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Messages - jamawani

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Routes / Re: Crossing Southern Illinois
« on: December 28, 2015, 12:08:10 pm »
I've biked thru East St. Louis many times with no problem. And I'm whiter than Snow White.
One Sunday, I stopped at the McDonalds for lunch and kids asked me the typical 101 questions.
And their folks stood there in the background smiling like anywhere else, too.
If you ride thru in the middle of the day, people will wave and ask you where you are going.
Just like anywhere else.

PS - Collinsville Road is the way in from Cahokia Mounds -
It's 4 lanes, but not too bad. Most of the traffic is on the interstate.
Collinsville Ave. used to be a thriving commercial district and a "Must See".
If you are riding across the USA to see and to understand, this will open your eyes.
Also, if you can talk to anyone - asking their view, not offering yours - you can learn a whole lot.

Older, but really important website on downtown East St. Louis -

Routes / Re: Crossing Southern Illinois
« on: December 24, 2015, 11:15:52 am »
I've ridden across southern Illinois to/from St. Louis a number of times.
There's an old, one-lane converted RR bridge across the Wabash near St. Francisville.
Then a very low-traffic, straight route from Lancaster to Centralia.
There a little towns and potential camping at convenient intervals.

West of Centralia it gets a little trickier.
I camped at the state park on the lake once.
I've also zigged and zagged thru St. Rose to Highland -
Then continued on to Edwardsville.

Edwardsville is nice because it's a college town with lots of bike services.
And Cahokia Mounds is a must-see - camping nearby at Horseshoe Lake.
Finally, Eads Bridge is THE way to bike into St. Louie - with a big view of the Arch.

General Discussion / Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« on: December 22, 2015, 07:46:01 pm »
"Males ages 20 to 29 are the group most often being rescued in the national parks, according to park service data."

A close friend worked many years at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
I hiked down often and talked with her friend, the NPS ranger about rescues.
She confirmed the above data in spades. Just FYI.

General Discussion / Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« on: December 22, 2015, 11:37:35 am »
Ummmm - 90 stops?
Don't overplan - it never turns out the way you plan it.
A rigid schedule can become a straight-jacket.

General Discussion / Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« on: December 22, 2015, 11:35:48 am »
I've ridden x-USA a half dozen times and toured 100,000 miles - so I have some experience.
On my first trip in 1987, I budgeted $20 per day for 70 days, plus $100 for a total of $1500.
There's been, at least, 100% inflation since then - esp. in campsite fees and small portion grocery items.
Not to mention that you learn how to save with experience.

The biggest avoidable cost is alcohol - a couple of microbrews will set you back $10 to $12 -
And if that gets to be a daily habit, then your budget will quickly be trashed.
The biggest controllable cost will be camping/lodging.
If you follow an ACA route, esp. the TransAm, there will be more low-budget options.

Unfortunately, most state parks and national forest campsites run $15 to $20.
Private campsite can run $30 to $40 - killer if you are solo.
Oregon, Wash., & Calif have hiker/biker campsite as do western national parks.
These run $5 to $8 per person - still not cheap.

You can camp for free on all federal USFS and BLM lands in the West -
Provided you know where they are and follow fire/sanitation regulations.
Also, tiny Great Plains towns will often let you camp for free in their town parks.
The bigger the town is, the less likely. But Nebraska and South Dakota are quite good.

Of course, there are host websites like Warmshowers and Couchsurfing -
Then there is also the options of contacting churches in small towns.
Catholic churches usually have the rectory where the priest lives right next door.
In small towns, Protestant ministers usually live close by.
Choose a church that has a nice grassy area in back and some privacy.
Quite often, they will let you cook and clean up in the rec hall.

There will be times - after 3 days of rain - where you will just have to get a motel.
In fact, if you are wet and exhausted, it really makes sense to do so.
The risk of a serious accident goes up geometrically when you are totally wiped out.
It is money well spent.

There are other options out there.
But I'd say $20 per day is frugal, $30 is moderate - esp. in the East.
Happy trails!  - J

Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 29, 2015, 11:47:25 pm »
Well, I live in Buffalo, Wyoming and can attest to the beauty of the Bighorns.
But they are nothing to be trifled with - tough, tough, tough.
If you hit the Black Hills in early June and the Bighorns in late June -
you will have peak wildflowers in both places.
Flowers to roll in.

Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 29, 2015, 05:31:13 pm »
NEB 91, 4 miles east of Brewster.

Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 29, 2015, 03:54:06 pm »
Rob -

I've been giving your reply a lot of thought.
As with anything, there are positives and negatives.

