Author Topic: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)  (Read 10121 times)

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Offline AndrewCh

Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« on: January 24, 2015, 09:24:52 pm »
It looks like my managers may soon grant me an 8-week sabbatical. I'm hoping to use that time, plus a few more weeks vacation, if needed, to ride across the U.S.

I was hoping you kind folks could help fill in the gaps for me as I prepare to do this. I've read to about page 30 of the General Discussion board, and the books "Across America by Bicycle" and "Life is a Wheel," as well as bicycling magazine's long-distance cycling book, so hopefully my questions haven't been covered.

About me: I'm 40 years old, exercise regularly. I did triathlons for a decade, even an Ironman, but for the past year I've primarily been working with a coach to be a faster runner.

I still ride for fun. My training peaked last year at about 40 miles running and 50 miles cycling per week. The last big ride I did was this month, from San Francisco to Stinson Beach and back, about 40 miles and I think 3000 ft in elevation.

I'm not very experienced in camping, or much of a gearhead though. I can change a flat and adjust brakes, but it's been more than a decade since I fixed a chain, and I have little experience beyond that.

First, timing --

I have classes until May 11, so I'm planning to leave May 18 or May 25. I'm thinking I'd like to go east to mirror the westward expansion of the country.

I could go later and ride from the west, but there's an event I have in mid-August in San Francisco that might interfere, and besides, I'm always for moving towards my goals earlier rather than later.

Does that departure date sound good? Should I budget more time? I could use as little as 8 weeks and probably as much as 11, but I don't want to overbudget either. I guess the time depends on...

The route --

I live in New Jersey and work in New York City. It seems that for most people, the TransAmerica route is best for the first time. I think I could ride from New Jersey, where I live, to Virginia and pick up the trail from there.

However, I'd really like to wind up in San Francisco, where my grandma lives. How difficult would that be? I see from the interactive network map http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/interactive-network-map/ that there is a route directly west out of Colorado. I read that southern Utah is beautiful, and that's where this route would go.

I also have friends in Chicago, Minneapolis and Oregon that I'd like to see. Would it be possible to see them as well? Is the Northern Tier a better option?

But those are secondary concerns. I think my primary concern would be safety and then secondarily, sights to see.

I've read tales of danger coming from coal trucks in West Virginia and Kentucky on the TransAmerica trail, and danger from oil and logging trucks in the Dakotas and Washington on the Northern Tier, so I suppose there's no way of avoiding them.

Among my notes from the forum, I read: "ACA routes preferably take you through very scenic but hilly and demanding roads … When considering among paved roads, the ACA will almost always pick the lowest traffic roads, even if it considerably increases the hills and distance (up to 50% longer) and sacrifices the shoulder."

That sounds good to me!

I was also given this route as a suggestion. Does it make any sense to you?
https://www.google.com/maps/dir/New+York,+NY/San+Francisco,+CA/@36.8196685,-97.5508665,5z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c24fa5d33f083b:0xc80b8f06e177fe62!2m2!1d-74.0059413!2d40.7127837!1m5!1m1!1s0x80859a6d00690021:0x4a501367f076adff!2m2!1d-122.4194155!2d37.7749295!3e1 What is the Cowboy Trail?

Equipment --

I have two bikes: a time trial bike that would obviously be a poor fit for this venture, and a Trek 1200 2003 that I'd love to ride cross-country, since that bike and I have a lot of history. However, I'm open to getting a proper touring bike if really necessary. Novara Randonee or Surly Long Haul, right?

I suppose this depends on the route and the style of travel. I'm waiting to hear about the route from you guys! The style of travel -- well, I'm not a very experienced camper, and I could probably do credit card touring, but it seems like camping is more common.

With credit card touring though, I probably would be more comfortable on the road and off. I could travel more lightly without camp equipment and sleep in a real bed. I can imagine traveling with a backpack, a change of cycling clothes and a change of regular clothes, and a light laptop, like a MacBook Air.

What strategy would you suggest (buy a bike or not? credit card tour or not?), and is this more possible on one route versus another? And how does this affect my bike choice?

Conclusion --

If the weather was nice, and I was feeling brave, I think I could jump on my bike and head out tomorrow. But seeing as I have about 4 months to go, what should I spend my time on?

Thanks!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 09:50:55 pm by AndrewCh »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2015, 10:21:18 pm »
I'm planning to leave May 18 or May 25. I'm thinking ... to mirror the westward expansion of the country.

