The Chainlink

I am thinking of putting together a week on the bike this late spring. The idea is to take as many rails to trails style paths as possible. Area is Central Wisconsin.

So far I have read about The 400, Elroy-Sparta and Nicolet trails. Ideally, I would take the Amtrak/Metra to some drop-off spot and get going north and west. 

Any ideas or suggestions on connecting trails so as to make this longer than a one-day ride? I am not averse to riding on country roads but prefer the safety of the R2T type paths.

Also, if you have done something like this and can chime in on the do's and don'ts, I would appreciate it.

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I did it in five also. Had planned on six but I pushed myself. :)

NEVER push yourself on a long ride!

Plan on six, take seven.  Enjoy the ride.

I think planning on seven and taking six makes more sense than planning on six and taking seven. It seems to me you should plan with a "buffer" day in case you get held up by weather, mechanical problems, or your own stamina.

I like the idea of an Amtrak/R2T type bike trail/Amtrak trip.  No cars, buses, planes or FedEx bikes ahead. The planning trick is finding bike trails that are close to Amtrak stations that will allow bikes.

 Wisconsin. A map of Amtrak stops in Wisconsin is at (LINK)
If you plan from that map look only at places that have triangle symbols. Triangles are train stops; circles are bus service which is basically no bikes. An online guide to bike trails in Wisconsin is at (LINK)  Dedicated bike trails like rails to trails are called linear trails in the biking guide.

  Reedsburg WI is 18 street/road miles from Wisconsin Dells Amtrak.   From Reedsburg there are one hundred miles of connecting “linear trails”.   400 trail - Sparta- Elroy trail - La Crosse River Trail - Great River State Park Trail.     Winona Amtrak is seven road/street miles from Great River Trail.    I road just the Sparta Elroy segment and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Katy Trail in Missouri can be accessed with maybe five miles of street/road cycling if you choose an accessible segment. About five years ago I rode Amtrak from Chicago to Sedalia, Mo. I arrived in the evening and rode to fairgrounds camping in Sedalia. Next few days I rode the Katy trail to near St Charles. Then I backtracked on Katy trail to Washington, MO and caught Amtrak home.

GAP in Pennsylvania is recommended by others. I would love to Amtrak to Cumberland, Maryland bike the GAP, Great Allegheny Passage trail to Pittsburg then Amtrak home or some variation. Both ends are very close to Amtrak.

If you ride Wisconsin trails buy a bike trail pass. It is nice to support the trails (and not get a citation for riding without one.) Also, consider Amtrak to a station near any desirable trail and do an up and back on that trail. Returning on the same route often seems like new territory when it is a different direction, time of day, weather and condition of the cyclist.

(I sent a personal invite to SixTwoPercent )

"Reedsburg WI is 18 street/road miles from Wisconsin Dells Amtrak."

You may not be able to get on or off with a bike in Wisconsin Dells.   Maybe things have changed but the last time I rode in Wisconsin there were only three stations that handled checked luggage: Milwaukee, Columbus, and La Crosse. 

Consider Amtrak to LaCrosse, Trails to Reedsburg (River trail, La Crosse-Sparta, Sparta-Elroy, 400 to Reedsburg) and roads to Columbus Amtrak. Or get the road miles done first from Columbus and trails to LaCrosse. Camping along the way isn't hard. Along Elroy-Sparta i'd recommend Tunnel Trail campgroound near Wilton or the town park campground in Wilton, i've stayed at both (town/county parks are cheap and often provide basic comforts like proper toilets.)

 You'd have to be creative in routing from Coumbus to avoid major highways, but there is a short trail available along the Wisconsin river into Portage. Study Google maps.

You could consider an out-and-back from LaCrosse with side trips along the way. If you're fat-walleting your trip, there are plenty of small motels all along the route.

It amazes me that Wisconsin Dells Amtrak does not have baggage service, considering the potential tourist trade. Chalk that up to federal under-funding of Amtrak.

