Adventure Cycling 2005 "Northern Tier" Bicycle Tour

Map of the United States

NT Section 1May 26 - June 8Anacortes WA - Sandpoint ID
NT Section 2June 9 - June 19Sandpoint ID - Cut Bank MT
NT Section 3June 20 - July 1Cut Bank MT - Minot ND
NT Section 4July 2 - July 7Minot ND - Moorhead MN
NT Section 5July 8 - July 11Moorhead MN - Grand Rapids MN
Hayward SortieJuly 12 - July 16Grand Rapids MN - Hayward WI
North Lakes 1July 17 - July 20Hayward WI - Escanaba MI
North Lakes 2July 21 - July 24Escanaba MI - Mackinaw City MI
North Lakes 3July 25 - July 28Mackinaw City MI - Luther MI
Lake Erie ConnectorJuly 29 - August 8Luther MI - Niagara Falls ON
NT Section 10August 9 - August 15Niagara Falls ON - Middlebury VT
NT Section 11August 16 - August 27Middlebury VT - Bar Harbor ME

I've wanted to do an Adventure Cycling tour for years. The long, self-supported, group tours that ACA does are just my cup of tea. Having a pre-planned route and a tour leader to handle all the arrangements seems a nice alternative to doing all the legwork myself.

Up until now, the problem has been talking my boss into letting me disappear for three months. But I became eligible for retirement when I turned 55 on May 2. The only reason I didn't retire then was to help finish the project I'm designing at work. The deal I negotiated is that I leave for three months on my cycling vacation, then return for a couple of months to finish the test and verification phase of the product, then retire for good.


Last year I toured with my brother who brought along his new GPS receiver for navigation. It seemed like such a good idea I went out and bought a Magellan Meridian Platinum GPS for this trip. The Magellan has a relatively large map display and it takes SD memory cards so I thought I would be able to store maps and waypoints for the entire trip without having to reload. Also it is supposed to have street routing rather than just drawing a straight line between the beginning and ending points. So I spent a couple hundred more dollars on a memory card and detail maps of the US to download into the unit.

It turned out that yes, with a large enough memory card I could easily load enough detail maps to cover the entire cross-country tour. However the waypoints to specify the route cannot be stored in the memory card, but only in internal memory. You're limited to something like 400 waypoints, not nearly enough to cover a 4500-mile tour. I wasn't interested in lugging around a 10-pound laptop computer to reload waypoints every couple weeks. Also, it turns out that the "street routing" does not work with waypoints. The GPS finds its own way between beginning and ending points, typically via the freeway, which is not useful for a bicycle tour.

Route slips

So I ended up leaving the GPS at home. I did make my own route slips however. If you ask six cyclists what's the best route slip format you'll typically get about a half-dozen different opinions. Personally, I find the ones printed on the side of the Adventure Cycling maps hard to read so I made a spreadsheet including map data plus additional info from the GPS waypoint files that I downloaded from the Adventure Cycling web site. Several other riders also opted to use my route slips.

During the tour I kept a diary on my hand-held Palm Pilot computer. Since it is fairly painful to input text using the stylus and "Graffiti" the diary is a bit terse. For this web journal I have filled in some extra explanation and details as I recall them a year later.

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Last updated November 22, 2021