I am thinking of putting together a week on the bike this late spring. The idea is to take as many rails to trails style paths as possible. Area is Central Wisconsin.
So far I have read about The 400, Elroy-Sparta and Nicolet trails. Ideally, I would take the Amtrak/Metra to some drop-off spot and get going north and west.
Any ideas or suggestions on connecting trails so as to make this longer than a one-day ride? I am not averse to riding on country roads but prefer the safety of the R2T type paths.
Also, if you have done something like this and can chime in on the do's and don'ts, I would appreciate it.
Amtrak to Kansas City and ride the trail back to St Charles, MO?
Amtrak to Alton, IL then follow the Katy Trail to Windsor to branch off onto the Rock Island Spur northwest to Pleasant Hill.
Find your way to Kansas City MO, spend the night and take the morning Amtrak back to St Louis and then the afternoon Amtrak back to Chicago.
All of the Amtrak routes allow carry-on bikes.
I agree the Katy Trail is a great option. FWIW, I found that it was NOT easy to find a safe-looking route from the trail to Kansas City. Another option is to take Amtrak back from Sedalia, MO. You can either stop riding west when you hit Sedalia, or keep riding west and then turn around and head back to Sedalia.
Another idea: if you decide to do this, it is easier to ride west-to-east. There is a slight uphill when you go east to west, as I learned. ;)
A note on riding on the Katty Trail:
It follows the river, so in heaving forested areas there are a lot of mosquitos and flies. You can outrun the mosquitos but not the flies.
However, there is a highway along most of the trail. You can get off and ride along the highway to avoid the insects. However, you're trading the insects for riding out in the sun on a hot day.
Well I've biked rail-trails, and I've biked small rural Wisconsin roads....and I prefer the roads. On a rail-trail, you're just grinding out the miles at a constant pitch. No downhills to zoom down; no uphills to cause you to break a sweat. Pretty boring. I'd think twice about spending a whole week riding on them.
Unfortunately paper maps have largely gone the way of the buggy whip. The State of Wisconsin used to give away a free set of bike maps of the whole state, showing not only the best roads for biking, but also a good bike route across the state called The Wisconsin Bikeway. The Milwaukee Map Service used to sell excellent maps showing ALL the paved roads.
But none of this is available now; killed by the internet, like so much else in our world of 1975. So you have to depend on stuff you can find on-line. Here is a site that tries to resurrect some of those bike maps, and has decent bike information.
But I'd encourage you to think of a far bigger plan: Riding across the entire USA in stages! Using AMTRAK to connect the stages each year. I did just that beginning about 25 years ago, and finally reached San Diego 15 years later.
I kept a big map of the USA on my bedroom wall, showing the stages of my ride: across Iowa with Ragbrai, across Kansas with BAK (Bike Across Kansas), across Colorado with Ride the Rockies, across Wisconsin with GRABWAR, across Michigan with Ride the Thumb, etc. And I used AMTRAK to get me within biking distance of the beginning and end of each ride. AMTRAK to Gallup, NM for instance, then ride north through Navajo country to meet the beginning of Ride the Rockies in Durango, CO.
All of this bike riding was basically solo, staying mostly in motels, but carrying small panniers and a lightweight tent and sleeping bag for impromptu overnights. It was a grand, multi-year adventure. I recommend it, as compared with aimless rides around the Midwest. Good luck!
Thanks for the perspective and ideas, clp. I haven't really thought much about coordinated rides like Rabrai and the others. No way I get a map on my bedroom wall, but the garage will do.
As to hills versus flatlands...I prefer a workout. But five or six 60+ mile days including hills might be a fair bit much. Maybe not. Also, I guess I thought it would be safer on protected trails that and the view from there would be less commercial (or so I would think.) I guess I will have to give that some thought.
BTW your link...gold, pure gold. Thank you!
Glad you found it useful. And I didn't mean to endorse all those cross-state rides. With my current perspective, the only organized ride worth joining is Ragbrai across Iowa; it is a masterpiece, no matter what your objective: athletic, bikie, party, family or travel.
The other rides I mentioned I found too controlled, too limited, and too disciplined. Plus no alternative route for private sags as Ragbrai requires. So you end up riding in the middle of one of the highest-trafficked roads in the state each day! With some of those sags pushing past 6-8 times a day, as they hop-scotch along the route, meeting their riders every hour.
If I rode across the US again, I'd ride solo a lot more, making liberal use of county road maps issued by the state, and the bike maps of Adventure Cycling.
I find that there is a trade-off either way when it comes to multi-day rides on a rail-to-trail versus normal roads.
Rail-to-trail can get monotonous, it is true. But, it is safe, and it is quite relaxing.
Normal roads are more interesting. But, it is not as easy to find and pick a safe route.
Both have their benefits and drawbacks. I've gone on a multi-day solo ride every year for the past 8 years, and in recent years I've been leaning toward rail-to-trail. I like the peace of mind.
Another option: Amtrak to Grand Rapids, MI. Ride the White Pine trail and the Pere Marquette trail.
Another version of this: Metra to Kenosha, ferry across the lake, ride trails (I don't know what they are, but I know they're there) from the coast to GR, then as before.
The Empire Builder gets you close to the Elroy Sparta Trail.
I rented a bike when I did it, and liked it. Deer, an owl, and modest hills.
The tree canopy in parts keeps down the winds and the melanoma. If you do like trail riding and are on the right bike, it is nice. For instance, my tri-bike tires won't work on it of course but others will. As clp points out, there are other styles of rides but if your heart is set on a trail, it was quite nice. You'll actually encounter more people face-to-face versus the rural roads, which is good or bad depending. Think Spring!!
There's also options nearer to the Mississippi:
1. Metra from Chicago to Harvard.
2. Amtrak from Winona, Minnesota to Chicago
or vice versa:)
This is my suggested route.I tried to maximize the amount of rails to trails in the shortest distance between the two trains. It's a 250 mile ride, so you can break it up into however you'd like.
Interesting MagMileMarauder. Did you take this route?