Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => General Discussion => Topic started by: SaemiVald on February 23, 2021, 05:10:45 am

 
Title: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: SaemiVald on February 23, 2021, 05:10:45 am
Hi all,

My wife and I rode the TransAmerica Trail west-east in 2018 and we are itching to embark on another great adventure. We have been discussing riding the Northern Tier but compared to the TransAm there doesn't seem to be much info on that route in this forum, on YouTube, etc. Is that a less common route or less interesting?
We have discussed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMTBR) but that is a bit too remote for us as we love encounters with people in small-town America and being able to eat at diners and sleep in proper beds from time to time.

What route would seasoned bikepackers/tourers recommend for us? Northern Tier, Southern Tier, Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, something else completely? :)

We documented our journey here: https://icicle-bicycle.com/ (https://icicle-bicycle.com/) and created a video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/AZkfKQ9u7hk (https://youtu.be/AZkfKQ9u7hk)
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 23, 2021, 07:05:49 am
So much is personal preference so it is hard to make recommendations.

An acquaintance who rode all of them, most more than once, said his favorite was the Southern Tier.  I liked the food and the people, but found the scenery mostly underwhelming.  Others liked it better.  For me the biggest reason I'd ride it again is because it is available in the winter (I rode it San Diego to Pensacola in mid Feb to mid Mar).  It was fun to meet and hang out with the endless stream of misfits who were almost all transplants who didn't fit in somewhere else.  Also there was food...  Tex-Mex, Cajun, gulf seafood, good old southern cooking, barbeque and so on.  Still, It was a long grind with brown nothingness day after day way too much of the time for me.

I really enjoyed the Pacific Coast, at least the portion I rode (Seattle to San Luis Obispo).  I'll probably do it again multiple time in my life at least in chunks, especially Oregon and Northern California.  The problem is that there is a very awkward detour due to a mud slide near Big Sur that washed out the road.  These can take a long time to repair and the detours can take you away from the coast for 100+ miles of the most select part of the coast.  They seem to occur somewhere on the California coast every several years

The portion if the Sierra Cascades that I rode (San Diego to Reno) was stunningly beautiful, but also exceedingly difficult.  The climbing was insane.

Maybe it is because I lived there my whole life, but riding the Atlantic coast sounds pretty unappealing to me.  There are sections that sound nice, but a lot of it sounds like it would suck IMO.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: HikeBikeCook on February 23, 2021, 07:10:15 am
Saemi -

Your YouTube videos of you and Monika on the TransAM helped convince my wife to join me on this trip in the near future. A great series and I really appreciate all the effort you put in. The Northern Tier I believe also enters Canada at one point so make sure you check any visa requirements if you go that route.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: jwrushman on February 23, 2021, 07:53:54 am
The Northern Tier route does go into Canada near Cut Bank, but it can be bypassed easily.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: BikePacker on February 23, 2021, 07:56:11 am
What route would seasoned bikepackers/tourers recommend for us? Northern Tier, Southern Tier, Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, something else completely? :)
Notions for consideration / evaluation / fun contemplation .....
1. Skyline Drive + Blue Ridge Parkway .... Front Royal VA to/from Cherokee NC ... ~ 600 miles [Some documentation: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=skinner+blueridge+parkway&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss ]
2. American Discovery Trail Coast to Coast ... https://discoverytrail.org/
3. Go 'diagonally' to/from Key West to Anacortes WA (as u r probably aware - western terminus of Northern Tier : ).
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: John Nettles on February 23, 2021, 09:10:52 am
You might just look at a map and think about where you want to go.  For instance, southern Utah is great, northern Idaho and NW Montana, the Pacific Coast, Jasper to Yellowstone, New England in the Fall, Prince Edward Island, NW South Dakota, etc. Do you want rail trails like the GAP or the Katy?  Just piece together a route paying attention to the weather averages.

Since you like to meet the locals, to me, the friendliest people are in Indiana and the north central plains states (KS & north). 


Honestly, there really is no wrong tour.

Tailwinds, John
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: Westinghouse on February 23, 2021, 02:58:08 pm
That is not easy to choose. Pacific coast route, Trans am, southern tier in winter, spring, fall.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: jamawani on February 23, 2021, 04:35:05 pm
Why not create your own route?

