Author Topic: Tips and ideas wanted for Uk resident doing the TransAmerica trail 2013  (Read 2750 times)

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Offline colini39

Hello all,

I am new to cycle touring and will be doing the above trail starting in June 2013 west to east,with my 21 year old son..I am looking for as many tips as possible.Anything to do with gear,or things I should know about America,ie where am I permitted to camp,what sort of tip should I give in a bar etc.
Best way to get to the start and many more.

Help!!!!

Thanks

Colin from Liverpool

Offline nlsteve

Hello Colin:

A lot of the basics of bike touring are covered in the "how to" articles on this website, so I suggest starting out by browsing those articles and then asking specific questions here about whatever remains unclear.  The route maps for sale on this site have a lot of information about where lodging, water, food are available along each route, and about the challenges of each route and at what time of the year each is feasible.

As far as tipping in American bars and restaurants, my own rules are about as follows:

For full-service restaurants: 15% of the bill for acceptable service, 20% for "very good" service.  Opinions vary on whether you should calculate that based on the bill before taxes, or after.  I think calculating it before tax is fine.

For establishments with partial service, such as when you order at the counter and they bring you your food, silverware, etc., (but they don't keep coming back and providing more service) I tip maybe 5-10%.

For counter service in a place with a tip jar: leave a few coins behind if you like.  If the employees aren't really serving you from behind their counter, tipping them is purely optional.  I generally drop 25 cents or 50 cents into the jar when I get a coffee drink and a muffin somewhere like this.  I drop a buck or two in the jar if I'm getting a couple of sandwiches and drinks.

In a bar, I am ashamed to admit I have less experience.  But I think 10% to the bartender (if there's no table service) seems about right.  If a server or the bartender is really waiting on you, then 15-20%.  Legal drinking age varies by state, but your 21 or 22-year old son will be good to go in any state. He should be prepared to show his ID (passport, in this case) to verify his age.

Some of the more corporate-type fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds, have neither full service nor a tip jar on the counter. Tipping is not at all expected in these locales, just as I believe is the case is in your neck of the woods.

As for gathering bike touring knowledge, you have plenty of time to learn the basics before your trip, so don't worry.  Just keep biking and accumulating knowledge and you will have plenty of time to pull this off well.  Make sure to plan some short "practice tours" before the big trip, and field-test your gear and yourselves.  That practice, too, will answer a lot of your questions and worries.

When you know the details of your trip such as which direction you are going on which route, you can get some advice here concerning how to get to the start and so forth. 

Also, check out www.crazyguyonabike.com to get an idea what gear people take and what their experiences are like.

Bon voyage!

Steve


Offline indyfabz

Ride on the correct (the right, literally) side off the road.   :)

Excuse me if you already know this, but in light of a recent thread on this forum I want to point out that the TransAm is not a "trail" in the sense of a car-free bike trail.  It's a route, the vast majority of which is on public roads.

The above regarding tipping covers it. (I calculate before tax.) For a larger bar tab, I usually leave around 15%, but if I have only one $2 beer I am not going to leave $0.30. I will probably leave a dollar.

Most of the camping places will be shown and described (e.g., city park, private campground, state park) on the maps, but you can always ask local for addtional options such as church yards. Places like town parks and fairgrounds are often free or nearly free. On the other end of the cost spectrum are "private" (e.g., commercial, for-profit) campgrounds. They can be relatively expensive, especially in the eastern part of the country or if they are located near major attractions like national parks. (Some will give cyclists discounts.) U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds and state parks are usually in between cost-wise.

Offline staehpj1

Indyfabz mentioned cyclists discounts...  I will add that if you start with "My son and I are bicycling across the US" when asking for discounts on rooms or campsites it seems to help.  Both the family and the bicycle angles seemed to resonate with a lot of folks.

Offline colini39

Thank you all for your replies and please keep them coming.
Does anyone know a cheap method of phoning the UK from the U.S.?

Colin

Offline staehpj1

Skype from any computer or tablet or from some smart phones and tablets?  That or skip the voice calls and just text?

Offline nlsteve

Yup, a smartphone would be an especially good way to stay in touch if it has capability to Skype.  Also, look into changing your cell phone plan just before you travel so your cell or smartphone will have reasonable pricing on international calls between U.S. & U.K.  You will pay more per month, but the "per call" rate will be much better.

Texting is not only affordable, but it is often the best way to communicate from a remote area where cell phone service is spotty.  You can often get through with a text (although not necessarily immediately) when "there aren't enough bars" for a phone call. Incoming texts can reach you easier than phone calls, too.

Also, a lot of public libraries will allow you to use their public computers for internet service when passing from town to town.

Steve

Offline irc

An informative reply on the tips. I was a bit suprised in Moab last week when the waitress presented me with a printed bill with a 20% tip added to it in pen calculated as an exact 20% of the top line on the printed after tax total. I had been of the opinion that tipping was customary but the exact amount at the discetion of the customer.

