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Messages - John Nelson

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Routes / Re: Routes in weird places
« on: July 09, 2011, 04:38:08 pm »
Start browsing around over at On the left side of the home page, look for Journals by Locale. Pick an exotic place and click it. See what adventures others have had.

General Discussion / Re: Your top 5 things to take on tour
« on: July 09, 2011, 04:28:26 pm »
For most people, thinking too hard about what they might leave out is a sure way to overpack.

Study existing packing lists. There are hundreds of them on the web, including a pretty comprehensive one right here on the ACA site.

Don't take everything on anybody's list. Also, tailor your list to the location and weather you expect there at the time you are going.

My algorithm is that you should then allow yourself a very small number of luxury items (three?) that aren't strictly necessary. These items should be unique to your preferences and tastes. Maybe you want a small camp stool. Maybe you want a 6-inch thick air mattress. Maybe you want a radio. Maybe you want a down pillow and silk pillowcase. Maybe you want a bear canister. Maybe you want a bike cover. Maybe you like the security of a spare tire. Maybe you want a fishing rod. Maybe you want a Frisbie. Maybe you want a hammer to pound in your tent stakes. But certainly don't take all of them--only take what's most important to you.

Routes / Re: I-80 through Wyoming
« on: July 08, 2011, 05:43:53 pm »
It's not allowed to ride a bicycle on I-80 in Nebraska according to the signs on the on-ramps.
That's because it isn't necessary since US30/US34 parallels I80 most of the way across Nebraska. The general rule of riding on interstate highways in the west is that it's allowed where there is no good parallel route, and prohibited where there is. Always check the specifics of course.

Routes / Re: Transamerica - how late is too late? alternative ending?
« on: July 08, 2011, 05:37:13 pm »
The later you leave, the greater the risk, but it's never too late. The days are also getting shorter as it gets later, so it's hard to put in as much distance in a day. If you're camping, the nights are longer (and lonelier) and colder. But, as I say, it's never too late. The later you leave, the more slop you should leave in the schedule to wait out any storms.

You can take any route through Colorado you want, but there won't be much difference in weather between northern Colorado and southern Colorado (if that's why you're considering a change). Unless you have other reasons to divert to southern Colorado, I'd stick to the TA. Don't plan to cross any passes over 12,000 feet.

General Discussion / Re: The evil plant!
« on: July 08, 2011, 09:41:43 am »
STAY ON THE PAVEMENT. Avoid wild grassy areas in particular. You will still get flats but going off pavement is really asking for trouble.
+1 In addition to keeping your bike tires on pavement, stay away from the very edge of the pavement too. Ride as far out as traffic will allow. If the road is deserted, ride in the same tracks as the car tire. If you do have to take the bike off the pavement for any reason, inspect the tires carefully before riding again.

There are a lot of different ways to get from SF to Austin, and these cities are a long ways apart. If you take the Pacific Coast route to the Southern Tier, you'll find plenty of services along the way. There are several other ways to get there as well following other ACA routes. You'll be fine.

Rocky Mountain / Re: newbie to US cycling: when to come over
« on: July 07, 2011, 11:54:05 am »
From the Routes FAQ page (

When is the best time to ride a specific route?
Great Divide and Great Divide Canada: early summer to mid-fall. Caution: snow can occur at any time along the route. If it is a heavy snow year, high-elevation roads in the north may not be open until late June or early July.

General Discussion / Re: Just the Bear essentials
« on: July 03, 2011, 01:42:30 pm »
Even if you do absolutely everything wrong, your chances of a bear attack are very small. Nevertheless, it pays to take precautions. The number one rule is nothing smelly in or near the tent. Become familiar with the "bearmuda triangle".

When in bear country, I prefer to eat somewhere far away from my campsite. One way to do this is to stop somewhere and eat (including washing up and brushing your teeth--toothpaste attracts bears too), and then bike farther before camping. If you do want to cook and/or eat near where you camp, do so a hundred yards from your tent if possible.

