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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

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I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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Equipment Pages Index

Introduction
How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
Kickstands
Sealed Cartridge Headsets

How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Camping
Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits
Solar Power for Camp

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Adventure Cycling's USA Northern Tier Bike Touring Route Maps
Bicycle Tour Coast to Coast Across America -  States: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine

ANACORTES, WASHINGTON TO FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA

This portion of the Northern Tier begins in Anacortes, Washington, which is located on Fidalgo Island in the Puget Sound. Anacortes is also the jumping-off point for folks going to the San Juan Islands, a favorite cycling destination. At the start, the combination of lush forest and ocean feeds and moistens the soul. Heading eastward along the rushing Skagit River, you carry that feeling up to the top of Rainy and Washington passes in the Cascade Mountains. Descending to the east side of the Cascades brings you into the drier part of the state and the widely known orchard country of the Okanogan Valley. Leaving this valley, you'll be climbing and descending several more passes full of ponderosa pines and finding many sleepy farming communities down along the rivers you cross. The river valleys tend to run in a north-south direction across the northwestern part of the United States, and because the route travels west to east, you will be working your way up and down. There are plenty of towns, rivers, lakes, mountains and forests in eastern Washington, Idaho and western Montana until you reach Cut Bank on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.

The spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is a hard climb but well worth it for the scenery. The route takes a jump into Canada to access Waterton Lakes National Park, and then you'll head back into the States at Del Bonita, a little-used border crossing. Cut Bank is the beginning of the Great Plains, and from here on you'll start praying for tailwinds. Supposedly, heading eastward, tailwinds predominate in the summer. The route uses U.S. Highway 2, the main road through central and eastern Montana along the railroad, so camping spots can occasionally be somewhat loud. Wherever possible, side roads are used to relieve the monotony of being on the highway. Afternoon thundershowers are a constant companion out on the Plains. You'll follow the Missouri River from Havre, Montana to New Town, North Dakota and the plains of Montana eventually transform into the green rolling hills of western North Dakota. Sunflowers are everywhere, and they become the crop of choice as the terrain flattens out in eastern North Dakota. Fargo is located on the banks of the Red River, on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota.

Terrain

The route lets you warm up slightly before the major climbing begins. There are four major passes in the first 300 miles, and Sherman Pass is the highest at 5,575 feet. It then becomes rolling, the route following river valleys until you reach Glacier National Park. Logan Pass, on Going-to-the-Sun Road, is the last major climb. There's a series of roller-coaster hills heading into Canada. Once you get about 20 miles east of the Rocky Mountains, it starts to become Big Sky country with moderately hilly plains. The plains roll out through Montana and become hilly in western North Dakota, and then the route flattens out in eastern North Dakota.

Logistics

Services are generally good along this route. There is a 71-mile stretch of limited services between Cardston, Alberta and Cut Bank, Montana. There are also some sporadic spots lacking services in central Montana, but nothing is farther apart than a day's ride. The people of the towns across the plains of Montana and North Dakota are super generous and genuine. Camping in town parks is not uncommon. Another 74-mile stretch of limited services occurs between Williston and New Town, North Dakota. Only a few bike shops exist between Whitefish, Montana and Fargo, North Dakota, a distance of 1,150 miles.

FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA TO MUSCATINE, IOWA

This portion of the Northern Tier Route can be ridden from late spring to late fall. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns, but tornadoes are common in Iowa. They mostly occur in May and June.

Heading east from Fargo and Moorhead in the Red River Valley, you begin to slowly leave the Great Plains. Lakes and hills become the standard scenery, and the resident mosquitoes increase in number. The birthplace of the Mississippi River is in Lake Itasca State Park, in northern Minnesota. This area is full of forests, lakes and rivers and draws many recreationalists during the summer months. The route follows the Mississippi River until it heads east around the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding towns. There is a spur into Minneapolis-St. Paul that ends with access to the airport. Along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, the towns are older and the buildings much more historic. At Prescott, Wisconsin the St. Croix joins the Mississippi, and the route again follows that river southward for 175 miles. You'll leave the river occasionally on less-traveled roads, but these also mean climbing and descending the bluffs along the river. As you enter Iowa, you may think that the terrain is going to flatten out, but the hills continue after leaving the river. Small laid-back farm towns are abundant through Iowa. The route ends in Muscatine, an old industrial town located on the Mississippi.

Terrain

The terrain is continuously rolling over the entire length of this route. Ask any Iowan if Iowa is flat, they will respond with a "No," especially in the northeastern part of the state.