Does that departure date sound good? Should I budget more time? I could use as little as 8 weeks and probably as much as 11, but I don't want to overbudget either.
A May 18 departure from the east is nearly ideal. I did it in 10 weeks, which I think is about average. Some people who like low mileage or frequent rest days might take 12 or 13, and some crazy people in a hurry might do it in 8, but 10 is very doable and slow enough to be enjoyable.

It seems that for most people, the TransAmerica route is best for the first time. I think I could ride from New Jersey, where I live, to Virginia and pick up the trail from there.

However, I'd really like to wind up in San Francisco, where my grandma lives. How difficult would that be?

I see from the map that there is a route directly west out of Colorado. I read that southern Utah is beautiful, and that's where this route would go.

I also have friends in Chicago, Minneapolis and Oregon that I'd like to see. Would it be possible to see them as well? Is the Northern Tier a better option?

I agree that the TransAmerica Trail is the best route, especially for first timers. There are tremendous resources and support along this well-established trail that make it ideal. You could certainly ride from New Jersey to Yorktown, but I'd recommend (without much conviction) that you get a ride, rent a car, take a train, fly or take some other way to Virginia. Splitting off the TransAm at Pueblo and taking the Western Express to San Francisco is very doable, would allow you to see the beautiful southern Utah, would save you about a week in time, and would take you to a place easier to get home from. However, the terrain is more remote (and thus a bit more challenging--but you should be able to handle it by then), and misses out on Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and some beautiful scenery in Montana, Idaho and Oregon. I would (strongly) recommend that you not laden your trip with trying to visit all your friends. Visit them some other time. Don't try to cram everything into one trip. I would NOT recommend doing the Northern Tier as your first trip (and I've done both the TransAm and the Northern Tier).

I've read tales of danger coming from coal trucks in West Virginia and Kentucky on the TransAmerica trail, and danger from oil and logging trucks in the Dakotas and Washington on the Northern Tier, so I suppose there's no way of avoiding them.
Yes, there are coal trucks and logging trucks, as well as dogs, but they don't pose as much risk on the road as they do in your imagination, or in what you read. These risks are very manageable. Be aware of them, but don't fret about them.

Among my notes from the forum, I read: "ACA routes preferably take you through very scenic but hilly and demanding roads … When considering among paved roads, the ACA will almost always pick the lowest traffic roads, even if it considerably increases the hills and distance (up to 50% longer) and sacrifices the shoulder."
Yes, all that is true. That quote might have even been from me.

I have two bikes: a time trial bike that would obviously be a poor fit for this venture, and a Trek 1200 2003 that I'd love to ride cross-country, since that bike and I have a lot of history. However, I'm open to getting a proper touring bike if really necessary. Novara Randonee or Surly Long Haul, right?
There are many advantages of a touring-specific bike. If your budget allows, I would get one. But if your budget does not allow, then ride what you have. The two bikes you mentioned, as well as the Trek 520, are probably the most common touring bikes you will find out there. All will do well (and many others would do well too).

I'm not a very experienced camper, and I could probably do credit card touring, but it seems like camping is more common.

With credit card touring though, I probably would be more comfortable on the road and off. I could travel more lightly without camp equipment and sleep in a real bed. I can imagine traveling with a backpack, a change of cycling clothes and a change of regular clothes, and a light laptop, like a MacBook Air.

What strategy would you suggest (buy a bike or not? credit card tour or not?), and is this more possible on one route versus another? And how does this affect my bike choice?
Most people camp because it is vastly less expensive to do so. I did the TransAm on $16 a day. $14 of that was food and $2 was for a place to sleep. The reason that it only averaged $2 a day is that many nights I slept for free in churches, fire stations, city parks, etc. You are not experienced in camping, but there is still time between now and May to gain some experience. A lot depends on whether you would enjoy, or whether you think you would enjoy camping. Many cyclists enjoy the outdoors, and camping is just a way to extend your time outdoors. I really like to camp. Bicycle tourists often say that the human interaction is one of the best parts of the trip. You'll get more human interaction by camping than you will by closing yourself up in a motel room. Furthermore, camping allows you more options than motels, especially in more remote areas (e.g., camping in Yellowstone is much more available than lodging, and Wyoming and Utah have some long stretches without motels). But the advantages you cite for motels are valid. It's really a matter of money and which way you think you would enjoy more.

