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Messages - John Nelson

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Routes / Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« on: December 17, 2014, 03:40:54 pm »
Has anyone followed ACA's maps before?
Since you are posting on the ACA site, I would guess that most of us have used ACA maps. They aren't the be-all and end-all, but they are useful. Having used a lot of them, I would state their pros and cons as follows:

  • They keep you on the safest roads in the area. Be advised, however, that not everybody would consider all the roads as "safe." The roads don't all have shoulders and they aren't all bike paths. But they are mostly on low-traffic roads.
  • They are very useful for finding campgrounds (and free places to stay), which of course is only useful if you are camping and/or willing to sleep on a couch.
  • Although they avoid big cities as much as they can, they are useful for safely getting you through one when necessary.
  • They save you a ton of planning time.
  • They generally show you where you can get food and water.
  • Many of the roads are incredibly gorgeous, and without the ACA maps, you may accidentally ride a busier and less-scenic road nearby.

  • If you have a particular starting and ending point in mind, they probably don't go there.
  • If you like to see big cities, they generally won't take you there.
  • If you want to (or have to because of construction) venture off route, they are useless.
  • They aren't kept up to date as well as I'd like, and you will sometimes find the information out-of-date.
  • They have more mistakes on them than you would think for a map used by a thousand people before you.
  • If you want the shortest or fastest or flattest route between two points, these maps are not that--not by a long shot.

General Discussion / Re: Best Time to Leave
« on: December 16, 2014, 09:51:10 am »
I agree with John and Pete. If you want to start in the West and your departure date is flexible, wait until the middle of June. Any earlier carries with it a much higher risk of both cold and wet.

Starting in May in the East is even better.

Gear Talk / Re: How this forum works
« on: December 15, 2014, 10:24:27 am »
Do you have to go through a verification process with every post?


Temporary ACA Route Road Closures / Re: Pacific Coast Section 4, Map 43
« on: December 08, 2014, 03:19:51 pm »
Statement from the California Department of Transportation.

To facilitate an improvement project within the campground at Half Moon Bay State Beach (Francis Beach), reservations WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE October 20, 2014 THROUGH March 31, 2015. When the project dates are finalized, unaffected dates will be opened for reservations. The campground will now be open and available for reservations throughout the remainder of 2014 and every day up to, and including October 19, 2014.

The Sweetwood Group Site WILL BE OPEN FOR RESERVATIONS during the project. TRAILERS AND RVs ARE NOT PERMITTED AT SWEETWOOD. Please note that the showers/restrooms at the Francis campground may not be available.

Thank you for your understanding.

General Discussion / Re: That go-to meal
« on: November 22, 2014, 09:07:27 pm »
My go-to meal is one Subway foot-long sandwich. Ingredients: one Subway foot-long sandwich.

General Discussion / Re: Schwalbe Mondial vs Marathon Plus Tour
« on: November 09, 2014, 06:51:50 pm »
By rating each of their tires in a dozen different categories, Schwalbe makes it easy to do this kind of comparison their web site (assuming you trust Schwalbe's evaluation of their own tires, and I don't know why you wouldn't, or at least I don't know why you would trust anybody else's evaluation more).

Since you didn't even list rolling resistance as a priority, the weight difference is immaterial. You also didn't mention ride quality. Many people say that riding heavy, stiff tires is like riding on wood wheels and sucks all the joy out of riding. Who cares if you can go a million miles on one set of tires without a flat if there is no joy in it. How much are you willing to sacrifice to get a flat every two years vs. a flat every one year? Flats are  certainly annoying, but not that hard to fix.

It's also important to note that the Mondial comes in both a folding version and a wire bead version, and they are completely different tires. Almost everything about these two tires is different except the color and the tread pattern, which makes it very odd that Schwalbe only gives one set of ratings. Since there's a 2-to-1 difference in price, would you really expect them to perform the same? I don't think so.

For protection, the Plus Tour gets a 6 and the Mondial gets a 5. Score one for the Plus Tour. For off road, the Plus Tour gets a 3 and the Mondial gets a 4. Score one for the Mondial. For durability, they both get a 6. I would think, however, that the Plus Tour would last darn near forever since the rubber is about 6 inches thick  ;).

It's almost a tie between these two. You might want to look at some of the other criteria that Schwalbe rates.

I really like portable power packs. They are sold everywhere, under many different brands, prices and capacities. Very convenient and easy to use. Since they are more easily replaced, you can recharge them in places that are too sketchy to leave your phone. Furthermore, you can still use your phone while the external power pack is recharging. Smaller, lighter and cheaper than solar chargers, they will likely relegate solar chargers to areas where you may encounter no outlets for weeks at a time.

Routes / Re: Pacific coast elevations
« on: November 02, 2014, 11:26:31 pm »
Once you get to Southern California, from Santa Barbara on, it does flatten out quite a bit (although going through Malibu rolls quite a bit). The ACA doesn't even bother producing a profile map for section 5. A lot of the route is on or near the beach, especially from Santa Monica on. There are, however, still hilly sections here and there.

