Author Topic: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman  (Read 2400 times)

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Offline BikeFree7

I am a senior in high school, 18 years old, and I am planning a bike trip across the country this spring. I am flying to Oakland, CA next week, and I will be biking from there to San Diego with a friend of mine, an 18 year old guy. However, he is not likely to continue biking with me past San Diego, so I will be doing most of the Southern Tier on my own. My dad will join me in Texas for a few weeks, but for the most part, I will be traveling alone using warm showers and camping. I am planning on about $20 a day, though I do have some money in a CD which I can access if I need to. I have until June 10th or so to get back to my home in Northern VT and I am hoping to do the majority of the trip by bike, though I am also committed to not rushing and enjoying the experience.

I intend to go further north from San Diego on rt. 67 and 78 through Julian CA and take 86 past the Salton Sea. I will go East on I 10 until exit 168, then bike up through Joshua Tree National Park as I want to avoid I-8 and I would like to see Joshua Tree. Past Twentynine Palms, I will take 62 to Parker, then 72 to 60 and on into Phoenix. I know this section is quite remote. I will be carrying my food, stove, tent, etc. with me, so I should be pretty self sufficient, but I am wondering about safety as a young woman. It seems like traveling in more populated areas is probably safer, but larger roads are also more dangerous and I would much prefer to be in less traffic.

I may take the Natchez Trace Parkway up from Louisiana rather than going all the way to St. Augustine and up the Atlantic Coast route, because I want to go through Asheville NC and the Parkway seems like great riding. I don't have an exact route for this part of the trip, so if you have any suggestions, I would appreciate hearing them. Is there a good way to get from Tupelo, Mississippi to Asheville North Carolina? I want to go up the East coast somewhere between the Atlantic Coast adventure cycling route and the Underground Railroad route through Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont.

My touring experience is pretty limited, I spent 8 days biking in Ecuador this fall with a group, but we were riding mountain bikes and mostly on tiny cobblestone roads way up in the Andes. I feel comfortable camping, cooking on a camp stove and generally living sparsely, but I haven't done a lot of traveling alone so I don't really know what to expect as a young woman. I've also never been in the South before, so it's a totally new culture to me. If you have any experience traveling alone as a young woman, or have any insight about my situation, I would appreciate your advice. Are there generally a lot of bikers doing the Southern Tier at this time of year (March-May) or will I likely be unable to find companions to ride with during the day? Should I stay away from remote areas? And fundamentally, are the risks of riding over 5,000 miles as an 18 year old woman with limited touring experience in an area of the country I have never been to before too great to balance the benefits of challenge, adventure and learning how to live in a self sufficient manner? I know that's a hard question to answer because it depends on a lot of factors, but it would be helpful to hear several opinions on this issue. I love biking, challenges, meeting new people, adventure, seeing new perspectives and inspiring people, but am I banking on these passions too much to warrant putting myself in a lot of danger?

Thank you so much, I have already learned a lot from reading through this forum. It is an incredible resource and I'm extremely grateful for it.

Offline zerodish

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2014, 09:27:02 am »
Bicycle travel is allowed on interstate 10 in Arizona and New Mexico. Texas has well developed frontage roads along the interstate so use those. I did highway 165 to Cherokee North Carolina and it looks like a fairly straight shot to Asheville from there. Cherokee is my favorite tourist trap in the United States.   

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2014, 09:56:37 am »
I am familiar with the route you propose in southern Cali.  You are correct that some of the roads are quite remote - especially the bit to Parker - so you'll need to carry (lots of water).  Doable for someone who makes the right decisions, is determined, and has a bit o' luck.

Of course, you have the RIGHT to go in safety anywhere anytime.  Full stop.  But trouble can find anyone.  I have often met women touring alone, but as also generally with the men traveling alone, they tend to be quite eager for association with a kindred spirit.  I guess if you are the sort of person who tends to attract attention - and only you know this - you will still attract attention while cycling - regardless of your right to pass unfettered.

It's pretty late to find companions for your journey.  Have you considered doing the Southern Tier?  There is a better chance to join up with someone doing an established route.  Interstate 10 has a wide shoulder on the bits you'll need to ride on.
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2014, 10:14:54 am »
Safety is 99% dependent on common sense, and 1% dependent on luck. Nobody can make promises, and nobody else can define your tolerance level for risk, but this trip is almost certainly safer than you think, and much, much safer than your parents and friends think. Keep your senses on high alert and don't say indiscreet things to strangers.

Despite what we see on TV, there are very, very few psycho killers who jump out of the bushes and attack people in the middle of the night. And there are very, very many people who will go out of their way to help and protect you.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2014, 10:37:03 am »
Tupelo to Nashville is pretty easy, take the Natchez Trace Parkway.  One issue may be finding campgrounds where you want them, but by the time you get there, another 30 miles won't be as big a deal as it will be when you start.

The Harpeth randonneurs have done a nice job mapping viable bike routes in Tennessee.  One key route for you is at http://harpethbikeclub.com/Ultra/600K/TN-600K-Spring-Brevet-Map.pdf (hope they don't mind a direct deep link).  I'd suggest you take the Dragon (U.S. 129) from Vonore; the ridges are lower than the Cherohala leg.  I'd suggest staying on NC 28 from just past the state line to U.S. 19, where you'll have 5 miles of high speed, divided highway before you can get off on 19 and go through Bryson City to Cherokee.  (Try to avoid 8:00/early morning and school's out periods on 19.)  From Cherokee, the Blue Ridge Parkway will take you to Asheville, with enough climbing to make up for missing Cherohala.  Camping, again, may be an issue, since the BRP is a national park, and the stretch from just outside Vonore (or Tellico Plains) to Bryson City is pretty much surrounded by a national park, with camping allowed only in designated campgrounds, of which there are few.

