It's never a
dull life, travel writing. Jeanine Barone is sitting in the first-class lounge
at LaGuardia airport in New York, fresh from a
round of trips to the Bahamas,
Jamaica, Finland and Rio de Janeiro.
Now Barone is
gearing up for an adventure of the rail-trail variety. The intrepid traveler is
about to embark on a "Bus and Bike" tour of four states in the center of the
country that she has never visited: Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. (That will
leave only two unvisited states, the Dakotas,
for another trip.)
In each state,
she will ride the length of a signature rail-trail--the Osage Prairie Trail in Oklahoma; the Keystone Trail in Nebraska;
the Landon Nature Trail in Kansas; and the Arkansas River Trail in Arkansas.
She found these routes by searching RTC's trail-finder website, TrailLink.com,
and talking with local experts, and she's lined up a rental bike and some riding company
for each of her trails.
We caught up
with Barone this morning for a quick chat just as she was preparing to depart
for Omaha to
begin the latest of her travel adventures.
So, why rail-trails? What is it about
them that appeals to you as a traveler?
I really like
the whole idea of repurposing. It's always frustrating to see people build
something, then tear it down a few years later, and then we get a shopping
mall. It's great that we are reusing these corridors, and making something that
is specifically dedicated to walking, or riding.
In a car, traveling is very destination-driven. It's about getting
from A to B. Things go by too quickly. When you're walking, cross-country
skiing or on a bike, it's about the in-between. You get to experience the
Yes, I've done a
lot of long-distance skiing. I once cross-country skied a rail-trail in Minnesota. I like the
whole process of moving rhythmically. It's very similar aerobically to cycling.
And, like cycling, you get to go slow and experience the land.
You've done a lot of long-distance trips
by bike. What are some of the best rides you have done here in the United States?
You know, Florida has a reputation
for not being very bike-friendly. But I rode some of the dedicated bike paths
down in the Panhandle, including the Pinellas Trail, and it was beautiful.
Lovely forests, moss dripping from the trees.
I've also ridden
the length of the West Coast, from Seattle down
to San Diego,
on U.S. Highway 1. A lot of my friends were like, 'You're riding along Highway
1? That's crazy! It's so dangerous!' But it wasn't dangerous at all. It was
great--a really beautiful way to see the West.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath is one of my favorites.
I've done it a few times, and I just love it. D.C. is so heavily trafficked--it
is such a delight to step onto the trail down in Georgetown. It's peaceful, and there's a
great sense of history, with some of the original buildings. And if you don't
want to camp along the way, you can stay at one of the quaint inns.
What are you most looking forward to on
your rail-trail adventures in these central states?
To be honest, I
try not to do too much research ahead of time. I prefer to discover the places
naturally as I travel. The plan is to ride the rail-trail, and then take some
time exploring the towns and cities along the way. I am really looking forward
to finding the 'under-the-radar' sites, rather than those you might read about
in guidebooks. This is how I like to experience a place, and its people.
I picked Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas
in an effort to bring a focus to states that many people on the East Coast don't
hold in much esteem. Most people look at them as being very car-orientated. I
am trying to show people that there are also some beautiful trails, some
beautiful places to hike and ride.
You've done plenty of long-distance rides
in your time. Got a couple of tips for anybody planning their own rail-trail
adventure this year?
have to prepare. Make sure you spend a couple of months getting some miles
under your belt. That's a given.
tip--get a good seat. Try out a few and know that the one you chose fits you
correctly. Particularly for women. Men and women have their specific issues
when it comes to seats. I have an ergonomic seat, which I know is the best fit
for me. It makes a big difference.
You can follow Barone's trip on her blog at www.jthetravelauthority.com,
or by following her twitter feed at @JCreatureTravel!
Photos: Jeanine Barone, courtesy of Jeanine Barone; Keystone Trail in Nebraska, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.