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Messages - John Nelson

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General Discussion / Re: Evening rides...
« on: March 30, 2011, 12:09:09 pm »
Some of my favorite rides on tour have been at dusk. The animals are out, the quality of light is magical, the traffic low, the air cool. In all of these rides, however, it's not because I started late--I just rode long.

Gear Talk / Re: Bike Shorts
« on: March 29, 2011, 01:20:55 pm »
I have several pairs of the Performance Classic shorts, which I use on my shorter rides. This saves wear and tear on my good shorts, which I use on my longer rides.

If he doesn't leave until late May, he won't get to the Rockies until mid-June, by which time crossing the Rockies should be okay. Ride The Rockies is planning to cross 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass on June 12 (although there is always a chance it won't be open then). The WE crosses Monarch Pass, about 20 miles south of Cottonwood Pass, and Monarch is only 11,312 on a much-better maintained road.

I have no direct experience with the RAAM route, but your idea sounds plausible to me. It would be about the same distance as the ST (just a hair longer), but the ST would be too hot at that time of year. If time gets short, the eastern half of the TransAm offers many short-cut possibilities (none of which I would recommend, but would be possible if you get behind schedule). You can even pick up with the WE/TA earlier, in western Colorado.

General Discussion / Re: safety on a tour bike ride
« on: March 27, 2011, 02:17:06 pm »
It's hard to know what your and your husband's concerns are, but maybe this will help:

Probably the biggest danger is the risk of a bike accident. If you've been riding for a while, you have probably already developed the skills to ride safely. Big cities are likely the most dangerous places to ride. Most bike tours, however, avoid big cities like the plague. On the country roads most of us favor, cars are few enough to not bother you much, but not so rare that you won't be able to find help if you need it.

Most people worry about two things: getting hit by a car and encountering a crazed psychopath. Both of these risk combined are no more likely than the risk you take each day when you drive your car to work or to the grocery store.

General Discussion / Re: Free Camping
« on: March 26, 2011, 08:32:07 pm »
Tourista829, I've heard you mention the "ACO" numerous times now and I've never mentioned this before, but I believe you are referring each time to the "ACA", that fine organization that is hosting the web site we are on right now.

General Discussion / Re: Free Camping
« on: March 26, 2011, 05:45:23 pm »
It depends on where you are. What you need is a large bag of tricks, and then you can apply whatever trick you need from that bag for the situation you find yourself in. Here are some ideas to put in your bag:

Ask at a fire station if you can sleep on their floor.
Ask at a church if you can sleep on their floor.
Ask at a church if you can set up a tent in their back yard.
Ask the police if you can pitch a tent in their town park, county park or fairgrounds.
Ask a local if they know of any patch of ground on which it wouldn't be a problem if you pitched your tent. Don't make it sound like you need a campground--you're just looking for a patch of dirt.
Ask at a farmhouse if you can pitch a tent on their property.
Pull off on a side dirt road and see if you can find a level spot of ground sheltered from view by some trees with no houses nearby and without a "no trespassing" sign.
Sign up with
Sign up with
Buy the ACA maps and use it to find free places to stay.
Find free campgrounds (there are some) or forest service campgrounds with a modest fee.
See if a campground has "hiker/biker" sites, which are generally available for $5 to $7.
Even if they say "no" to "hiker/biker" sites, ask if they have special rates for cyclists (or maybe if they'd make a special rate on the spot).
Ask someone in an existing campground spot if they would be willing to share their spot with you.
Sleep in the dugout of a local ballfield (only if they aren't playing games that night of course).
Sleep under a bridge.

More ideas at

Gear Talk / Re: Touring bike for out-of-shape newbie
« on: March 26, 2011, 01:03:06 pm »
Until you get somewhat into shape, the bike won't matter. Anything will be fine, including whatever you have in your garage. Comfort won't matter much because your conditioning level won't allow you to be on it long enough to get uncomfortable. Ride it a mile or two for a while until you work your way up to five miles a day. During this time, you can begin shopping for a better bike.

