The Adventure Cycling blog covers bicycle-travel news, touring tips and gear, bicycle routes, organizational news, membership highlights, guided tours, and more. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.
Photo by Adam Coppola
I recently had the job of researching the western "half" of Adventure Cycling's new Bicycle Route 66 route. So what do we do when we research a new route? First of all, after we have a general idea of a new route, e.g. Historic Route 66, we gather information from local cyclists and clubs in each area to get suggestions on specific roads to use. Then we take these suggestions, along with a handful of bike maps and other detailed maps, and hit the road.
When Adventure Cycling released the first GPS waypoint files in early 2003, we had no idea what the future might hold for technology in mapping and navigation. We certainly couldn't have predicted the rise of the smartphone as a location finding tool or the downward trend in GPS-receiver unit sales.
Ever since Adventure Cycling released the new routing through North Dakota, we've been anxiously awaiting feedback from cyclists riding it. We are fortunate because we happen to know a few of the cyclists out there and they are reporting back to us. Mac Sullivan (Special Projects Director Ginny Sullivan's 17-year-old son), his best friend Drew Gottman, and two new friends Tyler and Neal, are riding together and have just crossed North Dakota on the Northern Tier route. They gave it mostly glowing reviews.
Sit back, turn up the volume and check out our "How to Read Adventure Cycling Maps" video. And don't worry if you missed something or need to hear it again, that's one of the joys of video, right? You can pause, rewind and replay as many times as you wish!
Many of our updated route maps have been converted to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and are now sporting the new style conventions. It's been exciting to see established routes refreshed in this way. One of the new features is adding convenience stores. In most cases, we are not really adding new information as much as redefining old data.
Last week we heard about a fantastic development via the Virginia Bicycling Federation about the Virginia State Park System. They announced a new policy that ensures long distance touring cyclists will always have a spot to pitch a tent in their parks, even when designated spots are filled.
The North American Black Historical Museum is located in Amherstburg, which was a primary entry point into Canada for those seeking freedom along the Underground Railroad. The museum’s chief exhibit leads visitors on a trek through time, from the days before the slave trade in Africa, to the harrowing oversea voyages that blacks captives endured en route to America, to the horrors of being enslaved in a strange land … to their escapes and dangerous journeys to Canada.
Even before it was declared illegal in Canada in the late 1700s, the practice of slavery was minimal there, largely a result of the short growing season in much of the country. According to In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience (a project of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture), Canada first became a destination for freedom seekers after 1772, when England proclaimed that any runaway slave crossing the international border from the United States would automatically be free.
In 1913, an instructor at Ypsilanti's Michigan State Normal College (today’s Eastern Michigan University) by the name of Mary A. Goddard researched and wrote a paper on the Underground Railroad which at that time had been shut down for less than fifty years. According to writer James Mann, Goddard penned these words about the Railroad: “Even the children of the families of those connected with it knew little of what was actually going on about them. The success of the institution depended on secrecy.
Beginning around 2008, we started hearing rumblings that traffic was picking up and oil and gas development was on the rise negatively affecting our routes in North Dakota. In response we made a series of small and then large route changes for travel across the state instituting our first ever map replacement policy due to safety issues.
The legacy of the Underground Railroad is rich along the Detroit Alternate, which branches off from the main UGRR at Oberlin, a place of division in more ways than one. The settlement was founded in 1833 by a pair of Presbyterian ministers discouraged by what they believed to be a virtual absence of solid Christian values and morals among the settlers moving ever westward. Their new town, named after Jean-Frédéric Oberlin -- a French minister and missionary the men admired -- would be a place of living and learning for those dedicated to the Biblical commandments.
Looking at the Adventure Cycling Route Network as a whole -- all 40,000+ miles of it -- can be a bit intimidating so it's important to remember that a significant journey need not mean pedaling a high number of miles. For example, using the Outer Banks Alternate found on the Atlantic Coast Route section 4, a route of manageable size can be created.
If you've ever used an Adventure Cycling map to navigate our network, you may remember seeing those brilliant pink lines that cross the route on the map panels. Those lines indicate where the narrative directions begin and end. In other words, before you can travel from map panel to map panel, you must first travel from matchline to matchline.
With the increasing number of Cyclists Only Lodging and Camping listings on our maps, we got to wondering how one of the first of these facilities was doing: the Community Center in Monroeville, Indiana. I was able to connect with some cyclists who had stayed there recently and asked.
When we released the Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route maps in the spring of 2010, it was with our usual excitement. As the summer passed, we received the normal amount of corrections and additions associated with a first edition. What we didn't expect to receive was the feedback about the riding conditions of California State Highway 89 (SR 89). Cyclists were concerned about their safety, sharing this often shoulder-less highway with large vehicles — logging trucks in particular.
In June 2010, we reported that Black Hawk, Colorado was banning bicycling on most roads in town, citing safety concerns. The ban includes the roads we use on the Great Parks South Section 1 route map State Highway 119 and County Road 279.
In recent weeks I have come across a couple of indications that the hidden gem of a route known as the Allegheny Mountains Loop is growing in popularity. The route covers terrain both paved and gravel with grades ranging from 1 percent to a steep 18 percent. It also provides lots of opportunities to enjoy a more primitive style of camping, with regular indoor lodging stops available, as well.
Based on some of the phone calls and emails we get, it seems the "Riding Conditions" section on our route network maps is often overlooked. Probably not on purpose; I mean, you just bought a map, right? So you open it up and are looking at the maps, and you can get engrossed in seeing where you are heading. However, reading the "Riding Conditions" is worth your time, I promise.
The actions of Mother Nature have an effect on the circumstances that bicycle travelers encounter as they pedal their routes. Road systems are impacted by flooding, snow pack melt and seasonal weather events. There are ways to find out about these issues and share them with traveling cyclists.
If you've ever used an Adventure Cycling map you already know that they include a very valuable tool called the Service Directory. We've never told the businesses we list there that they are on our maps; we've never asked these businesses if they are enjoying having cyclists at their stores and in their communities. And we've never talked to those businesses to let them know what they can do to be more bike-travel friendly. What does this have to do with those images at the tops of our maps?
When I first saw the map for PAVING THE WAY: The National Park-to-Park Highway documentary, I flashed on the blog post I wrote in December 2009 about A Killer Route Loop. The film recreates the 5,000 mile, 76-day journey undertaken by 12 individuals via automobile in 1920 to visit twelve western U.S. national parks. The Killer Route Loop would use pieces of our route network to showcase a slightly different slice of the West. Both trips take in some of the most stunning scenery the U.S. National Park Service system has to offer west of the Mississippi River.
Way back in April 2009 when I wrote my first GeoPoints Bulletin blog post, I mentioned our Forums as a good resource for route planning. Discussions range all aspects of bicycle travel from routes, gear and swapping out equipment through classified ads to reminiscing about Bikecentennial, and exchanging ideas of how to get youth involved with bicycling.
What kind of features would you like to see in a map that would live on your mobile device while on a bicycle tour? While we believe that paper maps are a long way from falling entirely out of fashion, we know that eventually our maps will be available electronically.
As I packed for my trip, I wanted to keep in mind the weather conditions I might encounter. The resources I used to discover this information are the same ones I might use for planning a bicycle-based tour. What resources do you use when planning what to pack based on weather considerations?
If you've been following our blog for very long, you know that this past spring we announced the availability of maps for our newest route, the Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route. The maps have been selling quickly, with cyclists already out on the road and ride journals beginning to pop up on the Internet. Unfortunately, we have been getting some reports that cyclists are feeling unsafe on portions of State Highway 89 in California.