Logistics

Services are abundant throughout the route, and the townsfolk are friendly in the Midwest.

MUSCATINE, IOWA TO BAR HARBOR, MAINE

This portion of the Northern Tier can be ridden from early spring to late fall. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns. The Midwest and Great Lakes summers can be hot, especially inland. Along the Great Lakes, breezes provide cooling and are sometimes a friend and sometimes a foe.

Beginning at the Mississippi River, the route traverses the large prairie farms of central Illinois and the smaller farms of Indiana and Ohio, eventually reaching the shore of Lake Erie at Huron, Ohio. Here a side trip takes you to nearby Cedar Point Amusement Park, where you can ride the greatest number of the most pulse-raising roller coasters in the country. Or you can take a ferry to one or more of the Lake Erie islands and visit the area where Admiral Perry defeated the British fleet in the War of 1812. Heading through busy Cleveland, you'll pass the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Science Center with an IMAX theater, a retired Great Lakes iron ore freighter and a World War II submarine.

Along the lake shore in eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania, the route passes through small towns where tourists flock to the shore during summer. In Erie, Pennsylvania you can explore the miles of sand beach at Presque Isle State Park and the replica of the sailing ship Niagara, Admiral Perry's flagship in the War of 1812 Battle of Lake Erie. Leaving Erie, the route enters the fruit and wine region of Pennsylvania and New York and hugs the relatively rural lake shore to the outskirts of Buffalo, New York. Views across Lake Erie of the Buffalo skyline and Canada usher the cyclist into the bustle of the southern end of the metropolis. The route passes the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna. Seeing its magnificent Italian Renaissance and French Baroque architecture is a must. Through the suburbs to the Peace Bridge, ride carefully through the city streets. The route takes you to the lakefront Buffalo Naval and Military Park with World War II vessels open for visits.

After crossing the Peace Bridge into Canada you'll follow one of the most scenic recreational trails in North America along the Niagara River to Niagara Falls. Take the cable car ride across the Whirlpool Rapids and visit the other attractions along the trail. Then you'll cross back into the U.S., enjoying the view of the Niagara Gorge. Heading east, the route uses the Erie Canalway Trail for 85 miles along a waterway dripping with history. Take the time to explore the towns along the canal. At Palmyra, the route turns north to Lake Ontario, where it follows the lake shore to Sodus Bay, dips inland to Fair Haven, and then leaves the Great Lakes to cross the Adirondack Mountains and arrive at Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. A visit to Fort Ticonderoga will give meaning to Revolutionary War history.

After a short ferry ride over the lake, you are in New England, cycling through Vermont farmland, forested hills and picturesque villages. In New Hampshire, the route follows the Connecticut River, passing through the villages of Orford with its ridge houses and Haverhill, a classic New England village with its fenced village commons and old homes. The route crosses the White Mountains, the backbone of New Hampshire, on the famous Kancamagus Highway. Mt. Washington, noted for its fierce weather, is just a few miles north, and the Kancamagus shares some of its weather reputation. Be prepared, even in summer. Entering Maine, you'll traverse forests and fields, arriving at Rockport on the coast. Allow time to savor the quintessential ambiance of the coastal towns. Before crossing the Penobscot River, stray off route to visit Ft. Knox, an exceptionally well-preserved unused Revolutionary War fort. Finally, don't end your trip without cycling the gravel carriage paths of Acadia National Park and viewing a sunrise from atop Cadillac Mountain. The park is near the town of Bar Harbor, at the end of the route.

Terrain

The first 946 miles of this route (from the Mississippi River to Palmyra, New York) is virtually flat. Illinois has some gently rolling prairie and is treeless except in towns. The trees increase in Indiana. East of Cleveland, Ohio, the route climbs to a low ridge for a few miles and then descends back to the lake shore until Buffalo, New York. From Buffalo to Palmyra, the route experiences only slight elevation changes at the locks along the Erie Canal. The mountains in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire extend north and south, and the route travels east-west so the remainder of the route has a lot a variety flat sections along river valleys and several challenging climbs. The Kancamagus Pass at 2,855 feet is the highest point on this portion of the Northern Tier Route.

Logistics

Overall most services along this route can be found only in towns. Campgrounds are reasonably plentiful, but there are a few gaps. Advanced planning is needed if you are camping. Some cyclists may want to do the eastern portions of this route during the colors of autumn. If you do, call ahead to verify campground availability because many close after Labor Day. If staying at hotels or B&Bs, make advance reservations.

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