Check with the Harpeth people (http://harpethbikeclub.com/ultra_page/brevet-rides, Jeff Sammons and crew) to get a good route from the Trace over to McMinnville.  I'm pretty sure you can link a few of their rides together to get from Leiper's Fork, a bit shy of Nashville, over to McMinnville, but I haven't ridden enough up there to know what the recommended routes are.

Offline BikeFree7

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2014, 03:29:09 pm »
I am familiar with the route you propose in southern Cali.  You are correct that some of the roads are quite remote - especially the bit to Parker - so you'll need to carry (lots of water).  Doable for someone who makes the right decisions, is determined, and has a bit o' luck.

Of course, you have the RIGHT to go in safety anywhere anytime.  Full stop.  But trouble can find anyone.  I have often met women touring alone, but as also generally with the men traveling alone, they tend to be quite eager for association with a kindred spirit.  I guess if you are the sort of person who tends to attract attention - and only you know this - you will still attract attention while cycling - regardless of your right to pass unfettered.

It's pretty late to find companions for your journey.  Have you considered doing the Southern Tier?  There is a better chance to join up with someone doing an established route.  Interstate 10 has a wide shoulder on the bits you'll need to ride on.

I am going to be on the Southern Tier route once I get to Phoenix, I just didn't want to be so close to the highway at the beginning so I want to go through Joshua Tree. Also, I will probably go to Prescott, AZ, so that route would also keep me farther North and shorten the distance to Prescott from the Phoenix area. Mostly though, I just want to see Joshua Tree, check out the bouldering there, and experience the vastness of the desert.

At this point, it's hard to say anything for sure, because I haven't been out on the road, but for now I will keep both options open. I'll have maps for both routes and as I make my way down from San Francisco, I will get a much better sense of what I do and don't like about touring and that should help influence my decision. Thank you for your input, it is helpful to hear.

Offline zerodish

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2014, 09:32:19 am »
Prescott is 10 degrees colder than Wickenburg which is 10 degrees cooler than Phoenix. There is emergency water available everywhere in Phoenix when the temperature gets in the 100's One precaution Phoenix has west nile now and it seldom gets cold enough at night to sleep without mosquitoes.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2014, 01:53:42 pm »
I have done the Northern Tier, Trans am, Southern Tier, Pacific Coast, Western Express and parts of Atlantic Coast. If you REALLY want an answer, I liked these areas the least in terms of safety:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_belt

Lucas

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2014, 11:03:10 am »
It should go well and safely  for you. Follow the route. There will be olthers. Beware of large truck stops. Most abducted women were not forced. They were fooled. Avoid suspicious characters. There is strength in numbers.

Offline PeteJack

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2014, 01:12:18 pm »
It should go well and safely  for you. Follow the route.
+1 Particularly the "follow the route" part. Under no circumstances should you cross the border. In my experience ACA maps do a good job of keeping you away from crummy areas in US cities as well. You'll be fine. Enjoy your ride

Offline morick

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2014, 02:38:49 pm »
I have no opinions since I have not toured.  Be safe and report back on your experience when you're through.  I am envious of your adventure.

Offline dayjack119

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Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2014, 08:00:39 pm »
I'd say 'go for it'.  I run into Lone Lady Riders frequently and I am always amazed at their ability to take on the world.  Try to stay on the ACA routes and you will see plenty of other riders.  I've never run into an unsafe situation on tour and in speaking to women riders, they haven't either.  But if you were my daughter, I'd want you to carry pepper spray in your handlebar bag.  If you have the means, pick up a SPOT CONNECT satellite-tracker, too.
Plan your route far ahead.  Use Warmshowers and Couchsurfing whenever you can.  You meet the best people!
Safe Riding.

Offline spininin

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2014, 10:48:01 pm »
I was a warmshowers host on the Southern Tier (Gulf Coast) for about a year and a half and hosted several women traveling alone.  I asked the first lady I hosted about safety and she said her major concern was stealth camping.  She said she made sure no one saw her leave the road for the camp site and she camped in a spot that was not visible from the road.  In the Southeast, it's very easy to camp at churches, volunteer fire departments, etc.  If you ask permission to camp and tell them what you're doing, you'll very often be offered a home cooked meal, a place to sleep indoors and get to know some very nice folks.  I met a lady in her 40's who was walking from Boston to the West Coast (she was asked, by a host, to a Mardi Gras Ball in Louisiana and loaned a dress) and a 19-year-old riding from San Diego to St Augustine and then up to Boston.  Plan your route well and make sure the folks at home know where you are.  It's a great experience for a young person and you should be safe as long as you use common sense.  Use the same caution you'd use in cities around your home.  Go for it!  You'll regret it later if you don't.  :-)

Offline BikeFree7

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2014, 10:50:55 pm »
Thank you all. I have been having a spectacular time thus far and I'm sure I will continue to. Being alone is actually great because I can go at my own pace and personalize my route.

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Offline DanL

Re: Opinions wanted: Traveling the Southern Tier alone as a young woman
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2014, 09:56:01 pm »
Are you keeping a Blog? I have visions of touring long distance one day, but my visions of Grandeur did me in on the Appalachian Trail.  I am planning a somewhat shorter route to start so I am not as overwhelmed as in my past adventure.  The Natchez Trace has designated campgrounds. It is not allowed to camp just anywhere.  Would enjoy following you on a blog for no other reason than to watch your progress.  My only advice,  beings I haven't done any touring as of yet, is if you are keeping a blog to post a week behind so that those reading it really don't know where exactly you are.  Good Luck on your journey...Snail Male