The place I was in had a strange system where only the server could ring up the till. So when I was ready to leave and the server wasn't there I had to stand around  waiting for some time despite there being other staff members there.Not my idea of good service so while I left a tip it was smaller than the requested 20%.

But getting OT there. For the Op my suggestion would be to consider using the KATY Trail across Missouri as an alternate to that section of the transam. Missouri is hilly, the KATY is a nice break from traffic.
 

Offline Galloper

As mentioned above, the Adventure touring maps are excellent, imo better than the Sustrans maps we have in the UK.   I also second the idea of getting in some smaller scale tours before you start the Transam.   The Trans Pennine trail might be a good one for you, it starts in Fylde, I believe.   Other than that the C2C and Rievers, back to back make a very pleasant 6 day tour.

As also above, the Sustrans trails are all cycle paths and quiet country roads, the routes you encounter on the TA can be busy.   One of the things I found very helpful was a Garmin Edge with USA maps, more for the ease of finding facilities such as banks and hotels and also if you choose to go off route (or get geographically challenged!)

My phone plan gives me the option to add on a USA call plan which is useful, check with your mobile phone provider, they may well have that as an add on.

Offline BobOnABike

I've mentioned the first two in other threads on this forum, so you may have already seen them.

Banks will put a $2 to $3 charge on ATM withdrawals.  That can eat into your budget.  An alternative is to get cash advances with your grocery store purchases.  Most grocery stores, Wal Marts, Targets will let you get a cash advance on your debit card at no charge.  They usually have a maximum amount that they'll let you get (usually in the $60 range).  If your debit card looks like a Visa or Mastercard, you should be able to get cash at no charge at grocery stores and the like.

In many states, purple paint is equivalent to a 'no trespassing' sign.  If you see fence posts, rocks, trees... painted purple it's the same as a 'no trespassing' sign.

This isn't specific to touring in the US, but you should know how to make most repairs and adjustments to your bike yourself.  There are great videos on youtube showing you how to adjust brakes and deraileurs if you don't know how.

Finally, I'm a huge fan of having your bike fitted properly.  There are also videos on youtube on how to fit your bike.  Watch a couple and make sure that your seat is the right height.  (I always start with it at 107% of your inseam.)  Then adjust your seat front and back.  Then get your handlebars dialed in. 

Offline adventurepdx

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Banks will put a $2 to $3 charge on ATM withdrawals.  That can eat into your budget.  An alternative is to get cash advances with your grocery store purchases.  Most grocery stores, Wal Marts, Targets will let you get a cash advance on your debit card at no charge.  They usually have a maximum amount that they'll let you get (usually in the $60 range).  If your debit card looks like a Visa or Mastercard, you should be able to get cash at no charge at grocery stores and the like.

I wonder if that would work with a non-US bank/ATM card. I know that different countries have different ways with dealing with debit/bank cards.

For example, when I've traveled in Canada they have a debit card system (Interac) not linked to a Visa card. So I couldn't use my American debit card linked to a Visa to pay for things in a store, nor could I get cash back with a purchase. When I used my bank card in a store I had to make sure to tell the clerk to swipe it as a credit card only. I could only get money out of bank ATMs (meaning fees) because those little dinky "independent" ATM machines were only linked to Interac. It made it hard sometimes to get cash as a lot of small towns wouldn't have a bank, just one of those independent ATMs. I tended to take out larger amounts from bank ATMs when I could, partially because of the fees and partially because I didn't know when I'd be able to find an appropriate ATM again.

So I would urge the OP and anyone else traveling outside their home country to check with their bank and see how their ATM/debit/bank/etc card will work out of country, rather than assume it's going to work the same way.

Offline indyfabz

For example, when I've traveled in Canada they have a debit card system (Interac) not linked to a Visa card. So I couldn't use my American debit card linked to a Visa to pay for things in a store, nor could I get cash back with a purchase. When I used my bank card in a store I had to make sure to tell the clerk to swipe it as a credit card only. I could only get money out of bank ATMs (meaning fees) because those little dinky "independent" ATM machines were only linked to Interac. It made it hard sometimes to get cash as a lot of small towns wouldn't have a bank, just one of those independent ATMs. I tended to take out larger amounts from bank ATMs when I could, partially because of the fees and partially because I didn't know when I'd be able to find an appropriate ATM again.

I experienced the same the last two times I was in Canada. Riding the Great Parks route a few years ago I wanted to get some Canadian cash after crossing the border at Roosville. Stopped at a couple of places with independent ATM machines and could not get cash. At first I was worried that there was something wring with my card, but then I guess that the machines were not connected to a network that recognized my card. Finally found a bank in Fernie and was able to get cash from its ATM.

A few years before, after driving to PQ for a Velo Quebec event, I tried to swipe my credit card at a self-serve gas pump and it would not work. The clerk inside the store had to run the card for me.