My previous trips have been somewhat goal oriented. Ride from one end of something to the other end of something. Two were from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific. Two were (supposed to be) from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and last summer was from Canada to Mexico.

My plan for 2020 on the other hand, is to do a large loop, ending where I started. Specifically, a loop starting at my daughter's home in Portland, and ending at the same place, 3 months later. To help give me ideas, ACA is finishing up a new route that will go from West Yellowstone to Minneapolis. So, my plan is do a counter-clockwise loop, Starting in Portland, riding to Yellowstone, doing the new route to Minneapolis, and then riding back to Portland by a different, more northerly route. I am considering two out bound and two return routes. Since I haven't decided which to take for either, so I am including all of the options.

The following narrative is therefor broken up into:

  • Portland to Wallula Junction
  • Option one for the 2nd section of the Eastbound ride Wallua Junction to Missula
  • Option two for the 2nd section of the Eastbound ride (presumed choice at this time)
  • The 3rd section of Eastbound ride (Missula to Yellowstone)
  • The last section of Eastbound ride (Yellowstone to Minneapolis)
  • Option 1 for first half of west bound ride (Minneapolis to Columbia Falls, MT)
  • Option 2 for first half of west bound ride (presumed choice at this time)
  • And finally, the second half of Westbound ride (Columbia Falls, MT to Portland, OR)

But, before we dig into the looong text below, and assuming options 2 above, I'll summarize it with a list of key geographical points:

Portland, OR; Walla Walla, WA; Coeur d'Alene, ID; Missoula, MT; Helena, MT; Yellowstone National Park; Rapid City, SD; Minneapolis, MN; Traverse City, MI; Mackinaw City, MI; Lake Superior; Fargo, ND; Glacier National Park; Mt Ranier National Park, Portland, OR

Assuming the 1000ish miles from Fargo to Glacier is zipped across on Amtract, I'm figuring on about 5000 miles. At an average of 50 miles per day, that's 100 days, or 3 1/3 months. With a June 1st start, I should be back to Portland about September 9th.

OK, buckle your seat belts. This ride err, uh, description is guuna get a bit bumpy verbose...

Portland to Yellowstone:

Both out bound options start in Portland, and follow ACA's Lewis and Clark route for about 222.5 miles to Wallula Junction, WA. From this point to Missoula I have two options. No decision yet, but currently I am heavily leaning towards option two. From Missoula to Yellowstone I have settled on a single route.

Portland to Wallula Junction:

I'll start the trip by following the Lewis and Clarke towards Missoula just as I did in 2018. However, in 2018, we had to ride on the Washington side of the Columbia due to a fire on the Oregon side the previous year. This year I'll stay on the Oregon side, and ride the Historic Columbia River Highway. The 222.5 miles section ends in Wallula Junction, WA.

As noted above, I have two options at this point:

  1. Continue on the Lewis and Clark to Missoula, crossing the Bitterroots at Lolo pass as I have done before.
  2. Head north toward Coeur d'Alene, and cross the Bitterroots via Lookout Pass, and drop into Missoula from the North (probable choice at this time).

Portland to Wallula Junction

Portland to Wallula Junction

Wallula Junction to Missoula Option One:

Option one is simply to follow the same route I used in 2018. After leaving the Columbia at Wallula Junction, the Lewis and Clark route follows the Snake, Clearwater and Lochsa rivers to Lolo Pass, and then travels down to Missoula. This 340 mile route is pretty for the most part, but I've done the 197 miles from Wallula Junction to Kooskia once before, and the 143 miles from Kooskia to Missoula three times before. I'd really like to do something different, which leads me to option two...

Wallula to Missoula Option 1

Wallula to Missoula Option 1

Wallula Junction to Missoula Option Two:

The 383 mile Wallula to Missoula option two begins by turning east on US 12, instead of south as with option one. It then goes north on US 12 to Pasco, WA. From this point, it passes just south of Spokane and Coeur d' Alene, to the town of Plummer, near the south end of Lake Coeur d' Alene.

