Ok, it’s almost finished. Over the course of the last two and half days I mapped out a 550 mile gravel bicycle route that starts and ends here in Emporia (although you could theoretically start at any point on the loop). What’s it look like? Wait for it…
The first portion got cut off for some reason, plus I need to tweak a few wrong turns, but there’s the gist of it. The original plan was to go directly through some of bigger cities. I changed my mind on this, instead giving deference to staying on gravel, although some pavement was unavoidable. The route goes close enough that “hoteling” is easily doable, you will just have to go a few miles off-route to do so. Camping is much more accessible, with the route going within a mile or less of numerous camping opportunities at area lakes.
What’s so great about it? If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love it. You’ll travel a fairly good stretch on parts of both the Chisholm and Oregon Trails, plus you’ll cross the Santa Fe Trail a couple of times as well. There’s a really good chance you’ll see cowboys and Indians, wagon trains, wild mustangs, homestead ruins, buffalo, deer, coyote, quail, pheasants, prairie chickens, and some of the largest cattle herds in the US. The cities on the route, or close to are: Emporia, Cassoday, El Dorado, Newton, Salina, Abilene, Junction City, Manhattan, Alma, Wamego, Topeka, Lawrence, and Lyndon. That’s not the full list; I’ll compile that, along with the route cues, soon. When I get those complete, I’ll post them on here along with the GPX file and PDF maps.
If you don’t have a dedicated GPS, you can also use a smartphone with a GPS chip (iPhone, etc). The app I used to map the route was MotionXGPS for iPhone. A smartphone will work, but you will probably need to bring a backup battery or a way to charge it on the go, because using the GPS in a smartphone sucks the battery in about 4-5 hours. My GPS of choice for bikepacking is a Garmin eTrex 20. Garmin’s upload and mapping software is pretty clunky, especially for the Mac. If possible, I highly recommend using Topofusion. It’s a much simpler and streamlined design.
Ok, I’m gonna go work on finishing this up, so I’m gonna end this post, but first I’m going to wash my car. After almost 600 miles of gravel, including 7 hours of rain today, it’s looking a little awesome right now.
See you down the (gravel) road,