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Messages - aggie

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GPS Discussion / Re: Best GPS
« on: January 30, 2010, 11:47:35 am »
I didn't use waypoints.  I used the ACA maps.  The gps was great when you go off the ACA route page.  I could find services that weren't listed on the route guide and then find my way back to the route if necessary.  I could also display a good sized map so if I could remember several turns I could see when I was there.  This was especially nice for areas where the roads weren't well marked.

I now carry a small net book and I have another map program on it so I can look at it at night to see what's on the route ahead or if I want to take another detour.

I always carry maps.  Anything electronic could fail and "paper" maps are my insurance I'll be able to find my way.

Routes / Re: X-Country Route w/ the Easiest Grades
« on: January 30, 2010, 02:00:31 am »
A modified Southern Tier route may be an option.  In many areas if you follow the interstate you will have the most moderate grades to climb.  I can't remember the grade coming out of San Diego so you may want to check it out before you ride it. 

You may also want to take a look at some topo maps of the states the route goes through.  This may help you route yourself around and steep inclines.

GPS Discussion / Re: Best GPS
« on: January 29, 2010, 11:44:17 am »
I've used a Garmin 705 on several tours and it has worked just fine.  I get about 12 hours of battery life between charges.  I use either a solar powered recharger, a battery powered recharger, or plug in recharger depending on the situation.  The same chargers also recharge my phone.  It's a personal preference and I like being able to do a search for services (hotel, food, bike shop, etc) in areas I'm not familiar.  A gps is just like any other piece of equipment on a bike - some will love it and some will hate it. 

Gear Talk / Re: 10 speed vs 9 speed for touring
« on: January 28, 2010, 07:46:21 pm »
Building a bike is a series of compromises: money, functionality, durability, riding style, etc.  I've had a bike with bar end shifters but I prefer the STI style.  When I built my current touring bike I wanted the Dura Ace shifters and a mountain bike drive-train.  Shimano had stopped making the 9 speed and all I could get was the 10 speed.  Initially I had a 9 speed cassette even though the shifters were 10 speed but with some adjusting it worked just fine.  Occasionally I would have to double shift because of the difference but since I don't wait until the last second to shift it worked just fine.  Later a different bike shop recommended the 10 speed IRD cassette that offered the gear range I was looking for as Shimano wasn't making a 34 tooth gear.  (SRAM XX has a 32 or 36 tooth cassette.)  I decided to give it a try and so far it has been working without any major problems (my only "problem" is my rear wheel breaking spokes).  I'm also 200+ pounds and I'm too old to try to mash gears going uphill.

One bike mechanic recommended that I lube my chain at night.  This give the lubricant a chance to "dry" so it picks up less grit.  Less grit on the chain means less wear which means longer life.  So far this advice has extended the life of my current chain. 

Gear Talk / Re: 10 speed vs 9 speed for touring
« on: January 28, 2010, 03:42:39 pm »
SRAM is making their xx line which is designed for cross riders (I meant SRAM XX instead of FSA in the post above).  As this is a 10 speed set up they have a chain designed for it. 

I'm currently using the Shimano 10 speed chain and haven't had any problems.  I tow a Bob with about 40 lbs of gear.  I do change the chain more often than I did on my regular road bike.  I change it about every 2k miles.  I'm not riding any single track and so far it has been very dependable.

I opted for the Deore xt drive set up when building the bike.  It helps that the cranks are a little further apart than a traditional road bike set up (I avoid the bow legged pedal stroke = less wear and tear on knees).  Plus I have the triple crank with a small gear that combined with the 34 tooth rear cassette allows me to spin while climbing.  I don't use it often but it is sure nice when I'm going up an 8% grade.  I'm very happy with the set up and other than the minor adjustment issue it has performed great.

Gear Talk / Re: 10 speed vs 9 speed for touring
« on: January 28, 2010, 11:23:59 am »
I have the IRD cassette with Shimano shifters (Dura Ace).  The rear derailler is the Deore XT (big enough to handle a 34).  So far it works fine and provides me a very low gear (triple crank) to climb any steep hills.  The adjustment is a little sensitive.  As the cable stretches, down shifting (larger gear) in the middle gears takes a little bit of time.  It is temporarily fixed by the barrel adjusters but I find the best "fix" is to take it to a bike shop and have them fine tune the shifting.  No problem with the cassette. 

