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Messages - Pat Lamb

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South / Re: Any Route Recommendations from Nasheville to NC?
« on: April 18, 2019, 09:55:40 am »
P.s.  Forgot to mention, if you get off the Trace at U.S. 64, you'll missed the hilliest (and most scenic) part of the trail.

South / Re: Any Route Recommendations from Nasheville to NC?
« on: April 18, 2019, 09:54:06 am »
Alexander, you're very welcome!  As I noted, this gets asked once or twice a year, so I plan to re-use my answer.  :)

Re: U.S. 64, Tennessee has been widening and occasionally re-routing it for 20 years or so.  Parts of it are now 4 lane divided highway (but with nice shoulders) and parts of it are 2 lanes with shoulders.  The old route was two lanes, no shoulders, and more winding than you might expect from a "flat" route.  I honestly don't know if they've finished the re-build in central Tennessee.  The official route now joins I-24 over the Cumberland Plateau at Monteagle, so you'll want to take the old road from Winchester up to Sewanee (or the back road on the route I linked previously).  Ditto going east out of Chattanooga on I-75, except the old road (11/64) gets a lot of traffic, so I was glad to find the suggested alternative.  Also, from outside Cleveland to U.S. 411, that road was four-laned a long time ago, but they didn't bother adding shoulders.  From 411 east it drops to two lanes through the gorge, then it's four laned to the N.C. line and halfway decent.  Roller coaster without shoulders from Tennessee into Murphy -- brr!

South / Re: Any Route Recommendations from Nasheville to NC?
« on: April 17, 2019, 11:32:59 am »
This could be a FAQ.

I think there’s a route from Nashville (Brentwood?) that goes straight into Robbinsville, NC, but I’ll have to dig through my files on a different computer to see if I can find it.  Until then, here’s a potential route through Chattanooga.  I’ve ridden and/or driven perhaps 80-90% of these roads, and while they’re not always comfortable, I think most of the route is reasonably safe.  Note I would NOT! recommend taking 64/74 from Cleveland to Murphy.  Somebody did a trip report going that way (in Adventure Cycling, IIRC), but I regard cycling a dozen miles through the Ocoee gorge as pretty close to suicidal.

Anyhow, try starting with the Leiper’s Fork permanent.  Sorry, while Nashville is supposed to have a good bike route, I don't know a way across town, so my suggestion starts south of there.  Get off the Natchez Trace at Leiper’s Fork, coast down the hill to the east a quarter mile, and pick up the route:

Somewhere around Christiana, pick up the Sewanee 300k:

From Sewanee to Chattanooga, you’ve got a few options.  First, take 41A a few miles out of town, then drop down to South Pittsburg on TN 156, cross the Tennessee River and go up to Haletown, then follow US 41 into Chattanooga.  There’s some busy traffic for 2-3 miles on the south side of the river coming out of South Pittsburg.  The last 4-5 miles going over the foot of Lookout Mtn. has stead traffic (especially at rush hour or when there’s a wreck on the interstate), but they’ll usually give a cyclist the right-most of four (narrow) lanes.  Second, take 41A to Monteagle, then pick up 41 and follow it into Chattanooga.  There’s a fair bit of traffic through Jasper, but it’s mostly got a good shoulder and is fairly straight.  Third, go up through Monteagle and Tracy City to Gruetli-Lager, then drop down to Whitwell, go over to Powell’s Crossroads, then over Suck Creek Mountain on TN 27 to US 127.  This is perhaps the quietest road route into Chattanooga.  If you’re interested, I can give you some cues to get from Dayton Blvd. into downtown.

From Chattanooga, you could take the proposed USBR 21 up to Madisonville or Vonore:

From Madisonville, take 68 to Tellico Plains, then take the Cherohala Skyway and follow NC 143 to Robbinsville.  If you want to go further into NC, I’d suggest going over the mountain to Almond (along 143?).  I haven’t been that way, but the NC 28 route from Fontana Dam to Almond is a typical mountain road: narrow, winding, limited sight distance, and too much traffic for me to be comfortable.  From there you’ve got a couple miles on the racetrack (19/74) shoulder to Bryson City, and 19 from there to Cherokee is narrow, winding, lightly trafficked, and mostly slow traffic.  In Cherokee you can pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Alternatively, go northeast from Madisonville to Vonore, cross the Little Tennessee River, and take TN 72 to US 129, then enjoy the Tail of the Dragon into Robbinsville.  Here, you could take NC 28 into Almond, but see my warning above.  No camping on 129, while there are a couple of campgrounds along the Cherohala.

