Author Topic: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!  (Read 2052 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Hoosier Gomez

Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« on: December 09, 2013, 08:49:15 pm »
I'm graduating college this May, and I have five months before I start my full time job. I want to spend 1-2 months heading West from central Indiana by myself before I start working for the next 40 years  :( I am a fairly experienced rider with a decent amount of saddle time the past three years. I typically ride 4-6 times per week, and I ride a Scattante road bike with aluminum frame and carbon fork. I have a few concerns and questions as I haven't done this kind of riding/touring before. I'd really appreciate any advice you can offer.


1.  I'm unsure exactly where I want to go in this time period. I think I want to go through Boulder, Colorado at some point. Being an experienced rider, can I expect to ride 80-120 miles a day? Within my 1-2 month time frame and route west, do you have any suggestions of routes or places to see?

2. What resources would you suggest to better prepare myself for this adventure? Are buying maps really worth it? I'm kinda a fan of the "wing it" approach. Do you prefer camping or more structured stays like hotels?

3.  I want to bring as little supplies and weight as I can without being stupid. What sort of strategies do you implement in regards to fuel, water, and food?

4. I haven't told my mom about this yet, but I know she'll be worried about me going by myself. From everything I've read, most cycling tourist have felt exceedingly safe in their journeys. Would you say thats true for you also?

Thanks for your time and advice,
Gomez

Offline zzzz

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2013, 10:25:26 pm »
Hi:

I use a road bike and it works for me and I ride between 80-120 miles a day. I also travel really light (15 lbs) and stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. It's expensive, I average $120 a day, I'm sure it can be done for less but not a lot less so you need to figure out your budget.

Boulder is a nice town and a cycling mecca but there's very little special about riding through there. Also a lot of the local canyon roads that are very cool to ride were heavily damaged in last September's flooding.

With the milage you're talking about (let's say 500-600/wk) in 1 month that 2200 miles/ 2 months is 4400. That's a big difference in what you can see. The coolest stuff I've seen is in southern Utah, next comes Montana. If your ride is two months you can do a loop where you head south and west and hit southern utah in the early summer (Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce , & Zion) then head north up into Wyoming, see the Tetons, Yellowstone, go into Montana and head up to Glacier, go over the most beautiful cycling rd in the country (going to the sun rd) and then head home. That would be your 2 month ride and it would be some cool trip.

If your asking if the ACA maps are worth it, IMO, absolutely. For $15± they route you for 400± miles on the best available roads  for riding and show hotels ,camping spots, restaurants and grocery stores along the way. For some people, charting there own course is part of the adventure but I think the maps are great. That said, the route I described can only be done about 75% w/ ACA maps.

As for Mom, what's to say. Your going to be in no more danger being on the road on a bike 2000 miles from home than you already are when you're 20 miles from home. And the one lesson that everyone I know, or have heard of, who has spent a lot of time on the road takes away from the experience is that it has restored their faith in humanity.

Good luck w/ your plans.

Pete


Offline jamawani

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2013, 01:07:12 am »
Way, way back in 1987 - I finished school in May and worked all summer to save up for my first cross-country bike trip.  Needless to say, Mom wasn't thrilled at the prospect.  In fact, she said "I forbid it!"  I responded that I wasn't asking her permission.  Dad intervened to prevent WW III.  So, I hear you.

Technology is such that you can be far more in contact than 25 years ago.  But you should still consider having a fairly fixed itinerary rather than just wandering here and there.  At least for your Mom's sake.

Not sure when during that 5 months you intend to do your riding.  I'm also guessing that you need to do it on the cheap.  But you should allow yourself sufficient funds so that you are not a total hobo - - again, for your Mom's sake.  So will you be needing to work for a while to save up moolah?

Also, 1 month is way different than 2 months.  If you are thinking closer to two months, why not ride across the entire U.S.?  I mean, it's only about a week's riding from DC to Indy at the pace you suggest.  Although, I would temper it the first few days so as not to burn out early.  The reason they call it the Tidal Basin is because salt water comes up the Potomac that far.

Depending on the time of year, your choice in the West may vary.  I would strongly argue against anything in the Southwest as temperatures are brutal in mid-summer.  Even further north, there is a lot of desert terrain between the Rockies and the Sierras & Cascades.

If you want to meet up and ride with others, then I suggest using one of the Adventure Cycling routes.  If you want more solo time, then you can pick just about any route you want - - provided that you do a little planning.  Boulder is pretty urban - tough to ride into and out of, but not impossible.  If you are planning on visiting friends - consider cycling to a nearby location and arranging a pick-up.  Fort Collins is one possibility.  The Poudre River Canyon west of Fort Collins on Hwy 14 is a sweet ride.  Then again, you may want to ride Trail Creek Road in Rocky Mountain National Park - but be aware that you will be dealing with a good deal of traffic.

