Odyssey 2019 – The French Connection
September 11 - October 12, 2019
(32 days, 31 nights; Wed - Sat)Alternate Tour Dates
Price good until December 15, 2018 Includes all lodging, breakfasts and dinners, support van, leaders, tour maps & narratives.
Timberline van shuttle is included from Plattsburgh International Airport to our ride start at Rouses Point, NY. The tour terminates in New Orleans and a Timberline shuttle will be available directly to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport after the tour. However we recommend enjoying New Orleans for a couple days after the tour.
Not included: Airline service; Guide Gratuity.
Plattsburgh Airport 3:30pm, airport hotel 4pm
As a child growing up in Northern New York, I would watch the traffic travel along Main Street, wondering where the cars came from and where they were going. Eventually I learned that our Main St. was US Highway 11 that runs from the Canadian border all the way down to New Orleans! The idea to cycle this entire distance has been ruminating ever since, and now the research and scouting has been done. From the French speaking province of Quebec to the French Quarter in New Orleans, this route will traverse the country in a SW line through undulating prairie, rolling mountains, winding river valleys, bayous, bistros and bungalows. The tour will be separated into 3 sections, with a layover day between sections. The first section starts on the northern edge of New York, more than 7 hours north of the city, along the border with Canada. To the north lies French speaking Quebec, and to the east is Lake Champlain separating New York from Vermont. We will travel through four states, following the contours of the Appalachian folds, to the northern tip of the Shenandoah National Park. From here, segment two will diverge from Route 11 to take the parallel road along the infamous Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. Segment three will bring us back to Route 11 as we continue SW through the southern states of Alabama and Mississippi, to cross Lake Pontchartrain and enter the vibrant city of New Orleans and its cultural hub in the French Quarter.
The itinerary for this odyssey is perfect for “training on the road”. The first segment is not very hilly and distances are medium. As we enter Pennsylvania we begin cycling through the contours of the Allegheny Mountains, gaining strength in our legs. By the time we reach Front Royal and the start of the Skyline Drive, our bodies will be well tuned and ready for the hills. And hilly it is, as we squiggle our way through Shenandoah National Park and then into the Blue Ridge Mountains along the entirety of the Parkway. As we exit the Great Smoky Mountains the terrain flattens out and we are able to cover longer distances on our voyage to the Gulf of Mexico.
Segment one takes us through the rural areas of dairy country and Amish communities of northern New York. We are not far from the St. Lawrence River that drains the Great Lakes and is the border between the US and Canada for a stretch in New York. Life is uncomplicated here and we may observe residents beginning to prepare for the cold and long winter that will soon be coming to the area. As we cycle farther south, the townships grow and more activity will be seen. We encounter our first real hills as we sidle along the finger lakes region and approach the Allegheny Mountains. Seven days into the tour we enter Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Dutch communities. We will travel through the heart of coal country and pass through true blue collar towns as we drop into the Susquehanna River Valley. This beautiful route takes us right into the capital city of Harrisburg. From there we cross the western finger of Maryland before crossing the Potomac River into Virginia. We cross the C&O Canal towpath and a chance to learn how the area shaped the transportation advances of the 1700’s, as well as many other historical events that took place here near the nation’s capital. The segment ends as we veer from Route 11 to kiss the border of Shenandoah National Park.
Segment two is a bucket list ride along Skyline Drive, which connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway: 574 miles of gorgeous vistas and dramatic elevations. The parkway snakes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and traverses the states of Virginia and North Carolina, and offers us a chance to challenge and amaze. Our lodging stays as close to the parkway as possible, but we will sometimes have to swoop out of the mountains to find a comfortable bed and a hearty meal. The Timberline van will always be available to help you regain your elevation in the morning to continue the Parkway quest. We spend 9 days on the parkway, and have scheduled the ride to only include one weekend to minimize the competition with vehicles. The foliage should just be beginning to change and the weather should be cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. We will welcome a layover day in Bryson City, NC and a chance to stroll along some Great Smoky Mountains trails, or just wander this laid-back small town.
Segment three will bring us into a different world as we exit Tennessee to traverse Alabama and Mississippi. We’ll experience rural southern hospitality and have miles of well maintained, gently rolling roads to carry us ever farther south. The state of Alabama has more varied geography than is obvious, with deep forests to open prairie, mountain rock outcrops, and water. Did you know that one fifth of all the fresh water in the USA flows through Alabama’s rivers, streams and lakes? By the time we enter Mississippi the roads will have become broad and flat. Before we know it, we’ll be enjoying our last celebratory dinner together at a bayou B&B on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. On our last day we cross the last miles of Route 11, that comes to an unceremonious end at route 90, which we will follow into the heart of New Orleans. The cycling tour ends here, in the melting pot of French, African and American cultures with round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music and spicy, singular cuisine. Why not stay a day or two to enjoy?
|Day 1||Arrive, assembly, bike fitting, Orientation Dinner|
|Day 2||Shuttle to Rouses Point, NY; ride to Malone, NY||50|
|Day 3||Canton, NY; side trip to St. Lawrence locks||50|
|Day 4||Watertown, NY||60|
|Day 5||Syracuse, NY||60|
|Day 6||Binghamton, NY||65|
|Day 7||Old Forge, PA||66|
|Day 8||Danville, PA||63|
|Day 9||Harrisburg, PA||68|
|Day 10||Williamsport, MD||72|
|Day 11||Front Royal, VA||59|
|Day 12||layover day, hike on Appalachian Trail, or visit Virginia Beer Museum; Segment 1 ends;; Orientation for segment 2|
|Day 13||Begin segment 2: Skyline Drive - Swift Run Gap, V||66|
|Day 14||Wintergreen Resort, VA||62|
|Day 15||Peaks of Otter, VA||80|
|Day 16||Floyd, VA||73|
|Day 17||Sparta, NC||60|
|Day 18||Blowing Rock, NC||70|
|Day 19||Little Switzerland, NC||45|
|Day 20||Asheville, NC||60|
|Day 21||Bryson City, NC||70|
|Day 22||layover day, hike in Great Smoky Mountains; Segment 2 ends; Segment 3 begins|
|Day 23||Madisonville, TN||85|
|Day 24||Chattanooga, TN||70|
|Day 25||Reese City, AL||85|
|Day 26||Birmingham, AL||62|
|Day 27||Alpine Hills, AL||55|
|Day 28||Livingstone, AL||70|
|Day 29||Laurel, MS||85|
|Day 30||Poplarville, MS||70|
|Day 31||Slidell, LA||62|
|Day 32||The French Quarter, New Orleans, LA||35|