Scott (MrBent) wrote:
“I'm just doing some dreaming, wondering about a TransAm. What is the shortest but still pleasant way across the northern section of the US?”
Last summer we did our version of the “Northern Tier.” We had a sag driver. We took a total of 57 days. We took off 8 Sundays and an extra day in the Buffalo/Niagra Fall area. We could have finished on Saturday rather than Monday, but were waiting for a friend to get home. We totalled about 3500 miles. Without a sag it would take longer, or you would work a lot harder.
Our route: From hotel row in downtown Anacortes, WA we dipped our wheels in Fidalgo Bay, with an oil tanker in the background. We stuck to Highway 20 all the way across Washington State saving us 50 miles (that’s a day) over the ACA route.
At the Idaho border we followed US 2 through Sandpoint, then took the ACA route to Eureka, MT. Leaving Eureka we followed the ACA route and hated the very rough pavement and hills. Other cyclists who took US 93 said the shoulder was narrow in places, but just fine. On the other hand, between Whitefish and Columbia Falls some of us found the wide shoulders of US 93 and US2 to be full of gravel and rocks, while another found the ACA back roads to be quite nice. Since we had a support vehicle we drove from Columbia Falls to West Glacier via the ACA route and returned via US 2. We chose to pedal the ACA route despite 3 miles of gravel, rather than climb the steep hill and inconsistent shoulder and sidepath around Hungry Horse.
To save time and avoid having to meet the Road to the Sun time limits, we took Marias Pass. It poured rain that day. Another cyclist took Logan Pass. With a French Canadian accent, she said, “I could see that if I could have seen anything, it would have been beautiful.”
We then continued on US 2 to the Wisconsin/Michigan border. In ND, ACA takes you “away from the traffic and boredom of US 2,” but we enjoyed the many miles of wildlife habitat along US 2. We could have gotten along without some of the rumble strips.
Instead of continuing across NW Michigan on US 2, A friend living in Florence, WI advised us to turn south on US 51, then west on SR 70, SR 139, and SR 70 to Florence.
From Florence, we followed mostly US 2 to its end at the Mackinac Bridge. From there we took MI 23 to Cheboygan, then MI 27, and then MI 33 to Alger, where, I think we picked up an I-75 frontage road to Standish, then followed MI 13 to Bay City where we picked up the Adventure Cycling Lake Erie Connector route.
That route took us across southern Ontario to Fort Erie, ON. At US Customs we met a Buffalo area cyclist who lead us to a downtown bike shop, then onto NY 5 to Amherst. We continued across NY mostly on NY 5.
Utica, where NY 5 joined NY 8 and 12 and I-790 to join/cross I-90 was not for the faint of heart. We didn’t see any signs saying cyclists weren’t supposed to be there, or cyclists go this way, so we continued on. We may have been too busy watching traffic and other directional signs to see cyclist signs. (This part of the route wasn’t planned before we left home.)
A conversation with a bike shop employee ended up in an alternative route out of Schenctady when NY 7 said “bikes prohibited.” At Latham we joined NY 7 and followed it to the NY/VT border. We followed VT 9 to Brattleboro, VT jogged north on US 5 then followed NH 9 to near Keene, NH. We followed 101 to Milford, then 101A to Nashua, 111 to Canobie Lake. We finished at Plum Island, MA.
Originally, we planned to camp out during the week and motel it on weekends. However, one member of our group had sleep apnea. His nightime breathing apparatus required both electricity and a reasonably consistent temperature. As a result, he and his daughter (the sag driver) stayed in motels all but a few nights, while the rest of us generally camped. We stayed in a youth hostel in East Glacier. During the week we went across NY, VT, NH, the men’s wives showed up and we stayed in motels. Campgrounds would have been hard to find anyway.