Author Topic: route thoughts  (Read 14318 times)

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Offline sunfisher

route thoughts
« on: September 23, 2004, 02:53:36 am »
I googled up a couple of maps, and at a very pragmatic level, I think there are a couple of very unemotional things to consider:

While keeping on a course that parallels one or more Underground Railroad paths, the new route should:
1) connect two or more existing routes
2) be within a half day's drive of several major metropolitan areas
3) be on roads that are as pleasant and rural as possible.

A sample map of UG. Routes is available at this link.

Some obvious choices would be
1) Cairo to Chicago, IL
2) Evansville,IN to Monroville, IN (on to Detroit?)
3) Cincy to Cleveland
4) Portsmouth OH to Buffalo
5) the Susquehanna river valley.

#1 partially duplicates the great river route
#3 is underway as a rail-to-trail project
#4 partially duplicates the #3 route, although the bottom half is pure TOSRV.
#5 suffers from a lack of good roads.

If I might make a few observations about #2
a) it would connect the TransAm & Northern Tier as well as the Lake Erie connector.
b) It would serve Louisville, Indy, Cincy, Detroit, and possibly Chicago, Grand Rapids, etc.  It passes near several cities, but through comparatively few.
c) Low traffic paved roads abound, (plus camping, etc)
d)In combination with the Northern Tier, an "omega" shaped route could be devised as follows: Louisville-Monroeville-Syracuse-Philadelphia-Cumberland (C&O canal path).
e) some rural (read: easy to route to) sites remain, including a "Grand Central Station" (Levi Coffin House, just north of Richmond, IN).

Thanks for reading this far :-) Is it really obvious that I live in Indiana?

Offline funbun

route thoughts
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2004, 12:47:21 am »
I don't want to be rude but how can you possibly make a Underground Railroad without including the southeastern states?  At least start in New Orleans.  That was a major sea port many slaves came through New Orleans.  What about Harriett Tubman's rescue missions.  I think she made some 19 trips to help slaves escape from the south.  In fact she was and escaped slave herself.  Did she start in Ohio?  I don't think so.  I'm looking at ACA's maps and I don't see any maps that go through "Dixieland."

If you want connect to maps why not start in New Orleans, go up through Mississippi, Alabama, perhaps Tennesse or Georgia and connect with the Atlantic Coast map somewhere around North Carolina or so.

Maybe I'm missing something here but if the Underground Railroad route doesn't include the some of the southeastern states I don't see how you could call it and Underground Railroad Map.  States like Mississippi and Alabama and Tennessee are desparate to shead all vestiges of the "old south."  Having part of the ACA Underground Railroad going through their state would be a way for them to ackowledge the wrongs of the past and provide yet another way to recognize the great many people both black and white that helped many slave escape to freedom.

This message was edited by funbun on 9-27-04 @ 8:51 PM

Offline sunfisher

route thoughts
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2004, 11:51:09 pm »
I think the real problem with underground railroad sites south of the Ohio River or Mason-Dixon line is that of documentation. For various reasons, it seems that the underground railroad's route structure was a great deal more cohesive in the free states. Both the UCSD and NPS maps - which seem to pop up with great frequency have a lot more detail about routes in northern states.

I was surprised by this too, but then I thought about the few narratives I've read, and they seem consistent with this.

That said, the "Drinking Gourd" song suggests the Tenn-Tom waterway as a logical route up to the Ohio.  An "Underground Railroad" route owes to its name the tracing of documented routes and the connection of documented sites.  To do otherwise is a disservice.

At a distressingly practical level, a trail that does not get used is not worth the effort to put together.  Would a route roughly paralleling the Natchez Trace be a big enough draw?  I don't know.  Would it be worthwhile to roughly follow the Tennessee, Cumberland, or Kentucky rivers?  Maybe.