In Oregon and even more so in Northern and Central California, it's pretty much constant hills. Oregon is a bit easier than California. There are a few memorable hills here and there that are obscenely steep for a brief period. Big Sur is generally a very hilly stretch, although the elevation never gets much above 500 feet and the gorgeous scenery takes your mind off the hills.

I don't know what else I can say. There are some hills I especially remember, such as the hill in Daly City south of San Francisco, and the hills into and out of Lompoc. Also, everybody seems to remember the two big hills south of Leggett, California. I don't think there's any way to plan your route to give your weaker riders the easier sections, unless you switch off every 400 yards or save them until after Santa Barbara. The ACA will show you where the long, big hills are, but they aren't going to show you every short hill.

General Discussion / Re: circumnavigation of the U.S.
« on: November 01, 2014, 08:05:01 pm »
I would agree that you don't need the ACA map for Oregon (use the DOT map), but without the ACA maps for California, I would have missed some of the coolest side roads I've ever ridden.

General Discussion / Re: circumnavigation of the U.S.
« on: October 31, 2014, 10:29:21 pm »
There are quite a few journals over at CGOAB for this route. It seems to be pretty popular. I agree with Indy. Go counterclockwise. I think if you look into it, you'll find that that's what everybody else does. The timing of when and where to best start depends on how long you plan to take.

General Discussion / Re: USA visa problems
« on: October 31, 2014, 09:53:39 pm »
Normally you put the address of your first night. Even campgrounds have addresses.

General Discussion / Re: Choosing a Bike
« on: October 30, 2014, 10:02:24 pm »
I'm trying to to stay as inexpensive as possible.
When trying to use a non-touring bike for touring, it's usually best to consider using a trailer rather than panniers. You won't need the extra fittings, the short chainstays won't be a problem, the wheels don't need to be quite a strong, and you can carry extra water in the trailer. Be sure to take some test trips before your big one. Go for a few days with all the gear you need to go cross-country. Unfortunately, riding in Florida is not going to tell you if your gearing is low enough. Good luck.

General Discussion / Re: Choosing a Bike
« on: October 30, 2014, 05:57:59 pm »
Start here:

The bike you cited is probably okay, but just okay. The specs don't tell you the number of teeth in the rear cog, so I can't tell if the gearing is low enough--probably not. The 700x32 tires are probably about right for loaded touring on paved roads. I don't know if you could mount panniers on this or not. Does it have attachment points? I only see room for one water bottle cage--hope you don't drink much. The chainstays look pretty short. The wheels look like they have enough spokes. I would worry if the brakes are strong enough to stop a loaded bike, and if the frame is stiff enough to support the load. If you plan to use a handlebar bag, the cables may get in the way. It does have Shimano deraileurs, but fairly low-end ones. Most touring bikes are steel. This one is aluminum, but that's probably okay.

General Discussion / Re: Trans Am Trail guidebook
« on: October 29, 2014, 10:21:24 pm »
There are two.

"Bicycling Coast to Coast: A Complete Route Guide Virginia to Oregon" is better for the average cyclist who is doing considerable camping, but it is now 18 years old so a number of things in it are out of date. The route itself has changed many times since then, and the restaurants, motels and campgrounds cited may or may not be there. Nevertheless, it's good to read.

"The Complete Handlebar Guide to Bicycling the Transam Virginia to Oregon/Washington" is better for cyclists doing mostly motels. It has less detail about the route itself. It has a 2014 publish date, but I don't know if or how much it has been updated in the new version.

I have both. They are interesting to read, but neither is a suitable substitute for the ACA map set, and neither is probably worth the weight of carrying them along.

You can learn almost as much by reading TransAm journals over at

Note that the abbreviation "TAT" is most commonly associated with the motorcycle coast to coast route. The bicycling route is sometimes abbreviated "TA" or "TransAm".

Fly to Newport News and ship your bike ahead via FedEx or UPS (to Grace Epicopal Church, to a local bike shop, to a Warm Showers host, or to your first-night motel). I used FedEx. Use a free cardboard box from your bike shop rather than your travel case. Throw the box away at the start and get another at the finish. It's only about 9 miles from Newport News to Yorktown, so you could take a cab, hitchhike, walk, or see if your motel or Warm Showers host will pick you up. I had somebody pick me up.

General Discussion / Re: leaving May 20 from Willliamsburg
« on: October 26, 2014, 07:33:39 pm »
I left around 1st June going E to W and met a total of 20 i would guess.
So maybe the date you leave is more important than I thought. I did the TransAm E to W, leaving Yorktown on May 7, 2010. I just went back and looked at my notes. I have pictures of 61 TransAm cyclists I met along the way, and those are just the ones I remembered to take pictures of. There may be as many as another 61 that I didn't get pictures of. I do think that your decision to take the Western Express, however, reduced your encounters. I'm not sure if you camped or not, but camping every night (or staying in cyclist-only accommodations) significantly increases the encounters.

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