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Messages - John Nelson

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Routes / Western Express vs. Trans-Am time and suggestions
« on: March 29, 2014, 06:22:08 am »
In my opinion, start in San Francisco if time is limited. Otherwise start in Astoria.

General Discussion / Re: Weight training and cycling
« on: March 28, 2014, 11:40:57 am »
I'd reduce the quad exercises, e.g., the lunges and leg lifts. You can probably still continue the hamstring and calf exercises. But I do believe in a wide mixture of exercises, so maybe you can just take the next day off of cycling after your leg day, or make it an easy cycling day on the flats, and perhaps you make your leg days at the gym less frequent during riding season.

Long distance cycling benefits from a strong core and good triceps.

Routes / Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« on: March 26, 2014, 08:15:09 pm »
I didn't go any farther south than the Old Grade Campground. I headed east on the Lake Erie Connector. I do very little stealth camping--mostly just when there is no other reasonable option.

Routes / Re: East Coast to West Coast Trip
« on: March 26, 2014, 02:14:36 pm »
I couldn't find one that appeared to map coast-to-coast as one cohesive trip.
The ACA has three coast-to-coast routes: the TransAm, the Northern Tier and the Southern Tier. Each of these routes has some variations. An extremely popular route is to start on the TransAm in Yorktown, Virginia and switch to the Western Express in Pueblo, Colorado, finishing in San Franscisco. This TransAm variation is so popular that the ACA has even packaged up the set of maps you need for it.

You'll have no problem camping the whole way.

Routes / Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« on: March 26, 2014, 01:54:38 pm »
Yes, I just used the ACA maps. No GPS and no other maps. It was fine. Yes, you occasionally get off course, but I usually figure it out pretty quickly. Road signage can be iffy at times, and has sometimes changed since the ACA printed the maps. I don't think I ever went more than 3 miles off course, and most of the time less than a mile, without figuring it out and going back. Be sure to talk to all other cyclists you see coming the other direction to get tips--these are often invaluable, especially about road construction and detours. Don't be afraid to ask locals for advice, but always recognize that the information they give is quite often wrong, so don't place complete faith in it.

I recommend not skipping Mackinac Island. It's a fun way to spend a few hours. But there is no camping on the island, so catch the ferry to St Ignace when you're done. The ferry operator will know that you came from the other side by the color of your ticket, so you just have to assure him that you really do not want to go back from where you came.

I very much enjoyed the pasties of the Upper Peninsula. They seem the perfect cyclotouring food. I wish they were commonly available elsewhere. I had a fun stop at the "Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum" in Naubinway.

Routes / Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« on: March 26, 2014, 09:05:25 am »
I took the North Lakes route in the summer of 2012. I camped the whole way too. The Interstate Park south of St. Croix Falls, WI has beautiful grassy sites, with great showers for no extra charge and some historic interest. There is a great, inexpensive municipal campground in Birchwood, WI (great shower for 25 cents). I camped at Day Lake outside Clam Lake, WI in a nearly deserted but perfectly nice NFS campground (no showers, but a lake to jump in). Big Lake Campground short of Boulder Junction, WI was great with a lot of friendly people (no showers, but a lake to jump in). The campground at Pentoga Park on Chicaugon Lake near Gaastra, MI was expensive and very lively (circus atmosphere), but also nice--they have an ice cream shop in the campground (good showers). The campground in Escanaba, MI at the Upper Peninsula State Fair was adequate and inexpensive (reasonable showers). The Milakokia Lake State Forest Campground near Blaney Park, MI has no showers, but has a lake to swim in. Straits State Park in St. Ignace has one of the most beautiful campgrounds I've stayed in with a view of the Strait and bridge. The municipal campground in Petoskey (Magnus Park) is quite nice. Whitewater Township Park, several miles outside Williamsburg, requires you to ride a sandy road to get there, but it's nice although expensive. Old Grade Campground (USFS) ten miles west of Luther, MI is primitive but cheap.

I did not find traffic a problem on this route. I see no reason to deviate from the ACA route. Highway 2 across the UP can be a bit busy (if you don't take the ferry across Lake Michigan), but there are few alternatives.

Seems to me that the ACA route does indeed follow Lake Michigan as much as possible, at least as far as Traverse City. I'm not sure why it goes inland after that.

General Discussion / Re: Tools for adventure
« on: March 26, 2014, 07:47:47 am »
What tools you take depends on your risk tolerance, your weight tolerance, how far out in the boonies you will be riding, and how averse you are to hitching a ride and/or killing a day. Also, when most people ask about tools, they also want to know about spare parts too, even though they didn't say so.

You did use the term "must need". In my opinion, the only "must need" is what you need to repair a tube puncture. That means at least one tire lever, a patch kit and/or spare tube, and a pump.

But then there are also "nice to haves" tools. There are only two that I carry.
  • A multitool with Allen wrenches, a spoke wrench, a chain cutter and screwdrivers. Allen wrenches are very useful for adjusting your brakes as they wear, adjusting your saddle height, tightening your rack bolts, and, very important for one-way tours, assembling your bike at the start and disassembling it at the end.
  • Something to fix a broken spoke. Although you can ride with one broken spoke in a 32 or 36 spoke wheel, it's annoying. A FiberFix spoke will allow you to get to the next bike shop, and I do carry one, but I prefer a real spoke. So I carry a one-ounce mini-cassette tool, a spoke wrench and some spare spokes of the right size (it usually takes two or three different sizes).