But seeing as I have about 4 months to go, what should I spend my time on?
Ride as much as you can (at least some of it fully loaded, and as much as you can in hilly terrain), get some experience camping (take one or more overnight or several day bike tours from home), accumulate your gear, try it out, order and study your maps, read more forum posts and how-to articles, and plan your transportation to the start and home from the finish.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2015, 07:05:23 am »
John covered things pretty well and I generally agree.

It took us about 10 weeks doing the TA route on our first tour and two of us were starting with good general fitness but no cycling specific fitness.  I was inexperienced carrying a lot more than I now recommend.  If I wasn't riding with companions that got going later in the day and were slower getting back on the road at stops than me I think I would have taken a bit less time.  8 weeks is doable, but I like to allow a bit of extra time whether you need it or not.  It is good to not be a slave to a rigid schedule.

On the camping experience issue...  Depending on how adaptable you are the camping doesn't need to be too big of a deal.  Do at least be familiar with and know how to use your gear.

Bike selection...  To some extent packing style will affect that.  I think that non touring specific bikes are fine if you pack fairly carefully and I actually have begun to prefer a sportier bike as my packing style has gone more minimalist.  My advice would be to try to pack pretty light.  What is considered light varies from person to person, but I'd suggest a first timer try to shoot for 30 pounds base gear and clothing weight and if you wind up at 40 pounds I'd take a long hard look at the packing list.  Folks usually have a tendency to take too much.  It helps to have a well thought out list that has been gone over many times trimming and trimming.  Even then be open to sending things home if you find you can get by without them.  Most folks wind up doing that.

I have found I prefer to go very light (10-15 pounds of gear and clothing).  The relatively unladen riding is wonderful, but camping and cooking with really minimal stuff isn't for everyone.  I mostly mention this to emphasize the notion that you really need very little.

Offline jamawani

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2015, 09:55:43 am »
Wow, those are lots of questions - -

The most important limitation you mention is the time frame - 8 weeks.
If that is so, you are going to be moderately pressed to make it; you, need to select a direct route and avoid zigs and zags to Virginia or Minnesota. It's roughly 3000 miles directly from NYC to SFO. Decent biking routes are usually at least 10% longer.

Second, Google Maps is not the cyclist's friend. Over and over again, it puts you on dirt, private, or nonexistent roads - especially in the West. Yours does in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. And the Cowboy Trail is a dirt/gravel route across Nebraska that largely parallels US 20. But US 20 itself is a good choice.

I've got 100,000 miles of touring experience and can say that 400 miles per week is a moderately high average - 450 is getting up there. The former is 66 miles per day with a day off per week, the latter is 75 miles per day. Planning in a day off per week doesn't mean you have to sit around eating bon-bons. But there will be weather delays, mechanical issues, perhaps a day when your internal parts are in rebellion.

The TransAm plus the Western Express is just shy of 3800 miles. That's 475 miles per week - or 75 miles per day with only 5 days off for the entire trip. Doable, but tight. And you certainly need to take Amtrak or fly down to Virginia to start. Since you appear to be doing this solo, I would also encourage you to keep the equipment down to a minimum. It's one thing to cook when you are with a group, but if you are solo that means you have to have all of the gear and weight. I would forgo camp cooking and have hot meals at cafes and sandwiches at camp.

I do think your idea of a direct route is good - but there are other ways to create a good one. Ask for help here - go to Crazyguyonabike. Sounds like you are ready for a big trip. So, enjoy.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2015, 11:08:57 am »
Jamawani's experience is unquestionable and his advice good, but I think that it is at least a bit conservative with regard to mileage, especially considering that you are apparently fairly athletic.  Also a lot depends on your touring style.

One example is whole notion of rest days.  He mentions "only 5 days off for the entire trip" as if that was a pretty low number.  I have not racked up the amount of touring miles that he has, but I have crossed the US a couple times with no zero mile days and without having any real desire to take any.  I do take an easy day here and there, but definitely do not consider rest days a given.

On the TA we did take what was essentially a day off to go whitewater rafting, but even then we rode 8 miles down the road to our next camp.  I have fairly rarely taken days off on other tours to do things but never really considered them rest days since I was generally active hiking or something.  That was pretty much limited to a day at an especially day at a nice beach and adjacent hiking trails when I did the Pacific Coast and a week in the Yosemite Valley area hiking and sightseeing when in the Sierras.