If you're already in shape to do five miles a day, then you're ready for a real bike. Unless you have a self-contained tour planned for this year, I wouldn't get a touring bike to start with. Visit your local bike shop and ask them for recommendations for an entry-level road bike. Don't let them sell you a bike with a low-spoke count, high saddle and low handlebars that looks ready for the Tour de France. On the other hand, also don't let them sell you something that looks like a beach bike or has a cushy seat with springs or is only useful for riding down to the park or is a mountain bike. Tell them you want something on which you can work up to 50-mile rides (if that is indeed your goal). A price between $500 and $1500 is probably about right for this bike. This bike will also be good for van-supported tours (where a van is carrying your gear).

If you do want to go on a self-contained (i.e., carrying your own gear) tour in 2011, then my first choice would be to see if there are any shops with touring bikes in your area. If you have an REI near, visit them to look at the Novara touring bikes. Otherwise, you may be forced to have a shop order one for you. Consult the ACA buyers guide and ask your shop which of these bikes they can order for you.

Gear Talk / Re: Raingear
« on: March 26, 2011, 12:05:35 am »
I agree that you don't need much of anything special on a typical TransAm. Unless you get very unlucky, it won't rain on you all that much. I took a very lightweight GoLite jacket and pants, although I only used the pants once or twice.

Youth Bicyle Travel / Re: Good tours for teens reasonably priced?
« on: March 24, 2011, 10:19:02 pm »
Since you want "reasonably priced", you're likely going to want something self-contained rather than van-supported. Self-supported trips guided by ACA run from about $50 a day for the three-month tours up to $110 a day for the one-week tours. Van supported tours are about 50% to 75% more expensive.

There are many other tour companies. Bicycle Adventures runs lots of tours, all van supported I think, and mostly fairly short. Even their "budget" tours are $335 a day and up. Some of their other tours run $500 a day. These prices make the ACA tours sound like a real bargain.

America by Bicycle is another large touring company. Their cross-country ride costs $225 a day, about three times what a van-supported ACA tour costs. Their shorter tours run about $330 a day.

All in all, the ACA tours sound like a good choice, huh?

If you're looking for a teen-specific tour, check out Outward Bound or Apogee Adventures. These are going to cost more. On an ACA tour, you'll son won't have many people his age, but there may be one or two others. The average age for ACA participants is 45.

How long of a tour are you interested in? Are you looking for a tour that caters specifically to teens? And exactly how old is your son?

Note that there are kids out there touring alone or in pairs as young as 18.

Routes / Re: Bannack State Park
« on: March 24, 2011, 04:38:35 pm »
Worst mosquitoes I encountered were in Jeffrey City, but Wisdom was second place.
Just curious... What time of year was that.  They weren't a problem when we were there in 2007 (July 14th).
I slept in the Lion's Park there on June 20, 2010.

BTW, Bannack State Park, at four miles off route, was more of a detour than I would have considered.

Routes / Re: Bannack State Park
« on: March 24, 2011, 02:47:36 pm »
The screens on that screened shelter in Wisdom are in sad shape, so they're not much protection. I pitched my tent inside that shelter too. Worst mosquitoes I encountered were in Jeffrey City, but Wisdom was second place.

Routes / Re: Bannack State Park
« on: March 24, 2011, 12:08:14 pm »
+1 on Twin Bridges Bike Camp. I stayed there last summer. There's free WiFi at the Laundromat. Restaurants in Twin Bridges are limited but sufficient. The mosquitoes were bad when I was there, but DEET made them a non-issue.

General Discussion / Re: Does a bum toughen up?
« on: March 23, 2011, 10:32:36 am »
As said, it's personal. Some people have never met a saddle they didn't like, and others search long and hard before finding the one saddle that suits them. If you've never experienced soreness before, maybe you're lucky and are in the first camp. You might borrow different bikes from friends and see if you're happy on just about any saddle, or if you lucked into the magic one the first time.

And yes, a bum does toughen up. But if the saddle and you are not meant for each other, your butt may turn into raw hamburger before then.

General Discussion / Re: Cross Country Trip: Money, What To Do?
« on: March 22, 2011, 03:08:33 pm »
I took a few hundred bucks and a credit card. I used the credit card whenever allowed and the cash lasted me for my whole 10-week trip.

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