Not sure when you are planning to do this - time of year does matter.
You don't want to do the Northern Tier in January - even in April.
Nor do you want to do the Southern Tier in August.

The Northern Tier is super in the West,
but you have a zillion miles (1.6 Zi. km.) of flatlands in the middle.
If you havent biked Going to the Sun Road in Glacier N.P. - it's worth it.
But east of Glacier it gets tedious - even for someone who likes the Great Plains.

US 89 is a low-traffic route connecting Glacier & Yellowstone - with some nice back roads.
Then you could take the Parks, Peaks & Prairies route east.
The TransAm doesn't begin to show you Yellowstone - this routing does.

East of the Black Hills, I prefer northern Nebraska to South Dakota.
The Sandhills are the last region of the Grea Plains that was not plowed up.
The roads have slight curves and small hills - and the grassland survives.
So much better than the straight roads that go on all day.

Further east -
There are nice bike trails from Preston, Minnesota to LaCrosse, Wisconsin -
Then mostly bike trails across Wisconsin to Milwaukee -
Where you can take the ferry across Lake Michigan.


Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: GrnMtns on February 24, 2021, 06:26:35 am
Looking at Northern Tier blogs might show you what it's like and what route you'd prefer.   There were some interesting blogs on crazyguyonabike.com but it seems to have disappeared.  Others can still be found with a search.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: SaemiVald on February 24, 2021, 06:49:46 am
Saemi -

Your YouTube videos of you and Monika on the TransAM helped convince my wife to join me on this trip in the near future. A great series and I really appreciate all the effort you put in. The Northern Tier I believe also enters Canada at one point so make sure you check any visa requirements if you go that route.

Thanks for the comment. I told my wife about your comment regarding our documentation helping to convince your wife and she was so surprised but also very happy :) I believe this kind of adventure will strengthen an otherwise good relationship but on the other hand it might do harm to a shaky one. Hopefully you will be able to go and enjoy the adventure and your time together.
Feel free to send me questions!
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: John Nettles on February 24, 2021, 09:40:41 am
  There were some interesting blogs on crazyguyonabike.com but it seems to have disappeared.
The owner of CGOAB has basically chased away lots of long-time participants (and their journals) with his attitude and/or comments and/or threats.  Shame since the site used to be nice.  Not so much anymore.  My guess is it will eventually die away unfortunately.  If you go there, avoid the toxic forums.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: BikeliciousBabe on February 24, 2021, 10:30:28 am
My first ever tour (BITD) was the Northern Tier. Started in Seattle and made out way to the route east of Anacortes, staying in Kitsap S.P. and Fort Worden S.P. before hitting the route proper and staying at Bay View S.P. That provided a couple of extra warmup days before riding the mountains passes in WA, of which there are basically four in a row. (But they are not as high as the major passes on the TA.) You don't have another mountain until Glacier N.P., and it's a beauty. And as mentioned above, if the Canadian border is still closed it's easy to avoid that section by heading from St. Mary, MT to Cut Bank.

Lots of small town America along the way (There are only 4 large towns in the entire state of ND.  :)) and opportunities for indoor lodging. Once you get further east, things get more populated in certain areas. One option would be to go as far east as Minneapolis for transportation back home. 
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: TCS on February 24, 2021, 10:45:38 am
...his favorite was the Southern Tier.  I liked the food and the people, but found the scenery mostly underwhelming...I rode it San Diego to Pensacola in mid Feb to mid Mar...It was a long grind with brown nothingness day after day way too much of the time for me.

To be fair, the Southern Tier crosses the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts - and you rode it in late winter!  At other times, a Southern Tier rider could catch the North American bird migration - and the Monarch butterfly migration! - fall color, the deserts in bloom, Texas exploding in wildflowers, even the azaleas & wisteria of the South.   :)
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: TCS on February 24, 2021, 11:00:48 am
A buddy who has spent his life touring N. America & operated a cycletouring company for a while gave his top recommendation as the Black Hills and Badlands.  Perhaps (west to east) Northern Tier to Lewis & Clark and pick up the new Parks, Peaks & Prairies in Yellowstone?

