Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Routes => Topic started by: bobbiedobbs on December 23, 2017, 03:36:37 am

Title: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: bobbiedobbs on December 23, 2017, 03:36:37 am
Hi - Planning on riding US 83 from Westhope, ND (Canadian border) to Brownsville, TX. Seeking any advice re prevailing winds, sections to avoid, how to handle the one or two sections along Interstate, any other general advice. Going from late April to end of May.
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: John Nettles on December 23, 2017, 07:26:44 am
I have did a similar route a few years back, Brownsville to Winnipeg.  However, I did not use US-83.   A couple of thoughts to consider.  Note, you do not say how many miles you plan to average per day so I will assume 55 overall, i.e. 60 per riding day and a break every 10th day, taking about 5 weeks.

Unless there is some major reason you are going N>S, I would highly suggest reversing the direction.  First, the temperatures would be more more consistent.  Minot (nearest major town to Westhope) averages about 58* (all temps in Fahrenheit) in late April.  Five weeks later in early June, Brownsville averages 92*.  However, starting from Brownsville in late April, the temp averages average 85* (but starts getting into the high 70s before you leave TX) with Minot in early June averaging 73*.  These are the highs.  It is not uncommon for the lows up north in the spring to dip into mid-30s.  Bit cold for me personally if I can avoid it.  You could adjust the starting time S>N to target your ideal temps easier.

The winds are overall much more out of the south so by much easier/happier going S>N. Guessing an overall average of about 12-15mph.  Note however that when spring cool fronts move through (typically knocking of 10-15 degrees), the winds are out the northerly direction and typically bring rain.  Additionally, springtime is the main time of year for violent storms in the Plains.  There are several forum posts here and on regarding tornados and hail.  You should review them.  Not trying to dissuade you from riding in the spring, just be prepared.

Minot weather info: (

Brownsville weather info:  (

I see from your duplicate post over on CrazyGuy, you are fixated on this route.  As far as US-83 ONLY goes, why do that, other than ease of navigation?  Parts of it have very heavy traffic.  For instance, while I have not ridden US-83 SE of Lardeo, I did drive it once specifically doing route research and decided that it was definitely not a favorable road to ride on.  TONS of speeding semi traffic.  Everyone going 10mph over the already high speed.  Mind you, I have 40 years experience and there are only a couple of handful of roads I definitely would not ride and this is one of them.  Obviously, this excludes prohibited and/or known extremely heavy traffic roads.  Consider going "off route" but parallel so you can get substantially less traffic at times.  Not saying you have to do the entire route non-US83 but parts would be advisable.

I would encourage you to research each state's average daily traffic count and/or see if they have a state bicycle map.  For instance, type in South Dakota bicycle (or average traffic count) map and you will get valuable info to see if US-83 is right for you or you need to adjust your route.  I "think" all the states involved have traffic counts but I know some (Oklahoma) do not have bicycle maps.

Whatever you choose, enjoy the ride, John
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: bobbiedobbs on December 24, 2017, 02:00:03 am

I really appreciate all of the detailed advice. Thanks for taking the time. I've been set on the idea of riding US 83 from Minot (Westhope) to Brownsville for several decades, but you do raise some good points, most decidedly the direction of travel. The temps and likely winds (no fun riding for days into 20 mph headers) do seem to dictate S to N. Plus the northern part, by which time I would be more acclimated, will have longer daily distances due to larger stretches between stopovers.

I'm actually going to rethink based on your comments. Wonder if you are the one I read (and conveniently ignored!) on a Rt 83 post some time ago! If i do decide to go S-N I may just start in Laredo, avoiding some of the traffic to which you refer. Not sure can even ride 83 from Pharr (McEllen) to Brownsville, and have already done that vis US 281 some time ago. 

I'm going to check out some of those weather patterns (did you see the recent article in Adventure Cycle magazine on the washout of the Katy Trail in the spring?) Wasn't going to drill down the choice of roads that much due to length of trip, but may check traffic counts and look for some alts as you suggest, as well.

I'm really curious as to your Brownsville to Winnipeg trip - why the trip, what was the experience? I recently rode from Winnipeg to Flin Flon, hitting the northern terminus of 83 in Swan River, Manitoba. 

I'm out of town for a few days but will look for your response when I get home. Thanks again, Phil
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: bobbiedobbs on December 24, 2017, 02:04:49 am
Forgot to ask you if you still have your route from your S-N trip....thx
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: John Nettles on December 24, 2017, 10:34:14 am
I did the trip because I have done almost all the other ACA routes and had started to do my own routs to discover new areas.  The route takes about 6-7 weeks at a 55 miles per day average (I think).  I did the route back in 2008.  The route was "OK".  It depends on what you are looking for.  Back then I was on a "cross country" binge and had 7 weeks available so tried this.  The scenery is only OK (typical plains scenery) with a few really nice areas.  It is NOT scenic like the PC or Idaho or Montana.

Due to my schedule, I did it in two steps.  Brownsville to Tulsa (where I live) in early May (two weeks) and then August 1 to end of August Tulsa to Winnipeg. With the winds being so strong out of the south, some days I would do 120 miles with little effort.  I normally only due about 50-60 but when you coast along at 18mph due to tailwinds across Nebraska, it is easy to do high mileage.  Conversely, when the strong winds would switch in late August, I would grind in my almost granny gear and be dead at 35-40 miles. I was on a schedule so had to maintain riding but would have stopped otherwise and it would have been an EASY ride.

Basically flat to gently rolling with a few hilly sections but nothing hard at all.  Trip was a mix of camping and hotels.  I had not stealth camped that much at that time but it would have been easy to do.  Super friendly people, cheap prices, etc.

If doing in one trip, I would leave April 20-May 5 and be done about 7 weeks later (gives a few extra days due to spring weather).

