Author Topic: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana  (Read 232 times)

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Offline Hartman

Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« on: December 17, 2014, 11:32:10 am »
This Spring I am planning on my first transcontinental tour starting in Indiana.  My plan is to take the Northern Tier E or W, connect to the Southern Tier and loop around back towards home.

Would a clockwise or counterclockwise route be preferable?  This will be a self-sustained trip beginning in May 2015.

Thanks for any advice and opinions!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2014, 12:34:23 pm »
I'd need to better understand your proposed route and preferred average daily mileage to answer very specifically.   A few things to consider are:
  • The Pacific Coast route is best done Southbound after the Spring rains up until and maybe including Fall if you are using it.
  • The Rockies in the North are best avoided until at least June
  • The ST will probably be miserably hot from mid Spring to mid Fall.

I really don't see it as likely that you can ride south on the west coast and not hit the ST when it is unbearably hot.  Your proposed start point and date don't sound optimum for most routes and timetables I can think of.

Would you consider a different start location and or date?  I think that an early Fall start from your proposed location might allow you to get over the Rockies before the snow is too bad, ride South on the PC, hit the ST when it is cool, and maybe get to the Northeast when the snow is done.

Alternately your proposed time starting from a different location might work well.

That is all very dependent or how much daily mileage you average.

In any case, if it was me, I'd go counterclockwise, look at my preferred pace, and play with start dates and locations to avoid extreme heat and snow in the various sections.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2014, 12:38:31 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2014, 01:29:28 pm »
Timing looks just about perfect to me if you start heading west on the Northern Tier.  You might want to check out snow removal pages for Logan Pass in Glacier NP and Washington Pass about mid-April to see if you can start early or if you need to shift a couple weeks later.

Starting May 15-30 on the NT, guestimate six weeks to hit Glacier (at 50 miles per day), the Park Service tries mightily to get it open by July 4.  (Depends on snow pack, of course, but it's usually open by July 15.)  Two more weeks to get to the Pacific coast, you'd be starting down the coast in peak summer, call it August 1.  Great weather, potentially traffic on the Pacific coast.  Take a few days off at the beaches, and you'd be into September by the time you approach Mexico.

The first two weeks of the Southern Tier would be the toughest, because, as Pete says, there'd still be lingering summer heat.  However, you'd just about miss the monsoon season in Arizona, and the weather should be pleasant, if dry, by the time you get to eastern Arizona and New Mexico.  Fall is going to be prime time when you hit the Gulf coast, barring a hurricane.

The tough part is going to be heading north on the east coast and crossing back to Indiana as winter approaches.  You might try to push for more miles to get home quicker, but then you run into summer heat in the deserts.  You might want either to skip the Atlantic and come north on the Underground Railroad (or a similar route), or to make this into a two-year trip, picking up the Atlantic from Florida starting around March 2016.


Offline Hartman

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2014, 02:34:05 pm »
Thanks for the replies, both are helpful!

It sounds like the trouble areas include snow in the Rockies, heat across the ST, and making it home before winter.  I definitely considered alternative routes such as the Underground Railroad, but would really love to to a circuit of the boarder states without having to drive to a start point.
That being said, I could see how starting in the SW in Winter or SE in Spring could yield better conditions throughout.

Has anyone followed ACA's maps before?  I would assume they are incredibly accurate and helpful.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2014, 03:20:23 pm »
A lot of this depends on your daily mileage.  Patrick's 50 mile per day figure may be on the low side for a lot of riders especially once you are a bit road hardened.  I don't know your age, fitness level, how many hours per day you ride, or whether you take a lot of rest days off so I have no idea what your preferred daily mileage will be.

I don't know about the NT or east coast route as I have not ridden them.  The Pacific Coast is hilly and has lots of distractions so 50-55 miles is a pretty reasonable daily number for lots of folks there.  The ST being mostly flatter and emptier, I'd think many folks manage more like 80 miles per day there.  As a 60 something non athlete I averaged about 80 miles per day there.

My advice is to figure out your desired pace and work out the details based on that.  Your pace could easily be 20% more or less than the numbers I mentioned since folks vary by at least that much.

Just something to consider, but I find that after something the length of a coast to coast ride I find that I am ready to be home again.  A coast to coast ride would allow a lot more flexibility in scheduling.  Also I wouldn't rule out some travel by air, bus, or train at either end.  In the grand scheme of a multi-month trip a bit of travel at either end isn't a huge deal.