Yes, Southern culture is dog culture - - loose dog culture.
When I was biking across southern Alabama a few years ago I went into the the sheriff's office to complain.
When I mentioned the loose dogs, the deputy said, "Jus' shoot 'em." Hmmmm.

BUT!!! These dogs are big chickens. I was solo, you would be in a group of three.
If I stopped and went towards them - they ran with their tails between their legs.
I think that three riders would have few problems - and three riders stopping would scare any dog off.
I don't carry Halt spray - but if all of you have it - I see zero problems.
But you are right - the further north you are - the fewer loose dogs - a direct correlation.

And don't catch a bus - if for no other reason than that bus travel is worse than being chased by dogs.
(They don't call riding Greyhound, "Riding the Dog", for nothing.)
There is no way you will need to make up time - unless there is something major that goes wrong - mechanical or intestinal.
Either US 20 or NEB 2 across Nebraska is like super fabulous.
And nearly all the little towns have places to camp or tiny motels.
Plus a grocery store, a hardware store with a guy who can fix anything, and a home-cookin' cafe.
Nebraska is cycling paradise.

I've biked X-USA six times plus a lot more trips in the West -
What does your tentative route look like right now?
Are you planning to get all the way to the Pacific - or just to Seattle?

Best - J

Pic - Loup River in the Nebraska Sandhills

Routes / Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 27, 2015, 07:28:42 pm »
Rob -

Please do not trust Google Maps - they are notoriously wrong.
In the West it has routed people on nonexistent roads, private ranch roads, you name it.
It may take more work, but there are resources out there.

Years back I did the C&O in the summer and it was great - quiet, cool, adventurous.
But my roommate did it in the fall - when it was rainy - and was miserable.
As early as you are planning, all the water will be turned off, and the towpath will be a sea of mud.

I know you have talked about short daily mileage - and a six month window.
But March is just too early for this part of the country.
Not to mention what a pain it is to get across Chesapeake Bay.


Have you considered starting some place like Sapelo Island, Georgia? (Or Jekyll Island)
Then head across southern Georgia and southern Alabama - many civil rights sites.
Then grab the Underground RR ACA route -
Then working your way northwest up to St. Louie?
At 25 miles per day with every 5th day off - it would take about 9 weeks.
Not to mention lovely azaleas and dogwoods - and very few climbs.

PS - According to Rand McNally it's 827 miles from DC to St. Louis, but only 802 miles from Savannah to St. Louis.
And that doesn't include the extra 80 miles in the Delmarva peninsula plus crossing the bay.
Take away - it is no further leaving from the Georgia coast and with far better weather conditions.

Sapelo Island, Live Oaks and Palmettos

Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 27, 2015, 11:07:13 am »
Rob -

I've given this a lot of thought - and I have looked at your other posts to get a better idea of your overall trip.
Or course, there are three factors that, combined, limit your options - -
1) Short daily mileage 2) Avoiding routes with significant climbs 3) Using rail trails as much as possible

Most state transportation departments have traffic counts maps or date online. (AADT - Average Annual Daily Traffic)
Here is Washington's:

If you notice, WA 28 has very low traffic. WA 26 also has pretty low traffic counts, too.
Both would involve negotiating the I-90 Columbia River bridge at Vantage.
If you were to do WA 28 - I would suggest cutting up to Cheney - college town with services -
Then cutting over to Edwall and Harrington - and later cutting southwest to George (busier stretch).
If you were to do WA 26 - I would head southeast to Oakdale and Colfax -
With an option to loop down to Kahlotus and Connell for more services - then Othello and Royal City.

Via WA 28 you have the choice of hitching across the river from the boat ramp on the Old Vantage Highway.
That road has a spectacular descent down Frenchman Coulee - with basic camping at the river.
You could call the Vantage Resort and see if you could hire a person to come from the marina.
Otherwise, you would need to get on I-90 and then use extreme caution on the bridge.
Or you could call the resort and arrange a van/pickup shuttle across the bridge for either route.

I have hitched across a number of major rivers in the U.S. - Mississippi, Missouri, Potomac.
If the boat ramp is fairly busy, you just hang out and ask folks.
I was solo - with three it would be a little tougher.
It usually takes no longer than an hour or two at a well-used ramp.

Yet another option is one I outlined before -
Take the WA 26 option via Colfax and Connell then via Vernita bridge and Yakima.
The stretch from Connell to Yakima is remote, but does have minimal services at spaced intervals.
Then you have the gorgeous Yakima Canyon ride up to Ellensburg.


