Author Topic: TransAm Problems  (Read 2731 times)

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Offline rondickinson

TransAm Problems
« on: October 30, 2013, 09:19:18 am »
Three of us (from Iowa) are planning a east to west TransAm journey starting next mid-May.  As I research and plan I'm reading in many journals about the problems of coal trucks (VA and KY) , dogs (KY), agressive/angry drivers (MO) and high winds (KS).   I also reading about the many kind people in rural America and riding in the West doesn't seem to have the same issues, except longer distances between services.  We are experienced riders and can ignore cars honking and typically out run dogs, but with the loaded weight slowing us down the probelms my increase. 

Several thoughts come to mind.  In addition to the ACA maps, to buy state maps and talk to locals about the best roads.  Do we avoid riding during high traffic times for the coal trucks?  For dogs, if I can't out run them, I stop and get off the bike to stop appearing as a moving chew toy and turn the tables to master vs. dog.

So my question is how do some of you vetrans handle these issues?   

Offline indyfabz

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2013, 09:45:41 am »
Winds? What are you going to do but ride? Winds often pick up as the day goes on and drop in the evening. Ride early and take a break in the middle of the day if need be. I like to get on the road early anyway, especially if it's going to be hot. Finishing early also decreases the chances that you will have to compete for a camp site in popular places such as national parks.

Dog? A loud yell usually does the trick. A squirt of water to the face does, too. Show them who is top dog.

Traffic: Again, start early. One exception might be heading into a city with a relatively large population. You might wait until after rush hour. Last month I toured across much of PA. Spent a noght not too far outside of York, which is a mid-sized city with a good deal of sprawl around it. Started at first light in an effort to beat the morning commute. Didn't make it.. Had the day not been a hard 80+ mile one, I would have started later in the morning.

Offline staehpj1

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2013, 09:56:38 am »
Not to sound too cavalier, but while I have experienced all the things you mentioned (other than the aggressive drivers in MO), I have not found any to be unmanageable.  We just rode every day, mostly stayed on the AC route and found it fine.  Of the things you mention the winds in KS were the worst, but the only thing you can really do about that is to try to get in as much of your mileage as you can as early in the day as you can.

You mention talking to locals about the best roads...  I will caution you that most of the locals I have encountered while well intentioned gave horrible route advice.  It was hard to believe that they had even seen the roads when what we encountered was so far from what they described.  I did find that big rig truckers were an exception as were some of the farmers.

The average car driver might say something like "It is exactly 20 miles to X, there is a good shoulder, and it is mostly flat or downhill".  When we would ride it it would be 32 miles mostly uphill and no or unrideable shoulder.

A trucker might say something like "don't hold me to this, but I think it is about 32.2 miles, mostly no rideable shoulder, and it starts out flat for about 5 miles and the gradually climbs for the next 25 miles, before descending into X".  When we would ride it we would find the description to be spot on.

We did take alternate routes rather than stay with the AC route sometimes mostly to take a more direct or flatter route, but never to avoid traffic.

Offline PeteJack

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2013, 11:08:35 am »
A couple of years ago someone gave me a can of Halt spray for dogs. I carried it but never used it until I did twice this year on the NT. The first time was going through a res in Montana when I was chased by a pack of dogs from a farm. They saw me coming from 1/2 a mile away and came running down the hillside to meet just like they did in Kentucky. Most of the pack got fed up after a few yards but a short spray of Halt and the last, persistent one lost interest. It's quite amazing how it works. I thought there'd be whining, sneezing and pawing at eyes but it's quite humane, the dog just seems to lose interest and wander off. I used it a second time in Alberta with the same results. Halt is available in bike shops.

BTW I've found that you get persistent dogs that aren't put off by yelling or even water spray. Some of them are sneaky and hide behind a tree or in a gateway. The one time I got bit that's what happened.

Offline John Nelson

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2013, 12:00:21 pm »
Everything you mention is a concern, but they are all quite manageable. Of the ten weeks I spent on the TransAm, only about 20 minutes total was spent on all the hazards you mention combined (except the winds). I carried dog spray, but never used it and would not bother carrying it again. All in all, I probably had trouble with ten dogs, three trucks and two angry drivers. The trouble was generally small and brief.

The only place winds were a significant problem was in Wyoming. I actually had significant tailwinds all the way across Kansas east to west. The only thing you can do about winds is to go shorter distances on the worst headwind days and try to make it up with longer distances on the best tailwind days. This worked well in Montana and North Dakota on my Northern Tier ride, but wouldn't really have worked much in Wyoming since it seems that the winds there are pretty constant in places.