I keep all my food and toiletries in one pannier, inside odor-proof bags. If in bear country (which is a small subset of the places you'll be), hang the pannier from a tree a few hundred yards from your tent. If you have some snacks in your handlebar bag, transfer them to the pannier before you hang it. Try to keep your handlebar bag food inside plastic bags so that the smells don't transfer to the bag itself. If you got any food on your clothing, put those clothes in the food pannier as well. If you are cooking, put the clothes you cooked in in the pannier too.

Established campgrounds in bear country often have bear boxes. Those are great and are worth the price of the campground by themselves. Campgrounds in Yellowstone will all have them.

These are all extreme precautions, but are simple to do and give you a bit more margin of safety. Stop at ranger stations along the way and ask if there has been any recent bear activity.

I would not take bear spray. It's not legal everywhere, and you don't want to worry about whether or not it is. Bears will be a concern in the Clearwater National Forest (going over Lolo Pass from Idaho to Montana), in the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest (from Ennis Montana to Yellowstone) and in Yellowstone. I don't think they will be a significant concern elsewhere on your route.

Routes / Re: I-80 through Wyoming
« on: June 30, 2011, 10:00:27 am »
Feasible but miserable. Over 200 miles on I-80 will seem like hell.

Routes / Re: Selkirk Loop
« on: June 28, 2011, 12:29:59 pm »
WACANID advice. I am registered to ride the Selkirk Loop in 5 days 100 - 125 kms per day. Any pretraining suggestions. I am a recreation cyclist and commuter - only done 70km max per day. Yikes!
There's no magic forumla. In the words of the immortal Eddy Merckx, "Ride lots." The more miles you ride in preparation, the more comfortable the event will be. If feasible, include hills in your preparation.

General Discussion / Re: How cold should I expect?
« on: June 25, 2011, 04:59:06 pm »
The best way to find free places to stay is to by the ACA TA maps. Then you'll likely also want to join Warm Showers and/or Couchsurfing. With those resources, and just a tiny bit of ingenuity, you'll rarely need to pay to stay anywhere on the TA.

General Discussion / Re: How cold should I expect?
« on: June 25, 2011, 12:23:54 am »
Let's take Frisco Colorado as an example. It's not the highest that you will reach, but it is the highest that you will likely camp overnight. You should reach Frisco in early September. The average high at that time in Frisco is 65F and the average low is 32F. Of course those are just historical averages, and your experiences may differ. The temperature averages for early October in Sisters Oregon are about the same as the averages for Frisco in early September.

A more likely concern is whether or not it will be snowing when you cross some of the high passes. Since you seem to have a bit of extra time in your schedule, you can probably wait it out a few days if this happens. It's unlikely that snow would close these passes for more than a few days at a time during that time of the year. Hoosier Pass in Colorado stays open all year (except for temporary closures), but McKenzie Pass in Oregon typically closes in late October. You do, however, always have Santiam Pass available as an alternative.

Roads in Yellowstone start closing in early October, but the roads used by the TransAm are typically open until early November.

Use common sense and don't do anything stupid and you will most likely be fine. Be sure you have enough warm clothing to safely descend the high passes, which could be below freezing and above 30 MPH. On the coldest nights, wear a lot of clothes inside your sleeping bag. The fact that the bag is rated to 15 degrees isn't particularly significant--there's too much difference in how cold or warm people sleep.

Gear Talk / Re: Kona Jake vs Trek 520
« on: June 24, 2011, 02:43:30 pm »
As is oft mentioned, you can tour on anything. However, if your budget allows, a bike designed for touring would offer a more comfortable, safer ride with less risk of problems. Touring bikes are generally stable, strong and comfortable with good brakes and tough wheels. They also have geometry and fittings that make mounting racks, panniers and extra water bottles easier, and have a wide range of gearing.

Routes / Re: trans am records
« on: June 22, 2011, 02:30:04 pm »
I hear that somebody once roller-skated through the Louvre in 28 seconds!!

General Discussion / Re: Accomodations in Astoria
« on: June 07, 2011, 12:52:52 pm »
I stayed at the Hotel Norblad for $20 for a shared room with bunk beds (although I was the only one in the room). For $40 you can get a private room with a bath down the hall. Bikes and Beyond, easy walking distance of the Hotel Norblad, is a very accommodating bike shop and can help you with whatever you need. They helped me find a shower, a duffel bag and a number of other things not in the typical service list of a bike shop.

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