I would like to try the FSA XX cassette but was told that you had to have the whole package for it to work properly. 

Routes / Re: LA to SF in Feb?
« on: January 27, 2010, 02:47:26 pm »
This is the rainy season.  Fronts come down from the Gulf of Alaska so they are cold and wet.  Generally the wind is from the north but during this time they could come from the south when a low pressure zone brings in the cold and rain.  This definitely not the tourist season so road traffic will generally be only locals.  It is also possible that parts of the route nearer to SF could be closed due to slides.  When you get to Cambria check with CalTrans to see if HWY 1 is closed anywhere along the route.

I just checked the web site and there is a slide about three miles south of Gorda.  The road is still open but be prepared for delays and construction equipment in the area.

General Discussion / Re: where can i find cyclist "WHITE" pages???
« on: January 23, 2010, 06:32:23 pm »
Take a look at at  This may be what you are looking for.

General Discussion / Re: Best Cell phone coverage across US???
« on: January 22, 2010, 02:34:14 pm »
I had good coverage with Verizon when I've done the Southern Tier and the Western Express in Nevada.  In Nevada I had service when others who had other companies couldn't get a signal.  However, there were some areas that I didn't have service.  Langtry, TX is an example.

Routes / Re: Texas and Eastern 1/2 of Souther Tier in Summer?
« on: January 21, 2010, 12:33:46 pm »
I did Texas and Louisiana this past summer when they had record breaking heat.  It was hot and humid but not unrideable.  You should expect some mosquitoes and a few thundershowers but it is definitely doable.  Go for it.  You'll have a great ride.

Routes / Re: Western Express - NV - early June
« on: January 20, 2010, 02:26:55 pm »
One thing I forgot to mention is the climbing on Hwy 50.  Nevada has a lot of mountain ranges.  In between towns you may see several ranges and basins.  This web site gives you and idea of the climbing you'll do between towns -  Depending on the distance you travel each day you could have over 4000 feet of climbing that day.

Routes / Re: Chicago to west coast?
« on: January 18, 2010, 01:23:50 pm »
35 days might be a bit ambitious.  If you use ACA maps your shortest route may be to connect to the Great Rivers going south and connect to the Trans Am going west.  Then take the Western Express to SF.  It looks to be the most direct and have the most variety of scenery.  I'd guess it to be about 3000 miles so if you take a few days off you will average close to 100 miles per day of riding.

You could also connect to the Norther Tier.  It may be about the same mileage.

Routes / Re: Western Express - NV - early June
« on: January 17, 2010, 07:15:33 pm »
The Western Express can be done in early June and the weather should be good.  I've done the part through Nevada 8 times so here are my observations.

You shouldn't have any problem with water stops/availability up to Fallon.  After you leave Fallon the next place for available water and food will be Middlegate which is about 55 miles.  There is a neat old store with a bar and grill and a limited selection of groceries.  They also have small number of rooms.  I haven't stayed in them so I can't say what they look like.  If you opt for the alternate route  after Middlegate there aren't any water stops until you get to Austin - 60 miles.

The next place for water is Cold Springs which is about 11 miles from Middlegate.  There used to be a gas station and limited store there but it burned down several years ago.  I hear they have been building a new store that is supposed to be finished by now but I haven't been by there since September so I don't know if it's done.  They also have some rooms for rent.

Then next place for food/water/rooms is Austin.  It is about 45 miles from Cold Springs.  There are a couple of bar and grills as well as three motels (Pony Canyon, Lincoln, and Mountain).  There is also a B&B in town that is wonderful.  Can't remember the name but anyone in town will tell you where its at and who to call.  The two gas stations have a limited food selection.

After Austin the next water stop other than the campground at Bob Scott Summit is the town of Eureka about 70 miles away. There are two motels and a good grocery store.  I recommend the Best Western.  It has a hot tub and a pool as well as a so so breakfast.