Quote
If you haven't biked Going to the Sun Road in Glacier N.P. - it's worth it.

Hmm.  Going to Sun vs. Beartooth Highway?  Opinions?   ;)
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: TCS on February 24, 2021, 11:07:09 am
If motor vehicle-free trails/paths appeal, one can ride the majority of the distance from Washington, D.C. to Lincoln, Nebraska on trails.

Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 24, 2021, 12:08:55 pm
...his favorite was the Southern Tier.  I liked the food and the people, but found the scenery mostly underwhelming...I rode it San Diego to Pensacola in mid Feb to mid Mar...It was a long grind with brown nothingness day after day way too much of the time for me.

To be fair, the Southern Tier crosses the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts - and you rode it in late winter!  At other times, a Southern Tier rider could catch the North American bird migration - and the Monarch butterfly migration! - fall color, the deserts in bloom, Texas exploding in wildflowers, even the azaleas & wisteria of the South.   :)
True, but when I have planned trips in the desert other than in winter I have always been hit with an unseasonable heat wave.  I did see some beautiful wildflowers on the Sierra Cascades with a June 4th start, but we also dealt with heat in excess of 110F. 

I hate hot weather on tour and seem to always get it.  The guy I rode the ST with noted that when I complained that it was hot on the last day of the ST that he thought the weather was miserable the entire time and that was the first nice day.  Then he said that be fair it was the first day the entire trip that he heard me complain about the weather at all.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: jamawani on February 24, 2021, 03:46:14 pm
Quote
I hate hot weather on tour and seem to always get it. 

Me, too.
On my ST ride I must have had fries cooked in old grease in Brackettville, Texas.
Out on the road again, heading to Del Rio in the heat - major stomach churn.
I pulled off into the ditch - in the heat - never threw up but was pea green.

My ideal riding weather is 68F and sunny. (20C for those Europeans)
Willing to bet folks from Iceland bake a little when its 95F (35C) with 95% humidity.

Pic - Scenery on the Southern Tier
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 24, 2021, 04:39:18 pm
Pic - Scenery on the Southern Tier

Yeah, day after day after day after day. There were places with different scenery, but there was at least 1000 miles just like that.  The dunes in the Imperial Valley were nice and when it suddenly was green at Del Rio that was nice.  The Gulf gave another change, but that brown nothing seemed to go on forever.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: BikePacker on February 24, 2021, 07:19:28 pm
If motor vehicle-free trails/paths appeal, one can ride the majority of the distance from Washington, D.C. to Lincoln, Nebraska on trails.
TCS - I am most interested in your Trail diagram ... do you have a link to whatever 'this' is? Thx.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: TCS on February 24, 2021, 07:49:19 pm
The 'path' map:  there's an outfit called railstotrails.org.  Among other things, they're promoting "The Great American Rail Trail", stretching from coast to coast.

Okay, that's pretty cool but, and it's a big but, 1) it's only ~50% complete and some of the rest is a pipe dream and likely to remain so, 2) it's not a trail but a series of more or less linked individual trails under different auspices with different use rules and different surfaces, and 3) it inefficiently wiggles around, apparently just to use existing paths.

Still and all, one really can ride most of the way from Washington DC to Lincoln, Nebraska, right now in 2021, on motor vehicle-free trails/paths.

Uh, AFAIK, you're on your own making the short roadway connections between some of the trails.  Somebody please correct me if there's a map or compendium or GPX file of the links.

https://www.railstotrails.org/greatamericanrailtrail/route/
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: TCS on February 24, 2021, 07:58:20 pm
There were places with different scenery, but there was at least 1000 miles just like that.

Did you go through Marfa (present routing) or the old way through Fort Davis?
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: zzzz on February 27, 2021, 08:08:05 pm
Hi:

You left the Sierra Cascades route out of those you’re considering. If you aren’t familiar with it, you should look into it.

I loved it. You got a slew of the best known national parks along the way (Mt Rainer and Hood, Crater Lake, Lassen, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Giant Sequoia) plus a whole bunch of lesser known stuff that’s also a treat to ride by or thru (Mt. St. Helens blow down, Columbia River Gorge, etc.).