For a bit over half of the way from Plummer to Missoula, it follows rail trails: The 71 mile paved trail of the Coeur d' Alene between Plummer and Mullan, ID; the 17.6 mile mostly?? paved NorPac (Northern Pacific Railroad) trail from Mullan, ID to Saltese, MT; and the mostly!! dirt 27.2 Trail of the Olympian from Saltese to St Regis.

Bicycles are allowed on freeways in Montana, so if the reviews I have read are correct, and the surface of the31 mile Olypian trail is rough and/or slow, I may well use I-90 from it's "East Portal" to the town of St. Regis.

While the overall 1% grades averaged on the climb over the Bitterroots are much the same for both options, the top 3 ½ miles of the climb up Lolo pass on option one is about 6%

Wallula to Missoula Option 2

Wallula to Missoula Option 2

Missoula to Yellowstone:

From Missoula, I plan to stay on the Lewis and Clarke, following the "Blackfoot Option" towards Great Falls, but turning south at Lincoln; about half way between the two. From there, I'll drop down to Helena, where I catch to "main route" of the Lewis and Clark, but going "backwards" towards Missoula, to Three folks, where I'll catch Captain Clark's "main" return route, through Bozeman, to Livingston, where I'll take US 89 into the North entrance of the Park.

Missoula to Yellowstone ACA

Missoula to Yellowstone as shown on the ACA Interactive Map

Missoula to Yellowstone Google

Missoula to Yellowstone as shown on Google Maps

Yellowstone to Minneapolis:

In Yellowstone, I'll connect to the new West Yellowstone to Minneapolis route, and head to Minneapolis. I'm not sure of the new routes path, but it looks to go to Devil's Tower, the northern part of the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, and Badlands National Park. Likely it will be similar to the route we took in 2018. The route from there will be a surprise :-)

Here's an approximation of the route as suggested by Goggle:

Missoula to Yellowstone

And here's the "official" image on ACA's web site:

ACA's picture of the new Missoula to Yellowstone Route


Minneapolis back to Portland:

Minneapolis to Glacier National Park:

From Minneapolis I have two options. While they are different east of Glacier National Park, they both use the same combination of the Northern Tier route and the Sierra Cascades route from Glacier to Portland. For the "options" narrative below, I'll focus on the differences up to Glacier, and cover the common part in a third section, after the options.

The two options are:

  1. Ride from Minneapolis to Columbia Falls, MT using a combination of the Northern Tier, Lewis and Clarke, and Great Parks North.
  2. Go east from Minneapolis to Lake Michigan, catch the ferry accross the lake, go up and over Lake Michigan, stopping at my sister's cabin near Traverse City, and then going west (this is the probably route at this time).

Minneapolis to Glacier National Park Option One

The easiest way to get from Minneapolis to Glacier National Park is to simply follow the Northern Tier. But I did that in 2017, and the idea is to see something new as much as possible. While that's not totaly possible, I can change it up some. So, with out futher adu, the plan is: Ride north from Minneapolis, catching the Northern Tier at Dalbo, where there is a great Warm Showers location called "The Bunkhouse". Sixty miles later, at Bowlus, I'll take the "Trails Alternate" to Fargo. In 2017 I rode the main route to the Mississippi Headwaters and down to Fargo, so this makes one new route. From Fargo to Bismarck, I'll be repeating a section of the Northern Tier I did in 2017. At Bismarck, the Lewis and Clark route goes north to follow the Missouri river for a bit, before rejoining the Northern Tier at Glen Ulin, substituting two or three days for one day I did in 2017. The next 200 miles to Circle, MT (4 days) are again, a repeat of 2017. At Circle I'll head west, separating from the north bound Northern Tier, and heading to Great Falls. I'll then continue past Lincoln, where I left this part of the Lewis and Clark Route. The 40 miles to Clearwater are one of two short sections I'll be repeating on my return to Portland. Clearwater is also the junction with the Great Parks North Route , which I'll follow for 115 miles to Columbia Falls where I'll intersect with Option two.