I'll also mention that The ST's biggest advantage is that you can do it in winter.  The scenery was kind of dismal much of the way in my opinion.  The food and people were interesting though.

Whatever you decide I hope you have a great trip.

Offline Hartman

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2014, 03:36:25 pm »
I am 30 years old and ride everyday.  50 miles a day sounds like a conservative effort, but I do plan to spend time in places that interest me.  I won't be in a hurry.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2014, 03:40:54 pm »
Has anyone followed ACA's maps before?
Since you are posting on the ACA site, I would guess that most of us have used ACA maps. They aren't the be-all and end-all, but they are useful. Having used a lot of them, I would state their pros and cons as follows:

Pros:
  • They keep you on the safest roads in the area. Be advised, however, that not everybody would consider all the roads as "safe." The roads don't all have shoulders and they aren't all bike paths. But they are mostly on low-traffic roads.
  • They are very useful for finding campgrounds (and free places to stay), which of course is only useful if you are camping and/or willing to sleep on a couch.
  • Although they avoid big cities as much as they can, they are useful for safely getting you through one when necessary.
  • They save you a ton of planning time.
  • They generally show you where you can get food and water.
  • Many of the roads are incredibly gorgeous, and without the ACA maps, you may accidentally ride a busier and less-scenic road nearby.

Cons:
  • If you have a particular starting and ending point in mind, they probably don't go there.
  • If you like to see big cities, they generally won't take you there.
  • If you want to (or have to because of construction) venture off route, they are useless.
  • They aren't kept up to date as well as I'd like, and you will sometimes find the information out-of-date.
  • They have more mistakes on them than you would think for a map used by a thousand people before you.
  • If you want the shortest or fastest or flattest route between two points, these maps are not that--not by a long shot.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2014, 03:42:29 pm by John Nelson »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2014, 04:21:08 pm »
Has anyone followed ACA's maps before?
Since you are posting on the ACA site, I would guess that most of us have used ACA maps. They aren't the be-all and end-all, but they are useful. Having used a lot of them, I would state their pros and cons as follows:

Pros:
  • They keep you on the safest roads in the area. Be advised, however, that not everybody would consider all the roads as "safe." The roads don't all have shoulders and they aren't all bike paths. But they are mostly on low-traffic roads.
  • They are very useful for finding campgrounds (and free places to stay), which of course is only useful if you are camping and/or willing to sleep on a couch.
  • Although they avoid big cities as much as they can, they are useful for safely getting you through one when necessary.
  • They save you a ton of planning time.
  • They generally show you where you can get food and water.
  • Many of the roads are incredibly gorgeous, and without the ACA maps, you may accidentally ride a busier and less-scenic road nearby.

Cons:
  • If you have a particular starting and ending point in mind, they probably don't go there.
  • If you like to see big cities, they generally won't take you there.
  • If you want to (or have to because of construction) venture off route, they are useless.
  • They aren't kept up to date as well as I'd like, and you will sometimes find the information out-of-date.
  • They have more mistakes on them than you would think for a map used by a thousand people before you.
  • If you want the shortest or fastest or flattest route between two points, these maps are not that--not by a long shot.

That sums it up pretty well.  I'll add that they contain a lot of other info about services available.  They list locations and contact info just about anything you might look for while on tour.

Also be aware that they are strip maps and once you go off route a few miles they are pretty useless.

Offline Hartman

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2014, 10:35:44 am »
This information is all very helpful.  I really like not having to plot out a specific course and benefiting from the experiences of those before me.

I had two other questions that I would appreciate opinions on. 
One: where are the best places to set up camp?  A book mentioned church yards, public parks, and even cemetaries.  Can you set up where ever suits you or is there etiquette to abide by?

Two: I am interested in the pros and cons of a trailer versus panniers.  I will either be riding a '84 Fuji or '02 Bianchi, both road bike not tour bike specifically.  My thought is that a trailer would eliminate the problem of not having the rear panniers centered of the axle.  Thoughts?

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2014, 03:26:42 pm »
  The ST being mostly flatter and emptier, I'd think many folks manage more like 80 miles per day there.  As a 60 something non athlete I averaged about 80 miles per day there.

...

I'll also mention that The ST's biggest advantage is that you can do it in winter.  The scenery was kind of dismal much of the way in my opinion.  The food and people were interesting though.

