Author Topic: Cost of a cross country USA trip?  (Read 21727 times)

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Offline Ty0604

Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« on: October 19, 2015, 06:17:41 pm »
For those of you who have ridden solo across the USA, can you give me a rough estimate on what the trip cost you?

My ride will be about 5,000 miles and I own all my gear so the cost should leave out any gear purchases

I plan to hammock camp and rarely, if ever, eat out. Out of 80-100 days I'll be on the road I have 7 houses that I'll be staying at but that may increase as I get closer to my April 2016 departure. Hotels will be considered only in the event of an emergency.

I have, what I think, is a substantial amount of money saved but would feel much better if I heard from other riders.

In your reply please provide: Rough route, length of trip, cost and any other details you feel may be relevant.

Thank you for your time!
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2015, 09:25:45 pm »
Costs vary widely depending on your choices.  I can't say what you will spend on food since that will depend on your choices.  You can go pretty cheap or pretty expensive.  On the TA campsites ran us less that $5 per person day on average since we camped for free most of the time.  None of that required stealth.  Some trips I got rooms more and spent more as a result.

On the food issue, I typically eat quite a few diner breakfasts and have lunch pretty often at a diner, Subway, or whatever.  I actually don't find that it typically is much more expensive than cooking nice meals.  It is nice to eat the regional foods and a good chance to rub elbows with the local folks.  I often find that the local food and the people are a big part of the trip.  I know that the Mexican food, barbecue, seafood, and Cajun food were one of the saving graces of the ST, the other was the people, many of whom I met at food stops.

I find that it is pretty easy to live on $20 per day, but I can get by on less or splurge more depending on the trip.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2015, 09:42:45 pm »
Costs vary widely depending on your choices.  I can't say what you will spend on food since that will depend on your choices.  You can go pretty cheap or pretty expensive.  On the TA campsites ran us less that $5 per person day on average since we camped for free most of the time.  None of that required stealth.  Some trips I got rooms more and spent more as a result.

On the food issue, I typically eat quite a few diner breakfasts and have lunch pretty often at a diner, Subway, or whatever.  I actually don't find that it typically is much more expensive than cooking nice meals.  It is nice to eat the regional foods and a good chance to rub elbows with the local folks.  I often find that the local food and the people are a big part of the trip.  I know that the Mexican food, barbecue, seafood, and Cajun food were one of the saving graces of the ST, the other was the people, many of whom I met at food stops.

I find that it is pretty easy to live on $20 per day, but I can get by on less or splurge more depending on the trip.

Thanks for the reply! I tend to eat pretty cheap and not very often on bike trips. More snacking than anything. I frequent farmers markets when I can on trips. They're great  and I end up talking to everyone so my "I want to ride 100 miles today" turns into "Oh crap I've been here 3 hours so I'll be lucky if I make 50 miles" which is totally worth it in the end.

I have $2000 saved up plus I'm being sponsored by a rather large grocery chain (Kroger) that will be supplying me with a nearly-$200 gift card once a month. I understand there will be long stretches where I wont run into a Kroger owned store but when I'm near one it'll come in handy!
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2015, 10:00:53 pm »
$2000 is definitely doable.  I was well under that on the Trans America and also on the Southern Tier.

I read where folks say that they often use roadside stands and farmers markets.  I do too when I see them, but in my experience they are very infrequent on most routes.  I really only remember very few, like maybe 3 on the entire Trans America.

I can't imagine you will pass all that many Krogers stores and I don't know about you but I hate to carry a lot of food.  I try to buy food for individual meals as close to meal time as possible rather than carry a bunch of weight.  On the TA we were given a lot of food.  I carried a bunch of it and mailed forward three packages to myself care of general delivery.  Truth be told if I had it to do over I might just say thank you, but no thank you.  It was more trouble than it was worth to me.  That said maybe when you are at a Krogers you can make yourself care packages to mail ahead.  Sending stuff general delivery does work OK.  If you decide you are not ready for a package you can forward it further ahead for no extra charge.  You can do this from any post office.  It doesn't need to be the one the package was sent to.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2015, 10:42:13 pm »
$2000 is definitely doable.  I was well under that on the Trans America and also on the Southern Tier.

