Saturday, May 25, 2013

La Mappa Della Bicicletta

Signore e signori, vi presento la mappa della bicicletta...

The bike route.

Introducing the route for this summer's bicycle trip! The solid blue lines indicate segments that will be traversed by bicycle. The blue-pink lines represent sections that will be travelled via Amtrak train. When all is said and done, I will have bicycled about 4,000 miles.

I will be following routes established by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) and Rails-to-Trails (RTR) organizations. Below is a list of the locations at the beginning and end of each route segment. Each segment is enclosed by two pins on the map. Each pin indicates either a change in ACA/RTR maps or a change in mode of transportation. For those of you who are bicycle geeks and who are interested in the particulars of the route, I've included the names of the ACA and RTR maps that I'll be following.
  • A➝B: Portland, OR to Clarkston, WA (ACA: Lewis & Clark #7)
  • B➝C: Clarkston, WA to Missoula, MT (ACA: Lewis & Clark #6)
  • C➝D: Missoula, MT to Whitefish, MT (ACA: Great Parks North #2)
  • D➝E: Whitefish, MT to Minneapolis, MN (Amtrak)
  • E➝F: Minneapolis, MN to Escanaba, MI (ACA: North Lakes #1)
  • F➝G: Escanaba, MI to Mackinaw City, MI (ACA: North Lakes #2)
  • G➝H: Mackinaw City, MI to Wolf Lake, MI (ACA: North Lakes #3)
  • H➝I: Wolf Lake, MI to Orchard Park, NY (ACA: Lake Erie Connector)
  • I➝J: Orchard Park, NY to Ticonderoga, NY (ACA: Northern Tier #10)
  • J➝K: Ticonderoga, NY to Brunswick, ME (ACA: Northern Tier #11)
  • K➝L: Brunswick, ME to Boston, MA (ACA: Atlantic Coast #1)
  • L➝M: Boston, MA to Washington, DC (Amtrak)
  • M➝N: Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD (RTR: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal)
  • N➝O: Cumberland, OH to Pittsburg, PA (RTR: Great Allegheny Passage)
  • O➝P: Pittsburg, PA to Erie, PA (ACA: Pittsburg Spur-Underground Railroad)
  • P➝Q: Erie PA to Monroeville, IN (ACA: Northern Tier #9)
  • Q➝R: Monroeville, IN to Odell, IL (ACA: Northern Tier #8)
  • R➝S Odell, IL to Mundelein, IL (Family Taxi Service)

Maps, maps, maps!

Each of the ACA maps consists of 300-500 miles of bike route. The maps are broken down into smaller panels. Each panel shows 30-50 miles of the route and includes turn-by-turn instructions, elevation profiles, campgrounds, etc. The maps contemplate the safest route between two points, but they also, on occasion, provide alternative trails.

Sample of an Adventure Cycling map panel.

If you are interested in learning more about the ACA maps, Adventure Cycling has created an entertaining, fast-paced, 8-minute-long video about how to read their maps:

As I mentioned in a prior post, the first few weeks of the trip are somewhat structured. I need to be in Missoula, MT the second weekend in June to participate in Adventure Cycling's Leadership Training program. Jake will be wrapping up a two-week urban exploration of the Minneapolis-St. Paul drain system in mid-June. So, after my class, I'll be taking Amtrak to Minneapolis to meet up with him so that we can do some touring together. Jake only has three weeks available for biking, and so we need to make sure that we're near a major metropolitan area (most likely Buffalo, NY) by the end of the first week in July so that he can grab a flight home. After that, the rest of the trip is unconstrained by schedules.

My Uncle Dean asked for the route's highest elevation. (Hi Uncle Dean!) Based on the maps, the highest elevation will be at Rogers Pass (5,610 ft), located on the Continental Divide in Montana. I was a little concerned about the potential of running into snow on the pass. Today's forecast for the pass is afternoon thunderstorms, with a high of 61° and a low of 35°, and this live webcam (at 5,406 ft on the highway leading up to the pass) indicates that the route is free of snow. So, I think the pass will be in good shape.

Rogers Pass is located along a popular migration route for both golden and bald eagles. The migration is in March and April, so I unfortunately will have missed the masses of birds. Interesting tidbit: The Pass holds the record for the coldest temperature in the US, outside of Alaska--the temperature fell to -70°F (-57°C) in 1954. Holy elephant-sized goose pimples! And, Wiki tells me that "the region is noted for its inaccessibility and as one of the last strongholds for the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states." Yippee! By this point in the trip, I will likely have already lost a few pounds, and so hopefully I'll be a wee bit less attractive as grizzly meat.

For the record, the highest I've ever biked is Washington Pass, at 5,477 ft. This was part of Cascade Bicycle's fully-supported Ride Across Washington on Highway 20 back in 2009. I did that climb on an unloaded, lightweight, carbon-framed road bike. Things will be a little different this go-around; my bike will weigh about 60 pounds more. But, hey, at least my touring bike has a triple crankset with a nice range of gears.

At the top of Washington Pass, with my friend Phil, in 2009.

This trip will have a lot of "firsts" for me. Yeah, there's the simple stuff like the highest climb, my longest "vacation," and my first experiences with stealth camping. But more importantly, this trip will be the first one for me for which I will be absolutely free.

Take me away--I'm as free as can be!
(It's bad, I know it. Please forgive me.)

I leave in three days!! The excitement is palpable!!

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