I’ve criss-crossed Europe by bike, but always with a credit-card rather than tent. I happily manage 100 miles/day on a light tourer, staying at whatever ‘indoor’ accommodation (bricks, mortar, shower, bar etc) is available. I’m beginning to scheme a coast-to-coast US tour for 2010, but I keep encountering references to ‘camping.’ I appreciate that the US has a few more empty spaces than Europe, but isn’t it possible to route a tour hotel-to-hotel, comfy-bed-to-comfy-bed, nice-warm-bath-to-nice-cold-beer etc, rather than being weighed down with tents etc? Any advice/pointers would be most welcome, J’.
It's possible to do a coast-to-coast tour of the USA and never camp at all, but I don't think I would try it for the following reasons:
1. You mentioned that the US has "a few more empty spaces than Europe." That is a major understatement, especially in the western states. There are some days on the TransAmerica and the Northern Tier when you will be FORCED to do long days, despite the terrain, the weather, or how tired you are, in order to get to the next motel.
2. I would think you would need to plan fairly far ahead and get reservations if you're not carrying even minimal camping gear as a backup. For me, a major part of the fun of bike touring is NOT needing to plan ahead.
3. Even if you plan far in advance, there's no guarantee that a small-town motel (especially in one of the tiny, remote towns in the western states) will even still be in business by the time you get there - especially give the current economic recession.
4. I'm not sure if cost is an issue for you, but you might be surprised at how much even some of the "cheap" motels cost. You will find very few $10 per night hostels in the USA. You will rarely (if ever) find a motel for less than $30 or $35, and most of the time they will cost $50 or more.
I rode the TransAm in 2006, and only camped a few times, but there's no way I would have done the trip without carrying the camping stuff. I would have constantly worried about finding the next motel. I did the Northern Tier last summer, (and camped a lot more often), and I seriously doubt that it would be possible to do the whole thing without camping, ESPECIALLY once you get into the western states.
These people did the TransAm without camping at all:http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=3Tzut&doc_id=2522&v=si>Mike
and Jon Risley
I'm not aware of anyone who did an unsupported Norther Tier without camping at least a little bit.