The Great Rivers South Route - Seeking A Bicycle Warrior's Death, Part II: The Great Rivers South - CycleBlaze

The Great Rivers South Route

A Not-So-Popular ACA Route

The Great Rivers South is a bicycle route designed by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA website).  It runs from New Orleans, LA to Muscatine, IA.  As implied by the name, it follows or crosses over some of the great rivers of the south.  It also traverses almost the entire length of the Natchez Trace and goes through the Land Between The Lakes as well.  From south to north (as I will travel), the route includes parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa.   There is much history to be found along this route, including the home towns of Elvis Presley and Mark Twain (it just feels weird to include those 2 in the same sentence). 

Here's the ACA overview map of the route;

The Great Rivers South Route (credit; Adventure Cycling Association)
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Itinerary Planning.  I talk about the difficulty of itinerary planning for this route in the "How It Came To Be" section later, and a bit in the following paragraphs.  For now, suffice it to say that this route is tough to plan out.  I wouldn't recommend anyone to "just go and ride" this route without first taking the effort to plan it carefully.   This isn't the Transam; on the Transam you can pretty much plan 1 day at a time along the way and things will work out.   Not so on this route, at least not so if you travel S to N and start in New Orleans. 

The Road Less Traveled? I base my opinion that this route is not a very popular ACA route on the simple fact that there are not many journals published showing someone traveling from New Orleans to Muscatine or vice versa.  Most of the journals that include this route only include a portion of it and usually consist of someone traveling along it as a "connector" between other more popular routes (such as using it to connect from the Southern Tier to the Transam).  

One reason this route is not as popular may also be the challenge of developing an itinerary.  Just because an ACA route exists, that doesn't mean that you can work out a practical scheme to travel from one point to the next and have lodging or a place to camp.   For example, it has taken me a lot of time to develop a plan to get from New Orleans to Natchez, MS.  To do so I needed to veer off route a couple of times, and even then it requires an unavoidable 74-mile day from Jackson, LA to Natchez, MS; and the last 50  miles of that is a "no-services" zone, AND that 74-mile day includes more than 3,000 feet of climbing.   So that may be a tough day, especially since it's early in the tour.  I have read one journal where the cyclists rented a vehicle for parts of this route to avoid some of the challenges (and weather); but to me that pretty much negates the whole reason for a bicycle tour.

Much of the lodging along the route through Louisiana is very expensive - I know that "expensive" is a relative term, so I'll clarify it - I think $300+ hotel rooms and B&B's are expensive.  If you stay in downtown New Orleans near the official start point of the ride, or if you get a hotel in Baton Rouge along the route, or if you book a B&B along the Mississippi River near the route, you will pay dearly.   I have developed a plan to avoid the expensive lodging, but it took a lot of time to do so and I went through several iterations before I was happy with it.  I suppose we will just have to wait and see regarding the quality of my lodging, but if it's acceptable then this journal should be helpful to any others contemplating this adventure.   

Camping options are pretty much non-existent along this route until you reach Mississippi (assuming south to north travel).  There are a couple of RV parks along the way, but they really don't look too appealing for cyclist tent camping, unless you are content to camp on a shadeless RV pad right adjacent to a roadway.  At least, best I could tell using Google Earth is that these really weren't viable options for me.  

More on the itinerary planning challenges later - as I am writing this I only have 1 more day until I leave, and I have to pack and pick up a rental vehicle and do a million things in that day - and the itinerary isn't completely worked out yet, though I have developed a plan to get myself about 2/3 of the way - except that I have to call a couple of folks in 2 days from now and hope to make  arrangements to be allowed to sleep in the fire station in a town in Tennessee - I will have already left home when I'm trying to deal with that detail, and if it doesn't work out favorably then I have to go to Plan B, which doesn't really exist yet.  Anyway, I like to have a good plan before I depart, but due to a time crunch (more on that later) I will have to leave with only a partial plan.  No big deal, right?

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Scott AndersonYes, of course you’re starting in New Orleans nd biking north for the winter. Doesn’t everyone?
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1 week ago
Gregory GarceauLooks like a fun tour to me. I did a similar trip from NOLA to Muscatine on my "Going Up" journal and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm not sure my journal would be much help to you though, because I mostly stayed close to the Mississippi River. I do have one suggestion regarding lodging in Baton Rouge. There is a hotel/casino in the downtown area which had very reasonable rates and nice rooms. At least that was true seven years ago.
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1 week ago
Dave CardarellaHi George, we rode S to N in 2012. https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/riverride
We followed the river very closely.
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1 week ago
George HallDave - I looked at your journal, looks like a great trip! You were on the opposite side of the river from my route through LA, but we would have some overlap with Natchez, Port Gibson, and Cape Girardeau. Thanks for sharing your journal, I will read it more closely in upcoming days for tidbits that may be helpful. Best of luck,
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1 week ago
George HallTo Gregory GarceauThanks Greg! When I checked I didn't find any cheap rooms in Baton Rouge. It worked out better for me anyway as far as the riding distance goes by going on through the city and staying a bit further north. I'll check out your journal for tidbits that may be helpful to me, thanks for pointing it out.
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1 week ago
George HallTo Scott AndersonScott, thanks for pointing that out! As weird as the winters are becoming with global warming, going north for the winter may become a thing. It would have made for a good journal title too, I'll probably find a way to work it into a title somewhere. Best of luck,
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1 week ago
Kelly IniguezFor Jacinto's 50th birthday, he wanted a momentous tour. We looked at this route. I had two friends (who had traveled together), say that the poverty along almost the entire route was overwhelming, and depressing. They were so opinionated that we gave up the plan and rode the Sierra Cascades Route instead. I will be following with interest, to hear your thoughts.

Tailwinds!
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1 week ago
George HallSome folks ride up the Mississippi River trail, and some do the ACA route - I think the 2 routes get confused at times as they both start in New Orleans and proceed north. I know there's a lot of poverty along and near the Mississippi River itself. Including the bigger cities like Memphis and St Louis. I don't expect to see as much on the ACA route itself, although this certainly isn't a wealthy section of the country.
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1 week ago