I think the only actual "real" rest day I ever took was when I was very sick on my Santa Fe Trail trip and slept for 24 hours straight.

Lots of folks manage to average 80 miles per day (when I calculate an average I count all days).  The Trans America is listed as being 4232 miles, at 80 mile days that is 7.5 weeks.  It takes a 75 mile per day average to do it in 8 weeks.  Whether you should do that much mileage is a different question, but it is certainly possible without superhuman effort.

Personally, if I were going to do the TA again I'd probably expect to finish in nine or ten weeks, but allow eleven weeks just in case.  I am a reasonably fit mid 60s non athlete who carries a pretty light load due to a minimalist style of packing.

I agree 100% with Jamawani on the suggestion to pack light.  Going no cook is a reasonable option, but even when I pack only 15 pounds or less base weight (including gear, clothing, and baggage, but not any food, fuel, or water) I still manage to carry minimal cooking gear.  My cook set varies with the trip, but is almost always under a pound and sometimes well under (plus 12 ounces of fuel).   Even if it is only instant oatmeal or Ramen noodles with tuna, a hot meal or even just a hot beverage can be pretty nice.

If interested in more details on my packing list decisions check out:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Ultralight
There is probably some useful info there for most folks even though most will not want to take it as far as I do these days.

Offline jamawani

Re: Green-lighted to go staehpj1cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2015, 06:38:09 pm »
I have to politely disagree with staehpj1. I notice that on his TransAm he averaged just shy of 60 miles per day - - 73 days, 4244 miles. Similar for his other trips. I do not know many people who average 80 miles per day over a lengthy trip. I realize that staehpj1 prefers not to take "rest" days, per se, but nearly every rider has plenty of half days. Bad weather part of the day or just coming upon a place that is really cool and you want to explore - whether its a town or a perfect campsite. And according to the old math - two halves equal a whole.

I probably do more hiking and exploring than staehpj1 does while on tour - backcountry up to the Pacific Crest in Yosemite, crossing the Grand Canyon and picking up my bike on the other side, hiking up to the ancient bristlecone forest in Great Basin. And when you ride up to the Yukon and Alaska, there are just some days where it is best not to set out at all - esp. if you have the advantage of some kind of shelter. So maybe, I use more off days - but I think you have to plan for some.

Then there are the big breakdowns which I hope you never have - but if you tour long enough you probably will. I can think of three offhand - when you are in Fumbuck, Arkansas miles from nowhere. I had a derailleur snap. I had a seat post snap. (Which makes for some rather uncomfortably cycling) And I had a wheel rim split. If you care close enough to a big town with a bike shop, you can limp along. But if you are 150 miles away from anything, you may just need to call Performance, FedEx it, and wait.

Also, there are unexpected glitches that can happen at the beginning or end of your trip. The worst thing if you fly or Amtrak it is for your bike not to show up on the baggage carousel. That has happened to me once - when it went to the wrong city. Took a day and a half to get it. (Read the small print in your baggage "contract". Nice airlines may offer to cover some of your costs, but they don't have to.)

I stick by my math - 400 miles per week (66 per day + a day off) if you are a moderate cyclists. 450 miles per week (75 per day + a day off) if you are moving at a good clip. Check out the journals at CrazyGuy and see how many people did the TransAm + Western Express (3762 miles) in less than 8 weeks.

My first cross-country trip was from Astoria, OR to the Outer Banks of NC - used a more direct route than the TransAm, so let's say about 3600 miles in 10 weeks. I was 31 at the time, commuted regularly 25 miles round-trip and had taken a few weekend rides prior to that. I stopped to smell the flowers at various national parks and other places, but 8 weeks would have been pushing it.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Green-lighted to go staehpj1cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2015, 07:39:58 pm »
I have to politely disagree with staehpj1. I notice that on his TransAm he averaged just shy of 60 miles per day - - 73 days, 4244 miles. Similar for his other trips.