Well Bob, the 'Empire Builder' that runs through Wisconsin no longer requires boxed bikes; now you can simply wheel your bike directly to the Baggage Car and hand it up to the attendant.  From the Empire Building schedule:

....trainside checked bicycle service [is] offered between staffed
locations handling checked baggage. Customers will check in with the
station agent, get a claim check for their bike, and hand up to
a crew member inside the baggage car. Visit for more
And altho the Baggage Car will not open at every train stop, what I've done in the past, is pull the bike out of the Baggage Car, say in Milwaukee.  And then walk it back to my car, park and lock it on the first level, say in the Smokers' Lounge, until my desired stop arrives.   All of course with the advance knowledge of the Conductor, who I've found are usually most happy to co-operate.  Coming back you can do the same thing in reverse.  Or just leave the bike in the Smokers' Lounge until you get back to Union Station.

The only problem i see with your method (which sounds great, BTW) is that a lot depends on the individual conductor. The conductor is the Boss of the Train, and their word is Law. If the conductor is having a bad day or is otherwise grumpy, they may not agree to your moving the bike around on their train. A lot will also depend on how crowded the train is.

i remember a conductor on the Hiawatha at Milwaukee who would not allow a passenger take a dismantled (essentially rinko'd) bike on his nearly empty coach , and when i spoke up and asked him why he threatened to put me off his train as well. It'd be a good idea to have a backup plan in case you get that conductor.

i wonder if anyone else has experience with Amtrak they could relate here?

Well mike, I too have run into a nit-picking conductor who was having a bad day.  But only once.  Can't get his permission?   Do it anyway!  I can't believe he'd put you off in the middle of nowhere!  You're a PAYING PASSENGER, and Amtrak needs you!

But if he did put you off, wait a day for the next train, do some impromptu bike touring, explore the vicinity, have a good meal.  Chances are the next Conductor will be much more 'accommodating'...if you know what I mean.  :-)

What I've also done when the Baggage Car is not available, is to wheel the bike directly to the Smoker's Lounge, which has an associated first-level baggage room for carry-ons, and have locked the bike to the central pole in the middle of the room.  

Then I disappear with my panniers; back to my seat.  Done deal.  Out of sight, out of mind. Brought a bike back from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia to Union Station in that position.  Never heard a peep.

Another place to 'hide' a bike is in the aisle, directly behind the engine.  No one goes up there; can't get through anyway.

The threat came while we were still in the station, and i could've taken the next train, but i needed to get home and i pick my battles. That conductor was rather belligerent and obviously liked to be The Boss. i hope the other guy was able to catch the next train, but wotta pain in the arse! At the time i was taking the Hiawatha 2 or 3 weekends a month and knew a lot of the crews by sight- so they knew me as well. i tried to avoid that guy's coach thenceforth.

Where is there a smokers' lounge? Lower level on the superliners? All Amtrak trains are non-smoking. On trans-con trips,15-20 minute smoke stops are made every few hours and smokers stand around the platform chain-smoking in the rain or snow.

My solution might be to set up a bike for rinko and most likely wouldn't have a problem with a bagged bike; i may be doing that trip in the near future.

Airlines have even harder rules. Even if the bike is packed down in a case within their size limits, if they so much as suspect you have a bike, they'll nail you for a big surcharge.

 These replies have good important information.  I checked today, Bob Kastigar  and others are correct. You can buy a ticket from Union Station to Wisconsin Dells and you buy a bike reservation to allow your bike in the baggage car of that train. The train, Empire Builder, will stop at Wisconsin Dells and you, yourself can easily walk off.  But, THEY WON’T LET YOUR BIKE OFF THE TRAIN!.

 The same train allows non-baggage service station Winona to load and unload bikes. Winona has “Trailside Bike Service” but not checked baggage.  I don’t know what Winona station has that Wisconsin Dells station lacks other than Amtrak approval. 

  As for clp’s method of “ accommodating conductors” it might work but I wouldn’t plan a pleasure trip around it.  My bike trips lower my anxiety, not raise them. I have taken a bicycle one wheel cargo trailer on two Amtrak trips,  but that is another story. 

I removed my comments as I see above there is a link to Amtrak's bike policy. I will plan accordingly. 


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