Winging it is fine in principle - but if you find yourself on a busy road with zero shoulders as night is falling and you are 20 miles from anything - then winging loses its appeal.  Again - and your Mom will appreciate it - having a plan will let you choose lower traffic roads and actually enjoy the ride more.  Plus, you can always vary your plans.  But, I would take with a grain of salt any route suggestions you get from the bubbas at the local bar.

Most states have bike route guides on line which vary from excellent to so-so to poor.  Most states also have traffic volume maps which indicate AADT (Average Annual Daily Traffic).  I'll give you links to Nebraska's - - I prefer riding across Nebraska rather than Kansas.  A bit cooler and more varied topography.

http://www.transportation.nebraska.gov/docs/bicycle-guide-current-2.pdf

The color coding makes it really easy to spot the lower traffic roads - plus they show shoulder widths.  Rarely, will light traffic roads have shoulders, but you don't need them.  High traffic roads with wide shoulders are doable, just not very serene.  I use a more stringent breakdown for traffic numbers than this map.

Under 500 - Super
500-1000 - Nice
1000-2000 - O.K. but more caution needed
2000-4000 - Tricky, shoulders really helpful
Over 4000 - Busy and shoulder almost essential

You can get the exact traffic count info here:

http://www.transportation.nebraska.gov/maps/Statewide%20Traffic%20Flow%20Maps/2012-Statewide-Traffic-Flow-Map.pdf

As you can see, Hwy 92 in west-central Nebraska has almost no traffic and unplowed, rolling prairies.
Bests the heck out of hundreds of miles of pancake, dry fields in west Kansas.  IMO

As for overnights, camping gives you way more flexibility.  Often times lodging will not be available in places within reasonable mileage intervals - for ex. you may have the choice of doing 50 miles or 150.  And camping will let you enjoy the West more - - not to mention that you can camp for free on most federal lands in the West provided you are 1/4 mile from developed sites.

Hope this helps.

Offline DaveB

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2013, 10:20:35 am »
Is your planned 80-120 miles a day every day, some days or a few days?  I certainly would never plan a fixed itinerary based on that mileage every day.  First, you will get to see very little but your front tire.  Second, a day with heavy headwinds can make that either torture or impossible.  Third, have you ridden back t0 back centuries before?  how about a dozen in a row?

Set more modest daily goals to give yourself time to see things and to allow for some slack if the weather is bad or you find a place (or new friends) worth staying for a couple of days.  You can certainly do days that long when conditions are right and/or there is nothing worth stopping for but don't tie yourself to that schedule. 

Offline staehpj1

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2013, 11:12:13 am »
For a young fit rider averaging 80 miles a day is reasonable if that is what you want to do.  If you want a lot of rest days or to spend a lot of time doing off bike stuff it may not work for you.  I met quite a few riders who planned to do 100 or 120 mile days, but when actually out on tour actually rode more like 80 mile average.  They did do the occasional 100-120 mile day, but their average was usually less.

My suggestion is to plan a general route and leave the pace flexible.  With 5 months you can afford to have a flexible schedule.  It is a lot more fun that way anyway.  If you wind up doing 120 miles on average great, if you find you wind up riding 50 miles or less per day that is OK too.  Just have fun.  A fixed schedule can suck much of the joy out of a tour IMO, avoid that if you can.

I have averaged anywhere from 50-80 miles per day on my various long tours.  A couple long ones were at the 80 mile per day mark, but I am an older rider (56 on my first tour and 62 now) and I wasn't in especially great shape for most of my tours.  I usually like to ride every day when on tour with the occasional low mileage day.   So if an old not especially fit rider can do it, a young fit one can too.  You need to ask yourself what kind of a tour you want though.  Will it be more fun to ride long days or do you want lots of rest days or time to spend hanging out, hiking, or doing tourist stuff?

Offline Hoosier Gomez

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2013, 02:16:39 pm »
Pete, thanks for the route advice. That sounds like some amazing riding, and I'll definitely be buying those maps.

jamawani- I'm glad you understand my general fear of my mom. I'll definitely sell her on the technology. I'm should be ok with money so I'm planning on leaving right after graduation and try and beat some of the worst summer heat. I definitely want to do some camping while I'm out West. Appreciate the link to the traffic website. I've done a fair amount of urban riding, but definitely don't want to have semi's passing me every quarter mile. I've also read that Kansas is not the most scenic of routes. Nebraska sounds like a pleasant alternative.

Dave, and Stephpj1- You're probably right about the mileage. I'll want to lower my expectations a little. 100+ every day is a little ambitious.