Routes / Re: 65th birthday cross country trip
« on: April 11, 2019, 07:52:50 pm »
The sheriff in Haysi, VA asked me if I was carrying, in a tone of voice that suggested I should be.  I suppose I answered him without a yes or know, since if I had a concealed carry I should have announced it.  (May all your bears be black bears!)

Re: panniers vs. trailer, sometimes you'll run across a motel without a working elevator where the only available room is on an upper floor.  Hauling a bike up steps with loaded panniers is a ditch-with-a-b.  I can only imagine a trailer would be worse.  Not to mention finding space in some small motel rooms is challenging enough with two bikes, add a trailer or two and it's only going to be worse.

Gear Talk / Re: Tire Width?
« on: April 11, 2019, 01:09:18 pm »
One more set of observations.  I've ridden with touring loads (about 300-320# on the bike) with 32s and 35s, and with commute/apple/light touring/no load (220-270#) with 28-37 tires.  With the heaviest loads, the 32s were OK, 35s were fine.  I went up to 37 on the back a few years later, and other than trouble getting the fully inflated tire on one bike, didn't see much change in how it rode.  I've settled on 32s as my default on two bikes, and 28s on the bike that doesn't handle larger tires well.  The 28s transmit road shock more than 32s, but with somewhat lighter loads I can't feel much difference in handling or ride between 32 and 35.

There is a difference with lighter loads depending on the tire model you put on.  Continental Contact in a 32 was a lot harsher ride than Panaracer Pasela, with Gatorskin in the middle.  Generally, as you go to a wider tire, the tire will get thicker and stiffer, meaning you'll want to reduce the pressure to compensate for the ride.  Too low, though, and I can feel the tire squirm through curves -- not pleasant.

Road surface does make a huge difference, as well.  I don't think anything less than a sporty car tire with plush suspension would make the expansion joints of eastern Colorado tolerable.  More than a dozen miles on dirt/gravel/muddy roads and you'll want 2.25" tires, at least until you get back on the pavement and don't care for the buzzy ride of the knobby tires.

Undecided?  If you're starting the TransAm on roads, try 32 or 35s.  Take a wider tire and tube to match to put on the back half way across the country, or when you're going to hit a long stretch of off-road trail   (Or western Kansas/eastern Colorado expansion joints!  :)

Routes / Re: 65th birthday cross country trip
« on: April 10, 2019, 02:50:40 pm »
As John said, the Rockies aren't so bad, grade-wise, as the Appalachians and the Ozarks.  One might think that in the 200 years between when the east was settled and the roads through the Rockies were built, somebody invented dynamite and somebody else decided you could make a longer climb instead of seeing a mountain and going straight over it.  :)  Remember that the horizontal axis is vastly compressed in the elevation charts you see, so even a 3,000' climb that looks horrendous is spread out over a dozen miles or more, so it's not nearly as steep as it looks on the chart.  In addition, as John also noted, you'll gain a lot of fitness starting in the east going west, so that by the time you hit Canon City and the Rockies, you'll be thinking, "What lovely scenery!  and what a nice road to get over this pass!" 

As an alternative, you might also consider starting from the west on Route 66 or the Southern Tier and using the Grand Canyon connector to get to the Western Express and then the TransAm east of Canon City, depending on what the snowpack will be like next year.  But that way you'd miss Yellowstone, if you've never been there, and the Tetons and Wind River ranges in Wyoming, and the Colorado Rockies (with two passes that are high, but not that steep!).

Gear Talk / Re: Spare tire?
« on: April 01, 2019, 03:31:00 pm »
IIRC that section includes some pretty remote stretches, and pictures I've seen more resemble "imagine-a-path" than dirt road at times.  It'd seem reasonable to me to carry at least one spare tire between the two of you, in addition to tire and tube repair kits.

General Discussion / Re: Iowa City, IA to Seattle
« on: March 31, 2019, 03:36:39 pm »
Let me echo DaveB: get your bike soon, and ride it lots.

wrt the route, when we did our cross-country ride, we took the TransAm into Missoula, then headed north through Seely Lake on the Great Parks North, took a couple days to ride to Glacier N.P (well worth the time!) and then headed west on the Northern Tier.  Better than TransAm or L&C through Idaho and Oregon?  I don't know, but it was great! 

Since this is your first trip, I strongly recommend the pre-selected routes on the AC maps.  And buy the maps; one night in a decent campsite where you might otherwise have to motel it could save the cost of all the maps.

