Author Topic: UK Rider. Recommendations.  (Read 3895 times)

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Offline simplicity

UK Rider. Recommendations.
« on: January 07, 2012, 04:09:59 pm »
Max,
London

Hi, my first post on here. I plan on cycling across the USA in the upcoming year and am posting to get some insight from the regular tourers on here with regards to my future plans. I will be departing at the start of April and remain in the country until the end of June.

So, my original plans were to backpack the country, however, to save money for the trip, I picked up a second hand 60's racer and started commuting back and forth from work > this in a round about way has now led me to buying a rather more practical touring bike and altered my plans from backpacking to a bike tour.

I have trapsed through the forum posts and gathered as much relevant information I could find, but will put this post out there to get opinion on my personal trip, in the hope that experienced tourers can divert/highlight destinations.

For me, this trip is about immersing myself with the varying people that make up the country and the natural landscapes the country has to offer. It is not a trip for me to tick off the major cities and 'mount rushmore' type landmarks. What route would the community suggest; based on their experiences, which would give me the broadest taste of the different communities of the USA? East to West Trans Am is my leaning preference, but i thought I'd see if any consistent destinations emerged amongst this community to see whether I could intergrate other destinations within my trip.

I realise a lot of my expectations are subjective but has anybody experienced a town/city or state that's hospitality, culture, sense of community or natural beauty etc....left a lasting memory? As this is the kind of narrative I wish to develop for my trip of the United States of America

Thanking you in advance.

Note. I can extend visa and trip to 4 months and I have already started training with the intention of reaching 60-70 miles a day on a loaded bike.  If all goes smoothly I will be flying back into Scotland, touring the UK, Ferrying over to Portugal and touring the South Coast of Europe...

« Last Edit: January 07, 2012, 04:49:17 pm by simplicity »

Offline staehpj1

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2012, 06:26:58 pm »
Given your time frame, I agree that an E-W Trans America would be a good choice.

Regarding your question in bold above...  We found that we experienced some of that in every state we passed through.  We met kind generous people the whole way and each region had it's own special charm.  I think my favorite states for scenery were Oregon and Colorado, but every one had it's own special charms.  People in Kansas were wonderful, but we met great folks everywhere we went.

Offline John Nelson

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2012, 07:02:53 pm »
What route would the community suggest; based on their experiences, which would give me the broadest taste of the different communities of the USA?
The TransAm will definitely give you an expanded look at rural and small-town America. But it won't be the "broadest" taste. For example, it won't really show you the deep South. It won't show you the big cities. it won't show you the Southwest deserts and canyons.

Make no mistake, I would definitely recommend the TransAm--it's fantastic. But if you have any extra time, spend a week in New York City, spend some time backpacking in the Utah canyons, spend a week along the Gulf coast, spend some time on the beaches of southern California. It's a large, diverse country.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2012, 07:05:50 pm by John Nelson »

Offline simplicity

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 01:52:02 pm »
Thank you for your replies.

Based on the premise that you both have travelled the country, could you highlight states that should be in the itinerary if a young lad from blighty wanted to develop the broadest narrative of the USA and it's people within my time frame (3/4 months).

Note. As I live in London, the 'big cities' are one category that I will cut from the itinerary. New York and Chicago are two cities I will definately be visiting, but at a later age. 

Thanks again in advance.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2012, 02:01:48 pm by simplicity »

Offline John Nelson

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2012, 03:04:01 pm »
As I said before, this is a large, diverse country. I assert, and I'll guess you would agree, that you cannot see it all in your time-frame, especially on a bicycle. If you're willing to take some faster means of transportation here and there, you can expand your range. Each state has something unique to offer. It's just difficult to figure out a logical way to connect them, and impossible to cover everything.

Here's one possibility. I'm sure others would have different opinions. This will show you, in this order, the Northeast, the upper Midwest, the Northern Rockies, the West Coast, the Southwest desert, the lower Midwest, the South, and the Atlantic Coast. It's a bit too much bus travel for my tastes, but maybe this would suit you.

Follow the Northern Tier from Bar Harbor to Niagara Falls (about 10 days).
Take a bus/plane to Minneapolis (about two days).
Follow the Northern Tier again from Minneapolis to Glacier National Park (about 15 days).
Take a bus Portland OR (one day).
Follow the Pacific Coast route to San Franscisco (10 days).
Take a bus/plane to San Diego (one day).
Follow the Southern Tier route to Wickenburg, AZ (6 days).
Take the Grand Canyon Connector to the Grand Canyon and then on to Cedar City UT (9 days).
Take the Western Express route and TransAm to somewhere in Kansas (14 days).
Take a bus to Carbondale, IL (2 days).
Continue on the TransAm to Cave-In-Rock, IL (one day).
Take the Underground Railroad route to Baton Rouge, LA (10 days).
Take the Southern Tier route to St Augustine, FL (10 days).
Take the Atlantic Coast route up to Philadelphia, PA (15 days).

That's 106 days, or about 3.5 months.

