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Photo by Colt Fetters
Media specialist and BikeOvernights.org editor lists his 10 favorite rail-trails.
Last week I received a note from a representative of Tourism New Zealand, with some pretty darn exciting news. "Tourism New Zealand has just announced the latest cycle trail opening on New Zealand’s national cycleway," wrote Kelly Stephens. "It is a stunning cycle loop with sweeping vistas. We thought this might be of interest to you to share with your readers."
There’s a place you really should see. In the high desert of south-central Wyoming, “where the rivers change direction, across the Great Divide” (as sung by Nanci Griffith and others).
Spring may be here, but it hasn’t sprung at our place in the Wyodaho Tetons. We have four feet of snow on the level, and it's still coming down as I write this. But just across the road there’s a foothills ridge, wind-scoured and south-facing, that will be free of the white stuff soon.
Like yesterday, today will be a scorcher, so we’ve hit the road unusually early. A faint glow in the east hints at the approaching sunrise, and the endless plains of northeastern Wyoming sprawl before us in the half-light. In the distance, a pack of coyotes — it sounds like a hundred of 'em — yip-yammer their high-pitched exuberance for the day. From somewhere much closer pulses an incongruous, rhythmic drumming, and I think for a second that a rock band is jamming behind the fantastic sandstone formation off to our left. Then I recognized it as the sound of an oil well, pump-pump-pumping black gold from deep within the bowels of the Cowboy State. The only other sound is that of our narrow rubber tires purring over the prairie pavement. I’m convinced we’re the only humans for a hundred miles around. “This is great,” I say to Nancy.
I think the first time I ever heard of bicycle polo was back in 1989 at Fat Tire Bike Week in Crested Butte, where I watched a match in action. At the time, I figured the players were just a bunch of Colorado crazies that included more than a few equestrian wannabes who had decided to settle for two wheels rather than fork out the bucks for four legs and one horsepower (and a big pickup truck and a horse trailer and ...)
Every now and then — but not often enough — I get together to do some riding with my friend Chuck Haney, an outdoor photographer from Whitefish, Montana, whose work often graces the pages of Adventure Cyclist magazine. One of our most memorable trips took place in July of 2002, when we met up in tiny Wise River, Montana. This general region holds one of the most spectacular expanses of mountain-and-basin country in all of Montana; and, in terms of Adventure Cycling routes, it’s a true crossroads.
Just before Aaron Teasdale left his position in the Adventure Cycling publications department, he and I had a discussion that revealed we both perceive a need for more off-pavement bikepacking routes like the Great Divide. He and I quizzed one another: What would be a good location for such a route? Western Washington and/or Oregon? Maybe. The Great Basin of southern Idaho and northern Nevada? Possibly. Paralleling the Appalachian Trail on the Eastern Seaboard? Perhaps.
I was a young kid in the 1950s, long enough ago that I can recall when I wasn't feeling well, seeing our family doctor come walking through my bedroom door, his big black bag in hand. I wasn’t particularly crazy about having to stick out my tongue and say “Ahhhhhh” as he jammed that flat stick down my throat, but it was a lot better than getting drug downtown to his office while suffering a sore throat and 101-degree temperature.
One of the projects I’ve been toiling away on in the non-Adventure Cycling half of my work life is a sixth-edition rewrite of the Insiders’ Guide to Glacier National Park (the book also encompasses the greater Flathead Valley and surroundings). I’m not the original author, but the Globe Pequot Press asked if I’d be interested in doing the revision after the book’s original writers opted out.
Last week, Frank M., our main man in Colorado, sent me a story from the Denver Post that raises some compelling questions. The piece focuses on a 62-year-old Boulder woman who is trying to do the right thing—the healthy, green thing—by getting to and from work on her bicycle, over trails designated for bicyclists and pedestrians. But not being an uber-athlete, she employs a little power backup to surmount some of the hills along her 7-mile commute.
The annual Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival took place this past weekend, with the Chequamegon (“Sha-wa-ma-gon”) 40 race happening on Saturday. Reading about it made me think back 20 years to 1990, when Nancy and I traveled to northern Wisconsin for the 40-mile race — which was shortened to 36 miles that year, due to vast mud holes and flows created by the 11 inches of September rain the area had endured the previous week.
We get tons of emails at Adventure Cycling about riders' various adventures around the world — upcoming, in-progress, and "it's a wrap" alike. Below I'll share four examples of what I'm talking about, all of them involving one of our mapped cross-country routes.
If you like people and enjoy riding mountain bikes (or like the idea of trying it), but have never signed up for a mountain-bike festival, you're missing out on some great fun. I've attended fat-tire festivals in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Utah, and found that they all shared a certain spirit of camaraderie that's tough to beat. I'd be willing to bet that the ones I've haven't attended share it, too.
Common knowledge among the mountain-biking crowd is that there's no off-road riding in Yellowstone National Park, where the hiking paths are indeed off-limits to bicycles. Last week I made a circuit around the park with my full-suspension Jamis to determine if the rumor is true or not.
His memory jogged by last month’s media coverage focusing on the 30th anniversary of the most catastrophic volcanic event in American history, an Adventure Cycling member in Minneapolis named Bob sent me a note saying this: “With the anniversary of Mount St. Helens, will there be a magazine article or Bike Bits piece about how Bikecentennial was ‘ashed in’? I remember how our trip out of Williamsburg, Virginia [on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail], was delayed because headquarters could not send anything to us.”
On a Saturday in mid-May, my wife Nancy and I were driving from our home in southeast Idaho to Seattle, by way of western Montana and northern Idaho. We had our road bikes with us; so, because the weather was stellar, at around 10 a.m. we pulled off I-90 at the Cataldo exit, intending to sample a stretch of the 72-mile-long Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes that I’ve heard so much about.
Now, I’m not trying to steal the thunder from my friend and colleague Jenn Milyko, who one of these days might want to write about the Utah Cliffs Loop in her “milestone routes” series. Among other nice things she does, Jenn occasionally supplies me with packages containing two of my food groups — Twizzlers and CornNuts — so I definitely don’t want to make her mad.
Last winter I received an email message from Nicole Catalano, communications manager for the environmental organization Pacific Environment “Protecting the Living Environment of the Pacific Rim”). The reason Nicole wrote was to tell me about an (at the time) upcoming expedition on which a group of five hardy snow bikers would attempt to circumnavigate Lake Baikal in Siberia. The expedition, she said, was set to begin in late February.
Where in the world is the best place for bicycle travel? Tough question, no doubt, and anyone’s answer would have to be subjective — I mean, who on Earth has cycled everywhere?
When I pedaled most of the way across the United States in 1974 (can you say “bicycling in cut-off jeans and tennis shoes”?), Wisconsin was my favorite state for riding. Rolling hills, paved country roads carrying very little car traffic, farm wives waving us in for lemonade and ice cream … And the Badger State has only gotten better since then.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Slow Food Movement, a “nonprofit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions ..."
Self-guided touring can be a beautiful blend of do-it-yourself and letting someone else take care of the details. In late September 2004, my wife Nancy and I toured southern France in this mode, when we were reminded that often it’s the least expected things that become the most memorable.
High-end custom bicycles are not the first thing you would think of if you happened to motor or pedal down Main Street in Ashton, Idaho. No, that would more likely be agriculture, what with the town’s grain silos, railroad yard, and signs boasting that it's the “World’s Largest Seed Potato Producing Area.”
The 225-mile Katy Trail State Park is one of the crown jewels of North America’s rail-trail system. It follows a former route of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad -- the MK&T, or Katy for short -- between St. Charles and Sedalia, Missouri. A quiet artery, the Katy Trail transports cyclists and other self-propelled travelers through the heart of Missouri. On a grander scale, the riverside portions of the trail between St. Charles and Boonville serve as components of a pair of trails that are national in scope: the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.