The Adventure Cycling web site used to have a good resource all lumped together under a "How-To" umbrella tab.  It looks like most of that content has been split into two pages, Plan at and Ride at

I actually think ACA in combo with WS would have a better job of getting something done.  They have a much broader source of cyclotourist enthusiasts that they can easily reach. 

An errant thought struck me while reading this.  If ACA wanted to do something like this in Missoula, it would be a VERY good idea to have people ship their bikes vs. fly with them.  A friend was flying home on a puddle-hopper some years ago when a bowling championship was being held here.  They had to kick some people (and their luggage) off the plane because they couldn't get the plane balanced with all the bowling balls in the hold.  Now imagine a few thousand people flying into Missoula one weekend, each of them checking their bike with them...

South / Re: Great Smoky Mountain Expressway
« on: March 29, 2019, 02:46:37 pm »
First, that's a helluva ride to try to do in only three days.  Do you have experience riding 100-150 miles per day on successive days?

I've driven the Franklin to Murphy stretch on 64; it was narrow and winding.  It looks like the NC2 route leaves 64 just west of Franklin, so that'll probably put you on even more narrow, crooked, and poorly paved roads.

19/74 from Sylva through the outskirts of Bryson City to Almond is four-lane, divided highway with pretty good shoulders and high speed traffic.  Watch out for entrance and exit ramps.  From Almond over to Wesser (Nantahala Outdoors Center), it's steep, winding, no shoulders, and heavy traffic for two lanes.  I might be talked into riding to Almond, but I'd hitch a ride in somebody's pickup truck to Wesser.  If the river's running, I'd stay off the road up to where the road leaves the river, because drivers will be distracted watching rafters; otherwise, the sighlines are such that it's not usually too dangerous from Wesser over the gap where 129 comes in.  A mile south of there, it's four lanes and divided highway, but shoulder's aren't all that great; I'd suggest taking the business routes and/or old 19 from Andrews into Murphy.

Routes / Re: Any words of wisdom for 2019 TransAm Solo Rider?
« on: March 26, 2019, 09:33:04 am »
Ride early in Yellowstone/Teton.

Stay at the Bike Camp in Twin Bridges, MT.

+1 to both of these. 

There's often a stiff afternoon headwind from Twin Bridges to Dillon, and it'll kick your butt.  Relax in Twin Bridges, get up early, and beat the headwind the next day.

If you order pancakes, make sure you ask how big they are. Some places serve "horse blankets."

Then order them and enjoy them anyways!  :)

Get a Road Morph G pump and good rain gear.

Talk to the locals.

All good advice.

One more thing: make sure you budget for a few extra days so you can dodge the worst conditions or enjoy what you find on the road, and budget for a few extra nights in motels for the same reason.

Routes / Re: Looking for Route Recommendations for April
« on: March 22, 2019, 07:25:25 pm »
It depends on how much you're loaded with.  700Cx25 will be fine for the NTP pavement; it's pretty well paved, although there may be some short gravel stretches going to campsites.  If your bike can handle 28s or 32s, those might be better for a bike with a load of, say, 30-40 pounds.

Which way?  Going north, you'll have a few days to get in shape before you get to the "hilly" part.  If you time it right, you'll also get to surf the dogwood and azalea blooms, maybe for the entire week. Go south and you'll have a better chance of hitting the blooms for at least 2-3 days.  Finally, the weather: if a cold front is coming, you'll want to be blown north; if it's come through, you want to be heading south.  (It'll switch overnight!)

Routes / Re: Looking for Route Recommendations for April
« on: March 20, 2019, 04:58:50 pm »
April would be a great month to ride the Natchez Trace Parkway.  The azaleas and dogwoods should be blooming, the weather averages meet your preferences (not saying the weather will cooperate, though!), and there's no steep climbs except perhaps the Tennessee River bridge.

Connections might be a challenge in Natchez, but Nashville (the northern terminus) has motels, an airport, and taxis/Lyft/etc.

Gear Talk / Re: Bike tour headlight recommendation needed
« on: March 20, 2019, 09:22:15 am »
I took a headlight on my cross-country tour.  I think I used it for its intended purpose once.  But it was useful to rotate down to keep my map from flapping.  (1/8" shock cord does that job now, and weighs next to nothing.)

I sense some reluctance to buy the AC maps, so let me throw in my two cents.

They're worth every penny.

You can often find a place to camp for free (or really cheap) using the maps that you won't find when it's getting dark, and rain is coming, you're desperate for shelter, and the only other option within 30 miles is a motel that charges $130 per night.  That night having the AC map could save you the cost of the entire map set.

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