2020 Ride 1/2 half

Minneapolis to Glacier National Park Option One

Minneapolis to Glacier National Park Option Two

Option two is quite different; It goes southeast instead of turning northwest, and heads to Manitowoc, WI., where it will catch the ferry to Ludington, MI. From there, it heads north, through Traverse City, to my sister's cabin in Northport, MI. After a 2-3 day visit with my sister, I'll go through Mackinaw City, through the Northern Peninsula into Minnesota. Unlike the North Lakes. I'll likely then link onto the "Trails Alternate", and take it to Fargo, ND Since the loop through Michigan will add about 1000 miles, and 3 weeks, I'll take the train to East Glacier park, saving about the same, and skipping the endless prairies of North Dakota and Montana. From East Glacier Village, I'll either ride 74 miles west to the Columbia Falls intersection, or go north to St. Mary Lake, and over Going to the Sun road, and back down to Columbia Falls. This route adds 25 miles and 5500 feet of climbing, in exchange for spectacular views. But I did Going to the Sun in 2017, so I'm likely to go the south way.

Despite all the verbiage in the proceeding paragraph, for the most park, I have almost no idea what roads I'll take from Minneapolis to Manitowoc, or from Ludington to Northport. Assuming I go this way, I'll either figure this out sometime between now and the time I leave, or I'll wing it when I get there. Hmmm. Winging it isn't my normal style, but given all the rail-trails in these two states, that might be kind of fun. And since I have absolutely no schedule, totally doable!

2020 Ride 1/2 half

Minneapolis to Glacier National Park Option Two

Always the twain shall meet

As noted above, the two options meet each other at Columbia Falls, and become one for the rest of the journey. Here is a picture of the two routes coming from the east, and the one common route heading west.

2020 Ride 1/2 half

Columbia Falls, MT back to Portland

Shared Route from Columbia Falls, MT to Portland, OR

After Columbia Falls, with the two routes now merged, I'll follow the Northern Tier past Sandpoint to Twisp WA. Once again, this near 500 mile stretch is one I rode in 2017. But it's pretty enough that I don't mind. It is however, hilly... As in 3 mountain passes hilly: Sherman, Wauconda, and Loup Loup, with Sherman being the most challenging at 3700 feet of climbing. The Sierra Cascades route crosses the Northern Tier here, and I will take it south, past Mt Rainier to the Columbia River. There I will rejoin the Lewis and Clark west bound, and back to Portland, finishing the summer at about 5000 miles.

2020 Ride 1/2 half

Columbia Falls to Portland

Other Changes for 2020

Every year, I evaluate what I did, and more commonly, what I took, the previous year and/or years. While over time, the changes become less and less, something always changes, at least a bit. That said, the other "significant" changes are:

  1. Bike. Baring a last minute change of mind, I have decided to ride my REI "Novara Randonee" instead of the Bike Friday "New World Tourist" I bought and used last year. While the Friday might be ideal for shorter trips, It's just to much of a compromise for long trips like this one.

  2. Technology. I'm still trying to decide what to use here. Phone, Camera, etc. My goals are to stay in touch, and document my trip, but without having technology (and keeping it charged) become the "tail wagging the dog". How do I keep things charged even with remote camping? Is there a simple (and light) way to take good pictures? How much will reasonable use of libraries help? Last year, I used a smart phone. That worked, but I found myself worrying about keeping it's batteries charged.

  3. Stove. Last year I went without a stove as an experiment. Yup, it's doable. So, I know I can survive if I can't find fuel. Nope, Ain't gunna do it this year. I like hot coffee too much ;-)

  4. Last year along the coast, the temperature rarely varied beyond 50 – 75 degrees. But this year I need to be prepared for a much larger range. So, I'll go back to carrying a full variety of clothing choices.

Once I settle on the above, I'll publish a gear list here.