Bifurcation Number One

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

– from “The Road Less Traveled” by Robert Frost

We haven’t even started on the tour, and already, we face our first route choice. Like which person to ask to the Prom, our choice will set us on a path that can’t be reversed without great anguish. And similarly, it’s not a choice between good and bad, but between good and good.


The Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route follows the upper blue line. However, there’s also an alternate route in red. Much like life, both paths end up in the same place. Which do we choose?

Frost would probably have taken the road less traveled, in other words, the Alternate route. But what he doesn’t talk about in his classic poem is why the road is less traveled. Could it be that the road surface is crappy and full of potholes? Could it be that there are no shoulders, and huge trucks run you off the road? Could it be that there are no services? Could it be because it’s a boring highway with nothing to see? Maybe in real life, roads are less traveled because they SUCK!!

Google Maps helped me draw the picture above. And while I was there, I slid the Little Man along the lines to see what the actual place looked like in Street View. I took a random view about 1/4 way into each route, a view of a major town in the middle, and a random view at the 3/4 point.

Here is the Standard Route:

And, the Little Falls Alternate:

No help there, looks about the same to me. Both routes pass a lot of lakes, but oddly, these don’t show up in the street views. My guess is that Minnesotans are smart about not building roads on the waterfront, where they could flood or sink. The standard route is supposed to hit more wilderness, but again, you could have fooled me from that street view.

We could save 117 miles by taking the alternate route. That’s about 2 full days on bikes, days that could be used later in the trip. I’m also thinking that the standard route must have been plotted that way for a reason – they wouldn’t chart such a roundabout path unless there was something important to see along the way. Maybe it’s Lake Itasca, source of the Mississippi River?

What do you think?

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