Rail Trails

Bikeverywhere Digital Maps and a Survey

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 10th , 2012.

Bikeverywhere sells a number of digital bike maps.The goal of the maps is to zoom in on a couple of bike rides or trails that stand out.

We’d like to expand the selection of digital bike routes, but first we want to know what you think about the routes we already have. If you have already downloaded one of our maps, please click on the survey link below.

If you haven’t downloaded a map, we’ve got an incentive for you to try one out. All of our digital maps have been reduced to just $2.00. If you want to try just one of the maps, these are our suggestions for each of the three cities:

Twin Cities:

For a ride that is a little more off the beaten path, try the Scandia ride, in the northeast metro area. It’s a beautiful rolling ride through a semi-rural landscape of farms, ex-urban homes, wooded lots and small lakes.

Madison, Wisconsin:

Consider a weekend overnight ride from Madison to Devil’s Lake State Park. Midway through the ride you hop on the free Merrimac Ferry for a seven minute crossing of the Wisconsin River. The route goes slightly beyond the state park to Baraboo, the home of the Wringling Brothers/ Barnum and Bailey Circus Museum.

Milwaukee:

The Milwaukee Lake and River ride follows an extensive network of bike paths and residential roads along the shores of Lake Michigan and the banks of the Milwaukee River.

We’ve made it easy to find the survey anytime you visit the site. Just look for this notice at the bottom of any of our digital map pages on the website.

Take our Survey!

Bikeverywhere is constantly striving to make our products better. Click here to take our survey about this downloadable file.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News, Madison, Milwaukee, Rail Trails, Twin Cities

Stower Seven Lakes State Trail

Posted by Doug Shidell, April 30th , 2012.

This trail, between Dresser and Amery in west central Wisconsin, is tucked into an area of rolling hills, lakes, marshes, maple and oak forests and farmland. The trail is flat, with a hard packed limestone surface suitable for narrow road tires. During our visit over Easter weekend the trail was in bloom from wild fruit trees, and maples had already started to green up due to our unusually early spring .

The trail is named after Harvey Stower, a member of the Wisconsin Legislature and long time mayor of Amery. The name also refers to the numerous lakes along the trail. Lakes near the western end of the trail are large enough to support cabins and recreational boating. Others such as Kinney Lake, between Deronda and Amery, are seepage lakes which depend on groundwater and local precipitation. Seepage lakes are usually surrounded by marsh and virtually inaccessible.

The trail doesn’t appear to get much use, which is too bad because the frequent lakes and lowland marshes create scenic stopping points and break up the tunnel effect along better known trails such as the nearby Gandy Dancer Trail. Of greater interest to this long time road rider are the paved, low traffic roads that intersect and run parallel to the trail. Those roads weave among the rolling hills, skirt lakes and wander through woodland and farm country. I’ll be back to explore those roads later this season.

The Stower Seven Lakes Trail isn’t part of Bicycle Vacation Guide, but it will be part of the new Bikeverywhere website planned for spring of 2013.

 

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News, Rail Trails, Twin Cities

Tomorrow’s Trails Today (or Jumping the Gun)

Posted by Bruce Thompson, March 17th , 2012.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of some bike maps is their habit of showing trails planned for the future as if they were already built. I recall two times where I set out to follow a bike trail that the map showed as existing, only to find that my only choice was a road with heavy traffic and no shoulder. I recently ran into two examples of this, although neither is likely to place the bicyclist in danger.

Brookfield’s Greenway page lists three projects scheduled for 2011-12. The current version of its map shows all three as presently existing. Late last fall, after printing the map, I decided to try all three, only to discover they didn’t exist.

Not to be outdone, Milwaukee’s bike plan shows existing and planned trails. Two of the “existing” trails run south from downtown along former railroad rights of way, one from Washington to Maple and the other along the Kinnickinnic River south of Lincoln. With the unseasonably warm weather last weekend, I decided to check them out. No sign of either although I spotted some construction that may be an early sign of conversion of the latter.

Filed under: Milwaukee, Milwaukee Map Updates, Rail Trails

Two Minnesota state trails turn 25

Posted by Doug Shidell, July 25th , 2011.

Now that Minnesota is back in operation, I’d like congratulate the folks at the Cannon Valley Trail and the Root River Trail for providing riders with two great trails for 25 years.

The Cannon Valley Trail, just 40 miles from the Twin Cities, draws a lot of visitors for day trips through its varied landscapes. From Cannon Falls in bluff country to Red Wing in the valley of the Mississippi River, the trail alternately hugs the Cannon River, passes under towering cliffs, runs through prairie grasslands and explores river floodplains. The center of the trail, near the town of Welch and the Welch Ski Hill, is also one of the most popular starting points. From there you can go upstream toward Cannon Falls or downstream to Red Wing.

One of my favorite activities is to ride the trail on a frosty, full moon night in October or November.

You can download the Cannon Valley Trail chapter of Bicycle Vacation Guide or pick up the book and get all of the major trails in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

The most popular town on the Root River Trail is Lanesboro with its entire downtown list on the Historic Register of Places. The trail follows the scenic Root River through the bluff country of southeastern Minnesota. It’s a beautiful trail with bluffs, deep woods, the river and rural landscapes sharing the corridor of the Root River.  The Harmony-Preston Valley Trail branches off the Root River Trail and follows a quiet creek upstream to bluffs, then climbs for nearly a mile to the small town of Harmony. Explore some of the unusual destinations in Harmony such as the wood carving museum and the toy museum, then fly back down the bluffs on your way back to the Root River Trail.