The next place for water/food/motel is Ely about 75 miles away.  It has several motels, restaurants, and grocery stores. 

After you leave Ely the next water stop is at Majors Junction about 30 miles away.  I haven't stopped there so I don't know what they have to offer.  Baker is about 35 miles away and it has a small grocery store (owner is NOT very friendly) and a small motel (Silver Jack) with a great little wine bar and the owners are wonderful.

You can also stay at the Border Inn on Hwy 6/50.  It has a restaurant/motel and a limited grocery store and the owners are real nice.  The rooms are ok.  The next stop on Hwy 50/6 is Delta.  As I recall it is 80 miles of nothing.

If you can carry 3 water bottles and have a 100 oz Camelback you should be able to make it.  However if it is really hot you may find you need to carry more water.  If you leave early in the morning you should be able to get to your next motel before it gets too hot. 

I would think many of us had the same thoughts/concerns you do when we took off on our first solo trip.  As the trip develops most, if not all the concerns, evaporate.  I ride with a bob trailer with a small rear bag on the top of a rack.

While it is possible to have a problem with people/wildlife, I've never had a problem.  If you use the ACA maps they tend to keep you off the high traffic roads so that conflicts with drivers in a hurry tend to be avoided.  They also have a good "list" of campsites.

Pacing has never been a problem.  Just ride at a pace that you are comfortable doing.  When you tire - stop.  Stop (take breaks) during the ride to enjoy the scenery or road side attractions.  It breaks up the days ride and makes the trip more memorable.   This way the terrain/wind becomes less an obstacle and more a chance to experience a different part of the country.  You'll most likely find that some days you do more miles than planned and on other days you do fewer.  Pretty soon you'll see that you develop an average and that may help you plan your route. 

Wind for days on end can be discouraging but I've rarely found it to be a problem for more than a couple of days at a time. 

Getting sick is always a concern but I carry my insurance card just in case.  Never had to use it.  I buy packaged food and get water at municipal faucets or bottled water at convenience stores.  I also carry a cell phone.  It may not work everywhere but it does work along about 90 plus percent of the routes I take.  When there is coverage I check in with loved ones to reassure them that everything is ok.

On my first trip I packed too many changes of clothing.  I've found that I only need three days of clothing changes  (that includes the ones I'm wearing).  I wash that days riding gear at night and let it dry overnight.  On a rare occasion it may not be dry the next morning so the extra days stuff allows for an additional day to dry so I don't have to put on damp clothing and worry about saddle sores.  Some will only carry two days and I met one person who only had 1 days worth.  I prefer to wear "mountain bike" shorts over the "racing" style of shorts.  I can wear them around as casual clothes after the ride and they have pockets to carry money.  They also have a liner and pad to make the journey more comfortable. 

Just remember that the only "hard" day was yesterday.

Routes / Re: California in December
« on: January 06, 2010, 06:50:50 pm »
Snow could be a problem going over the passes from Vegas.  You'll need to check the weather and possibly the California Dept of Trans (DOT) to see if the passes are open.  Once you cross the Sierra Nevada range you shouldn't have any problems with snow.  Unfortunately there aren't many routes from Vegas to SF if snow closes the passes (once closed they are closed for the season).

The most scenic route, if the passes are open, is to take the 160 out of Vegas.  Then take hwy 372/178 to Shoshone.  Follow the 178 through Death Valley until it connects with the 190 west.  Follow the 190 until it meets the 136 (to Lone Pine).  Then take the 395 north until you reach the 120 that will take you up a very big climb into Yosemite.  Follow the 120 all the way to Manteca.  There are then a couple of ways for you to get to the SF bay area.  If snow has closed the passes (very possible) you either take the 395 upto Carson City, Nevada or take hwy 95 out of Vegas north to Fallon, Nevada.  You can then take hwy 50 to Carson and Lake Tahoe. 

It is very possible you'll run into some snow at the higher elevations.  If you get to Vegas at the beginning of November you may just beat the snow.  Also be prepared for rain on the coast route.  This is the beginning of the rainy season.

Hope this helps.  Good Luck.

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