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Old 06-17-2013, 11:13 AM   #1
lookatdirt OP
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The Great River Road

Starting to plan a trip on the Great River Road. Going to travel on it from south to north. Thinking of starting the trip in the beginning of May next year. Anyone have any thoughts on the best time of year for this trip? Like from a weather standpoint, for instance? Or have any other suggestions such as "Don't miss..."
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:48 PM   #2
Jamie Z
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Hi Dirt,

I have a few general suggestions. The Great River Road (GRR) is a nice route. I drove it in 2001 in my Corvette. Lots of fun. I came through the southern part of the route in July. That was awful. Mississippi and Louisiana in the dead of summer can border on unbearable. The best time for that part of the country is April/May or September/October. Your plan to start in May is a good one.

I have a proposal for you. The GRR is a very well-known road. It was made for tourists and necessarily dumps you in all the touristy spots along the way. And because it's expected that all the RVs and pull-behinds will be driving the GRR, it oftentimes follows major highways. For example, near where I live in Mississippi, the GRR is US Highway 61, a very busy 4-lane divided highway heading south out of Memphis. It runs a few miles east of the Mississippi River

If you want a more intimate feel of the river, I suggest you plan to ride the Mississippi River Trail (MRT).



The MRT is a bicycle route which follows public roads almost the entire way. In many places it goes the same way as the GRR.



But in many places, the MRT follows much much more interesting roads. I prefer the MRT. It's less traffic. You see smaller towns, not so many touristy things. The roads are a little more curvy. Where the GRR follows US61 near me, the MRT follows old Highway 61, a two-lane which parallels the river (though it's still not visible) and there's hardly any traffic at all.

The negative is that because the GRR is far more popular, it's better signed and there is a lot more information available. The MRT isn't even signed in some states (Like MN and IL) but routes are available. I started a project a few years ago to map out the MRT and create GPS routes. You can see the work so far, here. We've got all but Minnesota and Louisiana.

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=465534

Here's the website for the MRT. They have some good maps and a little information. http://www.mississippirivertrail.org/

Because the MRT is designed for bicycles, there are a handful of area where it follows places you aren't allowed to ride a motorcycle. The routes I've made take this into consideration and route you nearby on public roads.

Hope I didn't throw a wrench in your plans, but I wanted to put that out there, because I think the MRT is more enjoyable than the Great River Road, even though (or rather because) practically nobody knows about it. It'll take a little more planning because the signage for the MRT isn't the best, but I think the effort is worth it.

Jamie
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:08 PM   #3
lookatdirt OP
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Jamie-

Thanks for taking the time to fill me in. That was some pretty stellar information! I'm looking into the GRT right away. The Trail looks like a much funner route than the GRR. Thanks for the links, as well.

Now I'm really looking forward to the trip!

I've been looking at a really old Rand Mcnally map that shows the River Route on both sides of the river. For example, in Mississippi it shows it following Rte 61 on the Mississippi side of the river and Rte 65 on the Louisiana/Arkansas side. What gives?


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Old 06-17-2013, 07:26 PM   #4
Contevita
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Thanks for the link to the MRT Index. I live on the coast and have been looking a route such as the one you posted. You're correct about the weather, especially right now, it's brutally hot and humid. If you're not conditioned to this type of weather, you're going to take a beating.

Currently my bike is down due to valve adjustments (shims on order), but once I'm back on the road I'll have to check out your map.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lookatdirt View Post
Now I'm really looking forward to the trip!

I've been looking at a really old Rand Mcnally map that shows the River Route on both sides of the river. For example, in Mississippi it shows it following Rte 61 on the Mississippi side of the river and Rte 65 on the Louisiana/Arkansas side. What gives?
If you're planning to ride the Mississippi River trail, I can assist you. It'll be very helpful if you have some experience with a GPS.

As for the River Road being on both sides of the river, yeah that happens. Each state wants its share of tourist dollars, so they mark roads as the Great River Road, even though the state on the opposite side of the river also has a Great River Road. The Great River Road is not a single National route.

In a few places, you'll see a similar thing with the MRT. For example, the official MRT follows the eastern shore of the river through Tennessee. At Memphis it crosses into Arkansas and follows the western shore. However, in Mississippi, they also have a bike route on the eastern side, which in my view is more interesting than Arkansas.

I can suggest some specific stops in and around the Tennessee and Mississippi region when you get down to planning your trip.

Jamie
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:42 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Z View Post
If you're planning to ride the Mississippi River trail, I can assist you. It'll be very helpful if you have some experience with a GPS.

As for the River Road being on both sides of the river, yeah that happens. Each state wants its share of tourist dollars, so they mark roads as the Great River Road, even though the state on the opposite side of the river also has a Great River Road. The Great River Road is not a single National route.

In a few places, you'll see a similar thing with the MRT. For example, the official MRT follows the eastern shore of the river through Tennessee. At Memphis it crosses into Arkansas and follows the western shore. However, in Mississippi, they also have a bike route on the eastern side, which in my view is more interesting than Arkansas.

I can suggest some specific stops in and around the Tennessee and Mississippi region when you get down to planning your trip.

Jamie
Jamie, Thanks for all the great MRT/GRR info. I am newly planted in North MS and now I have new ride info for this area. Heck, like you said... nothing better than a moto ride in Mississippi in 95 degrees and 95% humidity!
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Old 06-21-2013, 12:46 AM   #7
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Here's what we have mapped and verified for the Mississippi River Trail:



I also have files for Louisiana and Minnesota (nothing for Iowa), but those are unconfirmed. I know that parts of the Minnesota MRT follows bicycle-only paths, and possibly also through New Orleans. The Minnesota segment (as far as I know) is not signed at all.

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Old 07-17-2013, 03:50 PM   #8
Jamie Z
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How's the trip planning? I rode down to the end of the river a couple weeks ago. We've now got this much of the MRT mapped and GPX route files are available.



Any reason you want to go south to north?

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