I still have the route from Brownsville to Winnipeg.  However, my route basically goes over toward Navasota, TX (bisects ACA ST), then pretty much north to Winnipeg.  Other towns I passed through include Corsicana, TX, cross the Red River at a itty bitty bridge near Henderson, OK, Tulsa, Eureka, KS (ride along the TA for a day), Council Grove, Pawnee, NE, Council Bluffs, IA (on the L&C for a couple of days to Sioux City), Sioux Falls, Fargo, and Winnipeg.

I really drill down on the roads.  My criteria are low-traffic roads, services, scenery/POI, distance.  While this route is fairly direct, it does wander a tad. 

I am sure I have the old cue sheets and/or GPS info somewhere.  While it is been 9+ yeasr since I did it, I would seriously doubt much revision would need to be done since rural America is slowly declining in population unfortunately.  Might need to reroute a few areas due to services no longer available and may a place or two around metro areas due to population increase but otherwise probably still valid.  If you are actually going to use it, I will scrounge around and look for it (it will take up to a day of digging around  :-\ looking for it (I have tons of unorganized boxes of research route material) so I don't want to do that unless you really intend to go on it.  Hope you understand.

If you stick with US-83 you should be able to ride on the interstates. While probably legal outside metro areas along your route, I would personally look for alternatives as I don't relish all-day truck traffic, diesel, etc. You should be fine otherwise using an interstate.  Between Brownsville and Sullivan City there are some alternatives. NW of Sullivan City, I personally would not ride.

Whichever route you choose, hope you have a great time!  John
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: fahrrad on December 26, 2017, 11:29:10 am
 Hello I just came almost that same route N>S last summer, on a big loop around North America. I turned south from near the Canadian border and plummeted straight down, zigzagging my way home to San Antonio. This was at the end of September and I had a strong headwind almost every day the entire way. One day a week I got lucky with a tailwind, always accompanied with thunderstorms. Its pretty bleak out there, verrry flat, but I found I enjoyed the landscape very much. You'd be going in Spring and I don't know if the winds reverse seasonally so I can't help you there. I will say that adhering to one road is no different than dicing to the left or right a few miles so try to be flexible. That headwind can really suck the spirit out of your trip though. South to North sounds like more fun. Good luck!  -Allan
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: bobbiedobbs on December 28, 2017, 04:00:13 am
To all: The jury is in. Switching gears and riding south to north instead. Thanks to all. 

To John: Thanks for the offer to dig through your unsorted detailed routing info, and yes, I know what you mean about making that effort only to find out the requester didn't really use/need it. Will spare you as I am pretty much going to stick to 83 (south to north). That is part of the concept I more or less agreed to  for a possible article on the trip upon my return. Will still check the traffic counts, though. I am particularly concerned about riding north from my new start point, Laredo. Going to contact the cycling folks down there.

I've ridden through many of the towns that you mentioned on some 30 or so two to three-week trips I've taken over the decades. Started and ended a couple of trips in Winnipeg and Tulsa. Fond memories. Kind of ridden the Southern Tier route, in pieces.

So you are from Tulsa. Do you happen to know a guy named Howard Thornhill? He was really into riding the length of 83 when I met him in Oklahoma a number of years ago.

Interesting about your doing south-north after exhausting east-west cross-country. 

What you said about the wind is dead on. Makes all the diff. I try to explain that to my non-cycling friends! I often take loops or meandering trips with varying directions, but as this one is a straight shot, likely prevailing direction is crucial. Again thanks, Phil

To Fahrrad: Thanks for sharing your experience. So am I not the only one crazy enough to do this! You are right - headwinds can suck the life out of you. Give me a mountain any day - I can compensate via gearing. Headwinds- another story. I've more or less decided to reverse my original course and head south to north. Anything memorable along US 83? Did you get stuck riding any portions of interstates? BTW love your hometown. Went to the River Walk in its infancy/planning stages. Phil
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: John Nettles on December 28, 2017, 08:17:34 am
I know of Howard but have never met him.  Tulsa's cycling community has really fragmented over the past 5 years or so.  We used to work together on coordinating rides/events but now it seems every group does there own thing.  I tend to hang with "Train for 2 days before a 1,500 mile tour Bike Club" here in Tulsa. Not too many members. Work and other commitments keep me from more active riding but at least about 4-5 of us tour a couple of times a year for a week or so and I usually do a longer tour also (up to 3 additional months).

As far as leaving Laredo, you really do not have many choices but at least it is pretty easy.  I would suggest you just take the I-35 frontage the left onto US-83.  Again, riding on interstates outside of cities is typically OK as there just are not any alternatives.  Be prepared for flats from all the blown truck tires though.

Hope you enjoy the tour!
Title: Re: Cross-country US entirely via US 83
Post by: fahrrad on December 30, 2017, 01:26:59 pm
  Bobbie: I did ride IH27 from Amarillo to Lubbock for some speed (it takes me 4 days to get in/out of Texas when I tour) but otherwise just the small lines on the map. There is the huge seldom visited MidAmerica Air Museum in Liberal, Kansas that was pretty cool. I also hit a bunch of small town local museums that were fun, filled with donated dusty items from area families, always staffed by cute little old volunteers eager to show off their heritage. Most town parks are campable, and I slept behind numerous churches as well. Any crossroads towns have small motels to choose from. I actually paid $22 for a sweet room located near one of the BNSF railroad switching stations. Minot has a decent bike shop with touring bike experience, plus the most amazing junkyard just west of town, filled with model Ts and more. I branched off on HWY2 from there, to see the fracking mess. Good luck on your trip! Regardless of conditions I promise you won't be sorry you rode this swath of America; I never saw another cyclist the whole time and loved the solitude.