Offline sbthomas

route thoughts
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2004, 10:00:00 am »

I am pleased to read this discussion regarding both the historic record and the spirit of the underground railroad and the implications for the bike route. Clearly we must include locations in the South. I also agree that the creation of the UR route can make a meaingful contribution toward healing the racial divide. This is one of our original intents.  The route must also be "true" to history as well as practical.  Another aim is to have people actually use the route, both for exercise and for exercising the mind and spirit about an important defining period in the history of our nation.

From where I sit, the key is to begin the process with an open mind. I want to thank both of you for getting the discussion started.


"Be the change you seek in the world", Stephen

Offline sbthomas

route thoughts
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2004, 10:14:44 am »

I was focused on something Sunfisher wrote:

"a trail that does not get used is not worth the effort to put together."

While I agree, I am not sure what comes first. What do we know about the level of usage for existing AC routes? I serve on the Board of the Rails to Trails Conservency and raised the same question.  It it enough to create a Rail Trail regardless of usage? Clearly we must do both.  What good is a great trail if no one knows about it? With the UR bike route we are trying to do both. Build the route and build public awareness at the same time.

"Be the change you seek in the world", Stephen

This message was edited by sbthomas on 10-4-04 @ 6:23 AM
"Be the change you seek in the world", Stephen

Offline bikemedic

route thoughts
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2005, 03:23:52 pm »
If the route goes thru Alabama, it would be good to include places like Selma, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Biringham. I dont know how much of the underground Railroad passed thru or near these places but they are important areas to the story of Civil Rights in general. I made my own Civil Rights tour a couple years ago and want to go back.
 Just a thought

This message was edited by bikemedic on 2-28-05 @ 12:00 PM

Offline funbun

route thoughts
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2005, 04:56:24 pm »
Yeah, I'm from Selma.  I'd probably be better to call it Civil Right's tour.  Why not make the basic Underground railroad tour and then add "day trips" to Civil Rights landmarks and attractions?  That way person take door the straight tour or see the sights.

Offline Indianacharlie

route thoughts
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2005, 12:53:20 pm »
I agree with Sunfisher regarding the opportunities for cycling in
Indiana. Check out the following site for a really scenic route along the
Wabash River from Evansville to Ft Wayne.

Charlie (Trying to dispell the rumor that Indiana is all flat with corn

Scenic routes in Indiana and Kentucky:

Offline joeprim

route thoughts
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2005, 07:13:52 pm »
There is a "stop" on the underground RR in Snow Camp N.C. called Sward of Peace. It documents how the Quackers living there helped escaped slaves. There maybe some documentation on routes there that might be helpful.


Offline hughstone

route thoughts
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2005, 02:42:41 pm »
Hello all. In another thread (, I had sought advice in routing from Cumberland, Maryland to Oberlin, Ohio.  Having looked into this thread and done some Googling, it seems that some of the route we will likely travel will be relevant to the UG route.  In particular, thanks to the advice of Anna, we will follow Pa. Bike Route "S" which we will join on the Youghiogheny River trail and follow parallel to Interstate 70 to Wheeling West Virginia.  From there we will head NNE on a route that seems to follow one of the published UR routes through Ohio.  ( . Any additional advice on the Ohio portion is welcome, but I plan to research roads (traffic and shoulders) on my own over the next few weeks before we leave.  This route would serve the goal of connecting a major bike route (essentially, the C&O canal starting in Washington to Cleveland to the ACA NT route).  You can follow our adventures at I will also update this forum as I learn more and will post our experiences when we are done.

Offline CMajernik

route thoughts
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2005, 03:16:00 pm »
FYI - a mapped bike route has already been published as a connector
between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. ACA sells it, here's the link:

Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline Styx

route thoughts
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2005, 02:40:50 am »
The Natchez Trace is a beautiful route from Nashville, Tn. to Natchez, Miss. It passes through areas you would never glimpse on more modern highways.

Offline sbthomas

route thoughts
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2005, 07:00:42 pm »
Thank you very much for the thoughtful message on factors to consider in the UR bicycle route.  We have a draft map, but I do not know how to attach it to this message.  Let me investigate


"Be the change you seek in the world", Stephen
"Be the change you seek in the world", Stephen