I read where folks say that they often use roadside stands and farmers markets.  I do too when I see them, but in my experience they are very infrequent on most routes.  I really only remember very few, like maybe 3 on the entire Trans America.

I can't imagine you will pass all that many Krogers stores and I don't know about you but I hate to carry a lot of food.  I try to buy food for individual meals as close to meal time as possible rather than carry a bunch of weight.  On the TA we were given a lot of food.  I carried a bunch of it and mailed forward three packages to myself care of general delivery.  Truth be told if I had it to do over I might just say thank you, but no thank you.  It was more trouble than it was worth to me.  That said maybe when you are at a Krogers you can make yourself care packages to mail ahead.  Sending stuff general delivery does work OK.  If you decide you are not ready for a package you can forward it further ahead for no extra charge.  You can do this from any post office.  It doesn't need to be the one the package was sent to.

I mapped my own route from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine traveling through 22 states with a total of 79 planned stops over roughly 100 days while passing through over 600 towns/cities. Taking my time and doing my own thing seeing the country. I hate carrying a lot of food with me. Enough to get me through a day or two (there is a three day stretch on my route that I wont pass a single store; even a gas station). It seems like mailing food ahead of yourself wouldn't be cost effective? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy food in that town?

The gift cards are good at all Kroger owned stores, not just Kroger themselves. Kroger owns Cala Foods, City Markets, Dillons, FoodsCo, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Smith's Food and Drug.
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline Ty0604

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2015, 10:50:56 pm »
PS: I'm disappointed to hear you only saw a few farmers markets on the TA! They seem to be everywhere where I live but I guess this part of the country is also a little more environmentally friendly than the rest or at least they make that claim!
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2015, 07:51:42 am »
It seems like mailing food ahead of yourself wouldn't be cost effective? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy food in that town?

My thought was that if you are using mail drops as a way to use your Kroger gift cards, it might make sense.  Then again it may not.  Flat Rate Regional mail, which is a bit less expensive, may work since the distances would be fairly short if mailing not too far ahead.  It just might be an option to keep in mind if you want to be able to use the Krogers credits on stretches with infrequent stores.

Mail drops for food typically don't work well for my style of touring, but in some situations they may.  I have used General Delivery to get things sent from home on tour and I have used it for food drops when backpacking.  As I said I probably wouldn't use it for food drops again while on tour unless there was a special reason it made sense.  I thought perhaps your Kroger deal may qualify as such a reason.

The gift cards are good at all Kroger owned stores, not just Kroger themselves. Kroger owns Cala Foods, City Markets, Dillons, FoodsCo, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Smith's Food and Drug.

That helps, but it will still probably depend on your route to some extent.  I think that in some places you may still find you don't find stores owned by Kroger all that often.  I know that it has seemed like all I saw were little general stores and gas station mini mart type places for fairly long distances sometimes.  I may be completely wrong though.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2015, 08:22:38 am »
My first US cross-country trip was $16 a day, almost all food as my camping was usually free. My next three were $33 a day. Mostly camping. Some wild camping, but I'll pay for a campground in order to get a shower. Most food from grocery stores or places like Subway.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2015, 11:41:53 am »
PS: I'm disappointed to hear you only saw a few farmers markets on the TA! They seem to be everywhere where I live but I guess this part of the country is also a little more environmentally friendly than the rest or at least they make that claim!

I think it has more to do with the roads you're route takes you on than how "environmentally friendly" the area is.  Farmers around here will drive 15 miles to put up a stand on the side of a U.S. highway, for instance.  Those are the high-speed, heavily traveled highways I do my best to avoid on a bike.  The old highway is now a state  or county route, perfectly fine for cycling, but I haven't seen any farm stands on it.

Markets with multiple farmers tend to be either (a) local farmers bring produce to market one or two days a week, probably not the days you pass through town according to Murphy's law; or (b) dominated by commercial outfits trucking produce in from hundreds of miles away, but they're open six or seven days a week.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2015, 12:21:55 pm »
Pat: I feel like it's the opposite here in terms of farmers sticking to the rural areas as opposed to going to the city. They do for the Saturday Market but a majority of the farmers markets here are open 5/6/7 days a week. We also have a lot of you-pick farms. Murphy's law is always against bicyclist  :P

John: $33/day seems a bit much. The most I've ever paid for camping was $15/night but a majority of them were $5/night and occasionally $10/night. Were you eating a lot or what were you buying for you to spend that much in food per day?

