Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Big Rides We've Gotta Do -- Volume II

Continuing from an earlier post and drawing from the helpful comments, here is an expanded list.

Pony-Express Permanent.  This route heads from San Francisco to St. Louis.  According to the RUSA permanent list, it boasts over 3000 kilometers and 95000 feet of climbing.  It runs from California through Nevada, into Wyoming, then Nebraska and south to Missouri.  This is not the route per se, but there ain't many roads on this stretch of the globe, so I would bet I captured much of it.  I've driven basically that route countless times. We're talking serious open country.  You get one great ranges -- the Sierras in California/Nevada -- and then you sort of wind between the Rockies through big windswept passes and arid high desert all the way across Utah and Wyoming.  Of course, by eastern Wyoming and into Nebraska and Missouri, you are first in rangeland and then in ethanol country, with nonstop cornfields having replaced the historical wheat farms.

Some brevet in Nebraska.  Credit to cornbreadblog.

Picture of the Tour of Nebraska; credit to
If Pony Express isn't your thing, the Permanent Owner, Spencer Klaassen, has a handful of these uber-permanents.  The Mormon Trail is one option, but I'd be looking warily over my shoulder at my riding partner as we crossed Donner Summit.

Get back here!  I'm hungry!
My mouth waters just looking at it.  To be clear, though, I'm not sure I wouldn't rather riding one of these.

Slightly better equipped to handle head-winds.

Skyline Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  If you park a car at the Front Royal K-Mart and head south on Skyline Drive, you have 105 miles with ~10,000 feet of climbing before you reach Waynesboro.  That is the beginning of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, running south through Roanoke, Virginia; Boone, NC; and into Asheville, North Carolina.  All told it's just 50 miles shy of a point-to-point 1000K and probably the prettiest stretch of road east of the Mississippi.

There may literally be 1000 vistas just like this one on this stretch of road.
Tourist traffic is a major annoyance, but weekday drives and late season present very different pictures.  By late season, I mean after this scenery has come and gone:

Not sure if this is color-enhanced, but wow.
And this:

Would be a better picture if that was a bike, rather than a car.
This Q&A offers a little comfort:

Q: What is the speed limit on the Parkway?
Maximum is 45 miles per hour, with some locations (in congested areas such as Mabry Mill) at 25 miles per hour.  

But what Q&A giveth . . .

Q: Can large RV's travel the Parkway?
Yes. Explore the list of all tunnel clearances on the Parkway.

Damon knows the first 50+ miles of the route better than most. I've twice ridden Front Royal to Waynesboro, which involves climbing nonstop to the half-way point, descending for 20 miles, and then riding rollers the rest of the way.

But I've never been on the Blue Ridge at all.  Barring one brick run that I did from Waynesboro, heading south a few miles before turning around.

Just to throw it out -- this seems like a good late October trip with a plan to spend four days in the saddle.  There's a lodge approximately 190 miles from Front Royal:

Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86) – Lodge and restaurant opening July 15th, Visitor Center, 1930s restored Johnson Farm, campground, picnic area, access to Appalachian Trail, extensive trail system to the summit of the three main peaks.

Night 2 is tougher.  If a car could meet you at the junction with Highway 58, you could camp out or catch a ride somewhere for a night's sleep and be dropped back off the next morning.  Hopefully the weather will be nice, because that creates a dangerous temptation.  Alternatively, you could plan to ride through, but the purpose of this list is to catalog pleasant-sounding adventures rather than brutal ones.

Night 3 may be in the ski resort town of Boone, North Carolina.  And Day 4 brings you to Asheville.  The stretch from Boone to Asheville is getting into some high country, with reportedly beautiful scenery.

Boone, NC, looking from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Credit blueridgeblog.
Mountain scenery near Asheville, NC
The Lap of the Lake 1000K.  Pete Dusel of the Western New York Randonneurs puts this on yearly.  It's a big big ride that crosses national borders twice (leaving and entering) and circumnavigates Lake Ontario.

Cribbed from (the site linked above).
Among other tremendous sights is Niagara Falls somewhere around Mile 500.  I know 20 miles of this route, which I've ridden 4 times, twice with Damon -- the stretch east of Ontario New York along the lake shore.  It's a pretty magical stretch of pavement.  Only this route follow that road all the way east, then north, to Canada -- before repeating the exercise on the northern side of the lake.  One danger might be that after 620 miles looking over your left shoulder at the view you can't straighten your head out for the drive home.

The familiar signal that you've reached Pete Dusel's house to start, or to end, one of his rides.
Bremerton to Klamath Falls 1000K.

Leaving Bremerton you follow the water on a busy road for a few miles before heading inland on the Olympic peninsula.  This isn't the busy road, but it is the water.
A few years back Sam and I started this ride, had a few hiccups, and spent an uncomfortable few hours sleeping roadside on Highway 1 just north of Tillamook before deciding we were in over our heads.  (We then rolled to Tillamook, ate at Denny's, and spent a very comfortable few hours sleeping in a field behind Denny's as the sun rose.)  An aside:  it was lucky for us that I took that header one month later on the Big Wild Ride, because the aborted 1000K was an inauspicious signal regarding our preparedness.

Cannon Beach.  Yes, it is that pretty.
Others have been more successful.  Here's one trip report.  Here's another.  Looking at the picture in the second link, I ask myself "how did he get to Cannon Beach in daylight?  (We made pretty good time, but found ourselves there as dusk was turning to night.)  Of course -- the organized ride starts at night.

Crater Lake.  Credit:  Cycleumpqua.
From what I've seen, it's as marvelous of scenery as any ride.  This is not exactly the route, but it's close.  The roads from Bremerton to Astoria, Oregon, the first 150 miles, are utterly untrafficked highways through the heart of the Olympic Peninsula.  The coast highway picks up more traffic, but the cars are accustomed to cyclists.  I noticed that tunnels have warning strobes when cyclists are inside, slowing cars down without pissing them off. If you can't ride in Alaska, riding the Oregon Coast has got to be a second choice.

The Race Across Europe.  OK, this may be a reach, but somebody has to point out that there are land masses larger than North America, and at least one of them has much better cyclists than we have here.  3000 miles, three mountain range crossings.  Some good pictures of this year's race at this link.

Picture from the finish of the Race Across Europe of Team Phoenix.  Rock of Gibraltar in the background.  Attribution:
Maps for next year not yet up, but the race crosses the Alps twice and then the Pyrenees, ultimately ending in Gibraltar.  Problem is, this isn't "across" Europe at all.  It's "around western Europe."  So, to be fair, RAAM has elegance over this one.  Why not ride straight from Calais to (e.g.) Magadan, rather than traipsing around France and Spain for a while?

It also turns out that this event is not the first to adopt the "race across Europe" title.  This route from the northern tip of Scandinavia to Gibraltar looks way cooler -- and way longer.

Belying the "toughest non-stop cycling race in the world" label, they give solo riders 15 days to complete the race.  That's 200 miles per day.  Not a pleasant spin in the saddle, but (unlike RAAM) not impossible for a normal cyclist.

More to come in Volume III.  Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee is one.  I'd like to include one of Sam's hypothetical routings through the Sierras, but that's probably his post if he can be convinced.

1 comment:

sam said...

One of the awesome things about Kevin's rides in Alaska is how natural the routes feel. There are very few unnatural jaunts.

That "Lap Of The Lake" 1000K looks similar. Very nicely structured. Probably a bit windy, I imagine.