I agree that asking locals for routing advice is very risky. I found that most advice from car-bound locals was awful and sometimes quite dangerous. If safety is your concern, stay on the ACA route.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 12:04:16 pm by John Nelson »

Offline indyfabz

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2013, 01:07:07 pm »
I was going to add a caution about locals but I can see other already have. Fortunately, I have mostly encountered overestimations of distance that seemed off based on my maps. Just last month I had two locals give me overestimations. One said 20 miles when it was 10. Another told me 20-25 when it was really 15. But there was a park ranger in Bay View, WA who swore up and down the grocery store in Burlington was 8 miles round trip from the park. The map clearly suggested it was 8 miles one way, and it was.

Offline zzzz

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2013, 01:36:08 pm »
The advice you've gotten above is similar to my experience last year on a similar trip (Western Express to Trans Am). I'll just add a few things:

1) I even came to ignore advice from local cyclists.  Inevitably if I saw a local rider(s) and we got to talking about the route I was on they would look at the map and say something to the effect of "Why would they take you that way"?! . But in the end, the routes a really good route. And it has the stores and campgrounds and hotels on it and that's very useful. And the few times you're on a really crappy road, you can bet it's taking you to a really nice road. I went west to east and I remember the road north out of Hazard,Ky. was pretty unpleasant but after 8± miles I made a right turn on to a beautiful road that followed a lovely creek for miles.

2) The only negative about the route is that it's long. In total it adds 700-900 miles over the most direct routes. If you have the time, stay on the route, you won't be sorry. But in particular, east of the Mississippi, there are a lot of towns 25 miles apart on a busier road but 32 miles apart on the ACA route. Make sure you have a regular road map as well so you can see your choices.

3) I only ran into 1 dog in Kentucky that seemed intent on doing me harm and a squirt in the face with some water had him go away. That said, I caught a guy up ahead on a recumbent about 15 minutes afterward and he had a run-in with the same dog and he looked pretty shook up. Apparently being face to face with Fido is a hazard of riding a 'bent that I hadn't thought of.

4) I didn't see a single coal truck but that was just luck. I left Berea on Saturday morning and was in Breaks State Park on Sunday evening and that about spans Coal Country.

5) You identify yourself and your companions as experienced riders so you already know that there are some a-holes out there. No geographical area has a monopoly on them or is completely free of them. And  you're going to be on the road for 300± hours, so you will run into a couple. But my time traveling on a bike has done nothing but reaffirmed and bolstered my belief in the basic decency of the overwhelming majority of humanity.

Enjoy the trip, it's a beautiful ride.


Offline rondickinson

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2013, 02:19:03 pm »
Thankyou everyone for the great advice.  I would rather receive the wisdom on this forum than anywhere else.
Winds - yes, we just start very early and then keep a steady pace, even if it slower than our desired pace.
Good to hear the coal trucks and vehicle agression are not too bad.  Just chalk it up to one out of a hundred people are jerks and most are good people.
Local Advice - this surprises me how inaccurate they are, but multiple people have said the same thing, so I believe you.
Dogs - my son says his strategy is to not be the slowest rider in the group :).  We should be able to handle them with some water.

We are really looking forward to the experience.    I read the forums everyday for whatever wisdom I can gain.

Offline jamawani

Re: TransAm Problems
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2013, 07:04:47 pm »
As the deputy said in a VERY rural county in southern Alabama about the packs of mongrel dogs -
"Jes shoot 'em."

I have toured in nearly every state in the U.S. and province in Canada.
I can assure you that there is a correlation between how far south you are and how many dogs you have to deal with.

I ridden cross-country 6 times and bunches of other multi-thousands mile trips mostly in the West.
I prefer the rural West for the reasons you give - easier riding, simple and nice and free camping.
I've never taken the TransAm all the way, but have covered most parts of it over the years.

There's no reason you can't do your own routing - it just takes a little more effort and planning.
The ACA maps for the TransAm and other routes are very helpful -
Plus you'll bump into more riders and have more services if you stay on route.

The Midwest should be O.K. temperature-wise in late May with far fewer dogs and coal trucks.
I think riding across Nebraska is more scenic and cooler than Kansas by 5 or more degrees.
(You'll have winds no matter where you are in the Great Plains - they are, after all, the plains.)

If you are riding via Nebraska, you might consider riding over two gorgeous mountain ranges in Wyoming.
From Laramie you can head west and have the jaw-dropping vistas at the top of the Snowy Range.
Then continue on from Riverside over the Sierra Madre to Baggs on a magically empty road.
(Or from Riverside you can join up with the TransAm route via Rawlins.)

Do I have a pic of Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range??