Yes I think my TA was actually about 58 miles per day.  Not sure how similar my other trips were though.  They were actually kind of all over the board at 38, 38, 53, 73, and 74 mpd if you count all days (one of the 38's would be a 43 if I didn't count a 5 day stay in Yosemite).  I don't think anything about that says much about how feasible an 80 mile per day TA would be for the OP especially since he is 24 years younger and a triathlete who has done an ironman (actually the OP only need to average 75 mpd to finish in his allotted time).   Bear in mind that the TA was my first trip and I was over packed, that I am not a very good athlete, that I turn 64 this year, and that I typically ride very little when not on a tour.

I probably do more hiking and exploring than staehpj1 does while on tour - backcountry up to the Pacific Crest in Yosemite, crossing the Grand Canyon and picking up my bike on the other side, hiking up to the ancient bristlecone forest in Great Basin.

Yep, I am sure that you do and that is great.  The thing is that I don't think that riders who are focused on riding something like the TA are typically doing very many long hikes.

Then there are the big breakdowns which I hope you never have - but if you tour long enough you probably will. I can think of three offhand - when you are in Fumbuck, Arkansas miles from nowhere. I had a derailleur snap. I had a seat post snap. (Which makes for some rather uncomfortably cycling) And I had a wheel rim split. If you care close enough to a big town with a bike shop, you can limp along. But if you are 150 miles away from anything, you may just need to call Performance, FedEx it, and wait.

Maybe, but then again if "150 miles away from anything" with a rim split, it might be just as likely that the rider would hitchhike the 150 miles, particularly if they have a deadline.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2015, 11:57:00 pm »
This is just one data point, and it doesn't mean anything, but in a couple hundred days of touring, I've never taken a "rest" day. Personally, I don't think rest days do me any good, and I would usually rather see what's down the road than stay where I am. I have, however, taken three days off during my touring, all of them on my TransAm tour. But these three days weren't for purposes of "rest," but because there was something at that location that I wanted to do and it took a whole day to do it. BTW, I did have a split rim once, but I managed to get a new wheel built and still rode 78 miles that day.

I did the Northern Tier in 64 straight days, averaging 72.5 miles per day with no days off. I did the Pacific Coast in 32 straight days, averaging 60 miles per day with no days off. The main reason I averaged less on the Pacific Coast is that I did it at a time of year when the days were shorter. When I have less daylight, I cannot go as far.

BTW, I have found that I average about 5 miles per day over the mileage on the map, typically to get food or ride to a campground. So my mileage on established routes is always more than the advertised distance. It's a good idea to plan for that.

Offline AndrewCh

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2015, 04:03:58 pm »
Thanks for the complete answers and reflections, guys! I've started training in earnest, just building up miles at the moment.

I can afford a new bike, and I've called around to REIs to testride the Randonee and Long Haul Trucker, but none of them have a bike in my size yet. Apparently I have to wait until spring, though I'd love to get acclimated to a bike sooner.

Truth be told, I'd just as soon as ride my Trek 1200, since I'm so familiar with it.

It has rear braze-ons, and I'm not planning to bring a lot (though I'm sure that will explode once I attempt to pack.) Is there anything I should consider, using an aluminum road bike (with a carbon fork) for this trip? I know those materials will be a lot harder to fix on the road. Do I need to change out the chain ring and gears for something more mountain-bikey?

Here are the stats for my bike:
http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/2003/archive/trek/1200/#/us/en/archive-model/details?url=us/en/bikes/2003/archive/trek/1200

Should I start buying the maps and panniers and other equipment now?

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2015, 12:25:21 pm »
You can always do some practice rides and decide then if you want to stay with your Trek or not.

As for mucking with the machinery...

I have 4 bikes, and the one that is closest to how it left the bike shop, is the $5000 full custom touring bike.  Even it has a different saddle and seat post.

My point is that you should do as many overnight trips as you can in order to determine what you need.  You might very well be happy with what you have, or you might make significant changes to a new bike, or some variation.
Danno

Offline woodrowstar

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2015, 09:22:27 am »
Just go north and ride Maine. The bicycle coalition of Maine puts out this huge book, which is free. It is possible to link the loops into one mega adventure.

Offline Kitsap_Bill

  • Tourist
  • **
  • Posts: 10
  • Many tours, some ACA, most not.
Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2015, 03:31:07 pm »
Good Afternoon;

I am almost never on this particular touring website, so I ran across this by chance. I have opinions and experience. First, ride what you've got. Leave the TT at home. See if bike touring is something you really like. My first fully loaded trip across the US and my ride around Alaska was on an aluminum Marin cross bike. It worked just fine, though because I was overloaded AND pulling a BoB I broke several spokes. Plus, the geometry made it pretty quick (headset/handlebars swung rapidly). It had V brakes which is a major plus. I'm now on a LHT, my second, but just because I know it fits me well from experience, but even these need some tweaking.