Offline staehpj1

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2012, 06:13:33 pm »
Based on the premise that you both have travelled the country, could you highlight states that should be in the itinerary if a young lad from blighty wanted to develop the broadest narrative of the USA and it's people within my time frame (3/4 months).
Tough to say what is best for someone else, but I think that riding the whole way across the US in one go is a great way to get a feel for the whole country.  I think the Trans America is the best route for doing that.  I might detour to see Glacier NP.  If I had time at the end I would ride down the coast at least to the California Redwoods and if time allowed maybe see Yosemite NP and/or Sequoia NP.

Offline bobbys beard

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 12:16:31 am »
i think you'd easily have time to do the trans am and the whole california coast. the southern tier is a great cross section too. people forget how diverse that is. pine forests, mountain ranges, the deep south..... certainly not all desert by any stretch.

Offline staehpj1

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2012, 07:11:08 am »
Just my opinion, but...

My impression is that riding to Atlanta will not give you much (any?) taste of the deep south.  I don't think you will find it much different than the towns or scenery on the TA.  It would be different if you were to see the gulf coast, but that would require a huge detour from the TA.

I will be able to tell you more about touring the deep south if you ask after my next tour (Southern tier starting Feb 11th).  If you really want to see the deep south maybe take a train or bus there to ride some at the end of your tour?

The Oregon coast and the Northern California Redwoods are some spectacular riding, maybe some of the nicest in the US.  With great scenery and cheap hiker/biker campsites to share with other cyclists, I wouldn't take a bus there.  If it was me I'd rather ride to at least some of the Northern California redwoods and take the bus or train south from there.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2012, 09:50:12 am »
Also, has anybody in the community had experience of cycling through North/South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi? Is it safe? Is the ride going to be worth the diversion?

Is it safe?  It's as safe as anywhere else in the U.S., meaning we have some movie kooks, but no more than anywhere else.  You're more likely to have trouble from aggressive or distracted drivers than shotgun-toting moonshiners, chainsaw mass murderers, etc., etc.  I think Jim Henson (the Muppet creator) had it right: "People is people."

Is it worth it?  Personally, I think the deep south goes from the Atlantic coast 60 miles south of Norfolk (Yorktown), around an arc 90 miles outside Atlanta, west to Birmingham, and up towards Memphis.  You'll barely touch it with your proposed route, but you'll have to do a lot of route-finding.  You'll be crossing the ridge lines coming northwest out of Atlanta on your draft route, meaning limited routes going over the ridges, often with high speed, high volume traffic. 

I'd suggest, instead, taking the TransAm to meet up with the Underground Railroad or Great Rivers route, go south a ways (maybe to Tupelo, or Jackson, Mississippi), then hop a bus to Colorado.  I loved riding in Kansas but your imagination can fill in the blanks on the bus.

That said, if you want to ride from Atlanta towards Memphis, check with "yumadons".  Suzanne has put together a route through Atlanta, and up to Florence, Alabama that they're planning to try later this year.

Offline simplicity

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2012, 05:18:10 am »
Thanks again for the replies.

After your opinions on the reroute to Atlanta, I think I will propose this trip instead:

Trans Am (East to West) 4246 miles
Down the Coast, OR and Northern CA, Redwoods NP. (Pacific Coast Route) 400 miles
Greyhound bus to San Fran.
San Fran to San Diego (Pacific Coast Route) 600 miles
San Diego to Wickenburg (Southern Tier Route) 330 miles
Wickenburg to Utah Cliffs / North Rim (Grand Canyon Connector Route) 400 miles

This totals at roughly 6000 miles  :-\ and by my working - 65 miles a day average, with one day a week rest =
105 days

This seems like a pretty tough but worthwhile trip in just under 4 months. No doubt, after my first few days riding I'll realize how vast the country actually is and how tough the task is going to be. All seems achievable sitting at my computer, pencilling in different routes across the country on an A3 sheet of paper.  This route also leaves me the time/option of minor reroutes along the way and the option of jumping on a bus for a few days to somewhere like New Orleans to spend a few days before I head home Late July.

Any further recommendations will be gratefully received. Minor detours? Miscalculations on my part? Issues with weather/crowds? Recommended final destination?

Thanking you in advance.



Offline staehpj1

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2012, 06:58:23 am »
That looks better to me.

I will say that many folks do not find southern California to be that great for touring.  The dividing line for many seems to be at Santa Barbara or so.  With that bias folks often ride all the way to Santa Barbara or so and skip the coast from there down.  I am told that some of it is kind of industrial and most of it is urban.  I stopped in San Luis Obispo, so I can't verify, but a lot of folks told me that was a good choice.

I did meet a few folks that said the southern part was their favorite though.  So it will depend on your individual preferences.

You might consider being flexible and leaving open the option of riding further that San Francisco and using regional buses or Amtrak trains to skip some of the southern part.

Offline simplicity

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2012, 12:17:52 pm »
I realise this contradicts what I previously stated about cities, but I am now looking at flying into New York (26th March)  and spending a few days here before I start on the bike. I can then jump on a greyhound bus from NY to Norffolk to then start the TA.