During May and Early June is pretty easy to meet up with other riders heading in a similar direction? Also, do you guys have a preferred ways of documenting your trip? Video, photo, or written log?

Thanks again,
Gomez
« Last Edit: December 10, 2013, 02:20:05 pm by Hoosier Gomez »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2013, 03:35:03 pm »
do you guys have a preferred ways of documenting your trip? Video, photo, or written log?

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doctype=journal

Offline jamawani

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2013, 03:55:27 pm »
Must agree - CrazyGuyonaBike is da best.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=1168&v=sL

Offline jamawani

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2013, 04:04:46 pm »
PS -

The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line -
But it is rarely the most enjoyable when you are cycling.

Consider a large 'S' -
A diagonal line between tips may be half as long -
But it will also have most of the trucks and people in a hurry.
In fact, the wandering road, by definition, will not have the drivers in a hurry.

Give yourself permission for some zigs and zags - and you will have a much better trip.

Offline zzzz

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2013, 05:08:35 pm »
I want to add one more thing about your route choice:

At 2 months and as a capable and experienced rider you are certainly capable of doing a coast to coast trip. The advantages of that trip are that by the end you will have a knowledge about the geography, and topography, and the regionalism, and how it relates to political life in this country that will be embedded right down to your core. I'm not a flag waver but I think riding across the country is actually a patriotic thing to do. And best of all, you get all these lessons by osmosis. No studying required. AND, you get to see some pretty cool stuff. AND for the rest of your life (for better or worse) you'll be the guy who rode his bike across the country.

Alternately, the route I gave you the outline for earlier incorporates most of the coolest stuff I've seen but it's more of an all visual candy diet. The ride I took last year was a ride (Jasper AB to Colorado) that was like that. It took me past jaw dropping scenery nearly every day and I enjoyed that even more than the west/east ride.

No matter which you choose you will have a great experience.

And was previously mentioned, with cell phones these days you can re-assure mom on a regular basis all is well. I call or email my wife nearly every night I'm on the rode to let her know I kept the shiny side up all day. There are some places that have terrible coverage (southwestern Va.), but not many.

Pete

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2013, 05:29:36 pm »
If you agree to contact your mom regularly to allay her fears, make sure you make it clear you won't be able to call her (or email or post) every night.  Your cell phone bill may end up looking like that, but there'll be nights when no electronic contact is possible.  Let her know ahead of time if you know there's a good possibility you'll be off the grid, but even then you might want to text her the next day as you ride through a town.

(And to think a classmate of mine rode to Alaska after graduation, and kept in contact with his folks through five postcards over two months!)

Offline staehpj1

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2013, 11:38:09 am »
If you agree to contact your mom regularly to allay her fears, make sure you make it clear you won't be able to call her (or email or post) every night.  Your cell phone bill may end up looking like that, but there'll be nights when no electronic contact is possible.  Let her know ahead of time if you know there's a good possibility you'll be off the grid, but even then you might want to text her the next day as you ride through a town.

(And to think a classmate of mine rode to Alaska after graduation, and kept in contact with his folks through five postcards over two months!)
Definitely do not promise more contact than you can or want to deliver.  I made that mistake once and won't do it again.  Do not promise to call every night.

That said I have found that often when signals are iffy a text message often goes through when a voice call will not.  A text message is a great way to let folks back home know that all is well.

Offline Miller

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2013, 01:25:16 pm »
"jamawani- I'm glad you understand my general fear of my mom. I'll definitely sell her on the technology."

A Spot Tracker is yet another way to let your mom know you're OK without having to call every night. A list of a few of the features below...

Track your progress by sending and saving points along your route to Google Maps™
"SOS" function dispatches emergency responders to your exact location
Use "Help" feature to request assistance from friends or family
"Check-in/OK" allows you to transmit your location and that you are okay

Offline indyfabz

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2013, 03:25:27 pm »
Definitely do not promise more contact than you can or want to deliver.  I made that mistake once and won't do it again.  Do not promise to call every night.

That said I have found that often when signals are iffy a text message often goes through when a voice call will not.  A text message is a great way to let folks back home know that all is well.
[/quote]

+1 on both those points. A year or so ago, someone posted to a forum (was this one or Bikeforums) desperately looking for a young person who was "missing" because he had not been heard from for a few days. Poor guy never knew he was missing.  He just had some trouble communicating with home for a couple of days.

While touring earlier this year in a place that wasn't even all that rural/isolated, I could not sustain a call but could easily get texts though.

Offline Hoosier Gomez

Re: Heading West in May, Advice Appreciated!
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2013, 10:03:41 pm »
Thanks for all the suggestions. Hopefully mom will be appeased by all this great technology! I'll likely ask you guys for some more help as time approaches. Happy riding!