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Messages - John Nettles

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Youth Bicyle Travel / Re: Teens biking across country
« on: February 14, 2011, 05:18:36 pm »
I am 13 years old. I am a very good biker, and very fit. I want to bike across the country but my parents wont let me unless  I go with a group. Does anyone know of  a group that is going to bike across the USA summer of 2011, or if I'm too late, 2012? Please reply! I really want to go

I started riding "seriously" when I was 12.  I am now 46.  I have crossed the country 5 times and ridden across 45 states and in 9 countries.  I started doing multi-day touring when I was 14.  Like you, the parents made me go with a group until I got older.  Now that I am a parent, I can easily see both sides.  Why should I have to wait just because I am 13!  Your parents respond with "Because I love you and I don't want you to get in over your head, or worse (said with love of course)!" or "Because I am afraid you will get hit by a car!" or something similar.

While it is not exactly what you want, I would highly suggest you start by joining a local bike club.  Most clubs have monthly weekend overnight tours.  Also, there are usually riders (typically old geezers like myself) who go on cross-state rides who would be willing to be your guardian IF you are reasonably mature (not just for your age!), and know how to ride & take care of your own repairs.  A lot of states have cross-state rides or have one within a day's drive.  These allow you to do something pretty cool but under the reasonable guidelines your parents want.   Once you do your time and gain some experience, the parents would probably be much more likely to let you go by yourself.  My first week-long ride was FreeWheel, which is an annual ride across Oklahoma.  Again, all parts of the country have something similar but it may be in an adjoining state.

One thing to consider as a "starter" type trip would be to do an extended rail trail ride.  The Katy Trail in Missouri or the GAP/C&O Trail in PA, MD, & DC is another.  If they still won't let you go by yourself, go first to your mom and show her all the cool Bed & Breakfast places to stay along the trail where she can enjoy a relaxing time while you can ride.  Mom could see all the wonderful museums and Dad could go see the cool airplanes and rockets and stuff at the Smithsonian. Help them overcome their fear, which is based on love, so you can do what you want.  Let your Mom convince your Dad that this is a good idea  :-).  This way the parents can see what cycle touring is like and the fear will greatly subside.  It is this fear that something will happen to you is what you are battling, not the parents!  Help them overcome their fear, which is based out of love, so you can do what you want.

My first solo trip (other than being in a large cross-state ride not being under a guardian) was when I was 17 when I did the TransAm route during my summer after I finished as a junior in high school.  I was pretty mature by then.  I had built up to this by doing 4 cross-state rides, and one month-long tour with an adult.  I paid about 1/3 of my trip, used Bikecentennial's (ACA's predecessor) maps, and agreed to the typical parental rules such as calling home most nights, giving a detailed schedule, sticking to the route, etc.  It truly was the best experience of my life and for this I honestly hope you can go on such a trip at such a young age as it really does help you mature (further) and develop into a great young adult.  As I have said, I have done many other trips but that was my favorite.

This brings up the question, are you a guy or a girl?  I am a guy and I have a teenage daughter and a teenage son.  While my 18 year-old daughter is easily mature enough for the trip, as a father, I would be concerned for her safety from others.  Not harm from cars but from people.  I probably would not have let her done a similar trip by herself until after high school.  And I know the joys, risks, and rewards of bike touring.  My 17 year-old son however is the opposite and I worry about him when he walks to the store 3 blocks away due to his maturity or lack thereof!  My point is if you are a guy, you probably could go a year or two earlier than a girl IF you are mature and ONLY due to my fatherly protectionist issues. This may sound sexist, but I prefer to think of it more in a loving way.  If my daughter was 17, very mature, could do most bike repairs, and a black belt (seriously), I would at least strongly consider letting her go.

I am not trying to shoot down your dream but give you information to help you understand what your parents may be thinking and also how to go about getting your goal accomplished.  I hope you don't give up on your dream to go on a solo extended tour.  Until then, consider groups such as 10th Gear, American Youth Hostels, and the various cross state rides.

If you or your parents have questions, I would be happy to answer them.