I would also like to mention that not all rail trails are created equal.
It's been years, but riding on the Milwaukee Road route in Montana was brutal - just railbed.
And getting to the start or from the endpoints of some rail trails sometimes defeats the purpose.
Rail trails are often built for local use - not for through riders.

The Trail of the Cooeur d'Alenes is an example.
The eastern section from Lookout Pass to Kellogg is often smack up against I-90.
It was built using environmental remediation funding because of past mining in the region.
Plus to get to the eastern end, you have to do a lot of riding on I-90 in Montana.

A little further north is a spectacular route that connects with the C d'A at Enaville.
From Thompson Falls, you cross the river on the restored High Bridge and then take MT 471 - almost no traffic.
At the Idaho border it becomes paved FR 9 (Forest Road) - Thompson Pass is only like 150 ft higher than Lookout.
Murray and Pritchard have basic services.


Routes / Re: Plummer ID to Ellensburg, WA
« on: November 24, 2015, 10:33:46 pm »
Most of the John Wayne Trail in eastern Washington is undeveloped and brutal.
Also, there is no crossing of the Columbia heading towards Ellensburg except the I-90 bridge at Vantage.
That bridge has two lanes on each side, heavy traffic, and zero shoulder.

Where are you getting your route info - Google Maps?
Because there is a lot of garbage in your route - even worse if you have a kid with you.
You can't bike the west side of the Columbia - no roads - certainly nothing but trails.
And the Yakima Firing Range is off limits to entry.
Also, you have some pretty tough gravel roads in the eastern Washington section.

Time of year matters a lot in eastern and central Washington.
If you are going to be riding in mid to late summer - you should consider further north.
The Yakima Valley broils in late summer - plus the plateau is extremely remote.

Heading over the Cascades into Seattle you have 4 options:
WA 20 - over the North Cascades - light to moderate traffic - cool, somewhat remote
US 2 - Stevens Pass - moderate-plus traffic, sometimes heavy - inconsistent shoulders
The Iron Horse Trail - Snoqualmie Tunnel - check for construction planned for next year
WA 410 - Chinook Pass - light to moderate traffic to the east with stunning views of Mount Rushmore

So it seems you want to connect the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes with the Iron Horse Trail.
Not easy - especially in August.

You can work your way southwest thru the Palouse via St Johns and Lacrosse -
Then via Washtuchna, Kahlotus, and Connell to the Vernita Bridge over the Columbia -
Then to Yakima and up the very scenic Yakima Canyon to Ellensburg.

There is camping at Scootenay west of Connell, rest area w/water at the bridge
And a store where you can get stuff and, maybe, camp behind at the junction of WA 24 & WA 241

I've biked a lot of the back roads of eastern Washington - traffic is light - but can be really remote.

Routes / Re: Bicycle Route 66
« on: November 15, 2015, 11:34:51 am »
Crazyguyonabike is featuring John Meiners' "Route 66" journal this week.
Westbound - lots of headwinds west of Amarillo. Granted, it is just one journal.

Cold. Wet.
But it would be a perfect time to tour Death Valley - -
And next March may be a bumper crop year for wildflowers.

I live in northern Wyoming and have cycled nearly every paved road in the state.
(And quite a few dirt roads, too.)

My guess is that it will be about mid-June when you hit Yellowstone - pretty perfect.
Yellowstone can still have a late snow then, but you should also catch peak wildflower season.
If you are willing to do some serious climbing - then crossing the Bighorn Mountains will be incredible.

I have mapped out sections across the northern part of the state -
From Yellowstone Lake - east on US 14/16 to Cody - the Wapiti Valley is a stunning ride.
From Cody stay on US 14/16 - but cut over via Wyo 30 to Basin - high desert and irrigated farms.
From Basin take Wyo 31 to Nowood Rd. to Tensleep - incredible colors - like a Gauguin painting.
Up from Tensleep on US 16 - magnificent canyon walls and over to Buffalo.
You should really plan to camp at moderately high elevation  and take in the wildflowers here.
From Buffalo, US 16 to Ucross and continue on US 14/16 to Gillette.
(A lovely ride - longer, but soooo much better than getting on I-90.)
From Gillette, Wyo 51 to Moorcroft - then US 14 and Wyo 24 to Devils Tower.
Continue on Wyo 24/SD 34 thru Aladin (general store) to Belle Fourche.

Tensleep Canyon

If you are interested I can forward you the strip maps.

General Discussion / Re: Getting out of Dulles Airport.
« on: November 12, 2015, 06:00:53 am »
Have you considered Warmshowers or Couchsurfing?

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