Lots of climbing but if you 2 are okay with going uphill I highly recommend it.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 28, 2021, 06:57:52 am
Hi:

You left the Sierra Cascades route out of those you’re considering. If you aren’t familiar with it, you should look into it.

I loved it. You got a slew of the best known national parks along the way (Mt Rainer and Hood, Crater Lake, Lassen, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Giant Sequoia) plus a whole bunch of lesser known stuff that’s also a treat to ride by or thru (Mt. St. Helens blow down, Columbia River Gorge, etc.).

Lots of climbing but if you 2 are okay with going uphill I highly recommend it.
I rode the southern portion of it.  The scenery can be stunning.  I will say that I found the climbing to be exceedingly difficult compared to other routes I have ridden.  Also the desert areas can be insanely hot.  We went starting in San Diego on June 4th and the year we went we hit an early heat wave.  It was at least 110F way too much of the time to suit me.  Interestingly enough we had over 100 F and ice in our water within a 24 hour period.

If you do the route be prepared to climb.  Be prepared for heat and cold.  Also be prepared for long distances between services at times.

It is one of the few routes where I find it worth carrying a water filter.  In the hot weather we encountered the cold mountain streams provided a cold drink without waiting for drops or tablets to work.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: zzzz on February 28, 2021, 08:27:55 am
What staehp1 says is true or can be true. There is lots of climbing, some of which can be pretty steep. The weather is the weather, some years will be better then others. It is easier and less remote then the GDMBR, which I rode the northern third of, that the OP said they started their conversation with.

I started my ride in Bellingham Wa at the beginning of September and rode the 25 miles up to the official start at the Canadian border. My weather was pretty good. There was a couple of mid day temps that got pretty warm but it never got super hot. The most likely foil on a fall route is wild fire. Even that is a hit or miss situation. There was a huge fire in California the year I did it that for 3-4 days from north of Tahoe until I was south of Yosemite I would hit pockets of smoke for 30-60 minutes then I wouldn’t see any again for hours.

Pete
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 28, 2021, 09:34:00 am
The most likely foil on a fall route is wild fire. Even that is a hit or miss situation. There was a huge fire in California the year I did it that for 3-4 days from north of Tahoe until I was south of Yosemite I would hit pockets of smoke for 30-60 minutes then I wouldn’t see any again for hours.
We didn't have any trouble with forest fires on that trip (June), but they can be a real problem even without a lot of highly visible smoke.  Breathing smoke at the just or almost visible level day in and day out can be miserable and can be a trip killer for me especially with heat and elevation added.  I have ended a backpacking trip and a bike tour for just that reason.  The bike tour ended with me suffering with HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema).  The HAPE episode was at an elevation that I'd flown to before to start a trip (Denver) without issue, but between the smoke and the heat and maybe that I too quickly rode to higher elevation I got very sick and neither taking a couple days off nor riding to lower elevation available nearby was enough.  I called my doc at home and he said it was prudent to fly home.  I was concerned about getting on a plane, but he thought that given my symptoms it was the best choice.

Forest fire smoke can sometimes be a real issue in the Sierras even when they are hundreds of miles away and forest fires seem to be a bigger problem every year these days.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: zzzz on February 28, 2021, 11:13:38 am
While staehpj1's concerns are all valid, I would still recommend OP considers this route.

To some extent we are all at the mercy of things beyond our control. You don't want to do anything flat out stupid like ride the ST in the middle of summer or ride up to alaska in the winter but for everything else, it's a roll of the dice.

Very early on on my first tour I was riding west on 50 in Nevada with the biggest tailwind I might have ever had and I passed a couple going the other way. I considered waving hello but I was pretty sure they would have just given me the finger.

If our icelandic friends want to do a route where they will see some of the most breathtaking scenery in the US day after day the SC route is great. Just make sure you get to the start in excellent shape. It is not a route you want to ride yourself into fitness on.
Title: Re: TransAm done - What next?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 28, 2021, 12:04:33 pm
While staehpj1's concerns are all valid, I would still recommend OP considers this route.
I do too, just take the factors I mentioned into account in your decision.