General Discussion / Re: 2/11 Adventure Cyclist Mag Letters from Readers
« on: February 11, 2011, 12:00:21 pm »
Speaking of this month's magazine. Anyone see the pic of the dude pulling a wheelie on the loaded bike? I'm thinking Photoshop, but that's me!!
PhotoShop or way too heavy in the rear packs  :)

Classifieds / Re: WTB Beckman Panniers
« on: February 06, 2011, 10:25:35 am »
I sent you an email.

Routes / Re: Getting Across The Desert
« on: January 26, 2011, 09:19:03 am »
Two things, if you are riding in the heat and long distances between supplies, then you need good quality racks to carry your extra water - you will be surprised how heavy it is.

Secondly if you go for cheaper racks, keep to something that can be easily welded - not aluminium.  Oh and a few feet of duct tape will get you to a welding shop.

Don't forget some hose clamps!  They are great to have for emergency repairs.

Routes / Re: Mayan Riviera Trip
« on: January 24, 2011, 10:14:27 pm »
You could go over to and do a search on 307 & Tulum or something similar.  There have been a few riders doing tours down there within the past year or so if I remember correctly.  You can contact the journal's author though their guestbook.

Routes / Re: Cycle Western Mongolia
« on: January 19, 2011, 11:14:12 pm »
Go over to and search for Mongolia.  There are about a dozen journals mentioning Mongolia.  You can contact them via their guest book.

Routes / Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« on: January 07, 2011, 11:12:20 am »
Thanks for the info Dave and the photos are fantastic. Your comments are helpful. I guess the next question for me is if I need to leave early in the Spring from the west coast, would the Western Express route to the TransAm Trail be a better option? Thoughts anyone?

It would definitely be a better option than the NT.   However, a lot of the same applies as parts of the Colorado Rockies will have snow thru May.  It won't necessarily be closed but not fun to ride.  I was in South Fork, CO (southern part of state) in late June and we got snow at 8,300' so I am sure the passes would have had it a lot more.

You don't say when "early in the Spring" is to you.  That could mean late February to mid-May depending on where you live and how you qualify Spring. If you could be more specific with your info such as time frames (depart on March 15th and have 45 days) , experience (none, extensive, loaded, unloaded, I typically ride X miles per day, etc.), trip "must see" (gotta visit Aunt Marge in Tribune, KS), etc. you could probably get some pretty good recommendations for the group.

Whatever you do, best wishes on an enjoyable trip.

Routes / Re: Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail
« on: January 04, 2011, 04:12:12 pm »
Was thinking of cycling the Great Divide route from mid April until mid June taking it pretty easy with my wife on a hardtail MTB tandem with alfine 11 gears. Realise that there will be snow in parts and will hopefully bypass these by other forms of transport or roads if needs be. Does this sound practical.

Thanks for any advice


It depends on how much you tolerate the cold and how much you want to take other transport.  Numerous passes WILL be closed due to snow so it is doable with major rerouting on to highways, etc.  If you could start at least 4 weeks later and ride south to north, you would be in a much better situation but would probably still have some of the higher passes closed due to snow.

General Discussion / Re: Bike boxes
« on: January 03, 2011, 11:45:26 am »
If you can get to the main Amtrak station, they might have one of their boxes you can buy for $15(?).  They are great in that you only have to reverse pedals, turn handlebars, and lower seats.  You do not have to remove wheels, racks, etc.

Since San Diego is not a major station for Amtrak, they may not have boxes though.

General Discussion / Re: Across America: Beginning August
« on: January 03, 2011, 11:39:15 am »
I've already learned a lot just this last week. What I would really like to do is to go down the pacific coast line, and I will probably have to start from Minnesota, to save money on travel to one coast or the other.

I would highly suggest you go southbound if you do the Pacific Coast.  I had to do it northbound and would not recommend if you have a choice.  The headwinds get old after a while going northbound.

You could always take a bus to Bellingham, WA on the west coast for about $100.  Get on the bike and head down the coast, and turn left in San Diego and cross the country again on the Southern Tier.  Start August 15th and end 97 days later in St. Augustine, FL in late November based on 50 miles per day.  Then you double your ambition  ;D!

Congrats on working through your addiction and God Bless!

Have a great ride!

