Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cycling across Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota

Late summer (2011) cross-country cyclists needing last-minute re-routing around the flooded areas in North Dakota might want to try some of the ROAM route, which followed Highway 12. 

The ROAM cross-country cycling tour's large size and tight time-table forced an unusual -- but very lucky -- route choice.  Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier and classic routes were too indirect and didn't offer enough camping space in some regions for 50 or more velomobilists trying to pedal across the whole country in less than a month.  After much online discussion of pros and cons, Josef Janning chose Highway 12 for most of the route west of the Mississippi. 

In a summer plagued by road closures for flooding in North Dakota and heavy truck traffic for oil-drilling, Highway 12 may have been the only viable route for a herd of velomobiles.  It lacks shoulders in many areas, and some of the shoulders have rumble strips down their centers or at intervals all the way across the shoulder, but there was only one detour for a washout;  the velomobiles were able to go north of Hwy 12 on very small roads while the truck traffic was sent 50 miles to the south. 

Downloadable GPS tracks for the Highway 12 route can be found under "The Journey" on the Roll Over America (ROAM) website, or by going to and looking through tracks under Livewombat

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ROAM moves on

Wow.  ROAM has flown through the Midwest, and there's finally time to post about it. 

Oregon HPV Association members supplemented the ride's own SAG capacity into Montana.  When they left for home, they wrote that ROAM's own support vehicles would be overtaxed by any additional route, equipment or physical problems.  The South Dakota Department of Transportation website showed Highway 12 closed down and detoured.  We had rented a Penske truck to take ourselves and some friends to the Midwest Recumbent Rally and had kept it for some extra days to support ROAM in Minneapolis, so it was easy to throw in a tent, some First Aid equipment, and a folding bike and set off along Highway 12 toward Mobridge. 

ROAM's routing along Highway 12 through Montana, North and South Dakota, and Minnesota has puzzled  observers.  It looks good on the map, but cyclists normally avoid it because of its narrow or non-existent shoulders, poor surface, and often heavy traffic.  We had checked it in June and found areas that were in very bad condition, but fortunately the potholes had been patched since then.  I posted the road conditions on Bentrideronline after pulling into a motel in Aberdeen on Tuesday night, August 9.  (For cyclists considering a bike tour via Highway 12, here are the postings:  Aberdeen to Minnesota state line, Ortonville to Benson, Benson to Willmar, then a gap where I never finished posting, and Delano to Lake Independence.  ROAM's schedule allowed no time for the much nicer northern route, where cyclists can enjoy 104 miles on the paved Central Lakes and Lake Wobegon trails parallel to Interstate 94.  More than 50 riders originally planned to ride ROAM;  large numbers of riders are hard to accommodate away from major automotive routes.) 

I met up with ROAM near the Missouri River on Wednesday, August 10 after scouting the available detours.  Flooding has closed roads all over North Dakota (what luck that ROAM didn't choose a more northern route!), and water laps the edges of low-lying roads in South Dakota and Minnesota as well.  One promising gravel road ended in a lake, but a somewhat longer detour turned out to be mostly asphalt, with only three or four miles of gravel.  The official detour would have added too many miles and too much heavy traffic.  Further toward Mobridge, I started seeing velomobiles, so many that I decided not to proceed to the campground.  I turned around and passed several of the riders, then stopped for a pair who had pulled off the road, along with a support vehicle.  It turned out that the riders had been hailed by a curious local driver and weren't in any trouble.  In the pick-up truck that was accompanying them was Texas velomobile builder David Eggleston of VelomobileUSA , and rider Machiel Spruit's father, who came on the tour to support his son. 

(to be continued)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cottontail on the Trail

Riding home after dropping off the rental truck that I drove to the Midwest Recumbent Rally and the ROAM velomobile tour, I was passed by four cyclists on the Minnehaha Creek bike path as I started up. Riding just behind them, I overheard one ask, "did you see that woman on a kid's bike with flowers on the basket?" There was only one thing I could say to defend the honor of my serious little folding commuter bike: "on your left."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lunch stop in Ipswitch

On the ROAM ride, the cyclists line up at a lunch stop in Ipswitch, South Dakota.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Velomobiles ROAM-ing across North America

Velomobile riders from 6 or 7 countries got a huge send-off from Portland on July 28, 2011 as they began their coast-to-coast cycle tour of North America. The video above was recorded in Portland by Brent Logan.

The ROAM tour highlights bike-friendly places -- Portland, OR (#2), Missoula, MT (home of Adventure Cycling, too small to be counted in the 2010 Bicycling Magazine survey that's the source of these rankings), Billings,MT (#37), Minneapolis, MN (#1), Madison, WI (#7), Chicago, IL (#10), and Washington, DC (#13).

There are 9 Germans, 9 Dutch guys, one Dane, one Austrian, 3 Brits, a Canadian who is coming only as far as Minneapolis, and two dozen or more from the US. The gender ratio is a little unbalanced, with just one woman. Other North American bike, trike, and velomobile riders are welcome to tag along for as long as they can keep up!

The velomobiles themselves are a mix of home-built and commercial models from around the world -- Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Australia, Canada, and US. The majority were built by Velomobiel in Dronten, Netherlands.

Where there is cell-phone access, a little blue Dutch velomobile avatar rolls across a Google "Kaart". (The first few days of the ride, in the sparsely-populated West, cut the riders off from their usual internet and phone access to the world, but they were expecting better connections east of the Mississippi.)

Cyclists in our area are looking forward to the Minneapolis/St. Paul "rest" day -- a Saturday, August 13 cruise from Baker Park Reserve west of Minneapolis to St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, east of St. Paul. The relaxed ride along scenic bike trails and low-traffic streets is only about 55 miles, rather than the ROAM average of 125 miles a day.

Then it's on to Wisconsin, through the tunnels on the Elroy-Sparta trail, with a stop in Madison, followed by another "rest" day riding through Chicago. Much of the eastern section of the ride follows rural routes to avoid dangerous traffic.

The tour ends in Washington, DC with rides through the capital on August 24 and 25.