Bike Trails

We’ve talked a lot about where we are biking, why we are biking, and what we are seeing. This blog post is devoted to what we are biking on.

Here is a breakdown of the 2250 miles we’ve done so far, accurate to 4 significant figures ;).

– 1800 Miles on paved roads

  • 100 miles bike lanes, mostly in Colorado
  • 400 miles on Transamerica Route which runs from Yorktown, VA to Oregon

– 150 Miles on dirt roads

  • 10 of which were mostly sand and we had to walk

– 300 Miles on bike trails

  • 75 miles paved
  • 220 miles crushed Limestone
  • 5 miles “Natural Earth” ie a thorny mess that caused us 10+ punctures

By far my favorite place to ride was on these bike trails, because they are very flat, are often along rivers or in other pretty areas, and of course, avoid cars. While most of the trails are found near cities, it’s exciting when we find rail trails or short bike paths in the middle of rural areas.

We started out the first day on the Mount Vernon bike trail out of DC, which followed the Potomac river and passes by several historic monuments including Washington’s home. The next trail we hit was the Virginia Central Railway Trail, which began being constructed  in 2013 and to date is only 4.5 miles. It is supposed to be extended to become 30 miles eventually. We didn’t see any more bike trails until we crossed the Appalachians and found the Mammoth Cave Railroad trail, where we rode of several miles on a trail surely designed for mountain bikes. Good thing the trail wasn’t nearly as long as the 400 miles of cave passages below it!

In Harrisburg, Illinois, we briefly rode on the 56 mile long Tunnel Hill State Rail Trail. The railroad line that used to run here transported coal up from Southern Illinois, and was profitable until the Clean Air Act of 1970 reduced the demand for high-sulfur coal. This trail is named after an 800 foot tunnel that the railroad used to pass through, which partially collapsed in 1929.

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The longest trail we rode on was the Katy trail, a crushed limestone rail trail which crosses almost all of Missouri. At 240 miles, this is the longest rail trail in the country, and is named after the MKT (Missouri-Kansas-Texas) Railroad. Its construction began in 1982, and was completed in the 1990s. We were fortunate enough to ride on nearly 220 miles of this beautiful trail.

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After crossing MO almost entirely on trail, we were pleasantly surprised that Kansas was also home to many bike trails. We rode on the Indian Creek Trail out of Kansas City, and then camped in Ottawa, which is at the intersection of two old rail lines, now converted in bike trails. I thought the most beautiful trail of the entire trip was one of these, the Flint Hill nature Trail, which passes by 117 miles of woodland and open farmland. Unfortunately, because the surface was so rough and thorny, we only rode it for 5 miles, and still popped way too many tubes over the next 3 days because of the thorns that got stuck in our tires.

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We didn’t see any trails again until Denver (given, we were going through areas where there was absolutely nothing but farms or empty grass fields for up to 50 miles at a time). We were certainly grateful for the multitude of bike paths around Denver because we hadn’t seen that many cars since St. Louis. Yesterday we rode from Denver to near Boulder almost exclusively on bike paths (South Platte River Trail, Cherry Creek Trail, Denver-Boulder Bikeway to name a few), and then into Fort Collins on bike lanes the rest of the way. According to the League of American Bicyclists, Colorado is the 7th most bike-friendly state, and 1st of the states we are passing through this summer. (But Massachusetts is beating it!)

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I think all of Spokes would agree that rail trails are great. But we are still eagerly looking forward to the 3000-mile trail that we hope will eventually be drilled through America, allowing cyclists to traverse the entire country without cars, wind, or a single foot of elevation gain.


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