Plug in 60 to 65 days as a reasonable time line. If you get behind you can always jump ahead. The world does not end nor will you be excommunicated.

Plan on camping, but not because you have to. You have options, be it a park, a church a fire station. One of the best things is meeting others while riding or at a camp ground, Camaraderie is superior when bike touring. Subway/Quiznos is your friend, and packing a sandwich for dinner can be a good thing. Having some way to boil water, plus a cup, a bowl, and a spoon -maybe a paring knife is also a good thing. Buy, borrow, obtain a 30-35 degree very compressible sleeping bag. Buy a silk liner for it. I prefer a two man tent. Either waterproof panniers or a waterproof compression sack is mandatory. Bag covers do not get the job done and wet clothes and a damp sleeping bag make for a miserable time. I learned a tube of antibiotic cream is critical at least once each trip and so is a small pack of handi-wipes. Among your tools and emergency gear, please remember a fiber-fix spoke, a couple of shoe clip screws and a chain power-link connector. 

If you are riding solo, you will find yourself pulling into camp late just because and doing long mileage days. And mileage can wear you down. Slow down a bit and then take pictures, think at least two or three a day. Boredom can and will get to you at times. Know -this is normal. Take an iPod or other listening device for the afternoon doldrums and headwind haggards. Talk to people and hear their stories.

I use a rear view mirror that attaches to my glasses, but a rear view mirror is an essential piece of gear IMHO. I ride in wool and cotton with very few bike jerseys in my bag. Personally I ride in biking sandals for a variety of reasons, multi-purpose comfort being predominate. There are a bazzilion gear lists on CGOAB plus a good one on this website. Gather your gear, cut it in half. Remember you can mail gear home. Do not mail all your cold weather clothes home in 95 degree Kansas. You may regret it camped out in a Nevada desert night.

I would not worry about being "in shape". It all relative and after two weeks on the saddle you will be in stride. A word of caution though. Take some time off the bike. My friend Jim -a very strong go-fast bicyclist quit after six days on tour because he ran out of emotional juice riding at the same pace by himself. Even TdF race guys take breaks. Go to Crazyguyonabike and look for Monl's first and second journals. She failed half way through her first TransAm, no breaks. She split from her group on the second try because of pace disparity, but did complete her tour. What I am saying here is being physically fit is only part of the ride, there is a lot of other stuff goes in to it.

Have fun. I envy you doing your first.


Offline Westinghouse

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2015, 06:57:25 pm »
Go to youtube for thru-hiking the Appalachian trail. Red Beard packed 20 pounds for a 5-6 month hike. Hikers have light weight packing down to an art, albeit an expensive one.

Offline AndrewCh

Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2015, 07:48:50 pm »
Thanks guys -- I'm glad this thread is getting a lot of traction. I have a new question... should I start a new thread or stay with this one? I really appreciate the expertise of everyone who's commented already.

So I ordered my maps from Adventure Cycling and received them Friday. I've been poring over them. First step was to decide, since I was taking the TransAmerica trail, if I wanted to go to Oregon or take the Western Express to San Francisco.

I looked at the Nevada maps. They gave me a huge chill. Nearly 100 miles without water! But then I went and looked at some travelogs of folks who had done it. I had envisioned a Sahara-like moonscape. But pictures showed me it was a little more forgiving. And the paces and the amount of water these folks took didn't seem to be too daunting.

I think I'm going to go TransAmerica and Western Express now. There are a number of reasons:

1) It will be nice to have a challenge at the end, to see how I match up.
2) Taking the Western Express will save me a few days. I know I'll miss the sights further along the TransAmerica trail, but I would be rushing through them anyway for fear of not making my deadline. They're such grand sights, I think I'd rather finish and come back in a separate trip.
3) It's always been my vision to ride from home in NJ to grandma's in SF, and this feels a lot more fulfilling
4) I've always been attracted to end-of-the-world places, like South Point on Hawaii. "The loneliest road" seems like a must-see, especially on a bike.

The other end of the trip also merits some consideration, and if anyone could give me feedback on that, I'd be very grateful.