GPS Discussion / Re: Anyone using SPoT Tracker for Trips?
« on: January 03, 2011, 11:19:02 am »
I too have paid the additional money for the rescues service, which I had the unfortunate pleasure of using this past summer on my Atlantic Odyssey trip.

I just wanted to check to see if Spot or the Coast Guard charged you anything other than the yearly service agreement for this "rescue"?

Thanks and I thank you for the detailed account of what transpired.

General Discussion / Re: Why the low thread numbers?
« on: January 03, 2011, 10:46:44 am »
To me, it seems the ACA Forums are more ACA specific (duh) than the other cyclotourist forums.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I also subscribe to the Thorn Cycles Forum but it too has very low counts as it is mostly Thorn specific.

Also, a lot of the questions tend to be very very specific, i.e. "I need a route getting from the LA bike path to LAX", where the vast majority of readers are unable to provide a viable answer due to lack of local knowledge (even though some readers seem to respond to almost every thread even if their point adds nothing).  A lot of the majority of the remaining questions are repetitive ("what kind of gearing do I need", "when is the earliest/latest I can do the TransAm?", etc. )

These are not knocks on ACA but just shows it is doing what it is supposed to be, that is, be the site to go to for ACA specific info.

If you want lots of comments, start a thread about panniers vs. trailers, Rohloff vs. traditional, hammocks vs. tents, or some other topic which should have been flamed to dust by now  ;D.  How about a thread on a guy wanting to ride with a trailer, Rohloff, and a tent vs. a girl on a traditional pannier hammock setup?

All in all though, I too wish more people participated.

Routes / Re: Trans Am or Northern Tier from eastern Iowa heading west
« on: January 01, 2011, 01:41:08 pm »
Hi Wayne,

I have done the TA, NT, PC, & Katy Trail (among others).  I personally think the NT is not very scenic between Fargo to around the Red Wing area.  Since you have five months (you lucky dog!) to ride, I would probably ride to and do the entire Katy (end in Clinton, MO) and connect to the TransAm in Girard, KS.  Then ride to Missoula, MT and switch to Great Parks Route. Now you can take in the great scenery of Glacier National Park and do a loop counter-clock-wise to Waterton National Park (in Canada so you need a passport) to Roosville, MT.  After this, take the NT west to the end and then connect to the PC.  Got it?  ;D  This above route is roughly 5,500 miles which should very doable in 5 months with plenty of stops for sightseeing.

I can't help between the PC and Joshua Tree but be sure to ride thru the Big Sur area (fantastic!).  Maybe you could look into continue on to the end of the PC, ride over to the Sierra Cascades and up to closer to Joshua Tree?

Here is a link for a route that connects the Katy Trail to the TransAm in Girard.  I haven't ridden this in about 3.5 years and have had conflicting notes as to whether there are convenience stores (CS) still open between Nevada, MO and Arma, KS other than Liberal, MO.  If you want the GPS data for this route, email offline and I will get to you.

I really liked the variety of the TA route.  I loved the "Big Sky" of eastern Montana and especially northwestern Washington on the NT.  The coast is a classic also but definitely do it southbound.  I didn't and wouldn't recommend it.

Sounds like you are in for a heck of a great trip!

Routes / Re: Alternate Route Through Texas?
« on: December 18, 2010, 02:52:45 pm »
In order to avoid El Paso (which is tremendously safer then Juarez which the route does not pass through), you would have to go north through Artesia, NM and head west.  The problem is getting over the 8,500' mountain near Cloudcroft, NM. It is fairly steep and depending on the time of year, could very well be snowy.

If you are worried about "danger" in El Paso, you do know there is a ACA bypass route which bypasses El Paso by about 15 miles to the east?

If you choose to still go off route, check out the Texas county maps and traffic counts on-line.  Most of western Texas if pretty unpopulated and with the good shoulders Texas usually provides, you should be able to come up with something workable.

No matter what you choose, have an enjoyable trip!

If you will consider a non-ACA route, contact me privately for a 1010 mile route that goes from Girard, KS (on the TransAm) to Las Cruces, NM (on the Southern Tier).  To get to Girard, take the Northern Tier to the UGRR to the TransAm.  Once in Las Cruces, take the Southern Tier to San Diego.

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