You can download the Root River chapter of Bicycle Vacation Guide or pick up the book and get all of the major trails in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

Filed under: Misc, Rail Trails

Terry McGaughey: The Force Behind the Paul Bunyan Trail

Posted by Doug Shidell, July 24th , 2010.

Terry McGaughey, the force behind development and support of the Paul Bunyan Trail near Brainerd, MN died recently at age 71. His first involvement with the trail began in 1983 and he is remembered for his tireless efforts to bring the trail to completion and expansion. He worked effectively with everyone from local city council members to representative Jim Oberstar in the US House of Representatives.

Although I never met Terry in person, it seemed as if I was always seeing his name or hearing about his efforts on behalf of the Paul Bunyan Trail. Have Fun Biking ran this story about him in a recent newsletter. The Paul Bunyan Trail is a featured trail in Bicycle Vacation Guide.

Filed under: Misc, Rail Trails

Paving the Lost Four Miles

Posted by Doug Shidell, June 29th , 2009.

Trail enthusiasts referred to it as the “Lost Four Miles,” an unpaved four-mile section that, when completed, would connect the Central Lakes Trail and the Lake Wobegon Trail to create a single 120-mile trail, the longest in Minnesota. By the evening of Thursday, August 9, 2008 the paving crew had paved all but the last mile of the trail. The transition was sharp: To the east a thick black carpet of tar, still hot. To the west a short smear of oil over compacted gravel. The connecting thread, a quarter mile length of red twine used as a guide for the paving machine.

By late Friday morning the crew had completed half the remaining distance. Tar filled dump trucks lined the side of the road. The drivers, with time on their hands, gathered in the middle of the line to visit. Behind them an empty truck raced up the unpaved portion of the trail toward an exit while a loaded truck waited. When the path cleared the loaded truck backed down the trail to the paving machine.

The new truck backed into place, a puff of black smoke belched out of the paving machine and the whole operation inched forward. Black tar and sand poured from the truck to the hopper of the paving machine and came out the back in a smooth, straight ribbon. Moments later, and ten feet down the trail, the operation came to a stop. The truck was empty. As the truck sped away, the operator of the paving machine put his hands behind his head and leaned back in the seat. A crew member stared off into space at the back of the paving machine. Ten feet, then wait until the empty truck clears the trail and a full one backs the distance to the paving machine. It wasn’t one of the more interesting jobs for this crew.

The pace picked up as the distance shortened. Within two hours the paving crew had completed all but a couple of dozen yards of the trail. Trucks pulled off the trail almost as soon as they emptied their loads. The long line of trucks on the side of the road gave way to a couple of trucks carrying the last loads of the day. A bobcat swung into action, picking up paving debris and loading it into an empty truck.

The last truck raised its bed to dump a load into the hopper, then lowered it less than a minute later. The paving machine wouldn’t need his full load. A moment later the last few inches of the connector were covered with hot mix. The moment cyclists were waiting for, connecting that 120 mile ribbon of blacktop, had arrived.

It was not a momentous moment. The paving machine pulled off the trail and rumbled down the road to a grassy area. The partially emptied dump truck started down the road, presumably to return its leftover load of mix. A reserve truck, still full of mix, left the scene. The bobcat swung onto the trail and scraped up a mound of leftover blacktop. The load went into the debris truck. The bobcat swung back to the access road. With its bucket scraping the road and front wheels floating in the air, it scraped the pavement free of tar and sand.

The paving machine rumbled down the road toward a waiting trailer. Pickup trucks, ubiquitous vehicles at every construction site, left quickly. The bobcat finished its work and dropped its last load into the debris truck. A moment later the truck left, leaving only the bobcat, its driver and another man. The two men huddle over diagrams for a few minutes.

A pickup swung into the abandoned site. The extra man hopped into the bed of the truck and spread out to relax as the truck raced away. The bobcat churned down the road a moment later.

Forty-five minutes ago this was a bustling site of dump trucks, paving machine, pickups, a bobcat and crew. Now it is abandoned except, somewhere down the trail, a lone man on a compacting machine is slowly rolling up and down the trail compressing the mix.

With a little luck, the crews made it back to Willmar, their hometown, in time for Friday’s happy hour or an evening with their families. On Monday morning they were at a new site, paving a Wal-Mart parking lot. They would finish that job in a couple of days and move to another job. The trail project would fade into the long list of projects completed.

The celebrities showed up two weeks later. Garrison Keillor, mayors, trail advocates and folks who enjoy momentous events. Garrison drove in a ceremonial green spike. Speeches were made. Musicians and food entertained the crowds. Bicyclists and in-line skaters cheered.

None of them made it to the actual completion of the trail. I expected someone, perhaps a trail advocate, to show up with a keg of beer that the crew could tap into once they’d parked their trucks and clocked off the job. At the very least, I expected an accidental bicyclist to come upon the scene just as the crew was wrapping up. I expected him to stop and hang out, aware that this was an important moment in cross-state trail building.

But I’m projecting my own needs into this moment. What I really wanted was for a single trail user to connect with a single trail builder, to briefly share a moment in common. A moment when the trail builder could talk about his job and what it takes to put asphalt on the ground, and a trail user could say what it means to have these incredible facilities available and perhaps give an insight into why we enjoy them. It won’t happen this time. Bicyclists didn’t show up at the construction site and the paving crew didn’t show up at the trail celebration.

I wish I’d bought them that keg of beer.

Filed under: Misc, Rail Trails