimbo

Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« on: January 18, 2022, 03:22:37 am »
I haven't chimed in for quite awhile but still here following the discussions. I'm thinking about tour ideas for next summers riding season.  There are 5 remaining states in the USA that I have never been to.  North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.  I am thinking perhaps I might  incorporate these last 5 states into a tour. 


I have ridden through a couple states making up my own route with no problems but even so I would prefer to stay on established routes where I can take advantage of the ACA maps and more often encounter other riders to visit with.  Any ideas of a nice route.


I can see having two places to start depending on how much time I decide to take.  I have a son who lives in Kennewick, WA  I could start there. It wouldn't take much arm twisting to get my wife to go visit the grandkids and deliver me and my bicycle to a starting point pretty close to the Lewis and Clark route.  I could then ride east following the route to the Dakotas.  The shorter option if I can't budget as much time would be if I could take Amtrak's Empire Builder and depart at an appropriate station closer to North Dakota.  From there what do you think might be the a great route to enjoy Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan without too much backtracking.




Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2022, 09:50:11 am »
Oooh, a nice query on such a cold day.  I take it you do not have to ride across the entire state but what, in YOUR opinion, constitutes riding "in" a state, i.e., literally just cross the border, must stay in the state X nights, cover X miles, etc.?

Tailwinds, John

Online staehpj1

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2022, 10:08:49 am »
Oooh, a nice query on such a cold day.  I take it you do not have to ride across the entire state but what, in YOUR opinion, constitutes riding "in" a state, i.e., literally just cross the border, must stay in the state X nights, cover X miles, etc.?

Tailwinds, John
I noticed that Nyimbo said they were stated he'd never "been to" not that he'd "never toured" them.  So that does leave open the possibility that a brief visit might be acceptable.  I know that for example almost no one counts changing planes as a visit, but most do count other fairly brief visits. I recall an argument over this topic where one person said you had to perform "a quality action" the case in point was one where they had ridden across a small portion of a state on a bicycle.  The second person said that riding a bike was "a quality action" by any reasionable definition.

Clarification on the requirement in this case?

It looks like a bit of a stretch to cobble it together into one tour.  For what it is worth, I wouldn't hesitate to catch a bus or train to connect two loops or point to point trips if it made for a better overall trip if there isn't any common theme joining it all.

Offline jamawani

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2022, 12:31:11 pm »
US 12 has the distinction of an east-west highway that traverses both ND & SD.
You have the near-ghost town of Marmarth, ND - true boom & bust.
Then you cross the Standing Rock Reservation in northern SD.
When you hit the Missouri River at Mobridge, you can follow the Lewis & Clark south.
In southern SD, you can head east on low-traffic roads thru farmland to northern Iowa.

Northern Iowa has excellent paved county roads and a few rail trails - plus numerous county parks for camping.
Swing north to Preston, Minn, and the Root River Trail to the Mississippi.
From La Crosse, Wis. take the Great River Trail to the Elroy-Sparta Trail - the first rail trail in the U.S.
From Elroy, head east on back roads to Manitowoc. Wisconsin has great county bike maps online.

Then take the SS Badger across Lake Michigan to Ludington.
Ride north on the lakeshore and end at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
You can even take a ferry out and camp on one of the Manitou islands.
Sleeping Bear is da best.

https://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/northmanitouisland.htm

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2022, 12:56:22 pm »
For my purposes I am talking about having visited even briefly.  For example years ago I was driving across Arkansas from Jonesboro to Fayetteville. When I reached Fort Smith I detoured West into Ok and over to hwy 59, I turned north and had lunch in Stilwell then continued north back into Arkansas to Fayetteville.  That was probably only 2 hours, but I do count it.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2022, 01:18:44 pm »
If that is the case, I would suggest starting in Medora, ND, tour that area then head south on US-85 to Spearfish, SD, >US14A south to near Lead and jump on the Mickelson Trail into Hill City. 

Either loop counter clockwise via Custer SP (recommended if you can do some harder climbs) or clockwise into Rapid City.  Head west on state/county roads that parallel I-90 more or less all the way to Austin where you take a nice bike path down to Le Roy, MN. 