I'm not looking forward to managing the logistics of getting down to Yorktown from NJ. Again, I think it would be really great to ride from my door in NJ to grandma's in SF.

I bought the Atlantic Coast map that goes from Philadelphia to Richmond. I can get from my house to Philly in less than a day. But then getting from Philadelphia to Richmond would probably take the better part of a week.

I could also ride straight west from home into Pennsylvania and pick up Route S. Route S seems like a lot of fun. But I'd have to get from Pittsburgh to Columbus - does anyone have any feedback on that?

From Columbus, I could pick up the Underground Railroad route into Missouri and follow the Transamerica from there. This option seems very tempting for me because

1) I would avoid the long ride down to Yorktown via the Atlantic Coast
2) Pennsylvania and Ohio seem a lot more welcoming than Kentucky, judging from what I've read -- the driver/cyclist interactions are a lot more civil, there are fewer dogs and coal trucks to contend with.

The downsides I foresee are that I won't be riding with a lot of people starting their trips from Yorktown, and that Pittsburgh to Columbus isn't a common route.

What do you think? Does NJ to SF via Route S, Google Maps, the Underground Railroad leg, TransAmerica trail and Western Express sound like it'll work?

Thanks again to everyone who's taken the time to chime in!



Offline Kitsap_Bill

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  • Many tours, some ACA, most not.
Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2015, 02:01:09 am »
My suggestion is to keep it as simple as possible. Load your bike, gear and take Amtrak to as close to your start as possible. If taking the C&O canal route through the Appalachians is an option, do it. If you need to shortcut the ACA route do it. The fact is, I always always lay out the ACA maps with a highlighter on a STATE map such as those produced by AAA. ACA maps are single purpose. They are excellent, well worth the money. The have several draw backs though. They avoid cities and towns like the plague. This means the ACA may not show services (like hotels and motels) when there may be several a short distance off route. It also means "the scenic route" is marked when a wide shouldered highway would cut off many miles. The AAA type map layout reveals these inconsistencies. You'll see what I mean. When you are following the ACA map, be sure to orient the north arrow. When we did the Atlantic Coast, the north arrow was actually pointing down (normally south) as the route weaved southwest at that point. I get very excited when I begin to layout the route. You do realize if you take the Express option, you will just have to head back and ride those other rivers, climb the passes you have yet to experience. This is a good thing. I see at least two more tours in the western states.

When you ride the Atlantic Coast, you can get a ride across the Chesapeake Bay toll bridge for the price of the car toll ($5 I believe)and avoid all the circumnavigational hassles. Make that three more tours. In the western states we have laws that mandate campsites for hikers and bikers. Generally they are free or very inexpensive. The powers that be decided that someone walking or riding a bicycle into a state or national campground probably really needed a place to stay. Adding another twenty miles is not an option for them, where as Mr Motorhome could drive to a Walmart pretty easily.  We do not need hook ups so smaller areas would work just fine. You will be amazed at some of the great places you'll get, particularly when you ride the Pacific Coast. Buy a platypus bag, perhaps two, for water. It will make you happy somewhere along the line.

I have found commercial drivers -Big Rigs- are the safest. I cannot speak to Kentucky or WV, but log trucks and tractor trailers give us plenty of room. The trick is to see them in your mirror first and try to be as courteous as possible by timing the traffic and their pass. I wave to them, avoid pinch points, and let them know when they are clear of me. Since they communicate with each other up and down the highway, they act as traffic scouts and no one is surprised or caught unaware. On the other hand, beware of Buick's, motorhomes with wide mirrors and the forgotten retractable steps and cars and pickups pulling boats and ATV trailers. They always seem to cut back too soon. I recommend riding the right side tire track where there is no shoulder or it is inadequate. If you hug the white line, cars with try to squeeze by between you and the center line, even when there is no oncoming traffic. It is a psychological thing for them. However if you take that third of the lane, the car will pull way around you. If there is oncoming traffic, take the middle of the lane if necessary. They may be a 30 seconds later for the Bible study or coffee with the boys, but they won't mind and you'll be safer.

The three C's apply to highway travel. Courtesy, Communication, Common Sense. Our traffic laws are derived from first come first served, not I'm bigger, get out of my way. The overtaking vehicle has the responsibility to pass safely. Your responsibility is to be predictable. You can visit your friends up north when you tour the Great Lakes, yet another great area to tour.