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Messages - John Nelson

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Interesting discussion. I have waterproof panniers, and frankly I never even considered using non-waterproof panniers. It's interesting to hear that at least some people find them unnecessary. I have no experience with them, so I really don't know. All I do know is not a single drop of water has ever gotten in my panniers, even in all-day downpours, and I find that very comforting.

I would find non-waterproof panniers with dry bags inside quite annoying. Furthermore, the non-waterproof panniers are going to absorb water in the rain, making them even more annoying. I would relegate them to fair-weather commuting.

Routes / Re: Tran-american bike tour
« on: May 05, 2015, 10:48:07 am »
but personally I wouldn't bother with the ritual again.

I dip my left foot in the Pacific and my right foot in the Atlantic. Saves a lot of trouble.

Just a few observations:
  • Most freestanding tents stand better with a few tie-downs. Some freestanding tents are quite droopy without them. Furthermore, it's better to tie down all tents in case it gets windy.
  • I rarely bother to dry out my tent if it gets wet from condensation. It'll dry out when I set it up the next night, and that's soon enough.
  • As you said, there's usually something to tie the tent down to even on a hard surface. Picnic tables, panniers, rocks, etc. This can work with either freestanding or non-freestanding tents. Carrying extra cord is a good idea, and I do that, but suitable anchors are often not far enough away to need them.
  • Some ground is so hard that it might as well be concrete, so you sometimes need these techniques anyway.
  • I've toured with both freestanding, semi-freestanding and non-freestanding tents. You can make all of them work just fine.

General Discussion / Re: TransAM Newbie w/ Questions
« on: May 01, 2015, 06:04:35 pm »
Agreed indyfabz. Stuff happens. That store or restaurant that was there yesterday may not be there today. That campground on the map may have gotten flooded yesterday and be closed today. That road on your map may be closed due to a washed out bridge. Most of us carry emergency food just for those occasions, and you also need to be prepared to spend the night in a random spot by the side of the road. These precautions are not often necessary, but they do happen a few times on each long tour.

Routes / Re: DC to CA - which direction?
« on: April 30, 2015, 12:15:08 pm »
For most people in most years, it doesn't matter much.

The major factors to consider are: (1) wind, (2) weather, (3) daylight, (4) the sun, (5) history, (6) air travel, (7) what you want.

(1) Many will tell you differently, but based on recorded historical data, surface wind is too variable in most places to favor one direction over the other. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Wyoming and the Pacific Coast, but you don't want to plan your trip around the exceptions.

(2) Typically, when looking for good weather, westbound cross-country travelers can start earlier than eastbound cross-country travelers. So to some extent it depends on when you want to start.

(3) If you're going cross-country, neither direction favors more daylight. But if you're going north-south, then one direction may give you more total daylight than the other direction.

(4) You don't want the sun in your eyes, nor in the eyes of the drivers behind you. If you like to start at the crack of dawn, then you probably want to go west. If you like to start late and ride into the sunset, you may want to go east. If you start late and quit early, it won't matter.

(5) Many people like to retrace the route of westward expansion, which suggests westbound.

(6) If you are riding to or from your house, or getting to one end via automobile, then it's usually easier if you can fly to the start and ride home rather than the other way around. It's just easier to pack your bike at home when you have plenty of time.

(7) None of these factors are overwhelming, so if you just have a hankering to go one way or the other, then go that way.

General Discussion / Re: Which shops stock ACA maps?
« on: April 30, 2015, 12:01:06 pm »
I've never seen them for sale in any retail establishment. Order them online here and have them sent to you c/o general delivery at an upcoming post office.

Routes / Re: Tips for a Rollerblader going coast-to-coast
« on: April 30, 2015, 05:57:00 am »
How much of the bike trails are paved? There's no general answer. Some are, some aren't. You'll have to investigate case by case. You'll be on the road quite a bit.

There was a father/daughter team that rollerbladed from Vancouver to Tierra Del Fuego last year. There isn't much online about them, but there were a few newspaper articles. The steep uphills and downhills of the Pacific Coast were quite a challenge. They even passed some bicycles on the downhills (sounds insane to me). Obviously you'll need to carry a bunch of extra wheels, and keep your backpack weight as low as possible.