Pete, do you think your dislike of the Southern Tier has anything to do with your mileage on it?  If I'm not mistaken, you averaged more daily miles on that tour than on your other rides.  You found food and people (experienced off the bike) interesting, but scenery (most of which you presumably saw on the bike) dismal.  MIght you have enjoyed your trip more if you'd taken more time?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2014, 04:06:20 pm »
One: where are the best places to set up camp?  A book mentioned church yards, public parks, and even cemeteries.  Can you set up where ever suits you or is there etiquette to abide by?

A number of places have already declared that they allow camping. On ACA routes, the maps will identify these places. If you go to one of them, you can certainly camp there. That would always be my first choice. Some are free. Some charge.

Of course, Warm Showers is another good option.

If you want to set up someplace else where camping is not obviously allowed, then it is always best to ask permission. On city or county property, the police station is often a good place to ask. On private property, ask the owner if you can find them. At a church, the pastor's name is often on the sign out front, or there is often somebody inside. Ask at fire stations, as they frequently have visitors. In the countryside, ask at the farmhouse.

If it is unclear who owns the land, or there is nobody around to ask, then I would try to find some place out of sight of roads and buildings, set up late and leave early, and hope for the best. Rarely would this result in anything worse than a request to leave, which you should politely and immediately honor.

I have set up in city parks without asking. It usually works fine.

This is a situation-by-situation thing, and you have to use your best judgement and experience. Watch out for hazards: sprinklers, dogs, bulls, falling trees, floods, etc. In all situations, leave no trace.

Only if you are quite desperate would I violate a no-trespassing sign. I have only done this once in a situation where it was too dark to safely continue and there was nothing else around.

Two: I am interested in the pros and cons of a trailer versus panniers.  I will either be riding a '84 Fuji or '02 Bianchi, both road bike not tour bike specifically.  My thought is that a trailer would eliminate the problem of not having the rear panniers centered of the axle.  Thoughts?

There are many articles on panniers vs. trailers on the web. A Google search will yield articles that address pretty-much all the pros and cons there are. A good measure of personal preference is also involved. For touring bikes, I think panniers work best. For non-touring bikes, a trailer would often be a better option.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2014, 04:10:48 pm »
Pete, do you think your dislike of the Southern Tier has anything to do with your mileage on it?  If I'm not mistaken, you averaged more daily miles on that tour than on your other rides.  You found food and people (experienced off the bike) interesting, but scenery (most of which you presumably saw on the bike) dismal.  MIght you have enjoyed your trip more if you'd taken more time?

Fair question, but I don't think so.  I have given that some thought and I really just don't care much for the scenery there.  I much prefer forests, rivers and streams or maybe an ocean or lake shoreline.  Barring that farm land is even OK.   The view on the ST looked the same hour after hour and day after day for days on end for a good portion of the tour.  It was brown, dry, and featureless.  Travis (the guy I rode with much of the way) and I talked about where we might have taken more time and decided that we preferred to just blast through on that route.

Lest I paint too negative of a picture...  There were a few really beautiful views and most long tours have some boring scenery.  The ST just had a lot more really blah scenery than most places you could choose.

Of course that is only my take on it and I am sure some folks love the same scenery that I found to be uninspiring.

Don't get me wrong.  I liked the route OK and may even do it again.  I just found the scenery to be uninspiring most of the way and most suitable for just cranking out miles.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Circuit Tour starting in Indiana
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2014, 04:29:22 pm »
A number of places have already declared that they allow camping. On ACA routes, the maps will identify these places. If you go to one of them, you can certainly camp there. That would always be my first choice. Some are free. Some charge.

Using the AC maps for a while to pick places to stay is a good way to get a feel for what works and what doesn't.

I have set up in city parks without asking. It usually works fine.

Yeah they are some of my favorite places to camp.  It works best well away from either coast and in smaller towns.

This is a situation-by-situation thing, and you have to use your best judgement and experience. Watch out for hazards: sprinklers, dogs, bulls, falling trees, floods, etc. In all situations, leave no trace.

In much of the west anywhere green probably has sprinklers that come on in the middle of the night.

There are many articles on panniers vs. trailers on the web. A Google search will yield articles that address pretty-much all the pros and cons there are. A good measure of personal preference is also involved. For touring bikes, I think panniers work best. For non-touring bikes, a trailer would often be a better option.

My advice would be to pack light and skip the trailer.   You really need surprisingly little to camp and cook.