If you want to include spare parts on your list, and tools are often not of much use unless you also have parts (and vice versa).
  • Spare pair of brake pads. Brakes wear suprisingly fast in the rain on dirty roads, so I've found that you sometimes need new brakes on very short notice. And you don't ever want to be riding with worn out brakes.
  • Spare cables, one derailleur and one brake. I don't carry cable cutters, so I just tape the excess down somewhere until I can get to a bike shop to cut and cap it.
  • More tubes. Although a patch kit will do for many failures, a failure of a valve stem requires a new tube. Also, it's easier to replace the tube on the road and then patch it in the evening after you stop.
  • Spare tire. This one is questionable. I don't always carry one. The problem is that it's hard to find a good touring tire in a local bike shop, so unless you have one, you'll probably have to settle for a tire that you really don't want. Furthermore, it's possible to have an unexpected tire failure out on the road for which you can't even get to a bike shop. Also, if you have a spare tire with you, you can run your current tire until it is fully dead.
  • Spare nuts, bolts and nipples to fit everything on your bike.
  • Tape and zip ties.
  • Chain lube.
  • Tire boot. Lot of different things can be used for this. If you don't carry a spare tire, you should carry something that can be used to as a boot. A boot, however, won't help if you have a bead failure.
  • Cable and lock.

General Discussion / Re: Miles Per Day
« on: March 25, 2014, 02:08:42 pm »
You can do less on a day with rain and/or headwinds and more if the conditions are favorable.
I'm a great fan of doing 40-mile days into a headwind and 100-mile days with a good tailwind. Don't fight the weather--leverage it. But I'll usually keep riding if it's raining because riding in the rain can be quite enjoyable and sitting around in the rain can be quite boring.

if you have 2 people riding the second set makes for for a great inexpensive copy for your partner.
Funny story about that. When I did the TransAm, I was using 2010 maps. My riding companions were using 1984 maps that they got for free. Between Booneville and Berea in Kentucky, I got a bit ahead of them, so I stopped to wait ... and wait and wait. They never showed. Their maps took them on a different route and I didn't see them again until the end of the day. Also, they rode 10 more miles than I did.

Routes / Re: Western Express in July
« on: March 21, 2014, 07:26:21 am »
Not everybody will agree with this, but here is my experience, having lived in the desert for 20 years.

As long as you have and drink enough water, heat can be handled safely. Take two to three times the amount of water you think you'll need, just to make completely sure that you never run out. Drink freely and often. Don't wait until you feel thirsty. Know where the water sources are, but unless they are in well-populated areas, be prepared to find them unavailable when you get there. Carry gallons of water per person.

Let me repeat. Don't take any risk of ever running out of water. Be very conservative on this.

You'll be fine. Start riding before sunrise. Consider taking a break in the hottest part of the day and riding again in the evening.

General Discussion / Re: First Bike Tour
« on: March 21, 2014, 07:18:30 am »
I understand Pete's comments about shakedown tours, but I advise taking at least one or two anyway. The drill of riding a fully loaded bike, setting up camp, cleaning up, eating, sleeping and breaking camp has a way of letting you know if your gear list is appropriate, and if your bike handles well under load.

Getting in saddle time is important, not so much to make sure your legs can handle it, but to make sure your butt, arms, neck and back can handle it. I recommend riding your target daily distance (60 miles you say) on at least two consecutive days.

You will encounter hills as you ride across the country--lots and lots of hills. It is important that your training include some fully-loaded hilly days. Don't just ride flats all the time.

Since you're on a schedule of 60 miles per day, you need to hit the ground running from the start. Although many people can afford to get into shape during the tour, perhaps you don't have this luxury. Training is pretty simple--put in the miles. I'd advise you to get in as many miles as your schedule allows. Train seven (or at least six) days a week if possible. Ride every day, starting today--not tomorrow. Include hills several times a week. Include some long days, usually on weekends.

Have fun!

General Discussion / Re: TA in May..looking for company
« on: March 19, 2014, 08:45:58 pm »
Starting in Oregon in May might set you up for some cold, wet weather. Late May will be better than mid-May. Yes, you will cross paths with lots of riders, increasing in frequency as you get closer to the middle of the country. Don't worry about getting lonely.

Routes / Re: Albuquerque north to Western Express in Salida
« on: March 17, 2014, 03:00:23 pm »
If you want, you can stop at some of the bizarre tourist attractions in the San Luis Valley between Alamosa and Salida, including the aligator farm ( and the UFO watchtower ( They are both right on CO-17. Or, if you want to deviate 20 miles to the east, you can visit Great Sand Dunes National Park. Be sure to have a baked potato in the valley--they are delicious. There are 59,000 acres of potatoes growing there. I ate three in one sitting when I rode through there last year.

Routes / Re: Albuquerque north to Western Express in Salida
« on: March 17, 2014, 06:51:19 am »
Take CO-17 north from Alamosa rather than US 285. The pavement isn't quite as good, but the traffic volume is way less.

General Discussion / Re: Cell coverage - phone type?
« on: March 16, 2014, 06:17:41 pm »
I agree with all previous comments. But it depends a bit on where you are going. If I assume that you'll be mostly in remote rural places, then I'd vote Verizon. AT&T shines in New York City and Chicago, but maybe not so much in Rush Center Kansas.

All the carriers have coverage maps online you can study. Look at how your route agrees with the coverage maps, but be aware that all the carriers significantly exaggerate their coverage. The point isn't really to have continuous coverage, but to try to at least have coverage at least once or twice a day. Verizon fits the bill in most places, but you'll still have a day or two here and there with no coverage.

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