I will be booking my flights home from LAX on the 16th July; so this will give me enough flexibility (115 days) to complete TA and either go down portions of the pacific coast route OR store my bike and venture on foot around the South Western states of Nervada and Arizona.

Does anybody know of a way i could box up my bike and keep it stored in a location or sent to LAX for suitable date; if I did decide I wanted to hike portions of the South West on foot?

Thanks in advance for the responses
« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 12:21:52 pm by simplicity »

Offline jamawani

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2012, 03:17:49 pm »
Permit me a different perspective.

The ACA routes are wonderful and carefully researched.  One of the chief advantages of a route such as the TransAm is that there are many cyclist services and you will meet a lot of other cyclists.  But that can also be a disadvantage if you are wanting to see the U.S. of A. afresh.  For two reasons.  First, you are just another of a long stream of cyclists that come through each year.  And second, there is a tendency for cyclists in a group to have group-centered dynamics.

If you are solo or just with one other cyclist, then you are forced to reach out more.  Also, if you strike out to parts unknown, then you are more likely to encounter people who will view your trip with more than a cursory glance.

Then there's the question of quality over quantity.  I have usually found that breaking up a long bicycle trip with car detours - bus/train/plane connections - tends to dilute the quality of the overall experience.  For me, at least, I get into a simple frame mind when I am touring each and every day.  That mindset,, when disrupted, takes a while to get back.

There are four major regions of the United States - Northeast, South, Midwest, and West - and each of these regions has many variations.  The Northeast has New England and well as the industrial Mid-Atlantic - highly populated and sometimes tough to negotiate on a bicycle.  The South has the Deep South with the strongest African American cultural contribution as well as the Upper South - hill country from Appalachia to the Ozarks.  The Midwest has the rich farmlands of the Great Lakes states as well as the wide open expanses of the Great Plains.  Finally, the West has not only the California coast but also the Hispanic Southwest and the Rocky Mountain interior.

I agree that east to west is probably best.  I would not start before mid April.
My choice would be to start on the Carolina or Georgia coast - in Gullah Geechie country.
Then head north-northeast thru Virginia into the Pennsylvania Dutch part of Pennsylvania.
Wouldn't hurt to head up to the Finger Lakes of New York and catch the Northern Tier,
Then take the Northern Tier across to Midwest to Iowa before striking out across Iowa and Nebraska.
You could then catch the TransAm by heading west from Fort Collins, Colorado thru the Poudre Canyon.
Once you got out to the Pacific, you could either ride down the coast -
Or if you are crunched for time you could hop on Amtrak to get to L.A.

There's also great regional literature that opens up unique perspectives.
Willa Cather's My Antonia is one of the finest works about the Great Plains.
Ivan Doig's This House of Sky is a haunting novel set in the Montana Rockies.
Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings addresses rac and poverty in the South.
Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio is a classic look at small-town morality in the Midwest.
The list could go on and on - and others may wish to add a few essential titles.
I have found that a book a week has helped me appreciate the world I see.
(Even easier now with a Kindle - Of course, famous titles are available in cheap paperback.)

PS
If you are planning on starting on April 1, you will likely encounter cool wet weather in the eastern mountains and cool to cold weather in the Rockies if you stick to the the basic TransAm route.  June in the Rockies can still be very winter-like.  Just FYI.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 06:15:15 pm by jamawani »

Offline simplicity

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2012, 05:08:08 pm »
Thanks for the informative post 'jamawani'

Many of your points seem to resonate with my aspirations for this tour. I really like the idea of having a rough idea of the direction I wish to take, but keeping it open enough to improvise and follow locals recommendations and directions. I suppose following the Trans Am from A to B does limit/alter the opportunity for experiencing this 'travel'. For me, the tour is less about darting around the country, ticking off pre - conceived stereotypes; and more about taking my time to see, hear and feel the areas and people (less of the feel on the last one  :D) throughout the country. The bike, i hope, will be the perfect tool to help me to do this.

Rough Idea: (12th April - 3rd August)
Flying into Charleston, SC
North through NC, VA and PA.
Northern Route across IL, IA, NE
Trans Am route CO, WY, MO... onwards.

Northwest Coast.
Travel inland and explore Southwest.
Bus/Train to LAX to fly out.

Can the community see any major issues with the proposed route? I am planning on couch surfing/camping/wild camping for much of the route. This route should give me a good insight into the country as a whole within my time frame.

With regards to the reading list; I am currently revisiting Steinbeck's 'Travels with Charley' and 'Cannery Row.' I will definitely be posting a reading list request once my route has been completely decided.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 05:10:27 pm by simplicity »

Offline bobbys beard

Re: UK Rider. Recommendations.
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2012, 07:30:10 pm »
"but keeping it open enough to improvise and follow locals recommendations and directions. "

ha, the one thing i would wholeheartedly recommend NOT doing in the states, is following the locals directions and recommendations!!!  You'll see........ :D

.....and yes, steinbeck makes a superb travel companion!  :)
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 07:32:01 pm by bobbys beard »