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. When I first posted this page, I was considering two options between Wallula Junction and Missoula, and two more between Minneapolis and Fargo, ND. While it is vaugly possible I might change my mind, I believe I have made a decision, which is what you see below.

The following narrative is therefor broken up into 8 sections:

  • Segment 1 - Portland, OR to Wallula Junction, WA
  • Segment 2 - Wallula Junction, WA to Missoula, MT
  • Segment 3 - Missoula, MT to Yellowstone Park
  • Segment 4 - Yellowstone Park to Minneapolis, MN
  • Segment 5 - Minneapolis, MN to Dalbo, MN
  • Segment 6 - Dalbo, MN to Fargo, ND
  • Segment 7 - Fargo, ND to East Glacier, MT
  • Segment 8 - East Glacier, MT to Portland, OR

To put the whole trip in context, here is a picture of the trip showing the entire United States with the full ACA route system:

Entire 2020 route with full US as Context

Summer 2000 Trip with US Context

Here is a Zoomed in view, showing the trip only, with segments broken by red/yellow dots:

Entire 2020 route with full US as Context

Zoomed in Summer 2000 Trip with Segments

Before we dig into the looong text below, I'll summarize the trip with a list of key geographical points:

Portland, OR; Walla Walla, WA; Coeur d'Alene, ID; Missoula, MT; Helena, MT; Yellowstone National Park; Devil's Tower, WY; Rapid City, SD; Midland, 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 by riding 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 4th start, I should be back to Portland sometime in the middle of September.

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

Portland to Minneapolis:

Portland to Minneapolis includes 4 segments:

  1. Portland, OR to Wallula Junction, WA
  2. Wallula Junction, WA to Missoula, MT
  3. Missoula, MT to Yellowstone Park
  4. Yellowstone Park to Minneapolis, MN

The 605 mile Portland to Yellowstone section is broken up into 3 segments. The first (Portland to Wallula Juntion is entirely on the ACA Lewis and Clark route. The second (Wallula Junction to Missoula) is new to me, and off of the ACA route system. And finally, the third (Missoula to Yellowstone) is mostly, again, on the Lewis and Clarke route, with a couple of new connector segments.

The final segment of the "outboud" part of the trip is Yellowstone to Minneapolis via the new "Parks Peaks Prairies Connector" route.

Segment 1: Portland to Wallula Junction:

Segment one follows 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. This 222.5 miles section ends in Wallula Junction, WA.

Segment 2: Wallula Junction to Missoula:

I could follow the same route to Missoula as I used in 2018, by taking the Lewis and Clark route, following 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, so, I plan to take a 383 mile Wallula to Missoula by turning east on US 12, instead of south, and going north on US 12 to Pasco, WA. From this point, I'll 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, i'll follow rail trails: The 71 mile paved trail of the Coeur d' Alene From Plummer, ID to 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 the 31 mile Olypian trail is rough and/or slow, I will probably use I-90 from it's "East Portal" to the town of St. Regis.

Wallula to Missoula Option 2

Wallula to Missoula - Segment 2

Segment 3: 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 - Segment 3

Missoula to Yellowstone Google

Missoula to Yellowstone as shown on Google Maps - Segment 3

Segment 4: Yellowstone to Minneapolis:

In Yellowstone, I'll connect to the new West Yellowstone to Minneapolis route (now named the "Parks, Peaks, Prairies Connector"), and head to Minneapolis. I'm not sure of the exact details or new routes path yet, but the sprint 2020 issue of ACA's "CYCLOSOURCE" does show it on the "Adventure Cycling Route Network" in the middle of the magazine. From the drawing, I suspect the route upto the Black Hills, is the same as we we took in 2018. The route from there will be new.

Here's what I got from Cyclosourse:

Missoula to Yellowstone

The ACA "Parks Peaks and Praries Connector" Route - Segment 4

Minneapolis back to Portland:

Minneapolis to Portland includes 4 more segments:

  1. Minneapolis, MN to Dalbo, MN
  2. Dalbo, MN to Fargo, ND
  3. Fargo, ND to East Glacier National Park, MT
  4. Glacier National Park, MT, to Portland

Segment 5: Minneapolis, MN to Dalbo, MN

Segment 5 leaves Minneapolis and goes southeast, heading 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. Unlike the North Lakes route I took in 2018, I'm hoping to go up to Lake Superior, the only remaining Great lake I haven't seen.

For the most part, I have almost no idea what roads I'll take from Minneapolis to Manitowoc, from Ludington to Northport, or from Mackinaw City to where I hit the Northern Tier, but presumably 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!

My map shows me hitting the Northern Tier at Dalbo - the location of the Bunk house I stayed in 2 years ago - a very nice rest spot. I might hoeever, stay north, joining the Northern Tier at or near Bowlus, MN.

Segment 6: Dalbo, MN to Fargo, ND

Once I join the Northern Tier, I'll follow it to Fargo, using the "Trails Alternative".

Segment 7: Fargo, ND to East Glacier, MT

Since I will be adding 1000 miles on my loop through Michigan, I'll most likely take just take Amtrak from Fargo to Glacier National Park. This will save about the same number of miles, and skips the endless prairies of North Dakota and Montana.

From East Glacier Village, I'll most likely ride the 74 miles west to Columbia Falls, where the "Going to the Sun" route intersects, near Columbia Falls, MT. This is the southern route, mostly missing the crest of the park. But if I'm riding with someone who hasn't been over Logan Pass, I'll go north to St. Mary Lake, over Going to the Sun road, and back down to Columbia Falls.

Going to the Sum 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.

2020 Ride 1/2 half

Minneapolis to Glacier National Park - Segments 5, 6, and 7

Segment 8: Columbia Falls, MT to Portland, OR

After Columbia Falls, 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 - Segment 8

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.