It’s hard to believe that I have exhausted all of the excellent bicycle tour routes in the United States. First let me clarify what I consider to be a tour. For me a reasonable bicycle tour will be 300 to 500 miles long, which puts it in the six to ten day range. There are many people like me who can’t go away for months on what I consider to be an exotic tour. Those are the kinds of tours that will take you across the United States or through Southeast Asia. I don’t even like to read about those kinds of tours because I find them annoying.
There are some foreign tours that I would like to do that would meet my length criteria, but the logistics are difficult to plan and they will be expensive. These include Hadrian’s Cycleway in the UK, the Canal du Midi in France, or the Lunga via Delle Dolomiti in Italy with connections into Austria and Slovenia. I do dream of adventures on those trails, but it isn’t practical for me to travel there.
I’ve done Buffalo to Albany on the Erie Canal Cycleway a few times; most of the Adirondack Park Loop; and Pittsburgh to Georgetown on the Great Allegheny Passage / Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath. After much research, I conclude that the GAP / C&O Towpath may be one of the best trails and experiences in the country. That’s the kind of ride that I would like to plan as my next tour.
The Katy Trail in Missouri is a rail trail that offers some hope, but it comes in at a little less than 250 miles. For comparison, the GAP / C&O trail is about 350 miles. From Boston to St. Louis is a long way to travel for a four to five day bicycle ride.
Of course, there is the Great Divide Bicycle Route from Banff, Alberta, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, almost 2,800 miles of off road cycling. Most stretches of that route are a challenge and many stretches are very remote, so I can’t see myself tackling even a small segment of it. Adventure Cycling Association recommends traveling in a group of at least three so that one person can stay with the injured party while the third person rides off into the distance for help. The hope would be that the third person can reach cell phone coverage before being eaten by a grizzly bear.
There are many interesting places to travel by bicycle using the roads, but safety is a big thing with me. My Adirondack Park Loop tour used that kind of route. Some of that particular route uses small secondary roads that have very low traffic. The trouble is that much of the route also shares the road with heavy traffic, including lots of tractor-trailer trucks. My trip there was done before tourist season opened. It must be much worse when the tourist traffic begins. That would not be a concern if there were wide shoulders, but in many places the shoulders are extremely narrow or non-existent. It is way too stressful to ride a route like this and be able to enjoy the trip.
In my bicycle travels I have been impressed with the New York state bicycle routes. I have been on Bike Route 5 and found the shoulders wide and the road reasonably safe and well-designed for bicycle travel. Both Route 9 and Route 11 connect with la Route Verte in Quebec province. I figure that it is possible to ride from Albany, through Montreal, and into Quebec City, a trip of about 400 miles. When I tried to find a detailed map of Bicycle Route 9, I find that there isn’t one. Instead I found reviews that were critical of the road, saying that portions were very busy and dangerous. It turns out that Bike Route 9 doesn’t follow New York State Highway 9. Bike Route 9 meanders and at one point follows a route that is familiar to me from my Adirondack Park Loop tour. That was not a good experience for me during that tour. Bike Route 9 follows New York State 22 along Lake Champlain and I found the road busy and narrow at many points.
When I planned my Erie trip and when I planned my GAP / C&O trips I didn’t run into the kinds of problems that I have in trying to find other viable U.S. tours. It’s not that I have issues with hardship. I have issues with safety. I don’t even mind hills, but I don’t like hills with logging trucks barreling downhill and whipping past me like a whirlwind.
So, it looks like I will reprise my Erie and GAP /C&O trips. I will dream about the UK and Europe. Realistically, I will probably plan a bicycle tour in Canada to try a new route and give Canada a chance since it seems to be bicycle friendly. There is a lot of information about Route Verte, but it may take a while to get through some of the French language difficulties. There are plenty of resources in English as well. There is a lot of information for planning. The route maps are detailed with links for services and markers for rest areas. Positive reviews of the many trails comprising la Route Verte are easy to find. The message “Bienvenue cyclistes!” is received loud and clear. See you in Canada.