Cross over into Iowa briefly into Lime Springs (again via county roads) then back up to Harmony, MN, where you get on the Harmony/Preston Trail then the Root River Trails (both in my Top 5 trails in the USA).  After that, mostly county roads to La Crosse where you pick up various trails and county roads to all the across to Milwaukee (probably 75% trails, most paved).  Cross over to Michigan and then either north along the shore to Sault St. Marie (car back home or to Amtrak), east along bike paths to Flint (Amtrak back home), or south to Holland (Amtrak).

If you want to do this, I have GPS data for most of the route between Spearfish to Milwaukee and cue sheets for most parts between La Crosse to Milwaukee. PM if you want them.

Hope you have a great trip!

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2022, 03:53:09 pm »
In the past couple years, I have thought from time to time that the idea of a route encompassing these 5 remaining states on my list would be a good idea, but this is the first time I have done so in front of the computer and maps - looking to see if it is possible or wise etc. Thanks for the ideas.  I just spent the last couple hours trying to google.map the 2 suggested routes above.

Here are my first takes after 2 hours mapping. 
Starting my trip from my son's house in Washington is a better idea if I board the Amtrak there.  I quickly realized don't have enough time to do another cross country at this time.  But Amtrak from Washington to ND looks good.  John why did you suggest Minot - Just curious?  It looks like bikes are allowed to board at both in Minot and Williston.

Second thought I'd probably be happy to take the Ferry and ride to Sleeping Bear Dunes and end the ride there. I can and leave the extra sight seeing in Salt St. Marie to another trip.  My wife and I are planning to vacation in the Upper Peninsula the summer after she retires anyway.

I do enjoy the bike paths and rail trails.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Kathy trail, the GAP and the C&O, as well as one I am forgetting the name of out of Cincinnati.

Last, is Mount Rushmore worth a detour to see on bicycle?





Offline jamawani

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2022, 04:13:35 pm »
Mount Rushmore is fine if you like 3.5 million tourists and traffic backed up for miles.
The North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is way more rewarding.

Do you do dirt?
Do you prefer busier roads with services or quiet back roads?
How much time do you have for this - - and when.
January is rather chilly, but Juy can be blistering hot in the Dakotas.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2022, 04:39:56 pm »
John why did you suggest Minot - Just curious?  It looks like bikes are allowed to board at both in Minot and Williston.

Last, is Mount Rushmore worth a detour to see on bicycle?
I said Medora (along I-94), not Minot.  I thought Medora since you indicated your wife might be able to bring you there in the car.  Plus it is sort of a neat town in that almost the entire town is owned by a non-profit group (the town itself I think).  I also found the loop inside the adjoining Theodore Roosevelt NP interesting.  If taking Amtrak to the start (not the wife), then probably Williston or whatever stop to the west is.  However, the highway going south of Williston has a fairly significant amount of truck traffic but it did have good shoulders IIRC. The traffic dies out the closer you get to I-94 but I would never consider it quiet north of I-94.

I really really enjoy the area around Custer SP in South Dakota and that is one reason I like the new ACA PPP Route.  I consider this area the best area of SD by far.  Mt. Rushmore is nice and only around 3 miles off route.  But it does have a decent climb to get to it.  I found it one of the more interesting national monuments but it may not be for everyone.  You would probably need 1/2 day total to visit it. 

Between say Kadoka and Kennebec, the scenery is more miles not smiles, at least to me.  But totally wide open.  East of Chamberlain it starts to green up and flatten out. Minnesota east is fairly green to lush green.  Note that from LaCrosse, you can either take the rail trails (nice and flat but not as scenic) or the bucolic but very hilly county roads to Baraboo. I also really enjoy riding in Wisconsin.  Just be sure to always lock your bikes due to the higher incidents of bike thefts which I guess is one of the downsides of such a bike-friendly state.

