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it did not have the high climbing we will find in crossing the U.S.
Big dollar shoes are not necessarily a necessity on a bike tour.
I'm wondering how a cyclist from Kansas knows that he's a strong climber. He surely didn't figure that out in Kansas!
There's two kinds of climbs the touring cyclist needs to worry about: (1) 20% grades for a quarter of a mile (e.g., in the Ozarks, New England or Appalachians) and (2) 6 to 8% grades for 30 straight miles (e.g., the Rockies).
Everything you mention is correct but it could be summed up in one word: Walmart