General Discussion / Re: How much water to carry?
« on: April 29, 2015, 11:12:54 pm »
90% of the time, two large water bottles are enough. 8% of the time, a third bottle will be appreciated. 2% of the time, you'll need even more, especially if you dry camp. I wouldn't worry about making more than two easily accessible, and I wouldn't bother with fork-mounted cages. You'd be better off using those mounts for a front rack and panniers.

General Discussion / Re: TransAM Newbie w/ Questions
« on: April 29, 2015, 10:03:20 am »
How many you meet will depend a lot on when you leave and which direction you're going. I left May 7 from Yorktown and met a lot of other westbounders because that's pretty-much peak time for leaving from the East. I would say I met four or five a day. Because peak departure from the West is in early June, I didn't meet many eastbounders until late in my trip.

I think there are probably fewer eastbounders, so you may meet fewer. You should meet westbounders for the first half of your trip, but then fewer on the second half of your trip since most of them will have already passed you by.

By far, the ACA maps are your best source of camping information along the TransAm route. That's because many of the city parks that allow cyclists to camp won't be listed anywhere else (because they're not real campgrounds). Two-thirds of all my camping was in city and county parks. For example, the Troutville, VA town park specifically prohibits camping, but the sign makes an exception for TransAm cyclists.

Routes / Re: Getting bikes to Canada from California
« on: April 28, 2015, 03:16:37 pm »
Another option is to ship your bikes ahead
Although a great option within the U.S., I think the complexities and costs of international shipping may sink this idea.

Routes / Re: Circling the US. Feedback please?
« on: April 24, 2015, 05:16:24 pm »
Sounds like a great plan. Good choice of departure and good choice of direction.

Sponsorships? Not impossible, but also not likely.

I understand your temptation.

The direct way is massively steep. I climbed Halcyon Hill on a fully-loaded bike, but my heart rate was through the roof and I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Furthermore, the traffic was non-trivial and there is no shoulder. Nevertheless, it's certainly doable if you have strong legs and heart.

The hill up Cabrillo Highway here is probably almost as steep and quite busy with traffic.

The detour gains the elevation more gradually and on safer roads.

Routes / Re: Latest date to leave - TransAm East to West (2016)
« on: April 23, 2015, 05:14:40 am »
11-12 weeks is plenty. 10 is usually enough, and it's rare to take more than 13. Except for Kansas and eastern Colorado, there are no "flat sections."

Weather is unpredictable and vastly different from one year to the next. There are "averages," but no "normal." A lot of luck is involved, more needed at some times of year than others.

You'll have a ball!

Routes / Re: Latest date to leave - TransAm East to West (2016)
« on: April 22, 2015, 10:56:41 am »
There is what I would consider an ideal timeframe to leave Yorktown on the TransAm (which is the first half of May), but you can really leave anytime, understanding that the farther from the ideal timeframe you leave the greater the chance of weather problems. It isn't like there is some drop-dead date, like leaving on June 8 would be fantastic but leaving on June 9 would be a disaster. Furthermore, it depends on whether you plan to take 4 weeks for the trip or 20 weeks for the trip (how long do you plan to take anyway?).

Personally, I left in early May from Yorktown and did not find the heat to be a problem. If you want to avoid heat, I would suggest you leave earlier than that (April) rather than later. Even though you tolerate cold well, however, you might not tolerate riding through a foot of snow very well. Furthermore, even if you tolerate cold, do you tolerate cold and wet together?

Also, there is heat and there is heat. The temperatures in June might be higher than the temperatures in August in many places, but the humidity in June might be less than the humidity in August, making June more pleasant than August.

Since you ask your question about "latest", I assume that you cannot leave early. If you're not too slow, and you have enough time to wait out a snowstorm or two, I think you could wait as late as August to leave. You may have to skip McKenzie Pass (regrettable), but there is an alternative. Also, if you're planning to camp (are you?), you may find some campgrounds closed after the beginning of September.

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