C2C - A 3200-Mile Cross-Country Bike Route - C2C - from Westport, Washington to Sandy Hook, New Jersey - CycleBlaze

C2C - A 3200-Mile Cross-Country Bike Route

I don't know about the rest of y'all, but for me, as soon as I finish one trip I am busy thinking about my next one. I went to Betty Ford's clinic years ago, but she said I was a hopeless case. So, I guess the only thing I can do is keep riding.

One of the things that has struck me for many years is the length of both the TransAm and the Northern Tier routes for summer riding. They are both more than 4200 miles long. The Southern Tier is shorter, but brutal in the summer. The Western Express cuts about 500 miles from the TransAm, but is not the best choice for an inexperienced rider.

And I was thinking, why not develop a route that is more direct and, maybe, far enough north not to broil in Texas or west Kansas? Oh - - plus starting and ending on an actual ocean. Not a bay or a river - but an actual waves and beach ocean.

I believe I have come up with something that is pretty good. A bit more than 3200 miles, but no nasty roads and quite a lot of spectacular scenery.

Westport, Washington Harbor on a Lovely Day
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In Washington, the route starts at the spit and lighthouse in the little community of Westport. There are two state parks for the proverbial dip into the Pacific waters. Then it traverses a quiet region of western forests through Pe Ell and Chehalis. Crossing the Cascades at White Pass, there are views of Mount Rainier, then a stunning ride along the Tieton River and Yakima Canyon. There are the cliff and scablands of the Columbia Plateau and, finally, the sculpted farmlands of the Palouse with empty back roads and tiny farm towns.

Idaho's route may be shorter, but most of it is covered by the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - a paved bike trail that cross Lake Coeur d'Alene and follows the shoreline. Then the route tops the Bitterroot Range at Thompson Pass.

Montana is sublime - almost anywhere. At Thompson Falls, the route crosses the falls on a renovated bike/ped bridge - then follows the Clark Fork Valley to the Flathead Reservation. The Mission Mountains are only a short jog north - with scenery rivaling that of Glacier National Park. After Missoula, the route travels trough the Blackfoot Valley and over the continental divide at Flesher Pass to Helena and Last Chance Gulch. East of Helena, the route crosses the Belt Mountains and follows the Musselshell River - empty roads with mountains in the distance. Leaving Billings, Old Highway 87 crosses the Crow Reservation - site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

Wyoming is, of course, the highlight of the trip. Like much of the route, it follows the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains - with stunning camping just a few miles off the road in places like the Tongue River Canyon. From Sheridan, the route follows US 14/16 as it enters the Great Plains. Not an endless flat expanse, but rather rolling hills and buttes with Devils Tower as a final reward.

The South Dakota segment offers up the Black Hills as a first course - delicious shade and cool in mid-summer. The Mickelson Trail is one option I would take, Mount Rushmore is an option I would skip. Then there are views of the Badlands and a pensive ride through Pine Ridge Reservation.

Nebraska has always been a delight for bike touring. The Sandhills provide the finest, unmarred scenery of the Great Plains - grasses stretching out as far as the eye can see. There is the high rail trestle over the Niobrara River at Valentine. Although the Cowboy Trail is unpaved, it provides stretches to get off the highway and find back loops of the Elkhorn River. Most small towns have camping, a grocery store, and a little cafe.

The Missouri River at the Iowa border is just over the halfway point. Don't be fooled, western Iowa is one goathill after another. You may find yourself using choice language - possibly directed at the planner of this route. But, if you are patient, you will find lovely little towns and a friendly welcome. Central Iowa has some of the best paved rail trails in the nation - including the High Trestle Trail over the Des Moines River. More county roads lead to Iowa City - home of the University of Iowa - as cosmopolitan as Paris or New York - well, almost.

Next, Illinois. Crossing the Mississippi River is important - especially when you are on a bicycle. The Centennial Bridge from Davenport to Rock Island with its silver arches is one of the most scenic crossings. Then there a a long bike trail on a east-west stretch of the river before you set out into the flats of Illinois farm country. Near Joliet, the route includes a small portion of the I & M Canal Trail before continuing on the Plank Road bike trail. Joliet is also an easy stop-over for a side trip into the Windy City.

Indian begins with a few rails trails which lead to the southern shore of Lake Michigan. For the first-time visitor, the lake is like an ocean, with beaches and waves - a perfect compliment to the Pacific and Atlantic. Then the route follows the 1928 Lincoln Highway through picture book Midwestern towns before reaching Monroeville - easily the most bike-friendly community in the U.S. of A.

It's a straight short across Ohio on back roads that are often totally empty. Towns pop up just often enough for food, shade on the courthouse square, or camping. It does get a little busy in the Cleveland-Akron metro area - requiring greater patience and caution. Kent is home to Kent State University and has a memorial to the events of May 1970, when 4 students were shot and killed during antiwar protests.

The route across Pennsylvania crosses the Allegheny Mountains. Although not as high as the Rockies, they can be even steeper if you take a road that crosses one ridge after another. But this route tends to skirt the ridges, cut through gaps, and follow the valley floors with a mid-state stop in State College. Central Pennsylvania has seen better days. Many of the towns in coal country are clearly troubled, but should bee seen none-the-less. Sometimes ona bike trip, it is all about looking closely and listening to what others have to say.

Last, but not least, is New Jersey. I cannot help but recall a line from Archie Bunker, "Well, somebody'a gotta live in Jersey!" Poor New Jersey. Actually, the western part of the state is lovely farmland. In the middle section of the route crosses Sourland Mountain on empty roads. It's not until you get into the metro area south of New Brunswick that the traffic really picks up, but then you have the Henry Hudson Trail out to the ocean and a dip in the Atlantic at Sandy Hook.

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