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2022, 05:28:00 pm »
Do you do dirt?
Do you prefer busier roads with services or quiet back roads?
How much time do you have for this - - and when.
January is rather chilly, but Juy can be blistering hot in the Dakotas.
I Used to hate dirt but my newest bike's tires handle dirt fine
I'm limiting myself to plus or minus 4 weeks
Perhaps Cinco de Mayo would be a good start date

I prefer quiet back roads with lots of services

Offline jamawani

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2022, 06:03:21 pm »
I prefer quiet back roads with lots of services

Ha-ha. Don't we all.

But sometimes you can do that if the north-south road is busy,
but the east-west road is a backwater.

In northern Indiana, US 30 is 4 lanes, almost expressway.
The historic Lincoln Highway, Old US 30, is still a pretty busy through route.
But Old Trail Road, which predates the Lincoln Highway, is practically empty.
Plus, you get the services in towns along the way.

But situations like that are rare and require doing your homework.

Pic - Old Trail Road near Columbia City

Offline jamawani

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2022, 06:24:35 pm »
About Cinco de Mayo and Amtrak -

May 5th is still early in the Northern Plains - especially with any elevation.
I live at 4900 ft. at the base of the Bighorns - in the flatlands so to speak.
We always get early May snows and often have a cold snap on Memorial Day.
Some facilities - esp. in the Black Hills - may not open until late May.

Amtrak has been strugging throughout the pandemic.
They cut service on the Empire Builder to 3 days per week.
Last summer they expanded it back to 7 days.
But then they had the horrible wreck with fatalities near Chester, Mont.
This route has been plagued with significant delays even before the accident.

Check and double-check service dates.
It can be confusing because a train that departs Portland on a Wed.
then travels across North Dakota on Thurs. and arrives in Chicago on Fri.
The Empire Builder bike service is only available at stations with baggage service.
Havre, MT and Minot, ND have baggage service. Williston's has been irregular.
Williston suspended baggage service during the worst of the pandemic.
It may suspend again because of staffing issues. Check well in advance.

I've used Amtrak on many tours. I guess they're about as good as airlines.
It's certainly cheaper and the bike boxes are huge.
They damaged my front fork once and left my bike at the wrong station another time.
Just sayin'.

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2022, 06:49:21 pm »
Thanks for the heads up re: Amtrak.
For this possible tour starting in Minot when do you think you would start?

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2022, 07:02:30 pm »
Checkout WeatherSpark.com to see what the best time is for you.  I like it warm, others like it cool. 

For instance, in May, Minot starts with a high of only 62* but ends with 72*.  However, wind is slightly more northerly before the middle of the month but the chance of rain increases as the month goes along.

Offline jamawani

Re: Route ideas for touring in my 5 northern missing states
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2022, 08:51:51 pm »
There's a reason why so few people live in North Dakota.
If the average high in early May is 62F -
That means 3 days of 42F with cold rain & snow flurries -
Then maybe a passing day of 62F, then three days of 82F.

Plus there is Dorothy - of course, she was down in Kansas.
There's another story about a girl named Flora Leigh from North Dakota.
She told the good witch that she didn't want to go home again.
Arctic cold, then huge storms, then blazing heat.

The Great Plains have a precipitation peak around Memorial Day.
About half the annual precip comes in May and June - comes in buckets.
And via storms that are doozies and breathtaking.
But nothing to take lightly, either, especially if you are on a bicycle.
During late spring, it's best to ride early and be done by early afternoon.
Because storms build to monstrous heights in the late afternoon heat.

And if you are cycling thru Wisconsin and across to Michigan -
The North Woods and Lake Michigan take along time to warm up.
Granted, Michigan is at the end of your trip.
But break-up of the lake ice can take place anywhere from early March to late April.
And the Michigan shore is 5-7 degrees cooler than the Wisconsin side.

<<<>>>

With all that said -
and still not knowing exactly where you are plotting this or for how long -
I'd start just after Memorial Day and finish just before July 4th. 4 1/2 weeks.
If you started earlier, Memorial Day shouldn't be an issue in the High Plains.
But any later and July 4th will be crazy on the Lake Michigan shore.