Staehpj1: You're probably right about the Kroger stores. I don't see myself mailing stuff ahead though. I'm a day-by-day person and mailing stuff ahead forces you to either a) stick to that route or b) abandon the package. I appreciate the input.

I'm putting a little extra money aside for tourist stuff as well.... Entrance into Yellowstone/Grand Teton and other parks I am seeing along the way.
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2015, 03:57:07 pm »
Staehpj1: You're probably right about the Kroger stores. I don't see myself mailing stuff ahead though. I'm a day-by-day person and mailing stuff ahead forces you to either a) stick to that route or b) abandon the package.

It is probably moot since it doesn't sound like you will be mailing food ahead (I again wouldn't either), but you do have other options.  It is easy to stop in any post office and tell them that you have a package that was sent to SomeTown, USA and that you want it redirected to SomeOtherTown, USA.  You don't have to be at the post office that the package is going to.  Also if you do nothing the package will go back to the return address (home? somewhere else?).

So even if you don't do food drops it is worth remembering in case you want something sent from home.  BTW, it is nice to have someone back home that you can send stuff to if you are done with it or decide you don't need it.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2015, 09:54:36 pm »
Camping costs vary widely from place to place. I've paid everything from $0 to $50 for a camping spot.

You can save money on food by cooking all your own food and eating simply.

My cost of $33 a day is just based on my preferences. You can spend a lot less or a lot more, simply by making different choices. You can almost always find a free place to camp if you try hard enough.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2015, 10:32:12 pm »
Pat: I feel like it's the opposite here in terms of farmers sticking to the rural areas as opposed to going to the city. They do for the Saturday Market but a majority of the farmers markets here are open 5/6/7 days a week. We also have a lot of you-pick farms. Murphy's law is always against bicyclist. 

I can't say that matches my experience on Washington 20.  I remember one market somewhere in the northeast part of the state on a Saturday, and one pick-your-own blueberry farm in the lower Skagit.  That was it for some 440 miles of cycling.

But it's a big country, your experience may be very different.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2015, 07:13:56 am »
I can't say that matches my experience on Washington 20.  I remember one market somewhere in the northeast part of the state on a Saturday, and one pick-your-own blueberry farm in the lower Skagit.  That was it for some 440 miles of cycling.
That is more in line with what I have experienced.  I actually recall there being even fewer on pretty much all of my trips.  When I was living in Maryland there were quite a few there though.  I think when I went for a long day ride from my house there I sometimes passed more open stands than I did on the entire Trans America and my other tours have been similar to the TA in that regard.  On the eastern portion of the ST, there were a few places selling citrus, but usually not much else.  The stands and markets I have seen were typically either outside (within 20 miles of) cities or rarely in medium sized towns not near a city.

Also Murphy being such a jerk, they almost always seemed to be either closed when I was there or it was not at a time that I really wanted to buy food (like the time we bought heavy produce just in time to lug it over one of the worst passes of the trip only to not eat most of it until the next day).

Offline Ty0604

Re: Cost of a cross country USA trip?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2015, 03:40:47 pm »
John: $50 for camping is crazy. I've paid less for a hotel room before and it wasn't a bad hotel. It better be a luxury campground lol I'll be hammock camping so all I need is a few stationary objets to tie it down to and I'm good. Did this a lot on a previous ride. Swing sets at playgrounds work well. If you roll in after dark and leave before daylight no one bothers you I've found out or I've been lucky. I plan to cook all of my own food and eating simply. On my Seattle to San Diego ride I ate mostly oatmeal and Cup O Noodles. Always carried apples in my panniers so I could grab one as I was riding.

Pat: I live in Portland and this area seems to be crawling with urban farmers and farmers markets. Anyone who has been to Portland knows what I'm talking about. We're a bunch of tree hugging hippies pretty much  :D

Staehpj1: I've only been to Maryland twice; College Place and Baltimore; but feel like my experiences there were the same in terms of being quite a few farmers markets. I was in the city on the weekend though so that could be why and College Place has (or had) a little area near the train station that was a farmers market all the time. 
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO